Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lost in the Fog, Again!

    When I woke up last Sunday, I was greeted with a fine layer of fog blanketing the town. I wasn't really surprised. The night before it was clear and cold out, and this time of year when that happens, if the moisture content in the air is sufficient, we end up with fog.  Of course we get fog at all times during the year, summer, spring, fall, and sometimes winter.  If the conditions are right it can set up, and oftentimes it can be a real pain. On Sunday the fog dissipated out over the bay, but looking back towards Ear Mountain it was so thick you could just about gather it in buckets. Because I was on the land and I didn't have any place that I needed to be, I kind of enjoyed it. When I'm out in the boat it's another story all together. Even though I have a GPS to let me know where I am, it doesn't tell me if I've got another boat in front of me. For that I need my radar. Unfortunately the radar crapped the bed last year. Of course it was foggy at the time. It was kind of like the old Randy Van Warmer song-Just When I Needed You Most-the main lyrics are- you left me, just when I needed you most. Go figure. Of course it's going to quit when I'm facing thick fog with boats all around me. There would be no drama if it quit when I was sitting in the harbor checking all the equipment. I remember being out off of Hocktaheen on the outside coast fishing. It was the fourth of July and I was catching a few kings. Off in the distance I could see a fog bank, and I kept praying that it would remain where it was or dissipate, but ohhhhh nnnnoooooo..... that's not going to happen. It came settling in around me like a wet blanket. I was fishing by myself and was in the fleet of boats. My trolling springs were hammering from big kings striking my lines, but I couldn't leave the radar to go pull them in. Hours later when the fog finally lifted and I was able to pull the gear, almost all of the lines were empty. That's kind of the story of my life. Fortunately I didn't run in to anyone, but then I wouldn't have had to worry about that if I'd just stayed in the harbor either, so it wasn't a great deal of consolation. I remember hearing about one fellow here in town who was fishing off the coast of Yakutat I believe. It was August and the fog had set in on the coast. He was in the middle of a great bite of cohos. It was just him and one other boat in the area for miles around. I guess both captains were out back pulling fish as fast as they could and ended up running in to each other. There was some damage to both boats, but they agreed that they were equally guilty of not paying attention, so each fellow just paid for the damage to their boats and didn't bother to call the coast guard. I can't blame them there. Once the feds get involved, the most minor incident can become a full blown national disaster that will have consequences for all future generations of boaters.  In the last picture you can see that the tide is really low. A few years ago I was down in the harbor area with my boat hauled out. The tide was low and had left a few tidal pools. There are a fair number of Dungeness crabs in the area, and sometimes they get under the grass in the pools that are left when the tide goes out. I heard an eagle carrying on something fierce. They often cry really loud if they have caught something. I don't know if they're proud of themselves or what, but when they make so much racket, other eagles usually come to investigate and then you have two or three screeching like banshees. Anyway, I was watching this eagle. It had caught a good sized crab and was trying to fly off with it, but it looked like the crab had hold of the eagle as well. I'm not sure if he just had the leg or some part of the under carriage. Either way, the eagle wasn't any too happy. Of course I'm sure the crab wasn't whistling Dixie either, I don't know. I've never heard them make a noise. Anyway, I'm not sure what that has to do with fog, but I have to mention these things when they come up. I'm never sure when the fog will descend again in my brain and I'll be wandering around lost, looking for an opening.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Been Thinking About.... Methuselah

   I heard from a friend of mine just the other day. He lives up near Syracuse, New York and had been out shoveling snow. He and his wife were using both the snow blower and the shovel, and had to remove the fine white  stuff both before and after work. Sounds like fun doesn't it? Anyway, he was lamenting the fact that he had hurt his back in the process of all that shoveling. He was already dealing with a knee that was hammered and had just returned from having two teeth crowned. Ouch! That puts a dent in the ol' pocket book. To say nothing of the obvious pain that back or knee problems bring. I got to thinking then about some of the old guys in the bible. The early fellows, just after men started living on the earth, were pretty long lived. Adam lived 930 years, his son Seth lived 912; Kenan 910 years. Enoch only lived 365 years, but it says he walked with God then he was no more because God took him away. His son, Methuselah, was the oldest living man; he lived to be 969 years old. I started wondering, how the heck did they do it? I'm either on the last legs of middle age or the beginning of being elderly, depending on how you look at it.  