Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The P P Tournament




















  The P P mentioned in the above title refers to ping-pong, not the commonly used term for urination,as when addressing a child or dog and asking-"do you have to go Pee Pee?" To the best of my knowledge, there is no tournament for that. However, when I was a young lad, I do remember a few unofficial contests to see who could project a stream the farthest or perhaps have the most success writing their name in the snow. With a name like Tom or Ben, it was fairly easy to win the contest. If you had a long name like Alexander or Horatio, chances are you wouldn't win. Of course due to anatomical make up, girls were unable to compete, so they weren't even considered for the contest. No doubt the modern day feminist would take issue with such a sexist contest. Take it up with God ladies.Yesterday my daughter Jen came to the house and announced that there was going to be a ping pong tournament at the youth center in the evening. Back when I was a young lad in high school, I used to play a good bit at the YMCA, and I got quite proficient at it. I never competed in any other sports, lacking the drive and the discipline to put in the time or effort, but for some reason ping pong appealed to me. I spent a lot of time at the Y, it was kind of a hangout I suppose, and since there is only so much hanging out a fellow can do, I guess I picked up a paddle and started to play. Much to my surprise and no doubt everyone else who knows me, I was pretty good at it. How the heck did that happen? The tournament last night was held at the youth center, and I think it was open to ages 8 through the last-gasp geezers. I fall somewhere in between, leaning more towards the geezer realm. There was quite a good turn out. I'm not sure how many folks were there, but enough to provide some competition. Of course we had everything from the novice beginner to the more well seasoned players. My first match was with a little neighbor kid down the street. I think Jen had him in her fourth grade class last year. I believe I was probably the oldest player there, so the powers that be decided they would pair one of the youngest with the oldest to see which one went home crying. I must confess, I held nothing back and soundly defeated the young man. Ah, the sweet smell of victory. In the exciting venue that is table tennis, sometimes experience wins out over youth. Especially when you're towering over your competition and outweigh them by a hundred pounds. The next game I played was with the pastor's kid, Manny. He's actually pretty good, but he has the fatal flaw of overconfidence. He went to state and took fourth place this year in the wrestling tournament, but wrestling isn't ping pong, and though it was a close match, with first him ahead and then me, I finally managed to gain the upper hand and he too went down in defeat.  YES! I was starting to remember how good it felt to win again. That feeling was short lived. I lost the next two games to fellows who no doubt practiced day and night under grueling conditions. It was disappointing, but all good things must come to an end. Frankly, watching that little white ball bounce back and forth was starting to make me cross-eyed. Plus I was getting  hungry, and if I had stayed to the bitter end, it would have been after 9:30 before I could have supper. As it was, Jen played match after match and in the end was once again victorious. She was crowned champion of the 2015 winter ping pong tournament. To the best of my knowledge, she remains undefeated, having won the last three years. Obviously my good genes and skill managed to work their way through her system and manifested themselves in her great playing ability. As I often do when writing a blog post, I like to do a little research on the subject at hand. I checked Wikipedia and discovered that ping pong originated in Victorian England. Apparently it was played among the upper-class as an after dinner parlour game. It was also known by the less common but equally classy name, Whiff- Whaff.  I like that name. Perhaps that's what I will refer to it as from now on. "Yes, I soundly beat my opponent at a game of Whiff-Whaff. He was quite distressed and had to retreat to the bar for a strong glass of sherry." In 1901 British manufacturer J. Jaques and Son Ltd. trademarked the name ping pong. Afterwards the rights were sold to American manufacturer Parker Brothers who enforced their trademark, so other associations were forced to call it table tennis. Originally ping- pong or whiff- whaff, was  played using books stood on end on a table to serve as a net, while two other books were used as paddles to bat a golf ball back and forth. It just goes to show, in our pursuit of fun, humans can turn just about anything into a source of entertainment. I can't wait to see what shows up next.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Baking Fool





















