Friday, March 20, 2015

True Confessions

   Years ago, when I was still a kid and my interest in fishing was starting to rev up, I would go to the Super X drug store at least once a month to see if the latest copy of Field and Stream or Outdoor Life  or Sports Afield had come out. I devoured them, hoping to glean some secret to catching more fish. No doubt fishing someplace other than the local mud filled streams and ponds would have been a good first step to catching more, but you have to do the best  you can with what you have. Anyway, while I was perusing the magazine isle, I always passed by the ladies section of magazines- Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal,  Fashion, stuff like that. Then, at the end of the section would be the more risque publications, Cosmopolitan and True Confessions and whatever other titles there were. These magazines were designed to titillate their readers with scandalous articles about illicit affairs or whatever other shameful or disreputable goings on the reader might find entertaining. Speaking of true confessions,I was speaking to my son Ben yesterday, and he too had a true confession. When I mentioned that the house in the above picture had been sold, he told me about a childhood situation involving the house. Apparently, he and Brian and Gabe Baylous were climbing the rather steep hill up behind the green house when Ben stepped on a fairly good sized  rock in the side of the hill and it got dislodged. They watched it as it tumbled down, picking up speed as it went, bouncing over roots  and off of trees like the steel marble in a pinball machine as it made its way to the bottom. Soon enough it became apparent that it would hit the back of the house, which is built right up against the side of the hill. It's not all that unusual for rocks and dirt to slough off, and after days of heavy rain, even trees have been known to tumble down. As it was,  there was a small window located in the rear, and true to the Botts luck, which obviously has been passed down, the rock found the only window in the back and launched through it. Of course the boys finished charging up the hill and out of sight, never even considering accepting responsibility for the accident. That's exactly what I would have done- and unfortunately did on more than one occasion growing up. Since we're on the subject of confessions, I have several that I suppose I should get off my chest. I well remember being a paper boy when I was about twelve or so. I had finished the route and was walking down an alley when I passed by a garage that had a window facing the alleyway. The window was covered in hardware cloth. For those who don't know, hardware cloth is like a really heavy duty chicken wire with more mesh- much stronger. The hardware cloth was over the window to protect it from flying stones and sticks, such as might be thrown by a passing car. However, it was not meant to protect the window from idiot boys. For whatever reason, lets call it a science experiment, I wondered if the mesh would protect it from a bigger rock, so I picked up about an eight pound hunk of granite and tossed it square at the window. Needless to say, steel bars would have been a better bet for protection with me running around town. Of course I hightailed it out of there and the thought of confession never entered my mind. Then there was the matter of the collectible coins in my older brother's room. Years ago he dabbled a little in collecting coins. He worked at Mac's Trading Post long before I did, and frequently ran across Mercury Head dimes and older pennies and Indian Head nickles, all of which were becoming increasingly rare. He had several folding blue coin books which had holes with  dates printed under them for the corresponding coins.  Well, being the wonderful brother I was, periodically I would find myself in need of a pop or candy bar, and unable, or possibly too lazy to try to find, a few pop bottles lying around, I would go to my brother's room and just punch out a few coins. I may have intended to replace them, though I don't know where I would have run across any such coins aside from the ones I found in his room. In any event, I did it. Sorry Mark. While I'm at it, I may as well admit that I took your Righteous Brothers 45 RPM record- You've  Lost That Loving Feeling. Teresa Nolan had broken up with me in 7th grade and I was devastated, so I sent it to her. She never did get back with me, and I don't know what she did with the record. If you like I'll send you a CD with the song on it. Also, I imagine by now that the combined value of those semi- rare coins might be worth at least $50.00 or somewhere thereabouts. Guess I'll send along a few silver Maple Leafs somewhere down the pike to compensate you. Whew, I feel so much better. Especially since I don't think my brother reads this blog.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Tunnel