My friend with the physical problems is only in his mid thirties. How could people have lived for so long? I know that things like processed food wasn't around- no white flour or sugar, so that probably helped. Perhaps tooth decay wasn't an issue. What did they brush their teeth with though? What.... did you go out and break off a reed and grab a mouthful of sand and grind away?  What about minty fresh breath, what did you do about that? Frankly, I don't want to get too graphic here, but if your mouth smells like last night's dinner, whatever that may have been, how are you ever going to entice your wife into populating the earth? That's another thing. Did everyone just stay young for so much longer? I mean did these old guy's wives look like complete foxes until they were 800 or so? Human nature being what it is, didn't they get tired of each other, or did they come up with something to keep things pretty interesting for 750 or more years? Was it like the famous blues singers song - The Thrill is Gone  or more like Randy Travis's - I'm Going to Love You Forever? I can't say. There weren't any supermarkets, so I guess you had to grow or raise or catch or kill everything you ate. I imagine that would keep a guy busy. Of course there probably was a shortage of carpenters or plumbers so you had to build your own house unless you were a cave dweller. Even then, an outhouse or some form of waste management would be necessary. You couldn't just relieve yourself in the back of the cave, that could present all kinds of problems. Everything you needed you would have to make yourself- beds, bedding, clothes, pots, pans, eating utensils. I imagine their days were pretty full- gathering firewood, growing crops, tending livestock, building, packing water.  I bet no one ever uttered the phrase- I'm bored. What happened if you fell down and broke your arm or had a fever or got food poisoning?  I don't know if any of those things were ever an issue. Maybe there was no need for doctors at the time because everyone was so healthy. You'd have to be healthy to live that long. You sure wouldn't want to be suffering with depression for a few hundred years, that would be tough. I don't know what went on then, but I'm sure the food was healthy. Everyone got plenty of exercise and no doubt people must have gotten along with each other pretty well. They had to, they needed each other. I'd love to sit back and have a birds eye view of what things were like back then. I kind of doubt if sleep disorders were a problem. I imagine at the end of a long day of doing what it took to survive, you'd probably sleep like a baby and perhaps dream of what the future holds.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

In God We Trust?

   I was in church today and the pastor happened to mention several times the phrase In God We Trust. Apparently there is another lawsuit going on by some atheists who are offended by the phrase and the fact that it is on our currency. From what I can gather, a California attorney by the name of Michael Newdow is bringing suit on behalf of something like 41 atheists in Ohio. It appears he also tried to get the phrase Under God in the pledge of allegiance removed unsuccessfully. I guess you can't blame a guy for trying, although I rather doubt that he would be pursuing this at all strictly on principle. No doubt he feels there is some money to be made or notoriety at least. Frankly, I think with all the problems that this country is facing that pursuing such a frivolous lawsuit would be near the bottom of the list of important things to do. If anything, my personal feeling is that we should call on God all the more. I believe it is because we have turned our back to Him that we're facing most of the problems that we are. You hear a lot about climate change, crime, gun violence, terrorism, the national debt, drug abuse and a host of other things that affect all of us on the news nightly. I suspect that we all trust in something. What is it, money? Money comes and goes. You can be riding high one day and lose it all the  next. Look at what the stock market is doing right now. One trip to the hospital could bankrupt a lot of people. The country is approaching a twenty trillion dollar debt. How much do you think that money is worth, or will be worth in a few more years? The price of everything is going up because the money is worth so little. What do we trust, the government? The government doesn't produce anything of value. They're like Robin Hood, taking from one source to give to another, skimming large amounts of money from the top to fund themselves. What do you trust in? Your health, your looks, your intelligence? I can attest to the fact that all of those things go by the wayside as our years upon this earth increase. What do you do when you're in an a jet and turbulence starts to slam the plane around, or a storm is raging outside your home, trees are being uprooted and the floodwaters are rising? Perhaps you're flat on your back in the hospital and the diagnosis isn't good. I know from experience the fear that one feels  when the plane is going down and the helpless feeling of being in a small boat when the waves are crashing over the bow and even the need for surgery in delicate places. Fortunately I do