  Thunderation! Christmas is rapidly approaching and I still haven't wrapped present number one. I'm still waiting for a few things to come from Amazon and a present for Jan that I had my daughter pick up in Anchorage. There's a lot more variety in the stores there than what I could find at Hoonah Trading.  I just hope the gifts get here in a timely manner.I don't know what's going on with the mail service. In the past six weeks I've had two packages disappear once they arrived at Federal Way Washington. The packages have to be around somewhere, they didn't just evaporate, although I do wish they could translate like the guys on Star Trek. Can you imagine how drastically that would change every aspect of the transportation industry? Food for thought. Speaking of food,  a couple of weeks ago I had my first experience making fudge.   One of my sons-in-law is overseas for the holidays and had expressed a desire for fudge. Since I have much more time on my hands than Jan does, I figured I'd give it a try. It turned out pretty good actually. I was going to use a recipe that I think I got from the internet, but it called for twelve ounces of semi-sweet bakers chocolate. When I went to the store and saw that it was going to cost in excess of twelve bucks just for the chocolate, I started having second thoughts. When I told Jan about it, she said use chocolate chips. We had one of those Oh My God! sized bags of Nestle's chocolate chips that we had purchased at Costco last year and kept in the freezer. They worked just fine. I melted the chips, added nuts and marshmellow cream and presto change-o I had fudge. I did have a minor issue though. I was melting the chocolate chips in a pan, on medium heat, just like the recipe called for, but I noticed that some of the chips weren't melting. Not wanting to turn up the heat and take a chance on burning it, I opted to test the heat with my finger. Not a good idea. I burned my finger and then my lips when I tried to get it off my finger. Perhaps in the future a candy thermometer would be a good investment.In any event, it all turned out well and is on it's way to an army post somewhere.A few days later I figured I'd make some for Mom. She's in an assisted living facility back in my home town. Unfortunately she has Alzheimer's so some of conversations are a little trying at times. She can remember things from her past and sometimes seems to live there. She has commented on not wanting to have her parents upset if she was late getting home. She's 87 and both my grandparents have been gone for years. One day I called and she said she was really tired.  When I asked her why  she said she'd been jumping rope all day. That had to be quite a feat from her wheelchair. You have to keep a sense of humor that's for sure. Anyway, I opted to bake Mom some chocolate chip cookies instead of the fudge. I figured it would be less messy and I'm not sure what shape her teeth are in, so nuts wouldn't be advisable. I'd never baked chocolate chip cookies before either, but I'm usually pretty good at following recipes, which I did.I ran into a bit of  a  problem though. The recipe said to dip the dough onto the cookie sheet by the rounded tablespoon. I did that, and had them separated and all, but they still grew into each other,  like Siamese twins. As you can see, I'm no surgeon, so some of them kind of came apart.They were really difficult to get off the tray too, even though I used parchment paper. Some of them oozed  right through the cooling tray. It was frustrating, but the flavor was just like Grandma used to make.  Well, not my grandma, but maybe yours. I had to sample more than a few- just the really goofy looking ones. The problem was there were so many goofy ones. The recipe said it would make five dozen cookies.  Hmmm.... not exactly.I think I got somewhere around three dozen, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size.  They look a little bit like miniature cow pies. Little lumpy cow pies. A few days ago I decided I wanted to make some Berries and Cream muffins for some of my friends. My daughter Autumn had picked blueberries when she was visiting last summer so I was blessed with a good supply. I'm going to bake some more muffins tomorrow to pass out I believe. If I'm going to be fat, I want my friends to be fat too. That way they won't be able to say too much about how I look. Tonight I'm making some really good bean and ham soup in the crock pot. It's been cooking all day and smells delightful. Of course the problem with bean soup is the after effects. After eating a bowl or two I blow up like the Hindenburg. Maybe I should pass out bottles of Beano for stocking stuffers this year, cause I know this won't be the last pot of soup I'll be making this winter. I'm not sure what the next project will be after the muffins. This past fall I picked a bunch of apples at Jen's house before I trimmed the trees. Maybe a nice apple crisp will be in order, I'll have to see.  Anyway, those of you who might have in mind to send us candy or some other sweet treat, please don't. I'm more than capable of treating myself to all manner of fattening, yet tasty goodies. Go cook for yourself!








Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Now the Fun Begins...




















