Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Thirty Six Hour Marathon

 I got a call last week from my friend Jim Dybdahl. He said he needed a favor. Jim is one of those guys who is pretty self sufficient. He's got a good mind and can figure things out and if he can't he's got the kind of personality that attracts people to him, so he will know someone who can help. In the almost forty years I've known him, he's never asked for a favor from me, so I assumed it was pretty important. As it turns out, he was asked if he would relinquish a few days of his fishing time to tow a couple of rafts from Angoon to Hoonah. One of the young fellows who grew up here is going to try his hand at oyster farming. I'm hopeful that he can make a go of it. From what I can gather, the rafts we were going to tow were used in three previous attempts at farming. I'm not sure why its so difficult to be successful at it, except that you're combing two very tough professions- fishing and farming. Both are labor intensive, require a large outlay of cash and long hours under grueling conditions without a guarantee of a pay check. With the oyster farming, you also have to contend with environmental conditions like water temps, wind and water quality. In addition, the cute little otters that all the tourists think are so fun to look at are not much more than furry eating machines. They have worked their way into Icy Strait and are leaving a desert in their path, wiping out Dungeness crabs, clams, abalone and anything else they can get their grubby little paws on. Eventually, the stock will collapse because they will literally eat themselves out of existence. From what I can gather, they happen to love oysters too. Strings of oysters hanging from a stationary barge will no doubt seem like manna from heaven. Otters aren't the only predator that likes oysters. Some of our less than honorable boaters seem to feel no pangs of conscience about robbing someone else's property. These are the same clowns who take crabs  and shrimp from other folks pots. I'm not sure how you justify stealing. I well remember a guy who pulled into the dock at L. Kane's years ago for fuel. He said he had taken some crabs from a pot in Spasski Bay, but justified it by leaving a six pack of beer behind. I guess that's better than nothing, but a six pack doesn't pay the rent. In any event, I agreed to go with Jim. He likes to get an early start, so I had to get up at 3:00 AM so I could meet him at the boat at 4:00. The trip to Angoon takes seven hours and the plan was to get the raft ready to tow and do a little fishing. As it was, we got there at about the time we thought we would, but there was a miscommunication and the raft wasn't out front where it was supposed to be. We had to wait for a number of hours for the tide to get high enough for us to enter the bay where it was anchored. We did go fishing for a few hours, but there was almost no sign of feed or fish anywhere. Go figure. In almost every other situation Jim would have caught one or two big kings, but let me join him and the fish disappeared like a fart in the wind. Oh well. We finally made it in to the bay and tied on to the rafts. One of the rafts has a structure on it like a really skookum tent, complete with a stove and cot and a few other things to make it comfortable for the watchman. When the tide book said that the tide was slack, we took off with the rafts. Unfortunately the tide was still running like a river against us and at one point we were actually moving backwards. It was kind of unnerving to be towing those two rafts and thinking about being able to control them in the tide. It finally slacked off and we were able to make a little forward progress, but honestly, it was painfully slow. For the first three hours we were underway I could look right up the bay into Angoon. Eventually we started making a little more headway, moving along at a smoking fast 2.5 knots. Of course there was nothing much to do but talk, so I did plenty of that, so much so that my already raw throat became dry as dead men's bones and I had to keep replenishing my water bottle. I'm not sure how much water I drank on that day and a half trip, but it was impressive. Even more so was the number of times I had to step out back to pee. All that water has to go somewhere. We towed all through the night, past Tenekee Inlet, Freshwater Bay, False Bay and around Point Agusta. We were just coming off nineteen foot tides and during the day there were multitudes of logs and other drift all around us. I kept praying we wouldn't run into any of them during the night. Jim assured me that at a little over two knots, if we did strike one it wouldn't do any damage, but nonetheless I wanted to avoid them at all costs. Remember the Titanic! We kept scanning the video sounder for signs of feed or fish, but it was pretty bleak. We did see one elephant seal and a few whales in the distance, but I assume they weren't having any more luck than we were at locating fish. They probably had to go hungry until the tides drop off.We each managed to take a few painfully short naps and arrived at Burnt Point with the rafts intact. We got them tied up and headed for home. Overall, it was a great trip. I got to spend time with my friend, who was generous with his advice about fishing, I made some good money for the time spent and I was able to help out someone who I admire. It was a win, win situation

