Bryson Liberty: Funny Celilo Stories

Bryson Liberty (Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla) talks about funny stories from Celilo Falls, including a man who regularly fell in and a man who crawled across Celilo Falls for a date. 3:40.

Bio: Bryson Liberty is a tribal elder of the CTUIR. Liberty has a military background and is a published author, as well as working as a health administrator and actor. His article about fishing at Celilo titled “On the Rock” was published in Cowboys and Indians magazine in 2011. He was on “The Cellar,” “Northern Exposure,” and “Little House on the Prairie”.


“Well, one thing–A lot of funny things happened, like I remember, like I told you earlier, there was this old man in this really fast running little canal. He had a scaffold there. And if he caught a fish and it was too big, it would jerk him off the scaffold. These guys around him, they’d have to run up there, grab his tether rope and pull him out. And the water was just gushing over him. You’d think the guy’s probably dead. They’d pull him out and he’d shake his head. Boy, he’d get back on his scaffold and they’d give him his pole again he’d be back to fishing. But he’d fall off I bet about three or four times a year, fishing season. Those guys were right there, they knew it was going to happen. But it didn’t take them long to get up there and get him out. I don’t know how long he fished but he was an old guy then. But he was still fishing that time and he was old then. A lot of funny things happened. Like that time I was talking about, I was dipnetting. And this Salmon, I hit a big salmon and it caught me by surprise. And I thought, Oh, God I lost my pole! The old pole goes like this. And the salmon must have started downstream. And it came back up to me, right back in front of me. And just reach out and grabbed it. And I thought, Boy, what a lucky guy I am because I didn’t own the pole. The guy that owned the scaffold, he had the poles. And you’re running $25/$30 in those days to put one of those poles together. But a lot of funny things like that happened. Like the guy … at night, they’d lock up the islands out there. The guys that bought the fish would close up the carts that you ride out in. They’d lock them up. But if you wanted to stay out there all night, you could. But the guys that owned the scaffolds, they didn’t fish at night. But the young guys could go out there. And the old guys didn’t care if you used their scaffolds at night. They were pretty lenient about it. But if you were doing that you had to be very careful that you didn’t screw things up, break a pole or put a hole in a net, something like that. But anyway, one time this guy said, well I got to go back. In so many words, he said he had a date. And I thought, well how’s he going to get back to the mainland. Those little carts are closed, locked up. So I thought, I’m going to watch him. So I followed him. Anyway I followed him, and I thought “well those are closed.” So I’m watching him, peering through the dark, and he goes up and gets on the platform where you get on those little carts, and he goes by the cart and grabs the cart main cable that the cart went on, put his feet on one of the bottom cables and went hand over hand, all the way across this channel, about 50 yards below are these roaring falls. And I’m telling you, if he’d have fallen in, it would have been nonstop clear to Bonneville Dam. 55 miles away. Because there was nobody was around, you could holler you head off and nobody’d hear you. And that guy went all the way over. I watched him get all the way across. Got across. He made it. And I was thinking that date of his must really be something. She must be a dandy.”

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