   For those of us who live in Alaska, hunting is a major part of our lives. It's not just the sport of bagging an animal; for many of us, how well we make it through the winter depends on the success of the hunt. Meat is expensive no matter where you live, but here in the bush, it's especially costly. For a lot of folks, there just aren't jobs available and so being able to shoot or catch what you eat is a necessity. Where we live, on Chichagof Island, there is a large deer population. Seven or eight years ago when we had twenty three feet of snow, many of the deer were wiped out, and for a few years the bag limit was cut back, as it should have been. It would have been disastrous if hunting had continued as it had been prior to the big snow. For the past three or four years though, the winters have been uncommonly mild, and the deer have rebounded and are abundant. For years I took my sons out hunting with me. Like many others here, we counted on a few deer to help supplement the food supply. As I've gotten older though, I'm not so inclined to get out and chase the deer around. My body is rebelling against me so it's not nearly as fun as it used to be. Fortunately for me, both boys love to hunt, and this year they both came home to do some hunting and both were successful. We were the happy recipients of one of Brian's hunts. He blessed us with two bucks. Not only did he shoot, gut and pack them home, he skinned them and helped to process the meat. It doesn't get any better than that for me.I didn't have to buy gas for the truck or bullets for his gun, he provided it all. We just fed and housed him for awhile and he took care of the rest. There's an old saying about hunting... after you pull the trigger, the work begins. No truer words were ever spoken. Unlike fishing, where you can let your catch go if it isn't hurt, there's no shooting a deer and then walking away from it. Nope, when you go hunting, you're in it for the long haul. If you're lucky enough to be successful, the fun is over. It's  a  lot of work. I once shot a deer when I first started hunting that pretty much gutted itself. It was walking away from me, and I got all spastic and took the shot even though I probably shouldn't have. It hit the poor thing in the hind leg, ricocheted upward and ran the length of his stomach cavity before exiting. Every time he jumped, some of his innards fell out. When I caught up to it, I didn't have to do anything but take out the heart and liver as I recall. That was kind of bizarre. Nice, but bizarre. In every other instance, you have to gut the deer, and then pack it out to your vehicle. Depending on how far away it is, and what kind of terrain you were hunting in, it can be a real pain. As the saying goes though, that's just the beginning of sorrows. Once it's loaded in the truck and hauled to town, it has to be hung up and skinned, unless of course you bone it out in the field, something that I've never done. I'd prefer to be away from the area where I shot the deer as soon as possible, Around here, a gunshot is like ringing the dinner bell to these Alaska Coastal Brown Bears. Brian once lost a deer he was gutting to a bear. Probably better to lose it while it was on the ground than to be packing out out and have the bear decide that what you killed is his. After the deer is skinned, it usually sits for a few days, I guess to kind of tenderize the meat. Then it's time to butcher. I learned how to butcher a deer when I was living on the farm, and it has served me well down through the years. After that, some of the meat gets ground and the rest is put into roasts, back strap,tenderloins, stew meat and however else you like your meat. I've eaten a few meals so far using this venison and I have to tell you, it's delightful.If you're going to eat red meat, this is the stuff you want. No steroids, fillers, sawdust, mad cow or any of the other stuff that store bought might contain. Anyway, I'm not trying to discourage anyone from hunting, just remember, once you've pulled the trigger, that's when the real fun starts.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude


  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe that it's that time of year again. I can attest to the fact that the older I get, the faster the time seems to fly. Last Sunday I was watching Dr. Charles Stanley on TV. He's a preacher who has a program on every Sunday on TBN. I really like what he has to say. Because Thanksgiving was just around the corner, he spoke about gratitude, and how Thanksgiving has become more of holiday revolving around food, football and shopping, and much less about acknowledging God and his goodness to us. When I went to church later, our pastor also spoke about gratitude and giving thanks, and being thankful even for those people or circumstances that don't seem be what we would consider good things in our lives. Many years ago, when I left the farm where we had lived for ten long years, I had mentioned to one of my friends, who happened to be an elder, that I hoped to be able to go halibut fishing with him again, even though I wasn't part of the community any more. I was told that he only took members of the community and I wouldn't be able to take part in the halibut fishery with him. I was devastated, and a little angry. As it turned out, I was able to acquire my own boat and fished during some years that qualified me for halibut quota. That quota has been worth tens of thousands of dollars over the years, but I wouldn't have it if I had just remained a crew hand. God knew all that in advance. To me it looked like a raw deal initially, but it turned out to be a great blessing. The moral of the story is just what the apostle Paul mentioned, give thanks for ALL things. Even that which doesn't look good at the time.  By the way, he wrote those words while in chains in a Roman prison.When I came in to my office today, I started sorting through some papers and I saw a note I had written. I had copied it off of something, I don't recall what right now. Anyway, the note says- What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?  I know one thing, I sure wouldn't have to worry about all the clutter around the house. Would I have my wife though, or my kids? What about my good friends? The abundance of food that I enjoy every day wouldn't be here. My house, my work, my health, they'd all be gone. I'm an expert at bitching and complaining. There's no end to the things that get me upset- the weather, the boneheads running this city, state, country; the neighbors, prices at the store, things that don't work; good Lord I could write for the rest of the day and still not be done; but what if I instead turned it around and thanked God for the weather, and the neighbors, and our leaders. We're supposed to be praying for those over us- politicians, bosses, teachers. What if we did that? What if we thanked God for the president and asked the Lord to give him integrity and wisdom? Frankly, I can't stand the guy, but being angry won't change him, prayer will. We have major issues in  our lives today. Health issues, family issues, terrorism issues, job issues. Let's not get overwhelmed with all that's wrong in the world, but lets thank God for all that's right.  I know that God is far above us in all things, but there are some similarities between man and God as well, one being that we're more apt to do things for someone who appreciates what we've done than someone who only complains. In any event,  I hope that tomorrow as you sit down to your holiday feast, before the football games or a trip to the store for some Black Friday shopping, you'll remember who makes our very lives possible, and the very many blessings we all enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dark Sky Island



   Wooo Hoooo! One of my favorite musical artists has just released her latest album today. Of course I'm talking about Enya and her album, Dark Sky Island. I was able to pre-order one song about two weeks ago from I-tunes, and there was a teaser video put out by the Enya web site that you could get on to both view and listen to the songs available. I've already ordered five of them, and depending on what happens, I may order more.Something that just came out today as part of the promo package is a video of Enya singing Echoes in Rain from this album. She's accompanied by an all female orchestra, and it's quite pleasant to view. Prior to the introduction of the I Pod, if a person wanted to hear a particular artist, they had to order the whole album and listen to songs they may or may not enjoy in order to hear the ones that they really care for. Back when I was growing up, individual songs were available in vinyl records the played at 45 RPM's. Entire albums were also available that played at 33 RPM's. As mentioned, when you ordered the album, you usually got songs that were not your cup of tea. Much like when I was a kid. My mom would buy boxes of candy called Bridge Mix. Inside were chocolate covered goodies of assorted shapes, sizes and flavors. I had a particular fondness for the chocolate covered peanuts, which I always honed in on. Occasionally, I would accidentally grab a raisin instead. At the time, my tastes weren't so well defined and I would spit them out. As all the peanuts disappeared, I would resort to eating the other candies. Some were OK, but many of them had questionable fillings, no doubt made to discourage young children from partaking in candies that were meant for adults, hence the name Bridge Mix. I used to bite the candies in half, and if a white or pink filling was inside, I would spit them out and return them to the box. Of course I got in big trouble for such behavior, but how else could you tell if the candy was any good or not? As mentioned, in the realm of music, the good folks at Apple took care of that, so now we can order individual songs of our favorite artists. Anyway, back to Enya. Until the release of Dark Sky Island today, her most recent album was a Christmas one titled, And Winter Came. What a great title! If you're sick of Jingle Bell Rock and Santa's Coming to Town, and all the conventional Christmas songs that start playing just after Halloween, you might check that one out. In typical Enya style, it captures the mood of the holiday without the usual sounds associated with the season.
   For those who might be wondering, Enya used to sing with members of her family in the Irish group Clannad. Her sister is Maire Brennan, whose voice rings out in several movie soundtracks including Last of the Mohicans and Circle of Friends. Enya is unmarried. She mentioned in an interview that she puts so much time and effort into her music, that at the end of the day she didn't feel like she would have the energy to devote to a relationship and it would be unfair to her partner to subject them to that. If memory serves me correctly, she lives in a castle, I believe in Ireland. It's a little unconventional, but then, what would you expect from such a person who has been blessed with such talent? In any event, I hope that you'll check out her web site or I tunes and listen to a few songs. If you've never heard her before, you may discover a whole new venue that you might enjoy. Good listening.