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Hidden Truth

 Jan and I were over in Juneau a few weeks ago. I had to go in to the doctor for a physical. There really wasn't much physical stuff involved, aside from taking my blood pressure a few times, having me stick out my tongue,and pressing on my overblown gut. Fortunately I didn't have gas or it would have been a more interesting experience. There are times when it really doesn't make sense to jostle, prod, poke or otherwise disturb the patient. Although I'm sure that most general practitioners have seen it all, for the sake of the patient, it's good to be sensitive to what they have to say. I well remember a friend who was in the naval hospital for some kind of operation or test, I can't recall which. In any event, it seems that he was given a drug that made it difficult for him to communicate with the doctors and nurses. As I recall, he was given a barium enema by a burly nurse whose bedside manner was a bit brusque. He was supposed to be getting some x-rays of his lower tract I believe. For whatever reason this nurse kept poking him in the gut. He tried to tell her to stop, but she kept at it, poking and prodding and generally being rough. Finally all the harsh treatment bore fruit and he blew. Even in his altered state he claims to have had a good laugh when he saw the nurse behind him coated in the remains of the barium enema dripping off her glasses. As the saying goes, payback is a bitch. None of this has anything whatsoever with the post I wanted to write, but at my age, when I think of something I have to mention it or it might be lost in caverns of my mind for a long period of time, perhaps never to resurrect again. The main point of this post was that while we were in Juneau, we went shopping. It's a common thing to do for those of us living in the outlying villages here in Alaska. The cost of goods is so high that it's imperative to shop when you go to one of the larger towns. The local stores aren't totally to blame. The freight company, in this case, Alaska Marine Lines, has taken advantage of the monopoly that they have to gouge the outlying areas. I believe they're still charging a fuel charge, similar to the airlines, even though the price of fuel has dropped dramatically. Anyway, we were in the Juneau Fred Meyer store picking up an assortment of canned goods and other odds and ends, and Jan asked if we wanted to get a few cans of peas. I happen to like canned peas on occasion, so I said yes, and she grabbed four cans. What we didn't realize, until we actually served them with a meal is that they were unsalted. I've eaten raw peas off the pod, and they have a sweet flavor. I don't know what they did to these peas in the canning process, but good Lord they were nasty! I thought I could work my way through what I had on the plate, but there was no way. I suspect that the label would have had more flavor. Really, if stores are going to carry foods that are unsalted or otherwise unaltered to make them taste good, they should have a special "flavorless" section. That way unsuspecting shoppers don't grab up one thing, thinking it is another. In all fairness, the can does say no salt added, but there is so much advertising on everything, we just passed over it somehow. Have you noticed on TV when an ad comes on for something like life insurance for only $9.95 a month, that they like to say that you can't be turned down for your health or age? That's all fine and dandy, but what about all the writing underneath that is so small you'd have to sit right under the screen with a magnifying glass and be a speed reader to take it all in? It's actually kind of deceptive. Do politicians write these ads before they start their political careers or what? It's like what has happened with so much in the grocery stores. Cereal boxes are still the same physical size, but the amount inside is smaller. Same with my favorite pizza. You buy the pizza thinking that it's filling up the whole box, but after opening it, there's only a half a pizza inside. It's kind of like buying a ticket for a plane. You pay for a whole seat, but actually you're only getting about a half of one. Is it any wonder that flying is one of the most stressing things anyone can do? It's not the fear of crashing that bothers most people, it's the fear of being stuck in the middle seat between two fat people. What ever happened to getting what you paid for? Like the saying goes, you can polish a turd, but that doesn't make it a diamond. There is a lot to be said about all the modern conveniences that we enjoy, but for my money, I'd gladly go back to a time when there was integrity in the workplace, when what was advertised was actually what you got; and, if for some reason you didn't get what you paid for, the business owner made it right. If this political season has shown one thing, it's that Americans are tired of being lied to, whether by our politicians, corporate giants, or canned peas suppliers. No one is innocent. How about if we start speaking the truth about what we're portraying- about ourselves, our businesses or our government. How refreshing would that be?