Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunday Drive

When I was growing up in Ohio, almost every Sunday for a number of years, my dad would load up the family and we'd go for a Sunday drive. At the time gas was fairly cheap- less than thirty cents a gallon. I remember my grandmother once pulled into a Sohio filling station and when she saw that gas was going to cost almost twenty five cents a gallon, she sped off in a huff. She'd pass a blue brick if she saw gas prices now. I paid $5.09 a gallon last week. Anyway, as I was saying, we went on quite a few Sunday drives. The most memorable would be to places like Mohican State Park near Mansfield, or Kingwood Center to look at the acres of flowers. When I was younger I kind of liked the short jaunts, as long as we were able to stop and look around. Without fail though I would have to pee about ten minutes after I stepped into the car. It didn't matter that I went before we ever left the house. I would stand over the toilet almost breaking out in a sweat trying to squeeze every last drop out before we left. I was always a bit of a nervous kid, and my dad had no patience at all. He could drive for hours without stopping and any mention of pulling over before we reached our destination was met with an angry outburst. He was like a camel in reverse. Instead of going days not needing a drink, he could go for hours not needing to urinate. As a result I spent most Sundays in the back seat counting off the miles until we got to wherever we were going and once there, charging for the nearest outhouse, restroom or tree to find relief. Ahh, good times. One nice thing about dad's lack of patience is that it extended to everyone. He liked driving fast and would frequently pass other vehicles at sometimes scary speeds, cursing them for being Sunday drivers. I spent many weekend excursions dividing my time between praying for a place to stop and pee and praying we wouldn't end up in a tangled, bloody mess along side the road. Fortunately, God always answered my prayers. Had He not there would have been a mess to clean up one way or the other. Last Sunday I took Jan and my oldest daughter Jen and her daughter Kaylahni on a Sunday drive. It was such a beautiful fall day that none of us wanted to stay inside. When the sun shines around here this time of year you have to take advantage of it. We drove out to Whitestone Harbor. Its only about fifteen miles away but the gravel road is rough and there are lots of hills and blind curves, so it usually takes the better part of an hour to get there. Unfortunately Jen and a few of the other kids have inherited a peanut sized bladder from me. Without fail we have to stop at least once going and coming on every trip we make. Whether its the bouncing from the gravel road and pot holes or just genetics, we always end up pulling in to one of the turn outs to make a pit stop. Fortunately tissue paper breaks down quickly or the roadside would look like a cotton field. When we first left town I mentioned that Ears Mountain didn't have any termination dust yet- that first light dusting of snow that powders the peaks like confectioners sugar on a plate of brownies. On our way back a small front blew through. When the clouds cleared I mentioned that Ears finally had that first light snowfall. From the back seat Jen says "When did that happen?" Jan and I just looked at each other and started laughing. For some reason she had a hard time believing that it could have snowed in the time it took us  to drive to Whitestone Harbor and back. So next time you're out for a Sunday drive,check the gas tank, make sure everyone uses the potty before you leave, take  time to enjoy the scenery, stop when you need to and most of all,  have fun with your family.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Do you know the Muffin Man?


