Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Madness















 Ahhh, the holidays. If one were to watch the many TV shows around Christmas you would be led to believe that the holidays are all about fun family times with people sitting around the Christmas tree drinking egg-nog or singing and dancing out in snow covered streets in some idyllic setting like Whoville or some such place. If, however, you were to watch a TB show, you would find a reality that is possibly closer to your own. I wish there were such a thing as a Silent Night. My house has been a prototype for holiday madness. My daughter Autumn is visiting with her husband and since school is out and my oldest daughter Jen doesn't want to miss anything she's in and out of the house like there was a revolving door out back. God forbid that I should try to keep any heat in the house. It's in the single digits outside with an icy wind howling, but the door is open more than it's closed and then I get to hear the bitching about how cold it is in here. The kitchen resembles Applebee's on a Friday night and coffee is being consumed by the gallon. At any given time there is a movie being watched on TV while music is being played and two or three cell phones are getting a workout on their keyboards. I think I have about thirty coffee cups at the house but when I go to look for one they're all dirty or being used. Fortunately I have two bathrooms, but keeping them stocked with toilet paper is a challenge. Add to all this that Jan's birthday is close to Christmas so there are the usual Christmas cards as well as birthday greetings. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, Autumn has inherited my rather bizarre sense of humor. You can see from the card she got her mother in the top picture what I mean. And now a word about buying American made. ABC news has been promoting buying things made in America. I applaud them for that. As much as possible I would love to buy American made products. That being said, however, there are some products that I wish we couldn't lay claim to. A case in point. I love jelly beans, and probably one of the premium makers of them is the Jelly Belly Company, made right here in the good ol' USA. They really make a great product, but the other day Autumn showed up with a box of Jelly Belly-Bean Boozled jelly beans. Not only are there a variety of tasty delights, but there are equally disgusting counter parts that are indistinguishable from the good ones. For instance, a black one could be licorice or it might be skunk spray. You can't tell until you taste them. Is that red one strawberry jam or centipede? Yellow-buttered popcorn or rotten egg or the brown one chocolate pudding or dog food. They even include a spinner in the box with the different colored beans on it. It adds a bit of excitement not knowing what you're going to get. As they say, it puts a whole new spin on playing with your food. When Autumn showed up with them the other day I knew immediately that we would have to put them in a jar on the counter in the kitchen, right where we open our mail. I was certain that Jen would come by and without fail would start to look through our mail and would spot the jelly beans and help herself. Several years ago I put a package of dog Liv-a-Snaps treats in a crystal bowl on the counter. I knew full well that Jen would see them and help herself. True to her nature, she came in and almost immediately was drawn to the bowl. She had just lifted the dog treat up to her mouth when I couldn't contain myself any more and burst out laughing. She got suspicious and wouldn't eat it. Darn it! This time she came in and was all excited talking to her sister and passed by the bowl at first. Autumn had given her a bag of erasers for her classroom and Jen was in the middle of telling her something when she spotted the candy. Without finishing her sentence she exclaims -"HEEEYYYY! and reached for the bowl. With everything within me I was trying desperately to hold it together, but like a cheap earthen dam trying to hold back the mighty Mississippi, my laughter spilled forth and the jig was up. She caught me again.The bottom picture shows my son-in-law, Arron, after he consumed a centipede flavored jelly belly. You can be darn sure I won't be trying any, not with my luck. In any event, it's Christmas Eve. As much as possible I hope you'll all have a blessed time with your families this holiday season. If for some reason you can't be with your family, I hope you'll try and be a blessing to someone else who might also be alone during this season. God bless you all.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mrs. Christmas


  This fine gal is my friend Ladonna Dybdahl, or as I usually call her, Ladonna Momma. Fortunately she has a good sense of humor- either that or she is exceptionally patient with  me realizing that I'm just an overgrown kid myself and therefore not as responsible as most adults. As you can see by her attire, she really gets into the holiday season. Notice the ornament earrings. I've thought more than once about getting my ears pierced so I could adorn my head with some of the colorful accessories that so many ladies gravitate to. I've often thought that with just a few modifications most earrings would make wonderful fishing lures. As you can see by this picture, I caught Ladonna totally unawares- that's why she has this look of surprise and perhaps confusion and is possibly saying "What in the HECK are you doing Tom?" I have to admit that its not really fair to catch people by surprise, but otherwise you might end up with  no picture at all. For over twenty years Ladonna has been an integral part of the school. Frankly I don't know how the high school could run without her. She's seen ten principles come and go and during that same twenty years there were four years with no principle at all. She's had quite an adventurous life, having spent her early years growing up on Lemesurier Island, located near the mouth of Glacier Bay in Icy Strait. For years she didn't realize there were cities until her dad, Captain Don Gallagher started taking her with him on his mail boat, the Forrester. He used to deliver the mail and some groceries to various small communities in Southeast Alaska- Hoonah, Pelican, Elfin Cove and even Idaho Inlet, even though there was no town per se, just a few homesteads. She said her father treated her like a son, letting her swear like a sailor and even let her share in his beloved cigars in the wheelhouse of the boat. When she was old enough for school her family moved to Juneau and lived on a house boat, the Veteran.  When she was eleven or twelve she spent her summers in Elfin Cove where her parents ran the store there- Swanson's. When all the other kids were learning to drive cars, Ladonna was running around in a speed boat. As she was growing into young adulthood, her parents sometimes worried  that perhaps the Cove, with so many transient fishermen could be a problem. As Juneau began to grow and the two lane road became four, her mom and dad  relocated once again, this time to Hoonah, where they spent the remainder of their years.  Her folks were well entrenched in the town when I came on the scene. Captain Don was a regular visitor at the L. Kane store, where he stopped on his daily rounds of the town, never without a cigar in his mouth. Her mother, Fay, was a little slip of a woman but feisty and I felt like she could hold her own in dealing with the captain. She used to peddle around town on a three wheeled adult tri-cycle. Every Christmas she would drop by the store with a loaf of war cake, a molasses cake with an abundance of raisins and walnuts. When her mother passed away, Ladonna picked up the torch and has continued the tradition. The captain kept log books from his travels around Southeast for a number of years which were stored in their home. After her parents passing, Ladonna acquired the home. Unfortunately the house caught fire years ago, I think as a result of kids smoking, and the the logbooks were destroyed. It's a shame to lose such a volume of written local history. When I spoke to her last time, I asked how much longer she would be working at the school and she replied four years. When the time comes to retire, she will be sorely missed. Her value was expressed in the last graduation ceremony, where so many of the students on stage praised her for her help and guidance. It's quite the testimony that when it's time to go your employers are left wondering how they're going to replace you. Way to go Ladonna.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Been Thinking About