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Demand"O" Dog

 Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that we have a very head strong, carrot loving, exceptionally demanding dachshund. I love him to pieces, but Lord, there are days when I don't know who will prevail upon whom. In most cases, the dog wins out. I never wanted to have a dog. I love dogs; I used to walk around town with dog biscuits in my pockets to feed to other peoples dogs. They all loved me too.I got all the benefits without any of the responsibilities. If someones dog took a dump in their yard, that was fine with me. Not my problem. If they were spastic and carried on barking for hours on end, that was their mess to deal with, not mine. I didn't have to worry if their dog needed walked or bathed or fed or sent to the vets. All I wanted to do was pet them and enjoy their friendship. However, all that changed when we ended up with a dog of our own. I've watched the changes come over him as the years have progressed. Much like Jan and I, he's put on some extra pounds, and I think he sleeps more than he used to. Frequently when he hears a noise outside  and wants to hop up onto the back of the couch to check it out, he looks at the couch like it's Mount Everest, and on occasion opts to stay on the floor and let the noise go unchallenged.  On sunny days he wants to spend unlimited time outside. That's understandable, I like to be outside when it's nice too, but it's not always possible. He's developed an exceptionally annoying habit of sitting below my chair and making the most irritating sound.It's not really a whine, although that would be bad enough. It sounds almost like a little kid straining on the toilet. Inevitably, he will start in when I'm sitting down trying to catch a little nap. I try to ignore him, but he's like a mosquito in a small space when you're trying to go to sleep. He can't be ignored. I keep thinking that eventually he'll give up and leave, perhaps go sniff the floor for a few crumbs, but that never happens. He is the most persistent being I've ever come across. We refer to him as Demand-o- dog or the demand-o commando. He's unrelenting in his pursuit of whatever it is he wants, be it a spin outside or a few baby carrots. It really has a tendency to wear me out. Frankly, he's worse than a little kid. You know, there's a reason why people have children when they're young- they have the energy then. However, you can be ninety years old and  have a dog or cat and you're stuck with feeding them, playing with them, walking them or cleaning out the litter box. They're a lot of work! I agree that they are good companions, and I always know when someone is on the porch, but when he's gone, I may just opt to have him stuffed. I can still pet him, I won't have to worry about where I step out in the lawn, and if I want to take a nap, I can do so uninterrupted. It might just be the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fishing On My Mind

  I went out fishing for the first time this year this past Friday. Fish and Game opened up the commercial king salmon troll season for five days in this area. I wasn't going to go initially. The forecast was for twenty knots out of the East, and it's always a hassle when it's blowing that hard from that direction to dock the boat when I come back to the harbor. Plus it's not fun to be out in a cold wind when there really isn't all that much around to catch. However, the dog had to go pee and decided to wake me up at 5:15. I noticed that the wind that was forecast hadn't developed yet, and it seemed like it might be a good day, and since I was up anyway, I thought, what the heck, so I made enough lunch to feed three people and went down to the boat.  