Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Bathrooms- Twice the Trouble

  When Jan and I bought this house years ago, we were a family of nine. Including Jan, there were six females trying to live in harmony in a home that had only one bathroom. For the life of me I don't know how we did it. Mornings were especially hectic as everyone had to try to get ready for school or work. Fortunately, if things got desperate the boys could step outside to the woods in back for some immediate relief if the bathroom was tied up. Our home was one of the original "war houses" that were diverted to Hoonah after the fire of 1944 burned down most of the town. I believe they were originally bound for Hawaii or some warmer climate. It runs in my mind that there wasn't any insulation in them when they were first installed. Of course it wouldn't be such a big deal if the average year round temperature was 75 or so, but it didn't work too well for Alaska. When we purchased the house, it had been remodeled recently with new plumbing and electrical and a new roof, but it still only had one bathroom, and for reasons that I can't fathom, there was only one closet and it was located in our bedroom. Maybe the previous owners didn't have very many clothes or they just put everything in a chest of drawers or perhaps just threw their things on the floor, who knows? Anyway, thanks to the foresight of Governor Jay Hammond and the legislature at the time, the newly found oil wealth from the Alaska pipeline was used in part to establish a dividend program to share with the Alaska residents that is in effect to this day. We combined the dividends of the entire family to remodel the upstairs, expanding the bedrooms, complete with closets and adding another bathroom, which was sorely needed. Of course with two bathrooms comes twice the headaches. Two times the toilets, sinks and tubs to be cleaned and of course maintenance. This past weekend we had some dear friends come for a visit for a few days, and Jan had decided some weeks ago to repaint the upstairs bathroom, I guess in preparation for their arrival. Of course human nature being what it is, she was busy until two days before they got here trying to finish up the border and get the last of the painting done. Because she was at work and I wasn't, and also I might add, because I'm a gem of a husband, I ended up putting the final touches on it. For the past several months I had been noticing that whenever I took a shower in the downstairs bathroom, water would end up pooled on the floor. Not a lot, but enough. About the same time I had noticed that over the course of the day, water would also creep out from around the base of the toilet. Enough that if a person was standing in the area, your socks would wick up the moisture to where you could ring them out. It was uncomfortable and unsightly as well, especially given the fact that the toilet bolts were rusty and would discolor the water from the base, giving it a fairly suspicious tint. In fact several times Jan accused me of peeing on the floor.Though I adamantly denied her claim, I don't think she really believed me. In any event, knowing that we were due to have company, and not wanting them to soak their socks and wonder  about the source of the discomfort, I thought I would go ahead and correct the problems. Thank God for company- otherwise things might never get done. It's like leaving the lawnmower and rake laying around the yard until the first snowfall- it's the incentive you need to act on the problem.Anyway, I took apart the shower frames so I could caulk under them, and noticed that the tub surround was pulling away a little from the wall. Much like a kid with a scab, I had to pick at it until I had the whole surround off the wall. I can never leave well enough alone. Actually that was good. I found a little mold on the sheet rock that I was able to replace. Of course the adhesive that had held the surround on was hard as a rock and had to be sanded off and replaced. It smelled like a chemical plant in the bathroom,which I guess isn't the most offensive odor it's ever harbored, and I had dust on every available surface. Once that project was finished, I decided to tackle that toilet. It needed a new wax ring, so I shut off the water supply and unbolted the blasted thing. Even though I had flushed several times and taken a towel to the inside bowl to remove all the water,when I lifted the commode from the floor, there was a regular gulleywasher flowing all over the floor and leaving my slippers saturated. Lovely. After I was already neck deep into the project I started wondering if I had gotten everything I needed to complete the job. It was a moot point, since the hardware store had been closed for several hours by the time I got the bright idea to work on it. As it was, even though the main and secondary water valves were closed, I still had a pretty good drip going on. I had visions of spending the next twelve hours sleeping on the bathroom floor and waking every fifteen minutes to empty the Cool Whip container I had under the valve to catch the drips. Sticking the wax ring on wasn't exactly a picnic either. It's supposed to be a fairly simple thing, but nnnooooooo..... not for Botts. I couldn't get it to stick to the bottom of the toilet like it was supposed to, and when it did kind of attach more or less, I couldn't line the blasted thing up with the hole in the floor. It's at times like that when the appeal of the outhouse comes in to play. The bottom line is, the shower doesn't leak and neither does the toilet, so if your feet get wet when you come in to the bathroom now, it probably is pee on the floor.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


  Today's post will be number 300. Who knew that I could be so long winded? Well, maybe everyone but myself. It's why I accomplish so little in the course of a day. I should be a DJ or something so I could at least be paid for being a windbag. In any event, I suppose I should celebrate somehow- maybe bake a cake and stick on three hundred candles. I could probably shut off the heat for awhile. More likely I'd set the house on fire, so I guess I won't attempt the cake.
