Monday, February 28, 2011

Goodbye February...and Good Riddance

 For most of my life I've lived in a Northern climate, so February has always been an  unpleasant month to me.It's like a filler between January and March. It can go either way, giving little hints and hopes of the coming spring or unpleasant reminders of winter. In a lot of ways it's kind of like me- wishy-washy; unable to set a course and stay with it. I could almost handle knowing that the month was going to continue to be cold and miserable, like January. You expect it to be nasty then, but February is unpredictable. One day it's blowing forty knots with wind chills well below zero, and the next day the sun has come out and the icecicles on the roof are melting.
 Last week it was one of those brilliant sunny days and I was enticed out of my cave for a little walk down at the cannery. As you can see, I was the only one foolish enough to be out there. There was a pretty good Northeastern wind whipping up the whitecaps in Icy Straits. As long as I stayed in front of the cannery I was pretty well protected from the wind. Of course I didn't have sense enough to do that, I wanted to get a picture out and around the corner- right where I was exposed to the full force of that icy blast. By the time I got back to the lee side of the cannery, my face felt like a steak in a grocery freezer. I'm quite certain that if anyone had boxed my frozen ears they probably would have fallen to the ground where seagulls would have pecked at them or perhaps they would have dried and tourists could have skipped them across the water like flat rocks..."look, that one skipped twelve times Mom!"  I don't know why, but whenever I go out I wear my baseball cap. Of course it offers no protection from the cold. I guess I wear it out of habit, but also because it has a picture of a salmon on the front with a Hoonah Cold Storage logo on it.Some years back I sent my brother, Mark, a Hoonah Cold Storage cap that had ear flaps. It was the only year they had flaps- probably a good thing, they looked pretty stupid. Anyway, Mark wore it, most likely out of a feeling of obligation. The thing is, he lives in Florida. He said he put it on and started sweating like a fat lady in a steam box. When I was a kid,the makers of Arrid deodorant used to show a commercial like that. Why anyone would sit in a steambox I have no idea. Perhaps it was February and she was trying to warm up.
I'm not really sure why I took this picture of the marker on Cannery Point. I just happened to be there so I took it. There really isn't anything too amusing or witty that you can write about a marker. I can tell you that it marks a reef that sticks out off the point and apparently it's marker number 3. It has a green light that flashes every six seconds and according to  chart  number 17302 it stands twenty six feet off the ground and can be seen for seven miles on a clear night. Back when I had my fourteen foot Highlaker skiff I caught a thirty nine pound king salmon off that reef. For years it was the largest salmon I ever caught. What that has to do with February I can't say, but what the hell- it's my blog so I can put in whatever I want I guess. By the way, if any of my family is reading this, the wind knocked out the long distance and cell service so we can't get ahold of you. You can thank February for this inconvenience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Birds

 For some reason birds hold a certain fascination for me. Perhaps it's because they are like fish in that they come in such diverse colors and shapes and each one fits perfectly well in its environment. A few weeks ago a pair of Stellars Jays showed up on the scene. They usually arrive sometime around February and stick around until the snow is gone and then I  don't see them for a long while. I'm not sure where they go. It's the time of year when I start seeing a Varied Thrush or two- like the one in the middle picture. I've heard them called Telephone Birds because of the sound they make later on in the year, kind of like a phone ringing. Last week there was a Magpie hanging around. They are a beautiful bird, brilliant black and white with a hint of teal green and a long, squarish tail. I wanted to get a picture of it, but as soon as I reached for the camera, it took off. Go figure. That happened to me last year too when I heard the dog going crazy and looking at the back porch. When I went to check it out there was a hawk sitting in front of the door. A blizzard was howling at the time and I figured he was holding up until the weather cleared. I ran in and got the camera, but right when I got it focused he flew away. He came back a second time with the same results. No doubt if  I had  never reached for the camera he would have stayed there all day; probably would have called in some of his bird friends and had a picnic. I had another really interesting episode involving a hawk years ago when I was living at the farm. Our house was near the end of the property line and was located in the old growth forest. A boardwalk ran between our home and the next closest property. It was incredibly quiet and private and I happened to be carrying an extension ladder down the boardwalk to my home. I had to pee, so I stood the ladder upright and took care of business. While I was standing there, a hawk flew through the woods and landed on top of the ladder. He stayed for thirty seconds or so  looking around, and  took off. It was pretty neat.
 A few days ago I was looking out the kitchen window and saw four or five little sparrow like birds land in the Hemlock tree out back and start hanging upside down eating the seeds out of the cones. I don't know what kind they are. I  have a friend here whose sister is getting a Phd. in orinthology. I guess she'll be a doctor of birds. I should contact her to find out what they were.   Last week I swear I saw two Robins squabbling in the bushes. There was  snow on the ground and it was cold and blowing. What the heck were they thinking? Apparently bone head ideas aren't limited to the human race. I haven't seem them since, so maybe they did a one-eighty and went back where the worms aren't frozen. I know if I had a choice of where to spend the winters, it sure wouldn't be here. I'd go where the worms are warm and the fish don't know it's winter.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How the Times Have Changed