Friday, November 6, 2015

Whatever happened to the class of "70"?



















   Recently we received a package in the mail from a friend of Jan's who still lives back in our hometown. She had attended the class reunion for Marion Harding High School. It's been forty five years since we graduated; hard to imagine. Where does the time go? I've never had any inclination to attend. For one thing the reunion always takes place during the height of fishing season. Even if there wasn't a financial component involved, I would much rather fish than fly back to Ohio to meet with a bunch of people who for the most part I don't remember. While high school was much more enjoyable for me than any of the previous grades that I  had attended, largely because we had more freedom, I can't say it was especially fun. I'll admit, it's where I met Jan. First day of Art class. I was smitten right from the start, but other than that, I don't remember having much fun. Of course like any endeavor, the more you put in the more you get out of it. I didn't care for sports; wasn't academic, good with my hands, outgoing or charismatic. I had a tendency to be a bit of a wise guy, outspoken perhaps on occasion. The only competitive thing I participated in was ping-pong up at the YMCA, but that wasn't sanctioned by the school, which was just as well or I might not have enjoyed it, or even joined in. What I enjoyed most was fishing, which isn't a team sport. For some unknown reason I pursued a general course of study- kind of a middle of the road education. I could do all the basics, read, write, arithmetic. I ended up taking Spanish for at least one year for reasons I still can't fathom. I'd taken it in Jr. High and hated it then, so how I ended up with it in high school is a real mystery. One year I took Business Math, percentages and decimals and all that. I rather enjoyed it because I could do it and get A's. Plus, Mr. Bell, the teacher was pretty cool.  Somehow I had this unrealistic approach to life, kind of an Ozzie and Harriet way of looking at things. I just assumed things would come out ok without too much effort on my part. Anyway, this post isn't supposed to be about me per se. It's about the class of "70" - the group of kids that Jan and I graduated with so many years ago. In the packet that we received was a music CD with some of the songs that were popular back then. Of the 21 songs listed, I realized that I only like about four. Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress/ The Hollies, To Love Somebody/ The Bee Gees, Piano Man / Billy Joel and.... well, maybe I only liked three. I guess I didn't fit in to  the pattern of the rest of the crowd.  I was looking at the program for the 45th reunion. 6:00 - Welcome by the Planning Committee. Class photo at 6:45. 7:00 Prayer and Dinner. Whoa... I was surprised that its still ok to have a prayer at a function like this. I'm glad to see that. At 8:00 was the start of the regular program, beginning with remembering classmates who have passed on.  I was quite taken aback by the number of my classmates who had died. Of the roughly 400 students who graduated with me, 57 have since died, including three just this year. That number seems uncommonly high. I picked up the yearbook and looked through the pictures. Some of the folks I remember as being a little bit on the fringes of society, living a fairly risky life style even back then. A number of those who passed on were overweight even in high school. Whether or not that had anything to do with their early departure is hard to say, but it probably didn't help any either. It doesn't say how these folks died. Perhaps to satisfy my curiosity I may spend some time looking up obituaries this winter. Was there a car accident, were they ill, could it have been a drug overdose, did they drown while out fishing in a leaky boat...what happened? I saw that one set of twins had passed away. One in 2008 and one in 2011. They were both big guys, football players and shot put throwers. The first guy on the list of departed was a fellow I worked with at Super Duper supermarket when we were in high school. Others I remember the name but not the person. Jan had all the stuff related to class reunions together, so I happened to find our 30th class reunion book. It gave names and addresses and some folks had opted to give a little information about themselves. A startling number of my fellow classmates elected to stay in Marion Ohio. Wow! I could not do that! A number of them had been married for 25-30 years. One gal whom I had home room with had 12 children. That was fifteen year ago. I wonder if she cranked out any more since then. I thought we were pretty prolific with seven. I checked out a newspaper article from 2010, our fortieth reunion. Ninety classmates attended that one. At least two of the people shown have passed on, including one of the twins. Some of the faces look familiar. Lots of grey hair (mostly on the men), some folks are getting bald, again, mostly the men. Of course we've all aged, there's more pairs of glasses showing, and probably a little more weight. I'm sure there's wrinkles, but it's hard to see them from a distance. I see one fellow has an eye patch. Wonder what happened. Who knows maybe he thinks the pirate look will help him get a date. In any event, seeing the picture, and reading the list of the deceased makes me realize once again that life is short and life is precious. It's to be guarded and enjoyed. We don't have an expiration date on our birth certificates. Who knows when time's up. I hope I have a few more years and I hope I use that time wisely. I think that when 2020 rolls around, if I'm still in the land of the living, I'd like to attend the class of "70" reunion. It will be interesting to see what each of us has wrung from life fifty years later. In the interim, I hope that God's hand of blessing and safety will be one each one of us and our families. If I had a glass in hand I would raise it in a toast to each and every one of my fellow classmates. I hope to see you again.