Perhaps you've heard of the Birdman of Alcatraz? Well, I should like to be known as the Muffin Man of Hill Street. A short time back a friend gave me a bag of dried blueberries. They are supposed to be full of anti-oxidents, which I guess is good. God forbid that you should have oxidents in your body, for whatever reason. When I had  reduced the bag (with the help of the dog) to less than half full, I got the brilliant idea of making some muffins with the remainder. This past year our neighbor blessed us with this Taste of home Cookbook. If you never get another cookbook in your life, I would like to highly recommend that you have this one. It is so complete from start to finish, covering everything from making hard boiled eggs (only boil them for one minute- then let them stand in the water for fifteen minutes before cooling them off) to buying and storing fruit, to baking bread. I LOVE this cook book. Twice I've made twice baked potatoes with the recipes from this book.  I learned the proper way to boil my shrimp. It covers just about anything you could want to learn about cooking. I fully intend to utilize it some more this winter as I wind down from fishing. Anyway, back to the muffins. I found a recipe for blueberry muffins using sour cream. I wasn't real sure I'd like it, but I gave it a try anyhow. Let me tell you- I AM  the Muffin Man! Just look at those blond beauties resting on the cooling tray. I wish I could let you all have a taste of these puppies. They were delightful. I'm actually kind of glad that they are almost gone. If I had more blueberries at my disposal right now, I'd most probably bake another batch, which of course I would have to eat. Then instead of being the Muffin Man I  would look more like a cross between the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Michelin Tire Man. They are by far the best muffins I've ever eaten, and I'm not just saying that because I baked them. I don't know why I'm all proud of them to begin with. All I did was follow the directions in the cookbook. Someone else came up with the recipe. It's like people getting proud when they own a nice house. They didn't build it, so what's to be proud about? Human nature I guess. It just so happens that muffins were in the news recently. Some government agency had a powwow and bought a bunch of muffins at the ridiculous price of  $14.00 each. I can't recalll the exact amount of money spent, but I believe it was in the thousands. Just another example of government buffoonery. Now, had they been Muffin Man muffins that I had baked, I could understand the expense. If you should happen to hear that old childrens rhyme, Do you know the Muffin Man?, you can answer yes, he lives on Hill Street in Hoonah. In the event that anyone reading this would like the recipe,  here it is. It was the brainchild of one Linda Gilmore of Hampstead Maryland. Thanks Linda!
BERRY CREAM MUFFINS
2 cups all purpose flour
1cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (or dried) raspberries or blueberries
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup (8 oz) of sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl combine flour,sugar,baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add berries and toss gently. Combine the eggs, sourcream, oil and vanilla, mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
2. Fill greased muffin cups two thirds full.Bake for 18-22 minutes at 400 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm. Yield about one dozen.
Editor's note: If using frozen berries, do not thaw before adding to the batter.
 So there you go folks. If you too would like to have a tire around your middle, go ahead and make a batch, but be forewarned, they're like Lays chips. Nobody can eat just one-unless you've eaten all the others and that's all that's left. Have fun.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hewett, Renee Hewett

Down through the years I've watched countless people pass through Hoonah. They come, stay for awhile and move on. I've watched, sometimes with envy, as they packed their belongings and continued on with their lives elsewhere.Some of the families who had called Mt. Bether home moved to Hoonah for a season, had jobs and businesses and children. Then, whether listening to a still, small voice like Elijah, or answering a longing deep down, they pulled up stakes and left. If there is a downfall to making friends with people, it's that when they're gone they leave a hole in your heart. It's always great to get a Christmas card or letter from them or better yet a phone call, but it's not the same as sharing a meal or a game of cards. The latest passer through was this young gal pictured here, Renee. When she came to Hoonah several years ago to take on the job of school counselor, I don't think she was fully prepared for what she encountered. The first place she rented was a three bedroom house that was basically turned into three apartments, more or less. She occupied one of the upstairs bedrooms and had to share the bathroom with an older couple who had been displaced when their apartment caught fire. On her first day here as she was walking up the stairs to her room, the man was in the bathroom at the top of the stairs taking a leak with the door wide open. Welcome to Hoonah kiddo! She's a very proper gal and I think it may have unnerved her a bit, but like everything she encountered here she seemed to take it in stride. I first met her in our church and I felt almost fatherly towards her- she seemed somewhat vulnerable. It didn't take long for her to become an asset to the school and to the church. She plays the violin so well that I'm sure if she wanted to she could find work in any orchestra. We were blessed to have her as a guest for two Thanksgivings and in  more than a few games of Gin Rummy. My daughter Jen became best friends with her and I know she misses her too. The other day Renee called the house and left a message on our phone. "Hello Botts. This is Hewett; Renee Hewett." It cracked me up. For some reason when certain folks speak of my family they use our last name like it was a physical item. "I'm going to go see the Botts." It could almost be used as a disease. "What's wrong with me doc? Why do I feel this way?" "You have the Botts-I'm sorry."