 I can't really remember why I took this top picture.Several weeks ago I was out and around with the camera just enjoying the day and the reletively mild weather. I guess I wanted to show anyone who might be interested, a shot of the booming metropolis of Hoonah, Alaska. This is Front Street, the main drag. Actually, it looks pretty good compared to what it looked like when I arrived back in 1976. Back then the road was about half the width and was an unpaved,muddy, potholed disaster. The only cars I saw were the ones that other people from Mt. Bether had brought up here with them.  They  had to leave them in town  because there was no way to transport them to the farm; even if there was, there was nowhere to drive. Now it seems like there are almost as many cars as there are people. It's really apparent when  you're trying to get into the parking lot at Hoonah Trading. Lord knows how many accidents there have been in that lot. I guess it was fine when there were only about six vehicles in town. Now everyone seems to have an extended cab truck with an extra long bed, and they all want to shop at once. It's like parking a semi-truck on a postage stamp.
 On the left hand side of the top picture you can see a skiff on it's side in someone's front yard. That's pretty much the way it's always been. You don't see too many appliances laying around in peoples front yards nowadays, although there is a red fire hydrant laying in the bushes that I pass by everytime I walk Jan to work. Close to the skiff there's a couple stacks of half-moon galvanized steel laying in an empty lot. The house that used to be there burned down years ago and the land owner is looking for someone to erect a quonset hut where the house stood. So far he hasn't found anyone who can do it. I hope he never does. There used to be a bus parked where the skiff is. It had been used at one time as a dwelling by someone until it was rendered unlivable. It still sat in the front yard for quite a number of years afterwards before it finally disappeared.
   For those who are familiar with Hoonah and haven't been here for awhile I took a picture of the new fuel tank farm. Unfortunately it's located right by the blue warehouse and is going to block the view of the landowners who built homes down by the water so they could enjoy the beautiful scenery. Originally the tanks were supposed to be located in the rock pit across the street from the warehouse, but it was found that the land might not be stable in the event of an earthquake, so they had to move them. It's not really what you want to see when you wake up in the morning, but I guess things could be worse. They could have built a quonset hut instead.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Crabbers

 It's February 15 today, the official opening day of the Tanner Crab season here in Southeast. As you can see there are three boats tied up at the cold storage and another half dozen or more at the downtown float. I was both pleased and surprized when I looked out this morning and the boats were still tied up. I thought that I had missed my opportunity to get a few pictures of them. I spoke to one of the captains who said that the season had been delayed for forty-eight hours because of the weather. Apparently it's blowing pretty good in Lynn Canal. I can't recall Fish and Game delaying the season on account of weather before, but I don't stay on top of those things very well. I know that years ago when the halibut season was open to everyone and the season had been reduced to twenty-four hour openings, there were more than a few lives lost because of poor weather. I'm glad that they delayed this opening for a bit. When the wind blows the spray up onto the rigging of the boats, ice forms and any extra weight above the water line can make the boats unstable. Boats have sunk because of ice build up. I believe that baseball bats are standard equipment on crabbers for beating the ice off the rigging. It may not be the Bering Sea and this isn't The Deadliest Catch, but frigid temps and furious winds make it miserable and downright dangerous.You can almost count on the weather to take a turn for the worse right before the crab season opens. It could be sunny and fifty degrees on February 14, but then overnight an Arctic storm will blow in with howling winds and snow- it's uncanny. Most of the boats doing the crab fishing here are 58 foot limit seiners. I saw one or two large trollers geared up, but usually the bigger guys have the space for all the pots and can handle the weather. A couple of the smaller local boats used to go out and catch grey cod for hanging bait for the crabbers pots, but since Floyd Hunt passed away, I don't believe anyone else is doing it, but I could be wrong. For a few years I had a permit to longline for greycod. I never used it and finally let it elapse. I don't know why I thought I would ever have the intestinal fortitude to fish in the winter. I get cold if it drops below thirty. I should go south for the winter and fish for Grouper or some such thing. In any event, I wish these guys well. I figure if they have the courage to go out and face the elements they deserve all the success that comes their way.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Books n' Stuff