  I went out yesterday to document something that I never thought I would see- utility poles stretching out beyond the town. I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw the crews from Chatham Electric erecting them. I knew that Shorty Tonsgard had started a subdivision out past the runway, but the power lines go well beyond that, all the way out to the O3 road where our water supply for the city is. I asked a former city administrator about it, and she said we were going to tap into Garteeni Creek and start getting hydro power. I kind of like that idea. The cost of diesel is through the roof here, and since the generators that supply the power are diesel, our electrical costs are high as well- something like 61 cents a kilowatt hour. Compare that to Juneau which pays somewhere between 5 and 8 cents I believe. Unfortunately, because of the cost of the project, we won't see any savings on our electric bill in my lifetime I don't believe, but hopefully future generations will see some degree of savings.
  Jan and I have lived in the area for over thirty eight years. A lot of things change in thirty eight years. Of course there's the obvious, thirty eight... or more pounds added, grey hair, wrinkles, aches and pains- those can all be expected, but who would have thought when we came here back in 76 that there would be such profound changes to Hoonah. When we drove off the ferry that late June day, cars were an anomaly. Pavement was non existent. The woods surrounding Port Frederick were mostly virgin forest. There were three stores, two restaurants and one hotel or motel or lodge or whatever it is. It runs in my mind that about once or twice a year, usually in the winter, a house would catch fire, either because of a chimney fire or a faulty oil stove. Since then whole area has seen large scale logging, the cannery has ceased to exist as a fishing facility and has been turned into a tourist destination, we have paved roads, and on those roads we have cars. Lots and lots of cars. I have to wait at the intersection now for a chance to dash out into traffic and hope I don't get broadsided. We have a new ferry terminal, new fuel tanks, a longer runway, sidewalks, a harbor that many boats from out of town utilize, a travel lift for hauling out boats, a new power plant, and we're in the process of getting a new clinic. We have three restaurants, not including the ones at the cannery during the tourist season, two or three coffee shops and a handful of bed and breakfasts, as well as the lodge. The last house fire that I know of was about three years ago, possibly because so many people have turned to using Toyostoves for their primary heat. When I walk around town now I'm shocked at how many people I don't know. At one time I knew almost everyone in town- at least the adults. Now I don't know if the folks I see are transients,cannery workers, fishermen or if they own a home in town. I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. The Discovery Channel is filming up the bay for some phony Alaskan show about a family supposedly toughing it out in the wilderness. I think its called Alaskan Bush People or some such thing. There's a pretty mixed reaction to having them here. We've already experienced a bunch of white people trying to make it on the land in Alaska- it was called Mt. Bether at Game Creek- the farm. I lived there for ten years. We didn't get outside help to protect us from the bears or erect the cabins or provide the game to survive on, and we certainly didn't have camera crews filming our every move. I'm afraid what is going to happen is those who watch the show will become enamored with the lifestyle and the area and there will be a mass influx of unprepared city dwellers who want to "get back to nature" and "live off the land" and I'll have to tolerate a bunch of bearded buffoons who want to kayak up and down the bay, live in tents, crap in the woods and leave a trail of toilet paper in all my favorite hunting areas. Sometimes change is hard to take.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Could I borrow a cup of sugar?

