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Herman the Sturgeon

Do you know about Herman the Sturgeon--the star of the Oregon State Fair? I saw him myself for several consecutive years when I visited the State Fair. Herman was extraordinary. He was the reason I visited the fair and I'll never forget him.


Some people have forgotten him. They don't remember a special fish named Herman. Others that do, remember differences that seem unexplainable: he was 7 feet long, he was 5 feet long, he died at the State Fair, he disappeared, he was stolen. Somehow, over time, Herman has managed to swim out of nearly everyone's memory. I'm telling you this story so that you will be able to tell others about him.


Herman was a white sturgeon. Nearly 6 feet long, his head and body were protected with rows of bony plates. On his snout there were 4 whiskers to help him find food. Under his long snout he had a mouth with big, sucking lips; perfect for eating the crayfish and other fish at the bottom of his tank. His ancestors (230,000,000 years ago) shared waters with the dinosaurs. Sturgeon have another name: Mishe-Nahma, which means "King of Fishes".


Herman lived at Roaring River fish hatchery with Mr. Southwich and seemed content enough to live there. Visitors came occasionally, providing Herman with some entertainment. I even visited the hatchery to see Herman, but I don't remember. Like most sturgeons, Herman kept to himself. He swam at the bottom of his pool, looking up through the clear water at the rippled blue sky above. Sometimes, he could see rippled faces peering down and rippled hands waving at him.


Sometimes the hands scattered food over the water and Herman would wait for it to float down to his bottom-of-the-tank home and then: he'd jump and gulp, which made the rippled faces smile.


Herman, however, didn't remain in his tank forever. Sometimes, the rippled hands moved him out of the clear water and wrapped him in wet burlap. They moved him onto a trailer. The world looked strange to him then. There were no ripples.

Just when Herman began to yearn for clear water, the hands took him (wrapped in burlap) and placed him into a pond. Herman could see he was not home anymore. It was the Oregon State Fair. There were plenty of rippled faces and hands to visit him there. There was also plenty of food. Herman thrived while being the feature fish at the fair and Mr. Southwich always took care of him. This pond was much smaller, but clear water felt good. He had been coming to the fair for 50 years.


He rested in his shady spot, under the canopy of rippled trees and looked up through the clear water and watched for the first rippled heads to peer into his pond. The first one to look into Herman's clear water was Mr. Southwich. Soon there were more people than Herman could count peering in with rippled smiles. Some scattered food over the water and Herman waited for the food to float slowly down, then he would jump and gulp.


When the fair was over, Mr. Southwich's rippled hands came to take Herman home to Roaring River. He wrapped Herman in the wet burlap and lifted him out of the clear blue water and into the trailer. The world looked strange to Herman; there were no ripples. Herman was glad when he was lifted back into his tank at home. He felt Mr. Southwich remove the burlap blanket as he swam into the rippled water. He was happy here in the cool, clear water of his home.


Then one night when there was no clear blue above his watery home, Herman saw strange lights and listened to strange noises as they came close to his pool. He thought he saw rippled faces peering into the clear water. Herman swam back to his spot at the bottom of the pool and waited for the noises and rippled strangers to go away. Instead, he felt rippled hands reach down.


When Mr. Southwich came to check on Herman in the morning, the pool was empty. No matter what rock he overturned in the pool, Mr. Southwich couldn't find the 6 foot fish. Herman was gone.


For weeks Mr. Southwich and others who took care of Herman at Roaring River fish hatchery searched for clues about the fishnapping of Herman the Sturgeon. the police and Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated his disappearance. No one was able to discover what happened to Herman. His kidnapping remains a mystery to all.



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