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Peculiar Pioneer

A short novel about racism in pioneer Oregon.

Isaac McClure begins his account:

My problem was I was caught between my mother's world and my father's. My whole life would be the story of that.

The earliest memories I have of my mother are of the tenderness of her touch, of the heavenly blue of her eyes and the angelic sweetness of her smile, of the way her hugs and caresses took away all agitation and suffering from my toddler's heart. I close my eyes these many years later, and I can hear even now the Ehattesaht lullabies she would sing to me as I lay snugly tucked into my bed under the thick Hudson's Bay Company blankets.I learned to sing these songs myself and would ask her for their meaning in English.

"A little otter with its belly poking up above the water, you are my little otter with belly above the water," she would chant melodiously in her native tongue; or, "I suppose you will be a whale-person stealing harpoons from the big whaling canoes;" or, "My little seal-hunter, my little man, you will be a slayer of bullseals;" or, "You are paddling far out to sea, my little warrior. You are paddling in a great war canoe, my little man."

She told me wondrous tales too, as soon as I was old enough to understand, or rather told the same tale over and over, using different animals but with the same main characters. I'd beg her for a story, for the one story again, and she'd tell me about the walruses or the sea lions or the killer whales. The openings would vary a bit, but the endings in my mother's versions would always involve the little daughter of sea eagle or of frog or of bear asking her mother if her father would ever come home.