believe in God, and I feel like He was with me through each trial. But, what if you don't believe? Where do you find comfort? I'm asking because I don't know. Right now the airwaves are filled with political debates and debates about the debates as we try to determine who is going to lead this country next. I'm hoping the the next man or woman is a God fearing person. The world is too dangerous to be led by unbelievers.We don't need someone who will stick their finger into the wind to determine which way the  political wind is blowing. It may come as a surprise to some folks, but God isn't politically correct. There is one way that is right, and it's His way. Perhaps that's why some folks are uncomfortable with a phrase like In God We Trust. They don't want to be reminded that perhaps what they are doing is wrong. Perhaps they think that believing in God means that they have to be perfect. I haven't seen any believers who meet that standard yet, so don't let that be a reason for atheism.  I read a book once titled -God Doesn't Believe in Atheists. I can't recall what all it said, but I do remember one passage where the author mentioned that the likelihood of life being formed randomly from whatever gobbledygook was in the earth as a result of chemical reactions or whatever the evolutionist want to believe is as likely as a blob of bauxite over eons of time randomly forming into a cylinder and turning red and white and spelling out Coke. I think people will go to extremes to deny the existence of God, and because He gives us free will, they are allowed to do that. No one is making them worship or believe what they don't want to, but I do believe, and as I mentioned, I believe we would be far better off if we called on the name of the Lord all the more. For me, a little reminder is a good thing, since we certainly can't count on the paper that the phrase is written on. All it takes is watching the news for a half hour to know it's going to take divine intervention to get us out of the mess we're in.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Waiting For Spring

Hoonah Cold Storage Dock
The Alaskan Bush People boat - Integrity
Elephant Mountain
Frozen Mud Flats at the Airport
Airport Stream

    After weeks of hiding behind both rain and snow clouds, the sun finally decided to make an appearance yesterday. As often happens in Southeast Alaska, the burst of sunshine immediately lifts one's spirits. I was like a new born bunny yesterday when I saw the sun, ready to go out and prance around the woods. Unfortunately, although the sun was indeed out, the heat was missing, so any prancing on the frozen ground would have rendered me with a twisted back or knee. I opted to go take a few pictures instead. Around here, especially at this time of year, when the sun comes out, you want to capture it on film, just in case you don't see it again for another extended period of time and you start to believe that you  had perhaps imagined it.  I dropped down to the downtown float and got a picture of the cold storage. The float is empty, no boats tied up waiting to sell. All the insulated totes that hold fish during the season are scrubbed and stacked on the dock, waiting for the first delivery. The diesel engines that run the compressors that freeze the fish are silent; there's no fork lifts scurrying up and down the runway. There's not a person to be seen in the office. It's dark and silent. Much like winter in the woods, it's cold and quiet. I dropped down to the harbor. Except for a few skiffs that brave the elements in their search for an elusive king salmon or perhaps a few Dungeness crabs, most of the commercial boats are tied up for the winter. It costs more for fuel than you can make fishing around here this time of year, even though the price of salmon is good. The weather is always questionable now too. It can be nice in the morning and blow up a gale in the afternoon. I got a picture of The Integrity, the big grey boat on the end of the float. That's the Brown family's  boat- you know, the Alaskan Bush People? Oh Lordy, what a joke. It's winter, and they're nowhere to be found. Not surprising. I know that for some unknown reason, a lot of people think the show is real, but I don't know why. Ol' Billy Brown and a couple of the boys had to go before a judge and explain why they were collecting Alaska Permanent Fund checks. The fact is, they aren't residents. I can't recall what the judgement was, but I believe they had to repay the state. Funny how you can call yourself an Alaskan, and yet not qualify for the Permanent Fund. It seems odd too that you can consider yourself a real outdoorsman, but when winter comes, you disappear.Oh well, people believe what they want to believe. I really think they should change the name of the boat to something more appropriate though, unless integrity means something other than what I always thought it meant.  I ran on out to the airport to see if I could get a shot of the mountains while the sun was setting. I couldn't get the shot I wanted in particular, and while I was waiting outside for something better, I was freezing my buns off. I had driven by the school and looked at the temperature display on the way out. It said it was 38 degrees. No way! The ice on the roads were as solid as bone and there was still frost on the trees. As I was heading back home, I noticed the little stream that runs near the airport. I think it always runs, no matter how cold it gets. In any event, I know the water was frigid. I started wondering about the animals, if they drink out of that stream. Do animals get brain freeze from drinking icy cold water? Can you imagine ol' Bob the buck taking a nice long drink only to have his head feel like someone smacked him with a hammer?The ol' ice cream headache syndrome. I think that when it comes to anxious thoughts of spring, I'm probably not alone.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The P P Tournament