  A few years ago I was working at the boat haul out getting some plank work done, when the shipwright, John Kveum, mentioned the location of an outhouse across from the haul out. It was tucked away in a little bit of an alcove under the towering rock wall of what we here in Hoonah know as the tunnel. There were rocks all around the base of the outhouse, and of course I had to do a blog post about it. The idea that people would get beaned while on the way to a porta-potty kind of tickled me. I have a strange sense of humor. Anyway, the next year, they moved the potties. Probably wisdom to do so. I spotted some fairly good rocks where it had been residing, and if one of those had hit the outhouse when you were in there, if you didn't have to crap when you got there, you'd probably have to afterwards. I guess last year there was a few more rocks falling off the face of the tunnel and there was a fear that a tourist might get hit by one and of course that would be bad for business. Apparently it's OK if a resident gets hit- we don't count. In typical fashion, when someone else is footing the bill it's easier to go with the deluxe version of something than if you had to fork out all the money yourself. As you can see, the bottom picture is what the tunnel looked like before the blasting, scraping and hauling started. Instead of just taking off some of the loose stuff, or taking the rock back a few feet, they've totally overhauled the whole blasted tunnel. I'd say its just a bit of overkill. It reminds me of a time when I was stationed in Charleston South Carolina. I was out hunting squirrels at the Old Tail Race Canal. There was a stretch of woods there with big oak trees and plenty of squirrels, to say nothing of mass numbers of poisonous snakes, fire ants and spiders. I'm sure there were plenty of other things that nightmares are made of, but I didn't want to look too close. I never would have gone hunting otherwise. Anyway, I was sitting on a log on a fine fall afternoon waiting for the squirrels to start moving. They always came out of the trees late in the day and scampered around the ground looking for acorns. There were years worth of dry leaves on the ground and I could always pinpoint where the squirrels were by the scuffling sound of the leaves. The day was warm and as I sat on the log, I was getting a little sleepy. I was right on the verge of dozing off when I heard a noise in leaves close by. It wasn't a squirrel though- not big enough. Not a lizard either, it was moving too slow, but there was definitely something moving over the leaves. I decided  to investigate. I had only gone a few yards when I saw the largest spider I've ever seen walking across those dry leaves. It was big enough to make noise when it walked. To say the least, I freaked out. I didn't want that monster sneaking up on me when I was all engrossed in shooting some game, or snoozing, so I did the only logical thing I could do- I shot it. I had a twelve gauge shot gun loaded with number six shot and I unleashed it on that sapsucker. Was it overkill? Probably so. Did I have any regrets though? Certainly not! Back to the work on the tunnel. Was it really  necessary to take off half the mountain to keep a few rocks from coming down? I don't think so. Is it overkill? Undoubtedly.  Will it even be done before the first ships arrive? Can't say, don't really care. It would actually be kind of nice if it wasn't. It would be fairly peaceful in town in the summer for a change. Maybe I could start a new business for the days when fishing was slow- Tom's Tours and Water Taxi. In any event, I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here. You don't need a howitzer to kill a spider- even a big one. A twelve gauge will do... or even a big stick; and you don't need dynamite to remove a few rocks, but what the hell, if someone else is paying, why not go for the gold?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Weenie Roast

   Jan and I grabbed up Jen and Kaylahni  and made a mad dash out to Freshwater Bay last Sunday. We wanted to take advantage of the sunshine. There has been darn little of it this year, even though the winter has been exceptionally mild. It was almost fifty degrees in the sun, so it felt great. It's hard to imagine the East coast suffering through record snow and cold, while here in Alaska, we hardly have enough snow for the Iditarod dog sled race. Simply amazing, but I'm not going to complain. The road out is all gravel and narrow with lots of blind spots and hills, to say nothing of potholes, so you can't really drive all that fast on it. I think it's about twenty seven miles to get out there, but it still takes over an hour to get there- sometimes longer depending on the condition of the road. When we got there, Jen wanted to build the fire. She had been out to Long Island the day before and had built a towering inferno, so I guess she thought she was a regular Daniel Boone, or maybe it's Danielle Boone. In any event, I figured she may as well, otherwise I wouldn't stop hearing about her prowess as a fire bug. I was busy chopping a few blocks of wood to throw on top once she got it going. As it was, even though she used dry grass and spent a fair amount of time breaking up sticks and shoving them in a pile, the fire never did really take off. She seemed to think that you had to blow on it until you became light headed and eventually passed out in order for it to start. Well, after some time had gone by, I could see that her efforts were going to be fruitless, so I just grabbed a jug of motor oil out of the back of the truck and soon we had  a roaring blaze. It was either that or we would have all fainted from hunger. Once the fire was going, Kaylahni put her skills with a knife to work and whittled out a few sticks to pierce our hot dogs with. She was much more successful than Jen was with the fire. I hadn't noticed until I started to post these pictures, but apparently there is something in the DNA of female humans that requires them to ensure that their meat is sufficiently cooked. The first three pictures show grandma, mother, and granddaughter all checking the weenies dangling on the end of the sticks. What the .... ! God forbid that you should eat one only partially cooked. I guess there is some wisdom in that actually. If we really knew what went in to making a hot dog, we'd probably bathe them in a sterile solution for half a day before torching them in a flame that would be reminiscent of a a rocket leaving the launch pad at the space center. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss! I really don't want to spend too much time thinking about my food. I just want to shove it into my mouth and get on with life. Fortunately Jen didn't drop her dog in the fire this time. On the one hand, I was kind of disappointed - I kind of wanted a little entertainment.  Since there weren't any fish in the creek right now, or at least none that I knew of, we decided to spend part of the day shooting at some pop cans on the beach. It's been a while since I've shot my guns, so I was kind of rusty. I still managed to hit the can five times, but given the fact that we fired over sixty rounds, that wasn't too impressive. I don't know if Jen ever did hit it. When we went down to the beach to check on the condition of the cans, there were a multitude of gouges in the mud where the bullets either went high or low. Still, it was fun. With this mild weather it probably won't be long before the bears make an appearance. If they do, we better hope that someone else is along who can shoot a gun. Lord knows that Danielle Boone and Thomas Davy Crockett  sure can't be counted on to keep the tribe safe.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweltering Pants

  For those few folks who follow this blog, as you know, I've not been very busy posting here lately. Sorry about that. I can't really explain it, I just haven't felt like writing. I don't know if it's depression setting in or what, but I just haven't had the energy or the desire. Hopefully that will be a passing phase. I was kind of keeping up on one blog periodically,but last time I checked it, it simply said, So Long. I guess the fellow who was writing it just didn't want to do it any more. It does take some effort. In any event, if I should ever decide to give up this blog, I'll try to give the readers a little notice so it won't be like going cold turkey, like when you're giving up smoking or something.
  Today I wanted to write about a piece of clothing that has been around for a number of years; what is commonly known in America as sweatpants. In England, New Zealand, and South Africa they're known as track bottoms. In Australia they're called tracky daks, not to be confused with our 37th president,Richard Nixon who was also known as Tricky Dick for some of the shenanigans he pulled while in office. Of course now, by comparison to our present man in office, he looks like a saint. Anyway, all that aside, I don't like the name "sweatpants". It conjures up images of some kind of medieval torture device. "So... you still won't talk eh? Well, we'll see about that! Igor! Throw this man into a pair of sweat pants until he spills his guts!" Actually, because of their loose design, they shed heat better than say, a pair of Levi's.If that's the case though, why are they called sweatpants?Don't you sweat in them?I have to say, even though they have become quite a popular item of clothing, I hate to see them worn out in public as an item of everyday dress. For one thing, they are very baggy in the legs giving the appearance of wearing a pair of potato sacks. Plus they offer no support whatsoever. There are several men in town who wear them on a regular basis, but I question whether they wear anything underneath. They are much more revealing than I want to see. If you're going to wear sweatpants outside of the home, at least put on a jock strap. It's kind of hard to have a serious conversation when one of the speakers is wearing a pair of sweatpants. Perhaps that's why most corporate offices require a little more formal attire for work. It would be kind of hard to pay attention to the speaker at a conference if he was dressed in a pair of tracky daks, with the goods swinging back and forth like a pendulum in a grandfather clock. Just for the record, I also am against the all too common and increasingly acceptable habit of wearing pajamas in public places. YUCK!  I was just sitting here thinking about what would happen if the good folks at Russel Athletics or some of the other makers of sweatpants teamed up with say, the people of Owens -Corning, the fiberglass
insulation manufacturers to come up with a special pair of sweatpants for folks who think that sweat pants are acceptable attire in public. They could market them as Itchies. At the very least it would be mildly entertaining to watch folks scratching themselves madly.  For years, from the time I was a teen-ager until just a few years ago, I slept in my underwear. I hated to be confined by pajamas. But lately I've been getting cold at night- part of the problem with getting older, probably poor circulation in my legs. Anyway, I've taken to wearing sweatpants at night. They are comfortable, and they do keep me warmer, but I still hate the name. They sound so crude. As a result, I call mine Sweltering Pants. It still conjures up images of hot, perspiration soaked clothing, but I like the name better. In the future though, I may refer to them as Tracky Daks, or Nixons for short.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Little Talk With God