Saturday, October 31, 2015

And Yet Another Grand Idea...



 I was down at Hoonah Trading shopping the other day. I'm usually there at least daily, sometimes multiple times per day. They have the only hardware store in town as well as groceries and fuel, plus Jan works there, and I often drop in when I'm picking her up for lunch.  I frequently end up buying something and of course automatically get a receipt, which I usually just put in my pocket.  It's not all that uncommon for me to have six or eight of the blasted things cluttering up  my pockets or the seat of the truck. Often they're scattered around the house, on the kitchen counter or the dining room table. When I received my mandatory receipt the other day, I happened to mention, wouldn't it be great if they made the receipts out of toilet paper? Then you would have something useful. If you went out hunting and the call of nature struck while  you were in the woods, you just reach right into your pocket and pull out a handful of receipts and you're good to go. No searching around for leaves or cutting the bottom of your favorite hunting shirt off. You might feel better about going shopping if after ending up with a cart full of groceries you realized that at least you didn't need to buy TP this time around, because the receipt was so long you'd have the family covered for a week. Even though you wouldn't have to purchase so much toilet paper at the store, the folks at Kimberly Clark or Kirkland wouldn't be too upset, they'll be increasing their bottom line by making the paper for the cash registers. It would be a win-win situation. If you happened to be walking down the street and your nose started to run, and you had forgotten you hanky, don't use your sleeve. Drop in to the local 7/11 and buy a slushy or a pack of gum. Wipe your nose with the receipt and you're on your way. It seems like the environmentalists would like it- you'd be using less paper. I mean, lets face it, aside from proof of purchase, what good is a receipt? I would venture to say, most of them go into the trash. The only time you might run into a problem would be during an audit by the IRS. When the accountant asks where's the receipt for this or that, it probably wouldn't go over too well if you mentioned that you flushed it down the toilet.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Onward to Marcellus






