  The P P mentioned in the above title refers to ping-pong, not the commonly used term for urination,as when addressing a child or dog and asking-"do you have to go Pee Pee?" To the best of my knowledge, there is no tournament for that. However, when I was a young lad, I do remember a few unofficial contests to see who could project a stream the farthest or perhaps have the most success writing their name in the snow. With a name like Tom or Ben, it was fairly easy to win the contest. If you had a long name like Alexander or Horatio, chances are you wouldn't win. Of course due to anatomical make up, girls were unable to compete, so they weren't even considered for the contest. No doubt the modern day feminist would take issue with such a sexist contest. Take it up with God ladies.Yesterday my daughter Jen came to the house and announced that there was going to be a ping pong tournament at the youth center in the evening. Back when I was a young lad in high school, I used to play a good bit at the YMCA, and I got quite proficient at it. I never competed in any other sports, lacking the drive and the discipline to put in the time or effort, but for some reason ping pong appealed to me. I spent a lot of time at the Y, it was kind of a hangout I suppose, and since there is only so much hanging out a fellow can do, I guess I picked up a paddle and started to play. Much to my surprise and no doubt everyone else who knows me, I was pretty good at it. How the heck did that happen? The tournament last night was held at the youth center, and I think it was open to ages 8 through the last-gasp geezers. I fall somewhere in between, leaning more towards the geezer realm. There was quite a good turn out. I'm not sure how many folks were there, but enough to provide some competition. Of course we had everything from the novice beginner to the more well seasoned players. My first match was with a little neighbor kid down the street. I think Jen had him in her fourth grade class last year. I believe I was probably the oldest player there, so the powers that be decided they would pair one of the youngest with the oldest to see which one went home crying. I must confess, I held nothing back and soundly defeated the young man. Ah, the sweet smell of victory. In the exciting venue that is table tennis, sometimes experience wins out over youth. Especially when you're towering over your competition and outweigh them by a hundred pounds. The next game I played was with the pastor's kid, Manny. He's actually pretty good, but he has the fatal flaw of overconfidence. He went to state and took fourth place this year in the wrestling tournament, but wrestling isn't ping pong, and though it was a close match, with first him ahead and then me, I finally managed to gain the upper hand and he too went down in defeat.  YES! I was starting to remember how good it felt to win again. That feeling was short lived. I lost the next two games to fellows who no doubt practiced day and night under grueling conditions. It was disappointing, but all good things must come to an end. Frankly, watching that little white ball bounce back and forth was starting to make me cross-eyed. Plus I was getting  hungry, and if I had stayed to the bitter end, it would have been after 9:30 before I could have supper. As it was, Jen played match after match and in the end was once again victorious. She was crowned champion of the 2015 winter ping pong tournament. To the best of my knowledge, she remains undefeated, having won the last three years. Obviously my good genes and skill managed to work their way through her system and manifested themselves in her great playing ability. As I often do when writing a blog post, I like to do a little research on the subject at hand. I checked Wikipedia and discovered that ping pong originated in Victorian England. Apparently it was played among the upper-class as an after dinner parlour game. It was also known by the less common but equally classy name, Whiff- Whaff.  I like that name. Perhaps that's what I will refer to it as from now on. "Yes, I soundly beat my opponent at a game of Whiff-Whaff. He was quite distressed and had to retreat to the bar for a strong glass of sherry." In 1901 British manufacturer J. Jaques and Son Ltd. trademarked the name ping pong. Afterwards the rights were sold to American manufacturer Parker Brothers who enforced their trademark, so other associations were forced to call it table tennis. Originally ping- pong or whiff- whaff, was  played using books stood on end on a table to serve as a net, while two other books were used as paddles to bat a golf ball back and forth. It just goes to show, in our pursuit of fun, humans can turn just about anything into a source of entertainment. I can't wait to see what shows up next.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Baking Fool

  Thunderation! Christmas is rapidly approaching and I still haven't wrapped present number one. I'm still waiting for a few things to come from Amazon and a present for Jan that I had my daughter pick up in Anchorage. There's a lot more variety in the stores there than what I could find at Hoonah Trading.  I just hope the gifts get here in a timely manner.I don't know what's going on with the mail service. In the past six weeks I've had two packages disappear once they arrived at Federal Way Washington. The packages have to be around somewhere, they didn't just evaporate, although I do wish they could translate like the guys on Star Trek. Can you imagine how drastically that would change every aspect of the transportation industry? Food for thought. Speaking of food,  a couple of weeks ago I had my first experience making fudge.   One of my sons-in-law is overseas for the holidays and had expressed a desire for fudge. Since I have much more time on my hands than Jan does, I figured I'd give it a try. It turned out pretty good actually. I was going to use a recipe that I think I got from the internet, but it called for twelve ounces of semi-sweet bakers chocolate. When I went to the store and saw that it was going to cost in excess of twelve bucks just for the chocolate, I started having second thoughts. When I told Jan about it, she said use chocolate chips. We had one of those Oh My God! sized bags of Nestle's chocolate chips that we had purchased at Costco last year and kept in the freezer. They worked just fine. I melted the chips, added nuts and marshmellow cream and presto change-o I had fudge. I did have a minor issue though. I was melting the chocolate chips in a pan, on medium heat, just like the recipe called for, but I noticed that some of the chips weren't melting. Not wanting to turn up the heat and take a chance on burning it, I opted to test the heat with my finger. Not a good idea. I burned my finger and then my lips when I tried to get it off my finger. Perhaps in the future a candy thermometer would be a good investment.In any event, it all turned out well and is on it's way to an army post somewhere.A few days later I figured I'd make some for Mom. She's in an assisted living facility back in my home town. Unfortunately she has Alzheimer's so some of conversations are a little trying at times. She can remember things from her past and sometimes seems to live there. She has commented on not wanting to have her parents upset if she was late getting home. She's 87 and both my grandparents have been gone for years. One day I called and she said she was really tired.  When I asked her why  she said she'd been jumping rope all day. That had to be quite a feat from her wheelchair. You have to keep a sense of humor that's for sure. Anyway, I opted to bake Mom some chocolate chip cookies instead of the fudge. I figured it would be less messy and I'm not sure what shape her teeth are in, so nuts wouldn't be advisable. I'd never baked chocolate chip cookies before either, but I'm usually pretty good at following recipes, which I did.I ran into a bit of  a  problem though. The recipe said to dip the dough onto the cookie sheet by the rounded tablespoon. I did that, and had them separated and all, but they still grew into each other,  like Siamese twins. As you can see, I'm no surgeon, so some of them kind of came apart.They were really difficult to get off the tray too, even though I used parchment paper. Some of them oozed  right through the cooling tray. It was frustrating, but the flavor was just like Grandma used to make.  Well, not my grandma, but maybe yours. I had to sample more than a few- just the really goofy looking ones. The problem was there were so many goofy ones. The recipe said it would make five dozen cookies.  Hmmm.... not exactly.I think I got somewhere around three dozen, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size.  They look a little bit like miniature cow pies. Little lumpy cow pies. A few days ago I decided I wanted to make some Berries and Cream muffins for some of my friends. My daughter Autumn had picked blueberries when she was visiting last summer so I was blessed with a good supply. I'm going to bake some more muffins tomorrow to pass out I believe. If I'm going to be fat, I want my friends to be fat too. That way they won't be able to say too much about how I look. Tonight I'm making some really good bean and ham soup in the crock pot. It's been cooking all day and smells delightful. Of course the problem with bean soup is the after effects. After eating a bowl or two I blow up like the Hindenburg. Maybe I should pass out bottles of Beano for stocking stuffers this year, cause I know this won't be the last pot of soup I'll be making this winter. I'm not sure what the next project will be after the muffins. This past fall I picked a bunch of apples at Jen's house before I trimmed the trees. Maybe a nice apple crisp will be in order, I'll have to see.  Anyway, those of you who might have in mind to send us candy or some other sweet treat, please don't. I'm more than capable of treating myself to all manner of fattening, yet tasty goodies. Go cook for yourself!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Now the Fun Begins...