   In my bedroom I have a picture that I've had for a number of years, ever since my days when I was was managing L. Kane Store. I first ran across it on the cover of a Guidepost magazine. I can't remember the title. The  caption says, in case you can't read it- Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory. I love this picture and the scripture that goes with it. My problem is that I've become used to seeing it there hanging on the wall every day. I don't pay much attention to it or the scripture anymore, which is of course, not a good thing. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a tendency to see the negative in almost any situation. I complain a lot. I'm very much a pessimist. I wish I wasn't. It's not a fun way to be. I can take a perfectly good day that someone else may be having and turn it into an unpleasant experience. By the time they get done talking to me they're going to wish they'd stayed in bed. I've been on a roll lately. I'm exceptionally distressed by the direction that the country seems to be heading. I feel like we are without leadership in a complex and increasingly dangerous world. Add to that the more immediate problems facing the state with low oil prices, interference from the federal government involving state resources, and policies from the supreme court involving native sovereignty as well as the local politics that impact those of us in Hoonah, and I've got a full blown mad-on. My son happened to call yesterday. I  hadn't spoken to him for several weeks and unfortunately I spent the majority of the conversation complaining about how crappy things were in this country. I'm certain he was happy to get off the phone just to get away from all the negative garbage I was spewing. Hell, I wanted to get away from me. As has been my habit this winter, after I go to bed I spend some time with a book before I turn off the lights. When I finally finished reading, I turned to shut off the light and glanced at the picture on the wall. I figured I had blown it so bad that any prayer I might offer would seem insincere and perhaps not even be received. I can't recall the exact thing I said to God, but something to the effect that perhaps I wasn't worthy of the sacrifice that Christ had made for me. Immediately, I heard Jesus tell me, "you were worth it to me." That is sobering. It tells me that no one is beyond redemption. God knew long before I was ever even born how I would be, and because he knew, and because of his great love, he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. We have great worth to God. He may have been speaking to me last night, but the message is for everyone. You are worth the price he paid for you.  You are precious and you are loved. There is little else that I can say. I hope that in the coming days when we feel overwhelmed by events, or our actions are less than stellar, when our attitudes leave much to be desired that we will remember that even with all of our faults, God felt like we were worth the sacrifice he had to make.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Out at the Cannery

  For most of the month of January we had rain. In my almost thirty eight years here, I've never experienced such a winter as this. Frankly, I was delighted that it was rain instead of snow, but honestly, waking up every day to the sound of pounding rain and the gloomy skies overhead was getting pretty consarned depressing. Yesterday the day dawned bright and sunny, and although much cooler than it had been, it was a welcome reprieve. After church I had almost no choice but to go on a walk out to the cannery. I took Jen and the dog with me. Usually Rigby likes to walk into the woods and sniff all the different smells. Jennifer on the other hand, never stops to smell the tracks on the ground. I'm kind of glad.Yesterday though, he was reluctant to get too far into the walk. He took a dump early on and, feeling that he had done his duty, started turning around trying to get back to the truck. We kept pulling him against his will to keep going forward. He would run ten or twelve steps and then make a 180 degree turn and start pulling with all his might in order to force his will upon us. It was a real battle of wills. He somehow reached deep into his reserves and took another crap, and at that point there was no way he was going to go anywhere but back to the truck.When he plants his legs apart and lowers his head, you almost need a come-a-long to get him to move. I suppose I could have taken off his leash and let him run for home, but his little black body, in stark contrast to the sparse snow we have,would have been like a dinner bell for any eagles perched  in the overhanging trees. While it was certainly a temptation at that moment, I was sure that later I would regret my decision. Plus, what would we do with the remaining dog food and rawhide treats that were at the house if he weren't there to imbibe?  I suppose I could adjust my diet a little, but the idea wasn't overly appealing. I ended up  taking him home and coming back out by myself. Much less stressful.