   I made a trip over to Juneau last week to go shopping. Sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry doesn't it? I believe most ladies like to shop, but I think that usually involves fun things like shoes or clothes or some such thing. I don't know what's so fun about those items. Now if they were shopping for hoochies or spoons or flashers and assorted other fishing gear, I could see where that would be fun. I think my heart skips a few beats every time I spot a new pack of hoochies that have the potential for catching fish. That's much more practical than a tenth pair of shoes or an extra blouse to squeeze into a closet. Unfortunately I wasn't shopping for fishing gear. I paid $132.00 to hop a ferry and go shopping for groceries. It seems like a lot of money, and it is, but the fact is, it costs so much for groceries here, that with the amount that I bought, I actually saved money. A case in point. I ran out of gum prior to my trip so I elected to go to Colette's Cupboard to buy some. Colette's is the only other store in town that carries groceries. I bought two packs of my favorite gum- Trident original. When the gal rang up the sale, I had to cough up $4.03. Holy Crow! I really savored that gum, chewing it until there wasn't a smidgen of flavor left. At Costco I bought gum on sale for $5.99 a carton. There are 14 packs in a carton, so I bought four cartons. I figure I saved about $88.00 just on the gum alone, which pays for a good bit of the cost of the ferry ticket. I love shopping at Costco. Most of the groceries you buy come in case lots or in  a size so big that you need to invite  the whole neighborhood to help you eat it all. I bought a beef sausage log that's about two feet long and two and a half inches in diameter. You could feed half of Germany with this thing. I bought it for an upcoming Christmas party that we're having. As you can see from the pictures above, the shelves are well stocked- at least for now. I believe I've mentioned in the past that on occasion my daughter Jennifer will fail to pick up some necessary item that she needs for dinner. For whatever reason, she'll decide she wants to cook something like, say, chicken. Well she doesn't check to see if she has chicken before she decides to cook it, and because she is incredibly busy, and apparently shopping isn't at the top of her list, by the time she discovers that she doesn't have what she needs, the store is closed. Hey, no problem- I'll just go over to mom and dads and tap into their supplies. No need to go to Costco, I'll shop at Bottsco's. I can't count the number of times down through the years that she's called and wanted to "borrow" one thing or another. I don't know how you borrow a spoon of mayo. It runs in my mind that we've provided coffee, sugar, potatoes, canned vegetables, soy sauce, mayonnaise, other items that escape memory for now and of course toilet paper. I don't know how, in a house full of women, you could possibly forget to buy toilet paper, but apparently it happens. I guess we're guilty of enabling by the very act of providing said TP. Once or twice of having to squat in the woods without the benefit of tissue would probably do wonders for ones memory. However, we're not totally hard-hearted, so we of course "lend" whatever is needed. Just don't bring back the toilet paper when you're done with it. I have a tendency to express my opinion when I deem something isn't what it should be, and Jen has called to borrow things with such frequency that I inevitably give her a hard time for not being prepared. Now when she needs to borrow something, if I answer the phone she'll ask to speak to her mom. Of course I know what that's about. Things are looking up though. She recently had to go to Juneau for some medical issues and while she was there she stocked up at Costco. When I was at her house the other day Jen proudly announced that she had a full compliment of toilet paper and coffee and other supplies that in times past could be conveniently gotten at our house. Then she marched me down to her freezer and showed me how neatly stocked it was. She was very proud of herself. I'm proud of her too. However, I know that it's just a matter of time before she'll run out of something and she'll need to be making a trip to Bottsco's. Fortunately I have a large supply of plastic grocery bags she can use to take my supplies home with her.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Danita's Children

A Haitian boy in the market
Children in school at Danita's Children


Francia Dervilus

Robenson Talabert