   For those of us who live in Alaska, hunting is a major part of our lives. It's not just the sport of bagging an animal; for many of us, how well we make it through the winter depends on the success of the hunt. Meat is expensive no matter where you live, but here in the bush, it's especially costly. For a lot of folks, there just aren't jobs available and so being able to shoot or catch what you eat is a necessity. Where we live, on Chichagof Island, there is a large deer population. Seven or eight years ago when we had twenty three feet of snow, many of the deer were wiped out, and for a few years the bag limit was cut back, as it should have been. It would have been disastrous if hunting had continued as it had been prior to the big snow. For the past three or four years though, the winters have been uncommonly mild, and the deer have rebounded and are abundant. For years I took my sons out hunting with me. Like many others here, we counted on a few deer to help supplement the food supply. As I've gotten older though, I'm not so inclined to get out and chase the deer around. My body is rebelling against me so it's not nearly as fun as it used to be. Fortunately for me, both boys love to hunt, and this year they both came home to do some hunting and both were successful. We were the happy recipients of one of Brian's hunts. He blessed us with two bucks. Not only did he shoot, gut and pack them home, he skinned them and helped to process the meat. It doesn't get any better than that for me.I didn't have to buy gas for the truck or bullets for his gun, he provided it all. We just fed and housed him for awhile and he took care of the rest. There's an old saying about hunting... after you pull the trigger, the work begins. No truer words were ever spoken. Unlike fishing, where you can let your catch go if it isn't hurt, there's no shooting a deer and then walking away from it. Nope, when you go hunting, you're in it for the long haul. If you're lucky enough to be successful, the fun is over. It's  a  lot of work. I once shot a deer when I first started hunting that pretty much gutted itself. It was walking away from me, and I got all spastic and took the shot even though I probably shouldn't have. It hit the poor thing in the hind leg, ricocheted upward and ran the length of his stomach cavity before exiting. Every time he jumped, some of his innards fell out. When I caught up to it, I didn't have to do anything but take out the heart and liver as I recall. That was kind of bizarre. Nice, but bizarre. In every other instance, you have to gut the deer, and then pack it out to your vehicle. Depending on how far away it is, and what kind of terrain you were hunting in, it can be a real pain. As the saying goes though, that's just the beginning of sorrows. Once it's loaded in the truck and hauled to town, it has to be hung up and skinned, unless of course you bone it out in the field, something that I've never done. I'd prefer to be away from the area where I shot the deer as soon as possible, Around here, a gunshot is like ringing the dinner bell to these Alaska Coastal Brown Bears. Brian once lost a deer he was gutting to a bear. Probably better to lose it while it was on the ground than to be packing out out and have the bear decide that what you killed is his. After the deer is skinned, it usually sits for a few days, I guess to kind of tenderize the meat. Then it's time to butcher. I learned how to butcher a deer when I was living on the farm, and it has served me well down through the years. After that, some of the meat gets ground and the rest is put into roasts, back strap,tenderloins, stew meat and however else you like your meat. I've eaten a few meals so far using this venison and I have to tell you, it's delightful.If you're going to eat red meat, this is the stuff you want. No steroids, fillers, sawdust, mad cow or any of the other stuff that store bought might contain. Anyway, I'm not trying to discourage anyone from hunting, just remember, once you've pulled the trigger, that's when the real fun starts.