Smoked Steelhead

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The letter was still on my bunk where I had tossed it earlier. I sat down on the bunk and carefully opened the letter.

I had been in Korea for several months, and letters from home often would bring a brief pang of longing. I seldom wrote home. In fact, I probably wrote just enough to keep Mom from complaining. 

This letter was from my brother, Gary. Actually, from the writing, it looked like it was from his wife, Kathy. I pulled the picture out from between the pages of handwritten notes. There was my brother with his kids and a nice fish. It will be good to get back to fishing someday.

The activity in the barracks was increasing as guys were filtering in from a night out in the village. Everyone was back shortly after midnight because of the curfew in the country.

Steve Brown stuck his head into my room.

“I see your lights are on,” Steve said. “What’s going on?”

“I was reading a letter from my brother before hitting the sack,” I said as I handed the photo to Steve. He looked at it and then moved in to be under a better light.

“This can’t be real,” Steve said. “They must have made a trick picture.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “That’s a seventeen-pound steelhead. That’s a large steelhead, but they are not uncommon.”

“I guess I have heard about those fish,” Steve said. “But I have never seen a picture before. Are they good eating?”

“Good eating?” I asked. “Yes, better than salmon, in my opinion. And they are great when they are smoked.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Steve said. “I’ll probably never get a chance to taste any.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said. “I think I will write a letter back to them and ask them to try sending me some smoked fish.”

“Sometimes it takes more than a week for a package to get here from the States,” Steve said. “I would think that fish would spoil in that amount of time.”

“Good cold smoked fish will last quite a while out of the refrigerator,” I said. “I’ll send a note and have them try it.”

Knowing myself, I knew if I waited until morning, I would never write the letter. So, I got my box of letter-writing stuff and wrote a brief note.

It wasn’t much of a letter. I couldn’t write much better than I could carry on a conversation. I was usually bored after the first couple of sentences. But I complimented them on the photo, the fish, and the kids. And I told them how much I missed fishing. At the end of the letter, I asked if they would try sending me a little smoked fish. After all, there should be plenty from a seventeen-pound fish.

I placed the letter in an envelope, addressed it, and put a stamp on it. Now all I had to do was take it to the orderly room tomorrow so it would catch the outgoing mail in the morning. 

A week for the letter to get there, and day or two to get the fish packaged, if there was any left, and a week to get back here. I should have some fish to eat in two or three weeks. That would be something to look forward to.

We were always busy with operations. Korea, in 1967, was a hotbed of infiltrators from the north, and our job of trying to keep track of all that activity was a hard one.

I had tossed the photo onto my bookshelf, and I glanced at it a time or two, but other than that, I had forgotten about my letter and my request to my brother.

Then suddenly, on a mail call, I had a package. It was from my brother. I quickly opened the wrap. It covered a one-pound can of Folgers Coffee. I popped off the plastic lid. The can was stuffed with smoked steelhead.

“Hey, Steve,” I hollered across the hall. “Come over and try some of that smoked fish I was telling you about.”

Steve popped into the room and looked into the can with a skeptical eye.

“How did you get that so quick?” Steve asked. “You just sent your letter last week.”

I pulled a chuck of smoked fish from the can and smelled it. 

“It smells fine,” I said as I broke off a small piece and slipped it into my mouth. “Tastes just like it should.”

I held the can out, offering it to Steve. He carefully pulled a piece out of the can and took a bite.

“Say, this is really good,” Steve said. “I’ll get Roger and see if he wants any.”

In no time, the room was full of guys, and the contents of the can dwindled. When I finally sat it on my bookshelf, only one piece remained.

“When did they mail this stuff?” Steve asked.

I pulled the outer wrap out of my trash can and looked at the postmark. 

“It looks like it was mailed about a week ago, at eight in the morning,” I said. 

Steve looked at the postmark. 

“You know, if you look at the date and the time, you wrote that letter at about one in the morning, and they mailed this package at eight in the morning the day before, with the time and date difference, they were mailing this stuff at the same time you were writing that letter,” Steve said. “Now, that has to be more than a coincidence.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “We probably just think a lot alike. I’m not into believing in all the stuff about mental telepathy.”

“But you have to admit, it’s a little odd,” Steve said.

“And the fish was good,” I said.

“Yes,” Roger said. “Tell them thanks a lot.”

Photo by Kathy Larsen.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

One thought on “Smoked Steelhead

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: