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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blue Moon



I spent the last two days of August fishing at Homeshore this year. It used to be the place to go from mid-August to September for cohos. Some years back it was fairly common to see fifty to a hundred boats dragging the area. Usually boats that came in from the outside would pass through, maybe spend a few days and then head on home. This year though the fish haven't shown up on the inside. I don't know where they are. When I went over there, I was the only troller along the whole shoreline. It should have been an indication that there weren't any fish around, but for some reason in the back of my mind I'm always thinking that, wouldn't it be great if there were cohos jumping all over and I was catching them as fast as I could pull them in and there was no one else around to get in my way. Of course it would be great if I was six foot two, ruggedly handsome, wealthy and always lived the golden rule too. Anyway, I fished all day for eleven fish and decided to anchor up right there at Homeshore. It's a lousy place to anchor unless the wind is coming from the east or right out of the north. As it was, it was blowing from the northwest, but not too bad. I found a little niche that gives some protection from the wind and set the pick. It didn't take long for the wind to switch to a more westerly direction so it blew right in on me. Go figure. Some guys like that rocking motion- they say it helps them sleep. Not me. Every noisy, loose thing that can roll, rattle, shake, jar, creak or moan will make itself readily apparent when the boat is rocking. I don't sleep all that well anyway, so I like a nice, quiet, secluded anchorage where the boat stays still and I feel secure. As they say, people in hell want ice water too.  Since there isn't anything to do after I anchor up, I usually work on a crossword puzzle before I go down below to the rack. I buy the easy ones because I don't want to further damage my self esteem by looking stupid as well as incompetent as a fisherman. After I've got one done or mostly done, I usually go down to bed and read for awhile. When I was ready to settle in for the night I got up to turn off the radio and was startled to see a brilliant white light filling the cabin. Holy Toledo! Had Jesus come and I wasn't ready? Kind of late to repent at the last minute. I was hoping I didn't swear when I saw that light- don't want to add fuel to the fire. I looked out the window and saw the biggest, most brilliant white full moon shining down. It was breathtaking. I heard later that it was a blue moon. the second full moon in a month. In the morning when I got up it was still visible as it was going down over the mountains. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures. The news is coming on so I need to wrap this up. I guess I have to go in and expose myself to countless hours of recounting what each political party has spoken. God forbid that there should be any real news on.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


The Elfin Cove Post office/ School building
The inner harbor and tidal grid

Low tide at the outer harbor area

The dock leading to the outer float



The old XIP buying scow

It's taken awhile to get around to doing this post. I've been out in  pursuit of the wily and I might add, elusive Coho Salmon. Actually elusive might be too generous of a description- they've been almost non-existent on the inside this year so far. Anyway, here is part two of the Elfin Cove post. The top picture shows the Elfin Cove Post office/ school building. I'm not sure how that works. I would imagine that they have the mail sorting going on in a different part of the building than the school. I'm not sure how many kids go to school there, but I suspect that there wouldn't be too many. I spoke to a former teacher from Hoonah who moved out to Pelican, the next  closest town to Elfin Cove. He said that there were nine students in that school. I would guess that you would get to know your class mates quite well.  Aside from the lodges and gift shops, I'm not sure what the other residents do to make a living. I guess someone has to be the postmaster, though it would seem that sorting the mail would only take about fifteen minutes a day. I know that there was one person some years ago who used to smoke salmon to sell, and they may have processed the fish that the tourists caught. I'm sure that there are still at least a few folks who fish for a living. At one time there was a small hardware store and I vaguely remember hearing about Mary's Hook Shop some years ago. I guess Mary must have sold fishing gear to the troll fleet. Years ago Radar Marine was a fixture in town. It was run by a rather eccentric fellow named Dave who sold and repaired almost anything electrical involving boats. He had worked as a missile technician on the East coast before coming to the cove. He did quite a booming business. Someone always needed some work done on their auto-pilot or radar or loran or radio. He received multiple calls on the radio requesting his expertise. He moved back some years ago to be with his mother as I recall. In any small town, no matter how small, there is always someone who knows how to keep the generators going or to fix a diesel engine or weld a pipe or fix the satellite for internet. I'm amazed that these Mr. Fixits are always available. In Elfin Cove the guy's name is Jim Lewis. I don't know if he's still around or not. I could be wrong, but I think he owned a green and black troller called the Sandy Andy. I always liked that boat- mainly because it was part green. For a number of years there was a buying scow tied to the float that was operated by Excursion Inlet Packing. I understand that the people of town kicked out XIP for reasons unknown, and set up their own buying station. For many years the packer St. Jude anchored in a protected spot on the back side of Georges Island and bought fish. Dan, the guy who owned the packer retired and the St. Jude doesn't come there any more either. So many things have changed. There is a small store along side of the boardwalk that leads to the inner harbor. It used to be called Elfin General Store; I'm not sure if it still is or not. They sell fishing gear and booze as well as an an assortment of other groceries. There is also a laundry house. There's a couple showers located there but you have to buy tokens from the store to make them work. I imagine a laundry/ shower would be a pretty lucrative business in a town that caters to a transient fishing audience. Anyway, that's about what I know about the place. It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Ten years on a wilderness farm is enough isolation for me. Guess that's all I have for now. Things are winding down for this years fishing season, so hopefully soon I'll  be able to post on a more regular basis. It will just be a matter of having something to write about. See ya next time.