It was really nice to be back out on the water. Last year I was hauled out so I could get some planks replaced. I stayed on dry land from March 29 to mid-July. The season wasn't anything to get excited about last year, but it still would have beat crawling around under the boat caulking and painting. I headed on up the bay and was looking at my GPS. I fished shallower than I normally do. It seems like this time of year the rod fishermen are still catching more fish because around here they're in the shallows. I was trying to hug the beach at twelve fathoms and everything was going pretty good. The engine started right up, the gurdies were working fine, the hydraulics came on, the radio was clear and the GPS was letting me know right where I was. I should have known something would happen. For reasons that I can't explain, I saw that there was a high spot in front of me, but instead of turning out, I kept going towards it. The fathometer was showing that there was still plenty of water, so I was ok... until I wasn't. All of a sudden the bottom shot up like a rocket and I was in six fathoms of water dragging twelve fathoms of gear. I gunned the engine to make the cannonballs climb, but there apparently is a pinacle right there and one of the fifty pound leads hung up on it and the bottom claimed it. Now, normally I would swear and carry on and most likely pull the gear up and go home and pout for the rest of the day, but for some reason, even though it bothered me, I just got out the necessary equipment to put a new lead on and kept fishing. How odd. I was having a pretty good day overall. The weather was nice, the boat was running well and I had my Sirius satellite radio on for entertainment.  I didn't see much sign of feed anywhere, but that doesn't always mean anything. I trolled on over to the log dump at Westport and made my way on up the bay aways. I was keeping a pretty good eye on the depth so I didn't have a repeat of the earlier fiasco, when my starboard spring for the heavy started jumping. I knew it wasn't real big, but it was a fish, the first one of the year. As I pulled the gear I could see the flasher on the second leader up from the bottom was kind of vibrating. Usually that means a fish is on. However, I could see the green hoochie I was using behind it, so I realized the fish had struck the spoon underneath and had swam up to tangle the other line. Now that's more like what I'm used to. I pulled the leader with the flasher and got it untangled from the other leader and took a look at the king that was on the spoon beneath. It wasn't large, maybe ten pounds, but it was as bright as a new dime on the sides and his top part was the most beautiful teal green. I admired him for a moment and started to pull him in. It looked like the hook was pretty well embedded in his cheek, so I naturally figured he would be in the boat visiting me in just a few seconds. Well.... he had other plans. Out of nowhere he got a burst of strength and did a few squirrelly turns and slam, bam, thank you mam, he was gone.  Bummer! I hate losing the first fish of the year. Hopefully it's not an indicator of what the year is going to bring, but all in all, I couldn't get too upset. I've been commercial fishing for salmon for thirty eight years now, and I can't begin to tell you all the times I've gone out and for the first several weeks have come home with nothing more than empty fuel tanks. I was really glad to get a fish on the first time out, even if I didn't land him. Frankly, I have a good feeling about this year. Of course I could be wrong, but for a change I'm going to be optimistic. I'll keep  you posted as the season progresses and we'll see what develops. Meanwhile, it's spring, so those of you inclined towards angling, you might want to get those hooks sharpened. Good fishing to ya.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Things Are GettingSquirrelly Around Here

  For most of the winter we've had an unwanted or at least uninvited guest. I have several feeders that I put out on the front porch for the birds, but obviously, birds aren't the only visitors we've had. In fact, when the birds dare to come to the feeders to grab a bite, the squirrel squeals and chatters and chases them off. He even gives the much larger crows what for. I don't mind having him so much, although maybe it's not a him and if that's the case, we may have mini- rodents running around here. That would not please me at all. A few years ago we had a squirrel in the house. He apparently liked the attic just fine, and every night I would be awakened to the little pitter-patter of tiny feet running across the bedroom ceiling. It was driving me nuts! I don't sleep good anyway, so I don't really relish an early morning wake up call from the local rodent. I bought some high pitch sound device that was supposed to scare them off, but of course that didn't work. I used to get the broom and pound on the ceiling, like I was trying to warn off a noisy upstairs neighbor. He would sit still for about ten minutes, just long enough for me to start to relax and and lull myself into a false sense of accomplishment. Then he would start in again, doing the Charleston or the Twist or some other dance move that involved a lot of thrashing around. I seriously thought about getting out my twelve gauge shotgun and shooting right through the sheet rock. I figured I could patch the ceiling without too much problem, and