Adventures in Tiburon can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



ADVENTURING IN TIBURON

A PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF EXCITING WEEKS IN THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA

by JOHN A. AVIRETTE

THE two Burke boys, Charlie Kanaka, and I sat in close consultation. Great deference was given to Charlie by the rest of us, since the matter under discussion was a boat. Was he not a Salt of the Sea from the Pacific Islands, where men swam out, in amphibious temerity, to slay the terrible man-eater shark in his own element?

Charlie finally said that She must be twenty-two feet long, half-decked, and with at least five feet beam. We should steal a rail from the Southern Pacific R. R., bend it to suit and bolt it firmly to her bottom, for a keel. This, he said, would stiffen her, give her low ballast and, if we struck a sunken rock in a blow, would save her from holing. Thus, in lieu of sinking, we should only turn over.

Charlie had his way. We built the boat, half-decked her, stole the rail from Collis P., and one glorious November morning christened her (with a bottle) Santa Maria. Never had boat a more propitious launching, and never had crew a fairer promise of fun galore—for were we not bound for the mouth of the Colorado River, Lower California and Tiburon Island? And, where, pray, was a wilder or more dangerous coast on which to venture to one's heart's content?

Frank was the elder of the two Burkes. He had six notches on his gun, while Pete, as a modest younger brother, had only four. I had killed bear and deer, while Charlie had once licked a French cook. We were thus a crew of valor and prowess, fit for all adventures by sea or land.

Old man Shaunnessy and the other half of Yuma came down to see us off and bid us God speed. Shaunnessy is an Irish prince—a remote descendant of Brian Baru. He has "kept saloon" in every Government Post, every mining camp and town in all Arizona. He is a kind old man with a stutter and fine principles—for he gave us a gallon.

We "up-hooked" about 10 A. M., November 11th, to the time of revolver-shots, cheers from the bank, the braying of burros and the barking of dogs. That night we had made only twelve miles, for we put in at Hall Hanlon's ranch near Pilot Knob—for watermelons. Hanlon gave us six whoppers, then helped us punch a hole in the gallon; for California, like Arizona, is a very dry country. Hanlon is a Missourian from Kentucky, when drunk, and a very hospitable man at all times. He is much beloved and feared in Yuma, since he is not only kind to a fault, but is also hasty—when crossed.

Nov. 12—We are now down opposite the Colony. The immense Tule-flats on either bank of the river are simply alive with hogs, "gone-wild" descendants of the lordly Berkshires and Poland-chinas, abandoned here by the Blythe colonists when the mosquitoes ran them off. We camped on an island, to minimize the mosquitoes, and while the rest cooked supper I took the skiff and pulled for Sonora and pork. I got the pork. I came near getting too much pork, for when I shot the pig he squealed. About twenty great wild hogs responded to his cry of distress and, bounding out of the tule, rushed at me in fierce wrath. I stood not on the order of my going; we made it in one heat to the river bank, whence I dived headlong into the muddy waters of the Colorado. When things had cooled off, I sneaked carefully back for my rifle and the pig. To those who know humanity, it is needless to state that my arrival at camp was the signal for merciless jeers, mollified somewhat when I produced the pig.

Nov. 13—To-day we are camped at Shipyard Slough. Some two hours after our arrival we saw the famous "tide-rip" run in from the Gulf. A wall of roaring water, at least thirty feet high, rushed into the mouth of the river at express-train speed. I felt much awe at the sight, for many deaths have occurred at this point, when either greenhorns or careless folk have been caught in the fierce tide. Luckily, Charlie knows all about this coast, so we were hauled up high and dry, out of all danger. This tide is at its greatest at new-moon or full-moon, and if it happens that, at the same time, a strong wind is blowing up the Gulf, the tide reaches truly formidable proportions, sweeping over even the highest banks and destroying both property and life. This, of course, in old days, when there was a port here; now there is sand, solitude and sky.

Nov. 14—To-day we ran out of whisky, so Frank concluded to give up the trip and return to Yuma. His brother Pete also concluded that the salt-water looked too dry for him. Frank argued that it was only three miles across the tule flats to old Ponciano Dominguez's Ranch. He had heard that Dominguez sold contraband mescal to the Cocopah Indians, so the thing looked both promising and easy. He and Pete could easily pack their rifles and blankets across, secure horses from Dominguez and return to Yuma. Charlie and I expostulated in vain; Frank had made up his mind and Pete didn't have any. After they were gone, Charlie and I smoked mournfully for a time, then Charlie said "——." Now while I fully agreed with him, I mentioned the fact that the grub would last two men twice as long as four. At this sapient remark Charlie brightened up, and began to sing in the Honolulu language.

Nov. 15—This morning I killed a 600-pound jewfish, with a finely-placed shot. As he broke water, I pulled trigger. The shot cut the spine at the base of the skull. We are making "jerkey" out of him. The bushes around camp are strung with ropes, great and small, and every rope is weighed down with great white flakes of fish. At noon I shot an egret, cutting his neck in two, with the .22-long Winchester. His plumes were in fine shape, glossy and beautiful. Egret plumes are worth $40 per ounce in Yuma—in good, hard, iron money. At sundown the long expanse of the rivermouth was alive with leaping mullet. Millions were in the air at one time. I have never seen so many fish. This fish is about fourteen inches long, plump and juicy and of fine flavor, gray on the back, bright silver on the sides and dead white on the belly. We got eleven with the gill-net within ten .minutes. The mullet run into the river from the Gulf with the flood-tide, as far as the water is brackish with salt. They penetrate every slough of the great tide-flats and with a net, as the tide runs out, they may be caught by the ton. These waters are unfished, and are simply alive with finny denizens.

The bones of four large vessels project from the sands of Shipyard Slough. These derelicts date from the days when Yuma was a proud United States port. Long before Collis P. Huntington built his Southern Pacific Railroad across the Continent this spot was a busy and thriving city of four houses. The climate being perfect, the people slept on board, or on the sands around the houses; going inside for a drink, if not broke. Now all this civilization is no more; only empty whisky-bottles and the bones of the dead ships attest the former opulence. Sea-going ships anchored here, to meet the river-steamers that carried all freight to Yuma, whence it was freighted on wagon-trains, to forts, towns and mining-camps for hundreds of miles over the Desert. Now the great tule and hemp flats are peopled with only wild hogs, millions of aquatic creatures and billions of mosquitoes. "Sic transit gloria mundi!"

Nov. 16—We are now on Montague Island. It is five miles across to the Lower California bank and eight to the Sonora side at Shipyard Slough. The island is some ten miles long by one mile wide—a low, flat sand-island, covered with short salt-grass and birdnests. Innumerable pelicans, cranes, geese, ducks, gulls, flamingoes, and heaven knows what other winged creatures come here to breed. The birds are very tame, showing little fear of man. The nearest human habitation is that of old man Dominguez; beyond his one lone house there is no other dwelling-place nearer than La Grulla, eighty miles to the north. Both coasts here are treeless, waterless, sunburnt sand wastes. Here and there a reef of black Malpai rock crops out of the eternal sand. Rain seldom falls, and when this rare phenomenon does occur it is likely to be a Summer thunder-shower, wetting a meager and limited patch of sand.

Many great turtles crawl out on the beaches of this island to lay. From one nest we dug some two bushels of eggs. This looks as if several "lady turtles" did business together. The eggs are palatable and, in my opinion, preferable to sea-bird eggs. The Mexican fishermen of this coast call this turtle the carapachi, and are said to esteem its flesh...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.