 I received a lovely color pamphlet from Danita's Children  a couple weeks ago. Danita's Children is an organization down in Haiti that runs an orphanage, a school and most recently a hospital on the compound. In 1998 Danita Estrella came to the Dominican Republic with a group of doctors in order to translate for them. Several weeks later she traveled to Haiti. When she saw the orphans, the people sleeping in the streets, the abject poverty, her heart was broken. Two months later she said goodbye to her family and moved to Haiti by herself. She opened a home for orphans and one month later she had fourteen children she was caring for. She started a charitable organization called Hope for Haiti and has since renamed it Danita's Children.I'm not sure how many children she's taking care of right now, but as you can see in the second picture, there is quite a few of them. They have a saying at Danita's Children- there's always room for one more. Somehow they have been able to take in so many needy kids. It's not just a temporary fix either. As Danita states, this is a lifetime commitment to feed, clothe and educate these children. With the hospital she has opened she hopes to provide medical care for the entire island,so that no one in this desperately poor country will have to suffer because they can't afford it.As she states in a video, when we get up in the morning we wonder what clothes we will wear, or what we will fix for dinner. When Haitian families wake up, they wonder how they will survive. She mentioned that there are one hundred and forty eight million orphaned children in the world. How will they know that they have value as human beings? How can they know that God hasn't forgotten them, that He loves them if those who are Christians don't step up to the plate? Who does God use to meet the needs of these kids?  He uses us. It's not up to the United Nations or UNICEF or some government funded corrupt organization to feed and clothe these kids. Its up to those who call themselves Christians. It takes money to run a place like this. Sorry, but it does. An orphanage or a church or a hospital needs  money, just the same as you need money to buy food or medical help or heat for your home. A lot of folks are turned off  by requests for money when it comes from the pulpit, but as she mentions, in the Book of Proverbs God says, those who give to the poor, lend to God- He will repay. Will the king of all the universe repay grudgingly? Will He default on what you have lent Him? No way! I know that there are a lot of very worthwhile charitable organizations. If you aren't in the habit of giving, I hope that you will start a new habit. I can attest to the fact that you can not out-give God. It doesn't have to be this organization, though I believe it is certainly worthwhile. I hope you will prayerfully consider supporting a Christian charity, whether it is feeding the hungry or teaching prisoners or visiting the elderly. We have so many needs in this world, and if Christians don't step up who will?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lost Opportunities

  I took these pictures out back this morning. For those of you who can't tell or aren't familiar with the flora of Southeast Alaska, these are blueberry bushes. As you can see, there aren't any blueberries on them. In years past, I wouldn't even bother to pick any berries until now because of all the leaves. I kind of like to wait until after a frost so that in the process of picking I don't end up with more leaves than berries, plus there is a little white worm that inhabits some of the fruit, and I think the frost drives them out or at least kills them. In any event, I had planned on going out picking several weeks ago, but the fishing season was extended, which was a good thing, and the weather was really foul with lots of wind and rain, which wasn't such a good thing, and I missed my opportunity to go picking. Blast it! I really wanted to have a gallon or so of blueberries so I could make a few, or I guess more than a few, batches of those blueberry sour cream muffins. I still can, but now I'll have to buy what I want, at a fairly steep price. If you snooze you lose.
  I've been thinking more about the limited time we have on this earth lately, and how everything has a season, just like it says in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 To everything there is  a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. It's not just berry picking or fishing that has a season. Obviously you won't find farmers in northern climates out trying to plow the fields when there is six inches of snow on the ground, it doesn't make sense. You plow in the spring when the ground is ready. Here in Southeast, most people try to take care of outdoor projects when the sun is shining. You can paint in the rain I guess, but it probably won't turn out too well. Same with mowing the lawn or washing the car.