 Anyway, she felt like God was wanting her to return to her home in New York. Several of the folks in the church wondered if she heard correctly,we really didn't want her to go. As it is though, she's living with her folks. The area they live in was one that was struck by floods after the hurricane hit the northeast. Thousands of folks in her town were evacuated, their homes are destroyed, their belongings are ruined and their places of business are no more. Renee's house is on a hill, so they didn't lose their home. They've generously offered housing for several families, however her father's work place was flooded and the last I heard they weren't sure when he will be able to go back to work. She has been volunteering with the clean up effort and mentioned many of the homes have to boil their water. In at least one case there was no gas available to be able to boil the water. After the flood waters have receeded the residue left behind is a toxic mix of sewage and chemicals and mud and the stench is attrocious. Most of us can't fathom what it's like to lose all of our belongings in one fell swoop, as well as our jobs. I should think that hope would be non existent and I know that anger and despair would be a constant companion to many. I hope that those who read this will remember the folks in New York and Pennsylvania and Vermont and other places in the Northeast who have suffered such devastation, as well as those burned out in Texas or the folks in Joplin Missouri and Alabama and Tennessee where tornadoes brought such destruction. Please pray for healing for this land and these people wherever they are, and if you are able, I hope that you'll contact the Salvation Army or Samaritans Purse or whatever relief agency you know of who will be working in these areas to bring comfort and will donate generously. Thanks Renee for heeding God's call. We miss you gal, but you're doing what God's called you to do. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Alaskan Gal

This is a picture of the brown bear my granddaughter Ashia killed this morning. Her boyfriend Kole wanted her to get a bear before he left for college on Monday, so he outfitted her with some camouflage clothing and took her up the bay towards Humpback Creek. If I understood the story correctly, they weren't gone even an hour when they spotted it walking on the flats. She laid down on a rock and fired, hitting it in the head with the first shot and then striking it further back in the body with the second. It was pretty remarkable shooting, considering it was a .300 rifle made for a left handed person and she shot from a prone position. Somehow the head shot didn't kill it right away and it ran off into the woods, so they had to go in after it. It's always dangerous to go after a wounded Grizzly and especially in the woods. I believe Kole shot it once also, but I could be mistaken. In any event, he got it skinned out and and she packed it back to the boat and by early this afternoon it was tagged and stretched out in his grandfather's shop. Slam,bam, thankyou mam. I've been here thirty five years and never shot a brownie. Actually, I've never had a desire to hunt one, but that's beside the point. I've had several unpleasant encounters with them, but never had to shoot one. I probably should have shot one that came running after my friend Doug Courtney when we were duck hunting out at the farm many years ago, but I just stood there with my shotgun waving in the air like Old Glory until he reached me and the two of us ran across a slough like a couple of scared rabbits.My son Brian had a deer taken by one several years ago when we hunting at Hippoback. He had just gotten it gutted when he heard a noise and the bear showed up. He backed away and the bear took off with his deer. I heard him talking to himself all the way across the muskeg, he was pretty unhappy about the whole incident. I try not to hunt when the bears are out and around, but even when I think they should all be hibernating I've seen fresh tracks in the snow of brownies that just don't seem to realize they should be sleeping. The head is huge compared to the rest of the body and I don't doubt that in a few more years it would have been a real bruiser. I was told that it measures seven feet.It's a small bear, certainly not a trophy to many hunters, but for Ashia, it's her first and she's justifiably proud. She plans on having it tanned and made into a rug or wall mount. In the meantime I guess it will be in a  freezer somewhere. I don't care where she keeps it, so long as I don't reach for the frozen OJ some day and and end up with a hand full of Grizzly.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fall Evenings

