Dog Tales by Fred Cartan

Yuri and the Whale

Many years ago, an old fisherdog, Pyotr Karotov, lived on the shores of the Caspian Sea. He lived with his son, Yuri, in a small hut on the edge of a bay near where a stream joined the sea. Pyotr worked hard to catch fish to make a living for himself and his son. Yuri's mother had died soon after he was born.

Each morning, Pyotr and Yuri would get up, eat their breakfast, put their nets in their boat, and row out to the bay where the fish lived. They would set their nets to catch the fish.

Then they would row to the stream where Yuri and his father had built fishtraps from poles. They would get the fish in the traps and eat their lunch. Later they would row back to the bay and pull up the heavy nets and put the fish caught in the nets into baskets. Then they would row their boat to the village where the merchant, Antonov, would buy them. Then they would row back to their hut and eat their dinner.

The next morning they did the same thing. Some days they did not catch fish and some days they did. It was hard work and they were cold when the wind blew or when it rained. Yuri did not like it, but what can a young dog do when his father is a fisherdog. "I am too fine a dog to work this hard," he thought. "I should be a Czar or a merchant. They do not work hard and they can sleep as late as they want."

Yuri did not like to work but he did like to go to the Fisherdog's Fair. This was a great celebration for all the fisherdogs and their families. It was held once a year. There was a great feast and games and dancing and music was played and all the young fisherdogs and their brothers and sisters were there. Yuri liked to talk with them and have a good time.

Some days, when they pulled up their nets, they would find holes where a rock or big fish had broken them. Yuri and his father would spread the nets on the grass in front of their hut and mend the holes. It was boring work, and Yuri's father made him do it neatly, with new line woven into the old so that all the meshs were alike. While he did this, Masha, the seagull, perched on a branch above him and criticized his work. "That knot is not tight" or "that mesh is too large", Masha would say.

Yuri did not like to have a seagull criticize him, even if Masha was right. "You sound like a crow," he called to Masha. Or "Why don't you fly away and play with the eagles?"

"I should leave you," Masha said, "but I can't. Your father saved me when I was a chick. When I fell and broke my wing, he saved me from the weasel and fed me until I was healed. It is my duty to see that you mend the net properly." Yuri thought, "Masha may be a good seagull but she should not watch me all the time."

One day a dog came from the village with a letter for Pyotr. He read it. "Your aunt is sick," he told Yuri. "I must go and help her. You must keep fishing until I come back. We need the money for this winter. I will be gone for a week. When I return, we will go to the the Fisherdog's Fair at the village."

"I know it is hard work," Pyotr said, "But we must catch all the fish we can. Tomorrow and the rest of the week you should row to the outer bay to catch fish. It is far, but you are getting to be strong and I know you can do it."

"But father," Yuri said, "there are many fish in the South bay, and it is much closer."

"You are right," Pyotr said. "But that is where Dimitri, the whale fishes. Dimitri is a very big whale, and he needs many fish. All the fisherdogs have agreed not to fish there and Dimitri has agreed not to fish anywhere else." And Pyotry said "I will see you in a week. Be careful and catch many fish." And he left.

When Yuri woke up the next morning, the sun was shining brightly. Yuri ate his breakfast. He put the nets in the boat, and started to row to the outer bay. It was hard work, and Yuri became tired. Part way to the outer bay, Yuri passed the entrance to the South bay. He looked into the bay. He saw waves, and he saw birds circling but he did not see any whales.

Yuri kept rowing, and after two hours he reached the outer bay. He put out the nets, like his father had taught him. The sun was warm, and the boat rocked in the waves. Yuri was so tired, he fell asleep. When he woke, it was time to pull in the nets. Yuri began to pull them in and put the fish in the bottom of the boat. There were not many fish. When he had finished pulling in the nets, he began to row to the village. It was hard work.

When he got to the village, he gave the fish to the fish merchant and the merchant gave him some money. Yuri then bought some rolls from the village market and rowed back to their hut. He had to pull the boat up on the beach without his father's help. He was very tired. He made himself some dinner, and went to bed. He went right to sleep.

The next morning, when Yuri woke up, the wind was blowing and there were clouds over the ocean. It was late, and by the time Yuri put the boat back in the water and loaded the boat, it was later still. He started to row to the outer bay. As he passed the entrance to the South bay, he looked into the bay.

"There are lots of fish there," he thought. "It is too far to the outer bay. I should not have to work hard to get there and catch fish when I could get them here. I am too tired to go to the outer bay. Besides, I do not see any whales." So he rowed the boat into the South bay and put out his nets.

Masha, the seagull, was flying past. She saw Yuri and flew up to the boat and perched on the stern. "Your father told you not to fish here," she said.

"Go away, you silly bird," Yuri said. "It is too much work to go the the outer bay. Besides, you are fishing here too. You should not bother me."

"I only catch one or two little fish a day," Masha said. "Dimitri does not mind. You would catch many big fishes. Dimitri would not like that. I have warned you." And Masha flew off.