  Without a regular job to go to, I have a lot of flexibility in my day. I can go work on the boat or do a load of laundry or spend the whole day watching television. For one reason or another I missed out on a chance to put in a winter's supply of halibut. Usually I catch a few incidentally when I'm trolling, but it didn't happen this year. I should have set a subsistence long line earlier in the summer when the halibut were more abundant, but I didn't, so I missed out. The same thing with the berries. I don't think I was goofing off when these opportunities arose, I just didn't take advantage of the chance when it came up. With that in mind, I figured I'd go hunting yesterday. I don't usually go this time of year because the brush is so thick, and frankly, I'm scared of running into bears in the woods. I asked a friend to go with me, but he had other things to do, so I just figured I'd go out and hunt the road system. It won't be long and the roads will be filled with hunters from Juneau and other places bringing their campers and four wheelers and running all over tarnation shooting everything in sight. When that happens the deer become a lot more scarce and harder to find, so I kind of wanted to beat them to the punch. As I was driving past a wooded area I saw a small deer cross the road and walk into the woods, so I parked the truck in the area and went to see if there was a bigger one hanging around. There wasn't, but the day was so pleasant- sunny and warm, that I didn't care. As I walked I was just enjoying the sounds of nature- the Junko's and Chickadees in the brush, a squirrel up in a Spruce cutting the cones and letting them drop to the ground, and all the little rivulets of water running down the hill. It was all very serene and peaceful, and I was really enjoying myself. However, as much as I liked the hike, I was hoping for a deer, so I got in the truck and traveled down the road a little further to a spot that I hoped might harbor a few decent sized deer. I parked the truck and started walking. There was muskeg on either side of the road and clumps of trees and scrub brush scattered along the muskeg. I didn't go far, maybe a half mile or so. I was coming up a small rise   when I looked down the road and saw a rather large brown bear with it's head down walking up the road directly towards me, maybe fifty yards away. I know the bible says that a spring can't produce salt water and fresh, I guess referring to your spiritual condition, but I'm here to tell you, I produced a little of both yesterday. I don't know if my first words were "Jesus!' or "Oh Shit!" but I know I spoke both in rapid succession and then started backing down the road. Once the rise hid the bear from my view I turned and rapidly started walking towards the truck. I kept looking back and saw that the brownie had topped the rise and was still coming. Brown bears can cover a lot of territory in a short time. They have a very purposeful stride and if they should decide to attack you, they can run like the wind. You can't out run one. As it was, my heart was pounding in my chest just with the rapid pace I was walking. I wouldn't have been able to run if my life had depended on it.   When the bear came into view again and didn't show any signs of changing course I turned and yelled at it. Fortunately for me he stopped and looked in my direction and chose to amble off into the muskeg. Had he decided to charge I'm not sure my .270 would have made much difference. I might have gotten one shot off, maybe two before he would be on me. I'm so happy that I didn't have to find out. Today would have been a good day to go hunting. It's kind of sunny and warm, but I don't think I'll go. There are other things that need done while the weather is good, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to do them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where does the time go?

   Have you ever sat down at the end of the day and asked yourself, "Where does the time go?"  It's something that happens with more frequency as I get older. I used to rush around like a madman doing this and that, looking forward to the next project, but not so much any more. I move a lot slower now, and if I don't have something that needs done right away, I'm pretty much ok with that for awhile. The problem is, I have all kinds of projects that need done, at least right now, but either I don't have the time or the energy. or something of equal or greater importance pops up that takes precedence. Case in point. Today is the last day of the summer troll season. I had planned on possibly going over to Homeshore for one last hurrah, but instead, I had to take the truck up to have a diagnostic test done on it. Par for the course, the mechanic said-" this is the only vehicle I've  ever checked that this tester won't read." Go figure. Last week my daughter borrowed my truck. When she returned it, it didn't work right any more. Now, I don't really believe that what happened is her fault, it was just  her luck, much like my own, that it decided to go belly up while she was using it. I have a friend who listened to the truck and determined that it needed new plugs, wires and a distributor cap and rotor. For less than $100.00 in parts, my truck was supposed to run like new again.... only it doesn't. I'm not too mechanically inclined, so my friend was doing the work at no cost. Well, I can't very well go inside and work on something that I need to do while he's helping me, so I spent about six hours fiddling around in the rain trying to lend moral support. That of course put me behind in other projects.  