Tales of the Fish Patrol
It must not be thought, from what I have told of the Greek fishermen, that they
were altogether bad. Far from it. But they were rough men, gathered together in
isolated communities and fighting with the elements for a livelihood. They lived
far away from the law and its workings, did not understand it, and thought it
tyranny. Especially did the fish laws seem tyrannical. And because of this, they
looked upon the men of the fish patrol as their natural enemies.
We menaced their lives, or their living, which is the same thing, in many ways.
We confiscated illegal traps and nets, the materials of which had cost them
considerable sums and the making of which required weeks of labor. We
prevented them from catching fish at many times and seasons, which was
equivalent to preventing them from making as good a living as they might have
made had we not been in existence. And when we captured them, they were
brought into the courts of law, where heavy cash fines were collected from them.
As a result, they hated us vindictively. As the dog is the natural enemy of the cat,
the snake of man, so were we of the fish patrol the natural enemies of the
But it is to show that they could act generously as well as hate bitterly that this
story of Demetrios Contos is told. Demetrios Contos lived in Vallejo. Next to Big
Alec, he was the largest, bravest, and most influential man among the Greeks.
He had given us no trouble, and I doubt if he would ever have clashed with us
had he not invested in a new salmon boat. This boat was the cause of all the
trouble. He had had it built upon his own model, in which the lines of the general
salmon boat were somewhat modified.
To his high elation he found his new boat very fast - in fact, faster than any other
boat on the bay or rivers. Forthwith he grew proud and boastful: and, our raid
with the Mary Rebecca on the Sunday salmon fishers having wrought fear in their
hearts, he sent a challenge up to Benicia. One of the local fishermen conveyed it
to us; it was to the effect that Demetrios Contos would sail up from Vallejo on the
following Sunday, and in the plain sight of Benicia set his net and catch salmon,
and that Charley Le Grant, patrolman, might come and get him if he could. Of
course Charley and I had heard nothing of the new boat. Our own boat was
pretty fast, and we were not afraid to have a brush with any other that happened
Sunday came. The challenge had been bruited abroad, and the fishermen and
seafaring folk of Benicia turned out to a man, crowding Steamboat Wharf till it
looked like the grand stand at a football match. Charley and I had been sceptical,
but the fact of the crowd convinced us that there was something in Demetrios
In the afternoon, when the sea-breeze had picked up in strength, his sail hove
into view as he bowled along before the wind. He tacked a score of feet from the
wharf, waved his hand theatrically, like a knight about to enter the lists, received
a hearty cheer in return, and stood away into the Straits for a couple of hundred
yards. Then he lowered sail, and, drifting the boat sidewise by means of the