it would most certainly be worth it if I could get a good nights sleep. I finally opted to put a mouse trap in the attic and hope that in his travels through the dark regions of the house he would stumble upon it. A few nights after I had set it, with some peanut butter I believe, probably the chunky kind- I think squirrels like something solid to munch on, I was somewhere, the living room or perhaps in bed when I heard the unmistakable sound of the trap going off. I don't believe I'm a mean spirited person, but knowing that the trap had worked gave me an immense sense of pleasure.The smile that I sported would usually be reserved for a somewhat more monumental occasion, but I couldn't help it, I was giddy!Years ago I believe the forest service introduced Martens to the area believing that the squirrels were somehow harming the trees, which were an important asset here.  I guess they found out later that it wasn't the case, but I'm glad that Martens were introduced anyway. Otherwise every house in town might have these midnight marauders. When the boys were young we bought them BB guns. Knowing full well that they would end up shooting living things with them, we gave them instructions that whatever they shot, they had to eat. To the best of my knowledge they never imbibed a cat or robin, but they did kill and eat a few squirrels. One of them even spread the hide of  one of their conquests on the side of the shed out back. If I recall, there were squirrel feet taped on the tops of pencils too. Not sure what happened to the hide. It would have been just big enough to make a dress for a Tarzan Barbie doll I suppose. I guess if you shot about thirty of them and your head wasn't  too big, you could sew them all together and make a squirrel skin cap, kind of like ol' Daniel Boone. You could pretend to be his outcast and often ridiculed dim witted-cousin, Darrel Boone. I'm not sure what eating all that squirrel meat would do to your digestive system, but you probably wouldn't have to worry about mad cow disease.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Did You Call Me?

    Here in Hoonah we recently had a new postmaster assigned to us. Frankly, I didn't see why we needed one. Joyce Skafelstad, a gal who had previously been the magistrate for a number of years here, was filling in and she was doing a spectacular job. However, for reasons I can't comprehend, the powers that be felt that we needed an official postmaster, so we got one. Fortunately, the person they chose was a perfect fit for Hoonah. His name is Mark Smith and he has proven himself to be very well suited for the job and the community. In a relatively short time, he's gotten to know everyone and his been involved in a number of extra- curricular activities around town. He's joined the bird watching group that meets on Saturday, a Tuesday night jazz band, a group that gets together to play canasta at one of the local homes and at least one night a week he's busy carving a Tlingit paddle up at the Hoonah Indian Association building. Apparently he likes to stay busy. He's a very pleasant fellow and has a great sense of humor, something that really comes in handy both in working for the government and with the public. Throw in the fact that we live in a rain forest where it's cloudy, gloomy and stormy so much of the time and being able to laugh readily is an added benefit. I was speaking to him a few weeks ago, and mentioned that I like to collect stamps. Not like a professional or a really avid collector might, but some stamps just stand out, and I like to hang on to them. It was then that he told me that I was a philatelist. Not a fatalist, or a Philistine or feminist, but a philatelist. The word almost sounded obscene. Being a philatelist doesn't sound like something you would want to be associated with. Sounds like something you would be ashamed to admit. "Go hang out with the rest of your pervert buddies you philatelist!" Fortunately, that's the official name given to stamp enthusiasts. I can't really call myself a collector I don't suppose. There isn't any real rhyme or reason to what I collect. I just find certain stamps attractive and want to hang on to them. Some years ago when I went in to the post office to buy stamps, I would ask the counter person if they had anything fancy. I didn't want to send a letter with a stamp that anyone would have, that would be boring, so they started showing me what was available. There are some pretty cool things out there. I ended up having to buy two books of stamps, one to mail letters, and one to save. Over the years I've picked up stamps depicting Star Wars, Harry Potter, comic book super heroes from both the Marvel and DC comic franchises, muscle cars, cars with tail fins, historical stamps and other odds and ends that I found interesting. I recently purchased some stamps with a picture of the moon on them. They're round and are for international postage. Mark