 Like so many other people across the globe I'm shocked and saddened by the events of these past few days, first in Oregon at the shopping mall and yesterday in Connecticut at an elementary school where twenty six people were murdered; twenty of whom were innocent children. Perhaps I have no right to comment on this incident. Lord knows I'm certain I don't have all the facts, but I do have an opinion based on what I've seen so far and so I will take this time to express it. I'm struggling to put to words my feelings. First I'm distraught and then I'm angry. I'm confused and trying to make sense of what has become an all too common  headline in American life.  I'd like to sit down with God face to face and ask why this has happened. I guess I'll have that chance some day, and it will make sense and I will see that, while it wasn't His will to have this happen, He will nonetheless take this incident and make something good come from it. While that doesn't seem even remotely possible at this time, I believe that what the enemy of mankind has meant for evil, God will turn into something good. Many people have asked, why did God let this happen? As Mike Huckabee mentioned yesterday- we've asked God to stay out of our schools, out of our government, and for many out of our lives. At the expense of sounding harsh, perhaps He is honoring our request. Suppose you were a farmer. One day you go out to your field and sew corn. At  harvest time you hook up the tractor expecting to find a field full of corn, but when you get there you see that in one row there is broccoli, in the next row turnips, after that pineapples, and then squash. You planted corn seeds, how then did you grow all these other crops?  Thank God it doesn't work that way in nature. In the same way, it doesn't work that way in spiritual matters. Scripture says that whatsoever a man sews, that shall he also reap. I know that those innocent little children are in no way responsible for what  happened yesterday, but as a nation, I think that collectively we are. We have been on a moral decline for quite some time. It's evident in our language, what we see on TV, what we accept from our political leaders and in many of the laws that now govern our land. We've been very much like the frog in the water, slowly being  killed by the eroding away of our morals. I think we can still turn this around.Scripture says- if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven and heal the land. For the sake of this country I hope I will take to heart His promise and I hope you will join me in praying for the healing of these families and for the healing of this land. May God almighty be with us all.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Six Stages of a Project


















  We all have people in our lives who we know casually; maybe the neighbor down the street who works at the school or the gal at the coffee shop who always smiles when you come in. We might have a conversation in passing and while we might not consider them friends per se, we like them. We may not know them well enough to invite for dinner, and most likely we wouldn't engage them in a conversation about politics or family matters, but seeing them on a regular basis is kind of comforting. Whenever I go to Juneau I like to drop in to Donna's Restaurant for breakfast. Frequently I'm waited on by a gal who by now must be close to retirement.She's been there at least twenty years, and though I only travel to town a few times a year, I always look forward to seeing her. She keeps my coffee cup full and we engage in small talk and even though I'm not a regular she remembers me and smiles. Until recently I didn't know her name. I thought maybe she was Donna- who the restaurant was named after. Last time I was there though she had a name tag that said Cheri. Of course I'll forget her name before I get into Juneau again, but hopefully she'll be wearing that name tag again and I'll address her properly. However, this post isn't about Donna's or the waitress, but about a fellow named Ken. He worked for the Forest Service and since I have a contract with them, I would occasionally run into him. He was quiet and soft spoken. He lived on a small boat down in the harbor for a number of years - I guess it was much cheaper than renting a house. Nothing wrong with being thrifty. I'm not real certain, but I think he was of the natural foods type of persuasion- you know, eating honey instead of sugar, drinking rice milk and storing products in the company fridge with sayings like "No Preservatives and All Natural in bold lettering across the front. We were pretty much on different ends of the spectrum when it came to that stuff. It really didn't matter to me, except that last time I cleaned out the corporate refrigerator I had to dump two containers of rice milk that had a date that had expired seven months before. Being a bachelor he didn't stay on top of that stuff. Anyway, Ken retired last week. A few weeks before he was going through all his file cabinets, sorting through years of documents, most of which went in the trash. We spoke for a minute while he sorted through calendars and papers and notes and we both thought it odd that people hang on to so much useless stuff and that when it's time to retire, all the years of work can be summed up in the contents of a small cubicle. He's gone but promised to leave a forwarding address so I can at least send him a Christmas card. I doubt that I'll ever hear from him again though. Usually correspondence is a one way ticket with guys like Ken, but that's OK. He left behind some real treasures on his shelf; things he picked up along the way. Not one, but two hard hats, a couple sets of antlers that some deer dropped after the rut, a number of old paint cans that used to be used to mark boundary lines in the woods. I guess the common practice was to shove them into a root wad in the ground when they were empty years ago. Now when they're discovered  the employees bring them in. All of the cans on the shelf have been punctured multiple times by bears. For some reason they like the smell or taste of the paint. I've heard they used to puncture the plastic jugs that the loggers kept their chain saw oil in too. How odd is that? There are a few bear breads and unusual rocks and shells on the shelf as well. Though we really weren't friends, I'll miss our small conversations. For whatever reason I sat at his desk last weekend. I'd never seen it so clean. That's when I noticed a paper on the wall under the shelf. It's titled The Six Stages of a Project and I laughed for quite a while after I read it.  Here it is.

 The Six Stages of a Project

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4.Search for the guilty
5.Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and honors for the non-participants

Thanks Ken. Though you were a man of few words I see that you could certainly understand the reality of working with other people.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gus's Marine Storage















  How often have you seen some new product on the shelf or an idea that someone has come up with and you think- that's pretty neat, I could have done that. In fact my friend Buffalo Bob sent me a book titled- Damn, why didn't I think of that? Well, as I was working on this post, I was thinking the same thing about this marine storage facility. Who would have thought that it would have been such a popular thing to utilize? Obviously, the owner, Gus Skaflestad did. That's why it's called Gus's instead of Tom's. Blast! Another golden opportunity has passed me by. Oh well.
 The whole idea of storage facilities is kind of hard for me to fathom. It would seem that if you have so much stuff that you can't store it at your house, you may have too much. I like to watch the show Storage Wars on A&E.  That's the show where people bid on storage lockers that have gone to auction because the folks haven't paid the fee. It's amazing what people leave in their lockers. On one show the guy with the winning bid scored a whole bunch of silver coins. It runs in my mind that the coins were worth thousands of dollars. It's not just coins that are valuable. Some lockers have all kinds of furniture, antiques, paintings, jewelry and assorted do-dads that have real value. If this is what is stored in a locker, what treasures are in their homes? Of course there are lots of musty clothes and old mattresses and junk in some of the lockers, but there is also the unique and even bizarre. One locker had spy equipment in it and another had parts of a human skeleton that was used for medical study. One of the regulars on the show scored big when he bought a locker that contained clothes that had been custom tailored for rap artist Suge Knight. Fortunately Suge wasn't wearing them at the time. Another wasn't so lucky when he tried to unload an Ouija board at at several mediums places of business. They didn't want anything to do with it.What do you do with an Ouija board that no one wants? I guess you could wrap it in colorful paper and pawn it off at the office Christmas party- just don't put your name on it. I wouldn't recommend taking it to the church party though, it would probably be frowned upon.
  I would venture to say that the chances of finding anything of great worth are somewhat slim here at Gus's. Most of what is stored out in the yard are boats.  Mainly skiffs, although I see the poles and masts of several trollers and one or two sailboats. I know that some of these boats have been  here for at least ten years. There's moss growing on the decks and bulwarks and the tarps that were draped over them years ago have been reduced to tattered, plastic threads flapping in the wind. Why hang on to something like that? I wonder if they are still making payments on the space or if they've long since been delinquent. If that's the case, then poor old Gus is stuck with all these useless boats. Maybe that's why they're still stored in the yard- he has no place else to put them.
  There is a name for those folks who can't bear to part with any of their earthly goods- hoarders. There's even a television show about them. Most have homes so crowded with junk that there isn't even room to sleep in the bed or eat a meal in the kitchen. One lady's home was in such a terrible state that the folks who were sent in to help her found the mummified remains of her long lost cat under piles of rubbish. "Well there you are Tinkerbell. I'm glad to see you didn't run away from home."
  With each passing year we seem to have more and more stuff ourselves. Soon I'm going to have to have the foundation checked to see if it can hold up to the extra weight. This Friday we're going to have a little Christmas party at the house. Maybe I can wrap up a few old magazines and a cassette tape or two in gift wrap and pass out to all the guests as they depart. It's cheaper than renting a storage locker.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Fat Boy Company


I usually don't post extra large pictures on this blog, but I wanted you, the readers, to get some idea of how large this chair actually is. Some years back I came home from a fishing trip and here was this chair on the front porch, with my son-in-law sitting in it. It was so large I assumed that he couldn't get it in the front door, which wasn't the case. It fit, but just barely. The kids had gotten together and bought it for my birthday, which was a very nice surprise, but I was almost embarrassed when I sat down in it. I was unaccustomed to such luxury. It was so big my legs dangled out over the front and I sank into the cushion almost up to my neck. I alternately felt either like a little kid or a king. It's as close as I'll ever come to sitting on a throne that's for sure.  As you can see, this chair is huge. If the fabric were to be stripped off of it, it there would probably be enough to fashion a small circus tent. At  the very least it could house the fat lady and her family. Speaking of which, it wasn't until today that it dawned on me that this was indeed a member of the Fat Boy Company. It was a genuine Fat Boy Chair. If you remember from other posts, I already have a pair of Fat Boy shoes and a Fat Boy pillow. If you recall, the pillow was so plump it ripped out the seams of the pillow case when I tried to stuff it in- I'm not kidding. Now when I use that set of sheets, I have one pillow with a pillow case and one that's bare naked. It's not a good scene. Can you even buy one pillow case anywhere? Maybe someone out there knows the answer. Anyway, back to the chair. When I first put it in the living room I was constantly banging in to the wall going into the hallway. The chair stuck out into the living room so far that it radically reduced the floor space available for walking. I measured the chair prior to this post- it's 48inches from the outside of one arm to the outside of the other. It's large enough that we've had two full grown adults sit in it side by side comfortably, or our tubby dachsund and myself  stuffed into it uncomfortably. He used to lay down and then jam  his feet against the arm, shoving me against the other side, that pushy little... When I was in Juneau last time I bought a new recliner. Jan was encouraging me to get one. The Fat Boy had been repaired a couple of times and was starting to look a little dumpy- kind of like me. I ended up buying a Lazy Boy recliner that rocks. It's pretty comfortable, and I like being able to rock, but frankly I feel like I'm sitting in doll furniture now. The dog is none too happy about the new chair either- there's only room for me and maybe not even me if I get any bigger. I have to say, I like having more space in the living room, but I kind of miss my Fat Boy. Fortunately we didn't throw it out. It's upstairs in the office where, if I'm having an extra tough day, I can retire to the softness of the those big cushions and recline in the lap of luxury. I'll even make room for the dog. I'm reminded of a Far Side cartoon. This old lady has lifted the cushion on a fluffy chair and spots the hairbrush she had lost and right beside it is her husband, with only his head sticking out, who had also gotten stuck between the cushions. So, if you hear that I'm missing, perhaps you could have the cops check the Fat Boy. Lord knows there's room enough to get lost in there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mr. Twinkies


   I suppose that at this moment Twinkie lovers throughout the world are having heart palpitations at the very thought that their beloved baked delight might have made it's last appearance on store shelves. Thanks to a combination of incredible mis-management at the highest levels and greed on the part of the baker's union, a whopping 18,500 jobs are on the line at the Hostess Baking Co. I guess a judge has ordered the two sides to try to come to some kind of an agreement and thus keep the company out of bankruptcy. No doubt the magistrate lusts after Twinkies, Ho Ho's and perhaps even the chocolate cupcakes with the squiggly line on top and the luscious cream filling. I understand the panic that some folks might be feeling. How often I've passed the Hostess display and been lured in by the seductive packaging. Many a coffee break has seen me happily munching a fruit pie or a package of Snowballs. I had almost no self-discipline when confronted with the multi-pack of Ding Dongs. I bought them fully intending to spread out the consumption over the course of a week, but magically, at the end of the day, the package was reduced to a mound of empty wrappers and I was left with a ring of chocolate around my mouth; my entire body buzzing with an incredible sugar high and an intense desire to eat something healthy- as soon as there was room in my gut.
   Pictured above is my first attempt at baking bread. One night when Jan and I were playing cards with the Pinards, the subject of baking came up. I make a wicked good pie crust, and Wacky cake is pretty simple, not to mention those delectable blueberry and cream muffins that I've turned out in the kitchen, but I had never baked bread before, so Gail offered to show me how. I could see right away that it was going to be a messy process. I probably should have worn an apron. Bread baking was a little spendy and time consuming too, but I was willing to give it a shot anyway. When we had gotten all the ingredients mixed together and the dough was rising in the bowls, Bob showed up. All cooks like to do things their own way, and many just view recipes as suggestions I guess. Anyway, while the bread was doing its thing, there was a disagreement between the two mentors about whether the bread should be punched down or left to rise after is was in the pan. Both were adamant that they were correct and I was left in the middle bouncing between the two opinions like a ping-pong ball at a Chinese tournament. Not wanting to offend either of my friends, we opted to punch one batch and leave the other unmolested. They both left before I pulled my masterpieces out of the oven. To the naked eye, they both looked like they had risen at the same rate. I cut into one while it was hot and slathered butter on it. Wonder bread it was not. Let me just say that it was very filling- kind of chewy and a little sticky...and heavy. Being the generous fellow I am, I gave the other loaf to my daughter Jen. She claimed her loaf was delightful.... go figure. In any event, I thought that would be my last attempt at baking bread until yesterday, when I heard about Hostess, and I got an idea. Perhaps I could add a little sugar to the recipe, hollow out the middle and fill it with cream filling and market the product as Twinkles. Of course each Twinkle would cost about twelve bucks, but look at how long they would last! Oh Botts, you're a genius. If Marie Antoinette, upon being told that the people had no bread had only remarked,"Let them eat Ding Dong's", perhaps she would have kept her head for another few years. Such is the power and the desire for our baked goodies.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Frustration!