My wife is off visiting her mother, so I have to take care of the dog- that's another few hours every day just trying to reason with him. He's a tremendous drain on my time and energy, needing to go outside to the potty at least four times a day. I wanted to work on something else yesterday, but it was finally sunny after a week or more of rain, so I had to stop and mow the blasted lawn, but of course I couldn't just do that, I had to go on turd patrol first; so here I am, an old, grey haired, 62 year old man waltzing around in knee high grass with a garden trowel in one hand and plastic grocery bag in the other looking for poop. This is what my life has been reduced to. When I finally got done with the scavenger hunt, it was time to crank up the lawn mower; well, almost. I mow the lawn of the abandoned house next door in an attempt to keep vermin from making a home there and eventually migrating to my yard. Because the lawn is nice, the neighbors behind me use it as a place to play and store stuff that they may want to find in the next week or so. As a result, I have to toss toys, blankets, pallet boards and assorted and sundry other things back into their yard. That all takes time. The mowing itself is a monumental task, especially in tall, wet grass. I have a self-propelled lawn mower, but the belt that makes it self-propelled is broken, so it's like pushing a 200 lb engine on square wheels uphill. So far I've avoided having a heart attack, but it's only God's grace I'm sure. Of course I have to eat, or I think I do anyway. When I'm out fishing I don't mind opening up a can of corned beef hash or popping a Hungry Man dinner in the oven, but when I'm home, I'd prefer real food. With Momma Jan gone, and the dog being totally useless as a chef, I have to cook for myself. With the prep time and the actual cooking, there goes another hour or more. I don't  have any paper plates, so I have to wash the dishes, another time consuming chore. So, as you can see, twenty four hours a day isn't enough to accomplish all that needs done. Between the cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of the dog, paying the bills, shopping, working on the truck, the boat, the lawn, the tool room, attending to my hygiene, tending to my other bodily functions and other unexpected tasks, I feel like I'm always behind. As I've said before and I'll say again, it's no picnic being me. It's a full time job and the pay isn't that great!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Friend is Dying

    My friend is dying and I'm sad about that. In the past few weeks we've had three people pass away here in Hoonah. Two were pretty well advanced in years, one was my age or perhaps a little younger. All three succumbed to cancer. It's the same thing that is working its way through my friend's body. I believe it started in the pancreas and has moved through the uterus and other internal organs. She is dealing with a colostomy and has shaved her head, I suppose because her hair was falling out in patches because of chemo.She writes a blog and has included all of this factual information in it, as if it were happening to someone else and she were just an observer, recording the facts. Up until now she has been very strong, very stoic, at least outwardly, but her last post revealed  a sorrow that  has been kept private. Frankly, I'm glad that she shared some of her feelings. As human beings we sometimes hurt. We get scared or lonely or sad. We need each other to share our feelings with, to know that someone out there in this cold, indifferent world does care about us. More than the three folks who have passed away, this lady's illness has had quite an impact on me. We're friends, but not real close. Jan and I had dinner with her and her husband once, a meal I still remember. She had cooked clam chowder and I was so afraid I might not be able to choke it down- I hate clams. As it was, I had two bowls, and might have had three if I weren't afraid of appearing to be a horrible glutton. She's an incredible cook, but that's only one of her assets. She's worked in the medical field and in mines. She's a great writer and has the gift of putting you right into the scene of whatever she's writing about. She's fiercely independent and loves solitude. At one point in her life she lived down  Chatham Strait in a little hole in the wall harbor called Warm Springs Bay. She just recently purchased some property in Freshwater Bay and I believe she intended to build a cabin there in the woods. I'm not sure that she would have stayed, she never seemed to light in one place too long, always desiring to be deeper into the woods, to a place more remote. I'm struggling with the fact that she's so young, in her fifties I believe, and that her plans and hopes for the future have been dashed. She's leaving behind three daughters and though they're all adults, I'm sure she'd like to see how their lives will play out, to share in their joys and provide comfort in their times of sorrow. Barring the second coming of Christ, we're all going to die some time. Most of us know that, we just don't have an idea on any given day when that might be. With pancreatic cancer, the time is always short. I'm not sure how I would react if given the same diagnosis. It doesn't seem fair that some folks blessed with an abundance of talent or good will or kindness can pass through this life so quickly, and others whom I would deem less than worthy of long life seem to go on and on. It makes no sense to me, but I have to believe that God knows exactly what He's doing and what we can't begin to understand, He does. If we could peek into the future and see the wisdom of what He is doing, our questioning would seem quite out of place. A few years ago I had another friend who had cancer. It was brain cancer, and when she told me it was terminal, I rather glibly said, "we're all terminal." That's true. From the day we're born we start dying. It's the time in between that matters. Let's live our lives in such a manner that when we go people will mourn our passing and if there is a celebration, it won't be because we're finally gone, but because we lived a life worthy of celebrating, and when we breathe our last our savior will say of us, "well done good and faithful servant" and we'll be welcomed into eternal joy. I have one last thing to say about this. I sent an email to my friend and asked if I could do a post on her condition. For whatever reason, I never heard back. So Rene' if I have done something you would not approve of, please accept my apologies. Let me know how to erase this and I will. God bless you gal.