I spoke to my daughter Autumn the other day,and like her sister, she too felt that I was slacking off on the blog posts. The fact that I posted a record eight times last month seemed to have no impact on her at all. Perhaps I should give up trying to do any kind of work that pays and spend my entire time trying to entertain my family members. Lord knows what will happen when I die. I should probably buy a cell phone and a computer to take to the grave with me.
 I had all manner of witty thoughts passing through my brain earlier in the day, but when I sat down to do the post, the pictures wouldn't upload. The Blogger site decided to do a different format or some such thing and it threw a wrench in things. Now I'm left with whatever I can wring out of my tired brain at ten P.M.- sorry about that.
 This is a picture of the table next to my overstuffed chair that Rigby occasionally lets me sit in. As you can see it's piled high with an assortment of books and magazines as well as my glasses, a coffee cup and a water glass. I was hoping that a big pile of books would make me look scholarly, but mainly it just makes me look like a slob- oh well. I keep a copy there of The One Year Bible that I try to read most days before my day gets too far along. I find that it seems to help. I need the discipline of reading it on a regular basis. Theres a copy of a Max Lucado book- Outlive Your Life, that I got for Christmas. He's a best selling Christian author and one of my favorite people to read. I first ran across his work when I was working for L. Kane Store at a gift show in Seattle. As I look at the book shelf in my office I see another dozen titles by him. If you ever need an inspirational message, if you're feeling down or depressed or can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, I'd encourage you to break open one of his books. He's really been given a gift.
 I also have four copies of The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson. He's also gifted, although in a very different but necessary way. I was so bummed out when he quit doing his column.  Of all the comics that he drew,one of my favorites was one showing God in a kitchen. He has the earth in a pot cooking and on the shelf he has a box of krill, a box of birds, a bag of insects and in his hand he has a shaker of jerks that he is sprinkling on the earth. The caption reads- just to make it interesting. Well it certainly is that isn't it?
  I recently read a trilogy of books by a Swedish author named Steig Larsson. I'm not sure quite how to describe the genre, dark suspense I guess would kind of cover it. Each of the books was over five hundred pages and  I found myself so engrossed in them that I could easily shut out the noise of the TV. Several nights I read until my eyes were like two pee holes in the snow and burned something fierce. One night I read until after two AM and probably would have kept going if I had been physically able to. I love it when a book does that for you. Incidentally, shortly after he turned in the last manuscript, he died.
  Sometime last month I mentioned another author I enjoy- Robert Fulghum. I couldn't get him out of my mind so for the third time I went to the library and checked out UH-OH, Some Observations From Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door. It has a card in the pocket.The librarian used to stamp the date on the card and you had to sign your name beside the date. That was in the days before computers did it all electronically. I saw that I had originally checked it out November 18, 1991. Then again on January 25 of '93. Last night as I settled in to bed to read a bit before nodding off, I read again his account of being in Pocatello, Idaho at an Albertson's supermarket. He was in a reflective mood, having just left the library and realizing that there would never be enough time to read all the books there. He found himself in front of the canned tuna and started thinking about all the work that was involved in getting the tuna to the shelf, from the fishermen to the workers on the canning line, to the artists who drew the lables to the teamsters who drove the cases to the store. Then he thought about the lives of the people who bought the tuna and how diverse they would be.It gave me a whole new way of looking at things. As I put the book down and shut off the light I too was in a reflective mood. I was in a warm, comfortable bed, well fed and reasonably content. I knew that as I was about to be overcome with peaceful slumber, there were others, who for a variety of reasons,wouldn't enjoy the same blessings I had that night. I don't know how that works. I believe that there is a law of sewing and reaping and sometimes we bring  trouble on ourselves because of our actions, but that doesn't explain a multitude of other circumstances where people suffer. It's more than I can wrap my mind around, so when things are going well I'll thank God and try to enjoy the moment knowing full well that it won't last. I think I've rambled on enough for one night, so I'll see you at the next post.