I had to go to Juneau earlier this week for a little annual maintenance on my bod. The doctors have you at a distinct disadvantage. They won't authorize any refills for your meds if you don't go for a physical at least once a year, so I had to go in. I needed to go see the dentist too- I'm starting to look like a Jack-o-lantern when I smile so I needed some upkeep there as well. While we were there we stayed at a hotel for a few nights. The gal at the front desk said they had wi-fi. That's nice. I don't know wi-fi from hi-fi, although one has to do with computers and the other a stereo system I guess. Anyway, since it had been a few days since I had checked my emails, I thought I would avail myself of the hotel computers and check it out. I couldn't believe how fast their Internet was. As soon as I put in my password my email account came up. I didn't even have time to go get a cup of their free coffee. When I turn on my computer here at the house I have to wait for ten minutes just so I can put in my password so I can start to do anything else. If I'm lucky enough to have the icon for the Internet to come up, I can go in, take a shower, get breakfast and make a few phone calls while I'm waiting. It's incredibly frustrating.I think my computer has a personality of it's own. I think I'll call it Ralph cause  it makes me want to puke sometimes.For the life of me I don't know how anything that is still working could possibly be this slow. I've got an anti-virus program installed and several times a day I run a program called C-cleaner- the C stands for crap. I'm not making that up; but even so, this thing is so slow I think it's setting records.  I could probably do a commercial for something like PC Matic. All the stuff I've tried has failed, so I'm thinking it's about time someone came up with a Homer Simpson button for the computer. It could be right on your keyboard and when you hit it a voice would announce, "whhhyyy youuuu!" just like Homer does when he's throttling Bart. Then an electrical shock could pulse through whatever component was giving you trouble and hopefully rectify the situation. When I go to use my keyboard, a message comes up on the screen and says  "keep your hands off of me!" I'm like Rodney Dangerfield, I don't get no respect. For those who would like to bypass the keyboard altogether, perhaps a squeeze ball like folks use to relieve stress or strengthen their grip could be installed. When your computer (in my case, Ralph) decides not to cooperate, you squeeze the ball repeatedly until it decides to work as it was intended to. It would be a win-win situation. Either the computer speed would improve dramatically or you would end up with much less stress, and forearms like Popeye with a grip that could crush bone. In the interim, while I'm waiting for these grand ideas to become a reality, I'll practice cursing at the damn thing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bear Dens






  My wife's co-worker was showing Jan these photos and when Jan mentioned them I thought it would be great to do a blog on something different. These are some of the neatest photos I've ever seen. They were taken by Johan Hinchman when he and a family friend, Bill Veeler, were out on a hunting excursion three or four weeks ago. They hiked up to Elephant Mountain and somewhere near the top ran across these caves. Obviously it was before the snow started to fall. Johan said it was readily apparent that the bears had been utilizing these caves in years gone by. The snow hadn't started falling yet or they might have been occupied. That's a scary thought. I wouldn't want to walk up on a sleeping bear in it's den. Some  years back one of the local fellows, I think it was Karl Greenewald, was doing some cleaning up on Graveyard Island, right across from town, when he came across a bear that had denned up on the island. I can't recall if the bear had taken over an old grave site or what, but it runs in my mind it had. Fortunately for Karl, it ran away. Johan was saying that when he came upon these caves, the hair on the back of  his neck stood up. It's possible that the occupant was observing the intrusion into his space from a distance. As you  can  see, there are a lot of sticks piled around the entrance to the dens. I guess that serves as a mattress for the bears. Not exactly a Sealy Posture-pedic, but if you're content to sleep in a cave all winter, I guess sticks are comfortable enough.
  The man holding the rifle in front of the cave is Bill Veeler. He's the owner/captain of the F/V Donna Ann, a steel seiner. Apparently he's in good enough shape to be able to climb mountains still. I'm a little jealous. I'm afraid I'll never make it to the  top of Elephant to get a first hand view.
  I wanted to thank Johan for sharing these photos. A little background here-Johan is a Tlingit native and hunting has been a part of his culture, I guess since time began. Though we have stores and access to groceries, hunting and fishing are an important part of life here. Both natives and non-natives alike supplement their incomes with what we can catch or shoot. Though there is a certain amount of enjoyment derived from a successful hunt, there is an immense satisfaction in knowing that you've been able to provide for your family from nature's bounty.  Anyway, thanks again for sharing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanksgiving at Game Creek 2012

My wife Jan speaking with our friend Bob Pinard

Ninety one year old Jim Carey

Not quite ninety one year old, Tim Banaszak
Heading back home
Animals and farm equipment

  This past Sunday Jan and I grabbed up our daughter Jen, our  granddaughter Kaylahni and our friend Bob Pinard and we joined the exodus from town. We were going out to what has become an annual event, the Thanksgiving day celebration at Game Creek.  For a few hours our "family" expanded as we joined members and ex-members of the community at Mt.Bether Bible Center, as well as various and assorted Hoonah residents and visitors to Hoonah. If you were in town on that day, you were welcome to come join in the celebration. I'm not sure how long the farm  has been doing this- seven or eight or ten years. However long it's been, it's fun. Along with a lot of really good food you get a chance to visit people that you don't normally see. Several folks came in from Juneau- Tim and Victor Banaszak and some of their family members and Jane Steiner and her son. When we lived at the farm, so many years ago, they were just kids themselves and now they have families of their own. A cold rain had been falling for several days and had turned the roads to solid mud and the swollen streams were moving at a pretty good clip. I was a little afraid that maybe there wouldn't be a very good turn out, but when we got to the parking area we saw that most of the spaces were filled with cars and trucks. Usually I bring along a rifle for bear protection; the area is close to a salmon stream and is surrounded by muskegs and woods and every year it seems that one or two bears find their way into the farm, but this time I left it behind. I figured with all the noise of multiple travelers, bears wouldn't be a problem. It's a bit of a challenge to get out to the farm. You have to drive six or eight miles over some gravel logging roads, some of which are littered with pot holes, across a couple wooden bridges which are starting to show signs of pretty serious wear, and then walk a trail through the muskegs which are getting overgrown with spruce and hemlock trees on either side, which really limits your visibility. Then down through a small patch of woods,across a couple small streams, through the fields and into the camp. Back when I was living on the farm there was no road to travel. We had to walk the mud flats out to the point, pack a canoe down to the water's edge, paddle out to our skiffs, which were anchored in deep enough water that they wouldn't go dry on low tide, and run into town across four miles of water in all kinds of weather- wind, snow, rain, whatever. I'm not sure which was easier. In any event, the fact that so many people are willing to go the distance is a testimony of how enjoyable the celebration at Game Creek is. The pictures that show the inside of the tabernacle were taken before everyone arrived. By the time dinner was served every table was full and the place was buzzing with the conversation of multitudes of people having a good time. It's good to remember that in an era when our differences seem so profound, we can come together over a good meal and some great conversation and just enjoy each others company. My sincere thanks to the folks at Game Creek who provide us with the opportunity to be neighbors to each other.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why?