Yuri decided to take a nap, while the nets were in the water. He had just laid himself down in the bottom of the boat and closed his eyes, when there was a loud "Splash," and cold water sprayed all over him. He looked over the side of the boat, and saw a large whale, with a tall fin. It was all black except for some few white splotches. It was looking at him with a large eye. It was Dimitri.

"This is my bay," Dimitriu said in a deep voice. "You must take your nets and leave now. My wife and my children will soon be here. This is our home for this time of the year. It is a small bay and I and my family need all the fish we can catch. We and the fisherdogs have agreed that we will not fish anywhere else and they will not fish here. Now Go!" And Dimitri splashed more cold water on Yuri and the boat by slapping the surface of the water with his tail. And then Dimitri swam off.

"What a grumpy whale," thought Yuri. He pulled in his nets, and there were only a few fishes caught. "I am wet and cold," he thought. "It is too late to row out the the outer bay now. It is too late to go to the stream and get the fishes there. I will have to go home and dry my clothes." And he did.

The next morning, Yuri overslept again. He woke up to hear Masha calling to him from the window sill. "Get up you lazy pup! It is late. You must go and fish or your father will be sad." When he looked out the window, the sun was up and the skies were blue. He threw a piece of wood at Masha and got up, and dressed and ate his breakfast.

"It is not right that I should have to get up so early," he thought. "I am too fine a dog to work hard all the time." But he loaded the boat and started rowing to the outer bay. It was hard work and he had just reached the entrance to the South bay when he saw some fish swimming about in the bay. He looked all around but he could not see Dimitri or any other whale.

"Dimitri is greedy," he said to himself. "Besides the outer bay is too far and I am already tired. Surely he will not miss a few fish, especially if he does not know about it." So Yuri rowed into the South bay and began to set his nets out.

After a bit, Yuri looked at the nets. Something was pulling and jerking on them. He thought, "Perhaps there are many fishes." Yuri stopped and pulled the nets in. But when he looked at them, there were no fishes and the nets were ripped and torn in many places. "What could have happened?" he said.

A deep voice answered, "I did it, Yuri." Yuri looked and there was Dimitri. "I asked you not to fish here and you did not listen," Dimitri said, "so I tore your nets. I will do it again if you come back here." Then Dimitri splashed water all over the boat and Yuri and began pushing the boat towards shore. The boat began to go faster and faster and Yuri could do nothing to stop it. Dimitri gave a final push and the boat slid up on a mud flat at the entrance to the bay. "There!" Dimitri said, opening his mouth so Yuri could see his sharp teeth. "Do not fish here again!" and he turned and swam away.

Yuri had to bale all the water out of the boat, and get out of the boat into the water and mud and push the boat off the mud flat. Then he had to row back to the hut. He spread the nets out on the grass to dry and see how badly they were damaged. There were many tears and holes in the nets. Yuri was cold and muddy. Yuri was unhappy. "It will take me two days to fix them," he thought. I should start now, but I am tired and tomorrow will be better. So Yuri lay down on his bed for a nap.

That night, his father Pyotr returned with Gregori Antonivich. "Your aunt is feeling better," he told Yuri. "I just had to cut wood for her and bring her some food. She will be fine. How was the fishing?"

"Not good," Yuri answered, looking downwards. "Dimitri, the whale, damaged our nets."

"That is odd," his father said. "Dimitri does not usually go to the outer bay. I will ask him about it when I see him. Tomorrow you should mend the nets. I have to go the village. Gregori will go there with me tonight. The day after tomorrow is the Fisherdog's Fair at the village. Why don't you row over that morning so we can go to the fair." And Pyotr and Gregori left.

The next morning, Yuri woke up late. "I don't like mending nets," he said, "it is boring." But he got up and ate his breakfast and started to mend the nets.

Masha the seagull flew up and perched on a tree limb near Yuri. "Yuri," Masha said, "You are doing a very poor job of fixing the nets. The new meshes are too large and the knots are not tied well. Your father will be unhappy."

"Go away, you ugly bird," Yuri yelled and threw a ball of net twine at her. Masha squawked and flew off. Yuri kept working on the nets but he tried to do a better job.

The next morning, Yuri woke up early and prepared to go the the Fisherdogs Fair. Just as he was loading the boat, Masha flew up. "Good morning, Yuri," she said. "Are you sure you want to go the the Fair? It is a long way there and you may have to row against the wind."

"I am fine," he told Masha. "I will not get tired. But now, I am too busy to talk with a feathery busybody." And he started rowing to the village. Yuri liked the fun and games at the Fisherdog's Fair.

When Yuri rowed up to the dock at the village his father, Pyotr, and the other Fisherdogs were waiting for him. Masha was setting on his father's shoulder. "Yuri, I am unhappy about you," his father told him. "Dimitri, the whale, has come to tell us what you did. You should not have fished in his bay. We have had to apologise to Dimitri for you. Now I will not beat you but you must return to our hut and finish repairing the nets. And you must do a good job. Masha had told me about your work."

And so Yuri had to row home and he did not get to go the the fun and games at the Fisherdog's Fair.