 While it was very beautiful out, as I've mentioned in past blogs, on sunny days here, frequently the wind kicks up. Yesterday was no exception. There was a pretty good northwesterly blowing. Inside the woods it was almost unnoticeable, but out in the clearing it was brutal. Even so, there were two very brave or very stupid souls who launched their kayaks and were paddling against the wind in the bay. I'm not sure what possesses people to carry out such acts, but perhaps its a case of cabin fever. Being stuck inside for weeks at a time, only leaving for work or groceries can really play havoc with your mind. You look out the window and see sun, and you immediately think, it must be warm out. It looks so inviting. It's only after you've exposed your body to elements that would make Nanook of the North shiver that you realize that looks are deceiving.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed my little jaunt yesterday, and even made it back home in time to watch the super bowl. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I don't really care for the way Tom Brady acts- too pompous for me, so naturally I'm rooting for the Seahawks. Of course you know the outcome. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Captain Carrots

    There have been a number of rather famous or infamous captains down through the years. There have been songs, stories and books written about them. A few come readily to mind. Good ol' Captain Bligh from the book Mutiny on the Bounty. He was a real captain and there really was a Bounty, it wasn't just a story someone made up. He served under the famous English captain, James Cook, who was credited with discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Of course the islands had been previously discovered by the natives who lived there.They just didn't blab about it- probably didn't want all the trouble that outsiders would bring; understandably so. Captain Bligh was quite a knowledgeable man. After the mutiny he and a  handful of his followers traveled some 3618 nautical miles across the open Pacific Ocean in a twenty foot boat. That in itself is quite a feat, but when you consider that a nautical mile is 2000 yards,6,000 feet versus a land mile at 5280, it's even more remarkable. Though he was a very capable man, his temperament made him very unpopular with his crew, hence the mutiny.  Bligh is a name associated with another unpopular captain, Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who ran the tanker, Exxon Valdez aground in Prince William Sound on Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989. Up here in Alaska, we heard about that in the news for the better part of a year. It was pretty tragic. In researching some information for this post, for some reason I thought of the book Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling. I discovered that the name for the book was taken from a line in a ballad written about an English Captain, Mary Ambree, who participated in liberating the Belgium city of Ghent. I never knew that there were any female captains in the English navy. The first line of the ballad reads in part: When captains courageous whom death could not daunt... I guess I'm going to have to get the book and read it. I'll certainly have to read up on Captain Mary Ambree. However, there is little brave or courageous about our beloved dog, Rigby, AKA Captain Carrots. As I've mentioned in previous posts, he insists on having sliced bananas in the morning if we partake, and most definitely will not eat his cereal unless we put milk on it. Whenever we are preparing a salad he goes ballistic at the sight of peppers- green, red, yellow, orange, he loves them all, plus the lettuce, tomato, cucumber- whatever. For the longest time we were in the habit of giving him cheese. We finally decided that it probably wasn't that good for him, so we switched to carrots instead. Much healthier, and quite a bit less expensive, and frankly, he loves them. I got on a site called Care 2, and discovered that carrots have quite a few benefits. According to them, carrots slow down the aging process, they promote healthier skin, help prevent infection and heart disease, they cleanse the body, protect teeth and gums, reduce the risk of cancer and of course something that your mother may have told you, they are good for your eyes. They are full of vitamin A, which is transformed in the retina
to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision. Holy cats, who knew? It sounds like a person could pretty much live on a diet of carrots. I know one gal here in town who ate massive quantities of carrots back when I was managing the L. Kane store. Almost every day she was in buying a bag. One day she came in and we didn't have any fresh ones, she'd bought them all, so she purchased a can of carrots. It was at that time that I noticed that her skin had  a fairly yellowish tint.  I thought perhaps she was a little jaundiced. We found out later that her massive intake of carotene was actually coloring her skin. As it stands right now, we're going through about two bags of those baby carrots every week. I'm not sure what to expect, but if in the future I find that we have the worlds only orange Dachshund, I'll be sure to post some pictures.