 




 It's been several days since the storm that stretched almost the entire length of the Eastern United States made landfall. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably seen hours of video of the destruction that it left in it's wake and heard countless reports of the devastation from the wind and floods and snow. There's no two ways about it, the storm impacted millions of people and will continue to do so for a long time to come. This is only the latest in a series of bizarre weather events that  have come upon this country. From the hurricanes to tornadoes, to floods to drought, the past few years have been horrific in terms of weather. Perhaps Al Gore is right-it's all the fault of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. He's made millions of dollars in speaking engagements and books sales spouting that philosophy. He's certainly not going to change his tune when there is a profit to be made from these disasters. I'd be interested in knowing just  how much toxic pollution is spewed into the air from just one volcanic eruption, say, a Mount St. Helen's event. There isn't much we can do to control that. Nor can we do anything about the shifting crusts of the earth's surface. The tsunami that hit Japan last year wasn't the result of global warming, any more than the 7.7 quake that struck just south of the Alaskan Panhandle a few days ago. We aren't just facing natural disasters with increasing frequency, there are a number of man made tragedies occurring as well. From the massacre in Norway a few years ago to the Colorado tragedy to the Sikh temple killings. ABC news did a special last week on gangs in Chicago. This year alone there have been over 400 murders in the city of Chicago, most of them gang related. That isn't a matter of global warming, that's a matter of a spiritual cool down. We don't want God in our schools, in our public buildings, and if it was up to some folks even on our money. If the Almighty isn't in charge in our lives anymore, who is? By what standard do we base what is right or wrong? Ourselves? Who gets to decide the laws that govern the land and what do they base their beliefs upon?  Where do our priorities lie?  I wonder about these things. These disasters that have come upon us- are they man made or is God trying to give us a wake up call? As my pastor likes to say, the clue phone is ringing, are we going to answer it? With all that said, disasters bring out both the worst and the best in us. During hurricane Katrina, amongst all the death and destruction and despair, people were taking the opportunity to loot businesses. At the same time, heroes were stepping up to the plate. We're seeing a lot of heroes in this disaster. Every day people who are opening their homes and pocket books and having compassion on strangers in need. Lord knows any of us could find ourselves in a similar situation as those unfortunate souls. The peaceful streams pictured above could turn into raging torrents over night. With that in mind, I hope that all who read this post will examine their hearts and give. I'm sure that the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Samaritan's Purse are all on the scenes giving much needed aid and comfort where they can. I know there are others as well. Meanwhile, I hope we'll all take a moment and ponder, why  these things are happening, and if we need to make a change in our lives, I hope we do so.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Sentry



































I have two sons. Both of them are in the military- one in the army and the other in the navy. I know their strengths and their character and Jan and I are very proud of them. They're extremely capable of doing whatever their duty requires, regardless of the difficulty. My dog, however, has pretty much fallen down on the job. Though we obviously didn't get him to be a guard dog, he has taken it upon himself to fulfill that position- a sentry if you will. I looked up sentry in the dictionary; it claims a sentry to be a guard, especially a soldier stationed to prevent unauthorized passage. In the top picture you can feel confident that the house will be safe, no intruders will get past this diligent fellow. Frame two:  Standing up on the back of the couch can be stressful on your legs-I'll just guard from a more comfortable position. Frame 3: This is boring. The sun feels good I'll just rest for a minute. Frame:4 Oh to hell with it. Who wants to be a sentry anyway? I'll just take a little nap. Hmmm... a little sleep, a little slumber and then will come sudden destruction. Fortunately we don't put too much stock in his ability to guard the house, although every time we leave we give him instructions to do so. He just looks at us with a questioning expression and waits for a word that he understands, like cheese or snack or eat. There are priorities in life you know. He's not totally useless as a guard dog. He's a pretty good protector of the lawn and will bark uncontrollably if there is even a remote chance that another dog will attempt to approach his personal toilet space. What I don't understand is that while he's yelping with teeth barred and the hair on his back standing at attention, his tail is wagging furiously. Wouldn't you know, our dog is as strange as his masters. I took him out in the truck yesterday. When he's asked if he wants to go in the truck and go on a walk at the cannery, he starts crying. He can't wait to go. He dances around on the linoleum, barking and crying and then charges out to the truck, waiting for me to open the door. Once inside though, it's non-stop whining and crying until we get to our destination and he gets out. He hates the truck, but I guess somehow he manages to forget from one day to the next. Even though he's none too smart, he's lovable, at least to us. If I could just get him to clean the window after sentry duty, he'd be just about perfect.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Friends

     I'm trying to do this blog post for the fourth time today. The first time I had something that I wanted, or at least I had a good start on it, when I hit the wrong key and got a message that asked me a question- do I want to do this or that. Hell, I don't know. The computer wanted a yes or no answer. What the heck, I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right, so I said yes. It wiped out all my work. Go figure. The next two tries I didn't like, so I wiped them out myself. So here I am, I've already eaten my supper and watched the last presidential debate. I've got my coffee here with me on the desk and I'm ready to go, but for reasons I can't comprehend, I'm typing faster than the words are showing up on the screen, so it's a hurry up and wait scenario. I feel like I'm back in the navy. Oh well, things could be worse.
  The fellow in the top picture is my friend Bob Pinard. We met just over thirty-three years ago when he and his family moved to the farm at Game Creek. It hardly seems possible that we've known each other for so long. I don't think we were so much friends on the farm, as aquaintences; we worked along side each other during various projects, but we never really knew each other all that well. Our friendship grew once we both moved to Hoonah. Our kids were practically interchangeable. Folks who didn't know us well often confused his kids for mine and vice-a versa. We've often hunted together, although Bob is much more of a hunter than I am.       
  Last Friday we took advantage of the clear weather and took the truck out to Freshwater Bay. I'd heard from some folks around town that some deer had been spotted out that way. We left the house early and drove slow, hoping we'd spot one or two hanging out in  the muskegs that envelope the road on either side. When we'd gone quite a few miles without spotting anything, we decided to stop for coffee by one of the spur roads and then hunt that road. There was no sign of anything; not a track, dropping, rub- nothing. We stopped three times to get out and look around, but all to no avail. From the stand point of a successful hunt, it was a bust, but frankly, I can't remember having a better time out hunting. We were in no hurry. There was no feeling of panic that if we didn't shoot something we'd be unable to feed our family for the winter. We were just two friends out for a drive just enjoying each other's company. If a deer showed up, then great. If not, well that's the way it goes. Bob mentioned a few times that he thought the deer were hanging out up in the snow line, a long hard climb up difficult terrain, but we both acknowleged that they may as well be located on the moon. Time is catching up to us. It's hard to accept, but it's true. I think it's especially hard for Bob. He's always been tough as nails, determined,
disciplined, able to overcome obstacles. For those who still have the strength of their youth it's difficult to understand how someone they've always viewed as so strong can no longer do the things they used to. He mentioned that he'd watched TV the other night for several hours, but never finished a single show, he kept falling asleep in his chair. It happens. If it was just a matter of will power we'd climb those mountains or do the marathon hunting or fishing trips or keep building houses, but will power isn't enough. Our bodies wear out and there's a certain peace that comes in accepting it. That doesn't mean that we give up living. Just today Bob was finishing up putting a roof on a lady's trailer. He's seventy some years old climbing around on the roof. What's even more amazing is that he's not charging the gal for his work. She can't afford it, so he's helping her out of the goodness of his heart. That's the kind of guy he is.
  For the past few years we've been getting together on Saturday nights to play rummy. He didn't have his hat on, and I noticed that when he bent over to look at his cards he had yet another cut on his somewhat balding head. It seems that he's always got one or two fresh marks where he's banged into something. When I mentioned it he said he might get a knee pad to stick up there for protection.  Of course such a move would make communication difficult if he pulled the elastic down over his chin. I suggested to his wife, Gail, that perhaps she could get a magic marker and connect all the scars on his head. Maybe it would serve as a model for a map to find Blackbeard's treasure. Who know's. Fortunately he's a good sport and we can all laugh together. The bottom line is, when it comes to friends, I sure know how to pick them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big Momma