It's hard to believe, but fall is here already. Actually it was starting to feel like fall several weeks ago when it was still August. I didn't really want to acknowledge it then, but it can't be denied. You wake up one morning and it just feels different. There is a chill in the air and the cottonwood trees start to show yellow in the leaves. The wind blows and you have to reach for a jacket when just days ago you were peeling off the layers because of the heat. I'm not sure I'm ready for summer to end. I'd like to catch more fish, maybe sit out on the lounge chairs on the front porch and talk to folks walking up and down the street and barbeque a few more salmon. I want to grab for the summer as it slips away and plead with it to stay just a little longer, but the days are getting shorter, the fish are getting fewer as they make their way up the creeks and rivers and my internal clock is saying its time to slow down. I wouldn't mind the fall if I knew that winter wasn't lurking, waiting to pounce, bringing cold and snow and misery. I guess I can't really complain though. Overall it's been a glorious summer. We had a good balance between the sun and the rain, the wind wasn't too bad most days and the fishing was pretty fair. We didn't have to deal with droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. No killer bees, Tarantulas, snakes or Gila Monsters. The worst that happened was a tourist tried to take a leak by my tree out front. Fortunately my neighbor put an end to that before it got started. Maybe I can get a rental toilet  placed on the corner. Tom's Toilets and Potties. "Can't wait? Have a seat! For only a buck you can have a great deal of relief.!" If it's not the bears it's the tourists. Oh well. Every place needs something to keep it from being a complete paradise. Other wise everyone would move there and it would be hell.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blister Packs


What you have before you,as you can see, is an empty package of Lofthouse Delicious Cookies. This package once housed ten frosted lemon sugar cookies. When I came in from fishing several nights ago, two of my daughters, my wife and a family friend were all sitting around the dining room table playing cards and raving about these delicious lemon cookies. I'm not a big fan of lemon flavored things, but I do like cookies... quite a bit. While I ate my supper, they repeatedly reached into the package and imbibed, obviously savoring each delectable bite. At one point our friend,Candy, opened the lid and rearranged the cookies so they wouldn't be out of order. Apparently these cookies were so indescibably delightful, that they had to be treated with the utmost of respect. If you look closely, you can see that the package has special little indentations for each individual cookie to reside in, presumably so that they won't get crushed in handling. It won't be long at this rate that each cookie will have to have its own little pillow, probably made with goose down to insure that no crumbs are knocked loose in transit. Little cookie pillows for premium cookies.The package will be worth more than the product inside. Anyway, after I had finished eating, having listened to a running conversation about these wonderful cookies, I had no choice but to eat one, though as I mentioned, I'm not a big fan of lemon. It was after I decided to try one that the problems began. It quickly became apparent to me that the bakery never really wanted you to eat their product, they just wanted you to look at it. Why else would they stick them in a blister pack? Blister packs are kind of like going to an art gallery. You're welcome to look at the pictures all day long, but there's no way in hell that you're going to be going home with one of them. Much to  the delight of the ladies sitting around the table, I struggled with that pack of cookies for some time. I was in a fine mood until I tried to get one out of the package. It was as if they were taunting me. "Hi- I'm right here in front of you but you can't eat me. Have a nice cookie-less life." I thought about getting out a sharp knife and cutting off the top or maybe grabbing a pair of pliers and prying the lid apart. Similar to my mitten diet idea, the folks that package enticing food in blister packs are ultimately concerned for your health. If you are ever going to gain access to their product, you're first going burn as many calories as you would doing a Richard Simmons work out. By the time you've finally gotten the package open, you've convinced yourself that the contents have got to be exceptionally good, why else would they go to so much trouble to keep you out? One of the gals finally had mercy on me and opened the lid and got one out. Frankly, they were ok, but I didn't find them exceptional. Perhaps they were lady cookies. Maybe men were never meant to eat them. That would explain the blister pack that only women can open.