ECONOMIES (after a day at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria)
We made five shillings a month
Ordinary seaman, bosun did better
And when we seen them natives and their canoes
We thought, how’d they get the time to carve all that cedar
That takes time you know and naught to eat but dried fish
And some kind o’ berries the squaws went out to get.
They was dancing on the bows of them canoes
Wearing great masks of grizzly, raven
Dancing on the bows like birds and bears
That had drunk a lot of grog. We thought the world of their
Balance, although their seamanship warnt no better than ourn.
I gave a man a needle I had spare
He poked it right through his nose
And grunted, satisfied. His squaw
Gestured give it here, and pointed at the hole in the needle
I took some thread and poked it through,
She laughed like it was magic
And then they disappeared. Next day
The man came back, handed me
A sea otter pelt, so I gave him a tuppence
He bit into it, broke a tooth, and left, satisfied.
Three months later, we dropped anchor in Shanghai.
I took that hide ashore and a merchant in bright silk gowns
Took one feel of it and gave me twenty pound and some silk
Ribbon for my hat.
Next time we dropped anchor in Nootka Sound,
(two years it was, and a lot of salt water under the keel)
A sea otter pelt was only to be had
For a firearm or a good metal blade
But there was hardly a sea otter to be found.