With help from my daughter Camille, I was able to transfer this picture onto the blog. I wish I knew the exact weight or at least the length of this gal. In the back of the tide books there is a table wich gives an estimated weight for halibut, depending on their length.  All the large halibut are females. They grow faster and get larger than their male counterparts. I'm not sure why that is, just God's plan I guess. I was reading some research on halibut which stated that in some circumstances female  halibut can actually change sex to fertilize eggs. It has something to do with ocean conditions- not enough males around to get the job done I think. These fish are unusual anyhow. When they're born they have an eye on each side of their head, but within a short time the left eye migrates to the right side, so both eyes are on the same side.As that happens, the brown coloration that is on both sides gradually fades and one side becomes white as they settle on the bottom. Pacific halibut are long lived, with a life span of 55 years if they can avoid capture by anglers or predators like sea lions. I don't know if Killer Whales eat them or not, but I imagine they would if the opportunity presented itself. Years ago I saw an article in an Outdoor Life magazine in their This Happened to Me column. It was written by a young man who lived here. He said he watched two moose swim from the Pt. Adolphus area across Icy Strait towards Pleasant Island, when a pod of Orcas attacked one of the moose and ate it. He saw the second one later in the day caught up in the kelp near the can bouy on the reef, drowned. That's too bad. Must not have been any sealions around to munch on that day. Anyway, the world record (sport caught) Pacific halibut is 459 pounds, caught in Unalaska Bay in 1996. Supposedly there was a 94 inch,466 pound halibut caught  in 2010 and another in 2011. One was caught by a fellow fishing out of a lodge in Gustavus and one fishing out of a lodge in Pelican. The problem is that unless they were caught out in the Pacific Ocean in area 3A, they were illegal for the anglers to keep. I'd be intested in knowing whatever comes of that. In both cases there wasn't a scale big enough to weigh the fish, although there are commercial scales in Pelican and one in Hoonah which is pretty close to Gustavus if they really wanted to know the true weight, which leads me to believe the fishermen wanted the bragging rights without the law knowing about the fish. The article mentioned that the lodge in Pelican,where one of the fishermen was staying, charges $3400.00 for three days and four nights. I guess for that kind of money you would feel like you could bend the law.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

From End to End and Points in Between



When I woke up this morning and looked out the window I saw that we were being blessed with another glorious day. I decided to drive from one end of the pavement to the other to get some pictures, with a side trip down to the park. For those not familiar with Hoonah, the stretch of road that's paved is only about four miles or so. It starts (or ends) at the cannery and goes out to the airport. All the road past that is gravel.
  It's nice to see that our fall is turning out so well. Frankly I was afraid that since our spring and summer were so cold and rainy it would be more of the same this fall. Thank God I was wrong. We've really enjoyed a fine October so far. Yesterday it turned a little foggy and rainy so I thought I'd go ahead and make some vegetable soup today. I was fortunate enough to bag a small buck last week so I had some roasts that I intentionally cut small just to put into soup. With this weather I probably should be barbecuing tonight. No doubt I'll be in the kitchen this afternoon sweltering over a hot stove, mixing all the tasty ingredients together while everyone else will be riding bikes and walking their dogs in the sunshine. Oh well... I guess I can't really complain on a day like today. Well, I guess I could, 'cause I do it so well, but there wouldn't be anyone to listen to me. They're all outside enjoying the weather.
  I had wanted to do a post on a  huge halibut that some friends and I caught years ago on the Miss Valerie. That was back when we were all living on the farm. My friend Mark Ryder emailed me the picture recently, but I don't know how to take the picture from his email and transfer it to my pictures file. Damn the ignorance! I'm sure that someone knows how, so I'll just have to wait until they drop by and show me. The picture shows Mark, Sam Sellick and myself on the tender where we sold the fish. The halibut is hanging from a boom. I can't remember how big it is, but it's longer than we are tall and looks to be in the four hundred pound range. It was an impressive fish in any one's book. Surprisingly, I don't remember catching it, although I was there on the boat when it was caught, and I don't doubt I helped to pull the monster in. I remember other things from those halibut trips- making fun of the F/V Mayo. The captain of that boat came charging up behind us and was unhappy that we were going to be fishing in the same area as him. Afterwards we pretended to be contacting various condiments on the VHF radio. "The Mayonnaise-the Mayonnaise- Pickle Relish calling." Sorry, but we were young and looking for anything to laugh about. I also recall catching several octopus or octopi I guess, if there's more than one. They would come up on the halibut hooks. We tossed them on the deck to use for bait later, but they managed to work their way across the deck and out the small opening of the scuppers to freedom. What I remember most vividly though, was Mark and his rain pants. On a previous trip he was wearing a pair that offered almost no protection from the elements at all. So for the next trip, having made some money, he had purchased a new pair of rain pants. I think they were Halley Hansen's, very heavy, very good quality and very expensive. Mark was as  happy as a clam at high tide to finally be dry. Well, he  hopped down into the cockpit where there were about a thousand sharp circle hooks hanging. Somehow he managed to snag one with his leg and ripped a twelve inch gash in the fabric. Being the compassionate fellow I am, I laughed my head off. Boy, the lengths people will go to in an effort to entertain. Fortunately he was pretty good natured about it and didn't toss me into the drink for laughing at his misfortune. When he visited recently I reminded him of that incident. He had long since forgotten about it. Thank goodness he has friends like me to remind him of the good times.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