mentioned that all international postage utilizes round stamps. He also said that the Batman stamps that I have depict the various stages that Batman was drawn down through the years. There are some round Batman stamps on the sheet that Mark said were the only domestic round ones printed. He's a wealth of information. In looking through the philatelic magazine, which was put out by the USPS, I see a number of other stamps that will be available this year. I hope to be able to grab on to some of them; there are some real beauties. I guess when the stamp has run it's course for the year, that's it. The post office doesn't sell them any more. I suppose I could check out E bay for any that I can't get locally, but I'd prefer to buy them at the original price. My only issue now is who do I give them to when my time is done. I don't want to give them to one of the grand kids and then have them need to send off a payment for the electric bill and not want to go to the post office so they rip off a forever stamp from the collection and go on their happy way. No doubt I would turn over in my grave. In the meantime I guess I'll just keep scarfing up these little wonders of art and let the bidding begin after I'm gone.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Of Titans and Wimps

Well, it's 10:00PM, the evening news is on; Channel 2, NBC news out of Anchorage. I'd like to be in the living room watching it, resting in my easy chair, but instead here I am, sitting at this stupid computer cranking out a blog post. It's something that I've tried to do for the past week or so, but for reasons unknown, the Internet has been unbelievably unreliable. Thanks Hughes Net. You know, when you pay for something, you should actually receive it. Every month I get a bill from Hughes Net for Internet service, but about half the time I try to get on, there is some kind of problem. What if that happened when you went into the store? You walk through the door, looking to buy a few bananas, a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, for some reason they're out of what you're looking for. However, you still end up having to pay before you leave, even though you don't have anything in your grocery bag. It's the same principal. Something is seriously wrong here. In any event, a few weeks ago, I came into the office to check my email, and I couldn't get any Internet service, so for some unknown reason I decided to see what other options were on my computer. I saw an application for games and came across Chess Titans. I've never played chess, but I thought it would be a good idea to learn- you know, kind of stimulate my mind a little bit. Increasingly as I age I find myself unable to pull words out of my brain. It's quite frustrating, so instead of spending countless hours in front of the TV, I thought I would give this a try. As I mentioned, I never played chess before, but that didn't stop me from trying. I can't recall the number of games I lost. I think I played something like ninety some games before I accidentally won one. For me, chess is kind of like fishing. I can sometimes go hours or even days on end before I finally catch something, but boy when I do, it's just the encouragement I need to keep going for more countless hours. I finally spoke to a friend who gave me an elementary understanding of what each of the pieces was able to do. I finally started to win a few games, although the computer is still giving me a sound beating. Frankly I think its cheating. There are times when it seems like its able to move its pieces wherever it wants, but if I try to do that, it won't let me.What's that about? Frankly, even though playing chess may be marginally good for my brain, the stress of playing and losing so often takes it's toll. I have a stress ball that I keep on the table beside my chair. I like to squeeze it after I'm done playing chess or when I'm watching TV, especially when I'm watching the news. The news is so uplifting that I've managed to break two stress balls so far. I start squeezing them and after a while the ball starts to get a mushy feel and then all of a sudden all the silica starts to spill out. I've noticed an improvement in my grip because of the stress ball workout. I recently shook hands with a friend whom I haven't seen for awhile. He commented on how good my grip was. Granted, he's ninety four years old, but he's still chopping wood, so it wasn't like I had an advantage over him. When it comes to playing chess, I may be a wimp, but come shake my hand and you'll see I'm a real titan. I'm going to close now. My eyes feel like they've been jabbed with hot pokers and I'm developing a hump in my back like Quasimodo from leaning over looking at this stupid computer. I'll try to do another blog post some time in the not too distant future, but it will all depend on whether or not the Internet provider will let me. Oh the joys of modern life. I think I'll go read a book.