Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Sunset of Our Lives

    If we are lucky enough to enjoy a long life, the chances are that our bodies and minds will gradually deteriorate. Just like any piece of machinery, no matter how well oiled or maintained, time will eventually have an impact on us. I just returned from a whirlwind trip south to assist in getting my mother moved into an assisted living facility. Several months ago she suffered a stroke. It required her going into a rehab program and sharing a room, much like a hospital room, where she could get the help she needed. Unfortunately, the stroke wasn't the worst of the problems she was facing. Over the course of the past year or so, it was becoming increasingly evident that Mom was having problems with her memory. Not just the common forgetting where you put your keys or not being able to pull a word out of your mind to complete a sentence. In the course of a conversation I would often answer the same question five, six, seven or more times. Every day knowledge that she should have known, escaped her. She had no recollection of having asked a question, nor did she remember the answer given. On occasion she would somewhat haltingly recollect that an answer to an inquiry had been given. I think it embarrassed her to think that she wasn't as sharp as she had been. My brother shared a conversation that she had with his wife. She was distressed and asked- "what's wrong with me? Why can't I remember?" It's a frightening place to find yourself in. While Mom was in the rehab facility, she saw a neurologist who confirmed that she was in the final stages of dementia. My family had to make the painful choice of moving her out of her home and into a permanent facility. I can't emphasize how difficult such a decision is. We are taking her basic freedoms from her, the ability to decide where she will live, what she will eat, when to get up or see a doctor. The fact is, she was unable or unwilling to cook anymore, and was living on largely on peanut butter and crackers or a bowl of soup, supplemented by a program that we set up for her to insure that she was eating something healthy at least three days a week. When I left her the other day, it was brought to my attention that Mom was down to a mere 99 pounds. She's under the impression that she weighs fifteen pounds more. On more than one occasion when I called, she would answer the phone upside down, and not hearing anyone, she'd hang up. She tried to make calls on her television remote control, and ended up calling her neighbor to come over this past winter because she had gotten up in the middle of the night to turn up the heat but had accidentally turned it down. In her mind, she believes she can still live on her own. She would hop in the car and drive if she could. but she confided in her neighbor that she had left for a trip to the store and ended up in a town some fourteen miles away without any recollection of how she got there. My mother was always a very sweet woman, and still is, but with many dementia patients, as the day wears on they become increasingly confused and combative. It's a condition called Sundowner's Syndrome. They are scared and tired and Lord knows what else. When I see her like this, I can only pray that God in all his goodness will spare me the same fate. I take a great deal of comfort knowing that we were able to place her in a facility that is the top of the line. She has her own room with two windows that look out on a courtyard, her favorite recliner is in the room, along with multitudes of family pictures, her CD player and favorite songs, TV, dresser full of clothes and many mementos. It's a very comfortable room and we've made it as much like home as we could. Her friends are free to visit, she gets three nutritious meals each day, there are activities to do and a lovely sitting room with beautiful furniture. They even have a soda fountain and popcorn machine. The bottom line is, she is being taken care of in a way that none of us could do. I pray that none of you have to face this situation, but if you do, I hope that you'll be as fortunate as we have been to have a first class facility for your loved one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Never Ending Story