have a little faith



 From time to time I like to do a little review of a book that I 've read that has made an impression on me for one reason or another. I've mentioned everything from River Jordon's  Praying for Strangers to Gary Larson's The Far Side: Gallery Five. The most recent book I read was recommended to me by my good friend Buffalo Bob Holden. He's a voracious reader and when we talk on the phone we usually discuss books that each one has read. I believe he's on the library board in his hometown of Townshend, Vermont, so he gets to see the good stuff when it comes in. The last book he recommended was Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith .
 With the coming of fall and a slower pace, I'm left with either watching the TV or reading at the end of the day. Sometimes I do both, although there are times when I'm reading a really good book that it transfixes me so totally that I can block out all other distractions, except of course the need to pee. That takes precedence. No matter how good the book is, if you have pee, you can't enjoy it. Anyway, I was at the library the other day and saw Mitch's book so I checked it out. I've read several of his other books including Tuesday's With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, both of which were turned into acclaimed movies. At the beginning of the book the author explains that though the book is about faith, he makes no claim to being an expert on religion. The book takes a look at the lives of two individuals, one, a rabbi who Mitch sat under as a boy, and the other a black preacher who came to the ministry via the school of hard knocks. It starts with the rabbi asking Mitch to do his eulogy when he's gone, though Mitch hasn't been to the synagogue in years, and the black preacher hiding behind a garbage can with a shotgun asking Jesus to save him. As per  the other books he's written, he's expressed himself in print so well, the story is so compelling, that you can't wait until you can open the book again and continue on the journey you've started. At various points in the book, Mitch shares excerpts from previous sermons given by the rabbi. There was one that stood out in particular that I would like to share here.
From a Sermon by the Reb (the rabbi), 1975
"A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, 'He sleeps in a storm.'
"The owner is desperate for help so  he hires the man.
"Several weeks pass and  suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley.
"Awakened by the swirling rain and the howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.
"So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed.
"He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins.
"He races to the silo. He sees the doors are latched and the grain is dry.
"And then he understands. 'He sleeps in a storm.'
"My friends, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of 'I could have, I should have.' We can sleep in a storm.
"And when it's time, our goodbyes will be complete.

Wow. What words of wisdom. I wish I could have met that man. The black pastor is no less impressive. In Detroit he's faithfully given the homeless a shelter in both his home and in a church that has been neglected so badly that the roof has a hole in it and when it rains, buckets collect the water. The building was given to the pastor and since the only attendees are the homeless, there isn't  money to pay for heat or food, much less repairs on the building.
Both of these men have lived their faith and have been a great example. To his credit, Mitch Albom is giving ten percent of the proceeds from this book to charitable organizations. He also oversees three charities, including The Hole in the Roof Foundation.
 At a time when it seems that no one gives a damn, that humanity is going to  hell in a handcart and there's no hope for the future, it's nice to see that off in the quiet corners, God is at work, and He's using people to get that work done.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Where in the heck are my pants?




Where in the heck are my pants? How often have you heard or said that? You could substitute socks, underwear, shirt, jacket or assorted and sundry other items. I was getting ready to take a shower this morning and was looking for a clean pair of jeans to wear. Off to the left of the closet I have some that are in no-man's land. They're visiting the dress slacks and I have orders from my wife that I can't wear them for working in. Amongst the better pants I even have a pair of white jeans. What the heck...? Why? Why do I have a pair of white jeans? I'm sure I must have bought them some time back, but whatever for? You can imagine that five minutes after I've donned them they'll be covered with salsa, grease, dog hair or a combination of all three. I don't like light colored pants anyway.They always show everything. I can't tell you how many times I've turned on a faucet in a public restroom and the stream of water is like all of Niagara Falls is trying to escape out that one small orifice. Of course the end result is that the water flows out of the sink and onto your jeans. I think the maintenance crew probably does that on purpose so they'll have something to laugh about when they gather in the tool room. If you're wearing a pair of light colored pants and that  happens, don't be surprised if it makes the evening news. It seems like everyone will know about it. On the shelf I have an old pair of Rustlers jeans. The fabric is soft and comfortable, but I can't wear them any more. There was a hole in the crotch that my mother-in-law tried to sew, but the fabric is so worn and bunched up there, that I may as well have a flashing neon sign that points to the zipper and says LOOK HERE! I don't know why I hang on to them. I guess I keep thinking that I can wear them out fishing or some such thing. Fish don't care what you wear. If I lived down in a warmer climate I might be able to squeeze into a pair of shorts...if I had the courage to. When I was young that wasn't an issue. I had pretty muscular legs and I didn't mind wearing a pair of cutoffs. Now though, I'd probably have to be drunk to wear a pair out in public. When I was growing up in Ohio my folks would sometimes have a barbecue with friends. Dad would don a pair of Bermuda shorts and man the grill. It was both comical and a little embarrassing. His face, neck and arms were the color of mahogany from working in the hot sun. It looked like he slept in a tanning bed; but his legs, oh lordy. His legs resembled two snow white toothpicks with hair, sticking out of a pair of five gallon buckets. You never would have imagined that the top half and the bottom  half belonged to the same body. Of course I never had the courage to tell him. He was enjoying himself and that was all that mattered. I finally tracked down a pair of Carhartts in the laundry room. Now if I can only find the come-along I can get the top close enough together to button and zip up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My how the times are changing



  For all intents and purposes, the 2012 fishing season is pretty much over for most of the troll fleet. There will still be a few hard noses who will go out to catch some winter kings after the season opens in October, but most of them are located where there is more access to the ocean. Here in Hoonah  the stalls are filled with the boats that have been out fishing all summer. The last of the tour ships has come and gone and the charter operators are secure in their slips. Some of the guys are working furiously to build frames over their boats to support the tarps that will keep the snow off. There are last minute oil changes and leaders that need coiled up. Spoons and flashers are stowed until next spring and there are handshakes and farewell greetings as different ones go to places unknown to spend the winter. Hopefully someplace warmer than Alaska. I keep thinking that some day I'll join the exodus and spend my winters where I don't have to shovel snow and I can actually drive to a town that has supermarkets and doctors.
   So much has changed here in the past ten years or so. While we still have a large commercial fishing fleet, the tour industry is becoming more and more of a burden to deal with. With ships dislodging eight hundred or more people at a time and the explosion of sport charter and whale watch/ adventure type boats, it's starting to feel less and less like a wild and wonderful place and more like Disneyland. There are boats that discharge kayakers at places like Point Adolphus and Pinta Cove where they set up tents against the mountainside, and while they may enjoy their excursion, others, who hope to see the wilderness devoid of all the trappings of modern life have a less than stellar experience. The very thing that many people come to see is ruined by the fact that so many tour companies are operating out of the same limited places. Last month I was fishing out at Point Dundas and had to go into Inian Cove to sell my fish to the packer, the Narada. When I came into the cove, I noticed a boat tied to a float who would normally be fishing out in Cross Sound. Off to the side was what I at first thought was a small out building, but I saw later it was an enormous white sign with red lettering that read, Tourism Rapes Alaska. Obviously the person who wrote this has some very strong feelings about the way the tourist industry comes in and seems to take over an area. This particular fellow has lived a pretty isolated life, self sufficient, growing his own vegetables, hunting and fishing and living off the land, much like many Alaskans. Obviously he's angry that even his isolated corner of the world has been invaded by the tour companies who bring hoards of strangers into his home.While his view may be extreme, it does express what  a number of us are feeling. For many of us who make Alaska our home, we feel helpless to fight against the onlslaught of big money forcing changes upon us that benefit only a few at the expense of many. Like eating too much dessert or drinking too  much wine, too many tour companies can leave everyone feeling ill. I don't know what the answer is. It would be nice if the tour companies would self regulate to keep from getting so big and intrusive that no one has a pleasant experience, but when it comes to money, it seems that more is always better, so I don't expect things to improve any time soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Three Stages of Neck Pillows



















