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.