   Twenty five years ago, when I first laid eyes on the Bonnie J, I really wasn't impressed. After all, it was a wooden boat,and I knew what that was going to entail. However, when I got closer and looked at the For Sale sign, and the amount that the seller wanted for her, I started to give it some consideration. At the time I still had seven kids at home, and I wasn't exactly raking in the big bucks working at L. Kane Store. I don't know what my reasoning was for buying it; I guess I realized that I'd be hard pressed to find another boat with a basically new engine for that price,and since I wasn't mechanically inclined, a new diesel was a real selling point. I would have liked to have purchased a good used fiberglass boat, but they were going for about twice what we paid for the house, so that wasn't practical either. Sooooo... I bought the Bonnie J and actually, I've been paying for it ever since. I've had her for almost 25 years. In that time I've replaced the forward deck, after deck, deck beams, oil stove,all the electronics, trolling poles, fuel tanks, hay rack, bulwarks, hydraulic gurdies, hydraulic hoses, bow stem, and I don't know how many planks. Now it's time to replace even more planks. I figured there would be three or four, maybe five on the starboard side, but it appears that there will be even more. No doubt if the shipwright didn't stop, when he did, I'd never make it out fishing this year. As it is, it's going to be touch and go. Having a wooden boat is kind of like having a spoiled kid- or a dog like Rigby. Always demanding, always in need of something. I've often wondered if I haven't thrown good money after bad, but at this juncture, it's too late to worry about it. It gets to the point that you can't afford to walk away. It is awfully nice to apply paint to the wood and not have a rust spot show up two days later where an old screw is bleeding through. When I hauled out this time, I was noticing that some of the paint was peeling off pretty badly. I got out my putty knife and started to scrape some off. As I did, entire sections of a rotten plank were dropping to the ground. Fortunately I'd already planned on replacing that plank. A few years ago when I was hauled out, we ran out of time to replace any more. I had a rotten plank under the guard on the port side. I kind of picked at it until I had a pretty good gouge in the wood. Well, I couldn't very well leave it like that, so out came the Bondo body filler. Holy cats , I must have used six pounds of the stuff trying to get it to fill the void. It didn't want to stick too well either because the wood was soaked. What  a fiasco. It finally did dry out enough to hold some paint, but it's not very comforting to know that the only thing holding out the elements is a little bit of putty. I don't really mind  spending the money on these repairs all that much. It's a good feeling to know that you've got something solid under you when the weather kicks up and you're pounding into for mile after mile. In a few more years, if I can keep up with the repairs, most of the wood above the waterline will have been replaced. That doesn't mean that something else won't need fixed though, heaven's no! One of these days, I'll be done fishing and hopefully someone else will look upon her and decide they're up to the challenge. Of course I'll only get a fraction of what I've got invested in her, but the memories will be worth a fortune.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Just like a Timex watch

     Years ago Timex watches came out with various commercials showing their watches being abused in assorted situations - people skiing down a slope and falling or a guy using a jack hammer or something along that line to show how tough their watches were. The announcer would come on and say - Timex watches, they take a licking and keep on ticking. Well, Jan and I celebrated our forty third wedding anniversary recently and I'm pleased to say, we're still ticking along. I didn't say tickling, I said ticking, like a watch. I didn't include any pictures of us as we look now, the contrast is so great, that you probably wouldn't believe that it was the same two people. It's amazing what time does to a person. I wish I weighed now what I did in these pictures. I think I had a 29 inch waist then. Heck, my head probably wouldn't fit into a 29 inch stocking cap right now. I can't recall when the last time was that my hair was anything but grey... or white. I suppose I was more handsome back then, in an immature, boyish sort of way. They made me shave off my mustache when I went into boot camp, which I guess was just as well, at the time it made me look like I'd been drinking chocolate milk and needed to wipe off my mouth. I didn't waste any time when I got out of boot camp; we were married I think just a few days later. While I was in boot camp I became painfully aware of how lonely a fellow can get, and I didn't want to let someone else scarf up Jan while I was off on a ship somewhere. It was the best decision I've ever made in my life. We've been through a lot; seven children, ten grandchildren, ten years at a religious community in the wilderness of Alaska, assorted illnesses, childhood traumas, lousy fishing seasons, a plane wreck and having nine people crammed together in a one bathroom home to mention just a few.  We have a very dear friend who just got married. She did it right, waited for the right man and didn't compromise her values, even though time was marching on and the desire to be married was great. I'm delighted for her. I believe that she will have a lasting marriage. I would just remind her though, that there is no Camelot. Trouble will find us no matter who we are, but what a blessing to find the right mate to go through life with. With a loving spouse and the blessings of the Lord, there isn't anything that you can't face together. I pray that everyone who is married, whether you're a newly wed or an old couple like Jan and I will take a minute to reflect on what attracted you to that person and will  let them know you love them.

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.