At one time we had nine souls living in this small house. Nine. That's no small number even if you had a place as big as Michael Jackson's. Of course this home doesn't even remotely resemble a mansion, so as you can imagine, it got crowded. With nine people, you  have nine people's belongings. Some of them were treasures and some was junk, but somehow we made room for it all. What is truly amazing to me is that now that there is only Jan and I here, it still looks like we have nine people living here. There isn't a flat surface anywhere in the house that isn't cluttered with some manner of stuff... magazines, cooking utensils, plants and paperwork to name just some. Part of the reason we have so much stuff is that the kids, being the generous folks they are, periodically send us something they think we'll enjoy. The most recent gifts came from my youngest daughter Autumn. The coffee I love, and Jan really likes the candy. I think she's given up on dieting because she's constantly bombarded by well meaning friends and family members who can't imagine life without chocolate. However, the neck pillows are a mystery to me. I guess you use them, if you have the guts to, whenever you fly. They're probably a mainstay for the folks in first class. I only fly out of the state about once every three years, so in the interim I have to find a place for them. I thought about sticking one around my eyes like that blind guy, Jordy, on Star Trek, the Next Generation. Then if I'm trying to take a nap during the day it would keep the sun out, in the unlikely event the sun was shining. Then I thought, I guess I could sew the ends together and sit on it if my hemorrhoids were to flare up. They feel kind of cushiony. I finally figured I better give them a try for their intended purpose just to see how they would feel.
Stage One. I was happy as a clam at high tide. Or maybe Jan just told me to smile.
Stage Two. Reality was starting to set in. Those blasted tags were irritating.
Stage Three. I felt like the neck pillows were made of sandpaper and were filled with stinging nettles fibers and burrs. To make matters worse, Jan said it looked like a head was sticking out of a tablecloth. Upon closer examination, I couldn't agree more. However, it should be noted;she bought me that shirt, perhaps thinking that at my present rate of expansion I would fill it out completely by the end of the year, but its September, and there's still lots of room to spare. The last picture reminds me of a friend from Game Creek, Matt Ortega. He used to be a driver for one of the apostle's sisters. The way he told it, she was pretty heavy and sounded like she had breathing problems, but whenever they got within sight of  a Mc Donald's she would direct him to go there so she could get a cheeseburger. When he was telling the story he made a face similar to the one I displayed there. It always got a laugh. With no other form of entertainment on the farm, making fun of those in the ministry was high on the list of fun things to do. No doubt I'll have much to answer for one day.  Back to the neck pillows. I'm reminded of a Laural and Hardy movie. Ollie is in a hospital bed and Stan brings him hard boiled eggs and nuts as a gift. Ollie says "If you wanted to bring me something, why didn't you bring me some candy?" In any event, I don't want to appear to be an ungrateful buffoon. I do appreciate the gifts, but if I had my choice, I'd rather have hoochies.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Front Porch Musings


It's fall again... no surprise there. Happens every year about this time. Actually here in Alaska it happens sooner than in the lower forty-eight. About mid-August you wake up one day and feel the chill in the air or while you're out walking you notice that some of the leaves on the ground are tinged yellow and brown. You try to ignore it like that first twinge of a toothache. Maybe if you don't pay it too much attention it will go away. "It's not time yet." you declare, but like the first grey hairs that show up one day or the wrinkles that makeup won't cover, change is happening, like it or not. Fall is a time of reflection for me. On the day I took this picture it was an ideal fall day. The sun was warm, there weren't any bugs bothering me, I wasn't thinking about fishing or charter boats or how aggravated I was with the politicians. I was just sitting in one of those comfortable chairs rocking back and forth enjoying the sunshine and reflecting on my life. It isn't often that I think of how blessed I've been. My natural tendency is to complain and once you start down that path there is no end to the things you can find to complain about. Just yesterday I was out fishing at Point Sophia. I'm trolling about forty plus leaders with thirty some years of experience behind me. All my gear is color coordinated so that if the fish find something they like all their buddies will find the same stuff and climb on. I was fishing close by a fellow who is running a hodge podge of gear- no two flashers or hoochies alike, it looks like he has maybe a dozen leaders total and has only been commercial fishing for about two years. Every time I looked over, he was cleaning a fish. I caught one- all day! Perhaps I should change the name of the boat to The Bonehead and troll three lines baited with green olives, Cheetos and Nutrigrain Bars. Who knows, it can't be any worse than what I was doing. Maybe my ego needed a good jolt and God was letting me know that blessings come from him. They're his fish and he gives them to whomever he wants. Anyway, as I was saying, once you start down that path of complaint, you never reach bottom. I actually have relatively little to bitch about. We have a friend who is visiting Hoonah right now. Her and her husband used to pastor our church. She desperately wanted children but couldn't conceive, so they adopted two boys, both from the same family I believe. They moved to Colorado but her husband was unable to find work and ended up working in Iraq where he has been for the past seven years or so. Shortly after he left she was diagnosed with cancer. Her older son got involved in some goth type movement and her younger son was involved in a shooting and is in jail right now. In the years since she's left here she's undergone several more cancers and the unbearable treatments and side effects and at present has an implant to control  the pain. She gave the word on Sunday. In a nutshell she said all these things would appear to us to be bad, bad things. (I couldn't agree more) But, we are seeing things from a limited perspective. We have blinders on. We have little spiritual peripheral vision. Good things have come from what we would perceive as bad. Her husband started several churches while in Iraq and has had a positive impact on a number of people. Her son in jail has turned his life around and is leading a praise team in prison. I don't know what the other son is doing, but his chapter is still being written. Today I was reading in the book of Job. I know I've written about this before, but I think it bears repeating.Those who know that book know that Job was a righteous man who was inflicted with all manner of terrible loss- his children, his property and finally his health. To add insult to injury, his wife suggested  he curse god and die, and his friends who were supposed to be comforting him ended up accusing  him of having secret unconfessed sins as the reason for all the suffering. Finally, after all the accusations and rebuttals, Job hears from God directly... Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said, "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid out the earths foundation? Tell me if you understand."
 Of course it goes on as God lays out his wisdom and power. In the end Job is blessed more after all the trouble than he was before. That's not to say that all those who suffer will be blessed because of it in this life. I can't see beyond the present so I can't say what tomorrow will bring. Maybe a boatload of fish to salvage the season, maybe an engine failure. In my limited capacity I'll surmise that whatever the situation I find myself in, it will either be good or bad, though, like Job, I really don't have the wisdom to make that call. So, I will leave you with this. As the fall approaches and the days grow shorter, enjoy each day as much as you can. Visit a friend, love on your spouse, call your mom and maybe take some time to sit on your front porch and reflect on your blessings. They're more than can be counted.