    It was with a sense of sadness that I departed Vermont and my long time friend Buffalo Bob. It had been thirteen years since we had last spoken face to face. I doubt that we can allow another thirteen years to pass if we are to be together again on this earth. Not that he couldn't be around. That would put him at ninety and me at seventy six. He's in surprisingly good shape for a man his age, still chopping firewood and mowing his two acres of land. He's got a fairly stress free life so chances are he could outlive me. In any event, I hope that sometime in the next few years the opportunity will arise again for a visit. He's made it plain that it would fall on me to do the traveling, but a road trip sounds good to me, so maybe it will happen again soon. Though I was sorry to be leaving Buffalo, I was quite excited to see my good friend Renee again. The first time I saw her she was sitting in front of me in church. I could see that she was young and attractive, and for whatever reason I feared that she would be the target of some of the less than honorable young men around town. She was alone in a strange town in a new job with no friends, and I felt protective of her. Renee was the school counselor for several years and became a family friend of both Jan and I and our daughter Jen. We invited her for dinner periodically and even hosted her for Thanksgiving two years- once with her sister who was visiting over the holiday. We used to play Gin Rummy after dinner and always had a good time. Several times in the few years she was here in Hoonah, well meaning people tried to pair her up with someone, but Renee was very particular about what she wanted in a husband, so much so that I feared that she would grow to be an old maid. However, this past March she married her husband Mike, a man whom she met at a swing dance event. It was on this trip that I met Mike for the first time, and it was as if we had known each other for years. I liked him immediately. He's a city planner for the city of Syracuse. He's also a World War Two buff, and this past spring he made the trip to Normandy France for what I believe was the seventieth anniversary of the the Normandy invasion. Apparently he's quite good at swing dancing and he certainly chose wisely in his search for a wife. I don't know if he was really looking for one, but considering the engagement period was only a year, I guess he knew a good thing when he saw it.  Though my time with Mike and Renee was brief, I spent an afternoon, the night and a few hours the next day, I have seldom felt more welcome anywhere. They went out of their way to make me feel at home. Unfortunately I had contacted a cold on the trip to Vermont and I had called questioning whether I should even visit. They assured me it would be fine and upon my arrival made cough drops, throat lozenges and a powdered drink filled with Vitamin C available to me. We went to lunch at a lovely restaurant in a town twenty or so miles from their home. I can't remember how to spell it, but it was pronounced, Skinny Atlas. I thought at first they were kidding me, but that was really the name. Nice little town, right on one of the finger lakes. After lunch I was shown around  the area a bit. When we returned to their home we took a walk in the park, which borders their property. It's a big, beautiful park with a trout stream running through it. It would have been nice to watch Mike fish for a bit, but there wasn't time. We talked well into the night, way past Renee's normal bedtime. I remember when she was here that she retired early. The next morning Renee got up early and sent me off with a breakfast of French toast and sausages. Before I left they presented me with two sweatshirts, one for Jan and one for me. They are bright orange- the color of the Syracuse Orange Men. I guess that's the college basketball team. I was assured that it was fine for me to wear my sweatshirt out fishing on the boat. Then if I fall overboard, someone can at least find my bloated body more easily. They also wanted to make sure I had an ample supply of cough drops and Mike yarded out a half dozen cans of lemon lime soda for the road. I guess he wanted to make sure I stopped plenty. While I was sorry to leave, I nonetheless went off with such a good feeling of well being and a feeling of being loved that I couldn't help but be happy.I'm hoping that the next time I see Mike and Renee it will be here in Hoonah, and Jan and I will be able to somewhat repay the kindness I was shown at their home. I drove off for the New York Parkway a very nice road, but one which you will pay for the privilege of driving on. My next stop was to see my Mom in an Ohio assisted living facility.










Sunday, October 18, 2015

Road Trip- Vermont

Welcome Center in Vermont
Buffalo Bob Holden
The grave markers of Buffalo's Great Grandparents
The Holden Homestead
One of the lovely old homes in small town Vermont
Inside the Country Girl diner
A popular cooling off  spot for the youth

































































































































  When Jan and I first came to Alaska, some 39 years ago, we had to take a ferry from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Juneau, and another ferry to Hoonah. There are no roads to Hoonah, it's on an island. The few roads in town were basically mud, with a smattering of gravel and had craters in them that could float a boat. After traveling across the country  from South Carolina, there was really no place left to drive. In order to get to the farm where we would reside for ten years, we had to take a boat. The only road there was from the tabernacle to the fields, a rocky ox cart pathway that was only suitable for running a tractor or horse drawn wagon, and even then it could jar your teeth out with all the ruts, bumps, roots and boulders. It definitely wasn't fit for automobile travel. I didn't realize until it was no longer an option, that I really missed the freedom of driving. I had withdrawals, much like when I quit smoking. I used to dream of going south and driving a car.
  Well, at the beginning of the month, because of the generosity of a friend, I was able to fly to the East coast and drive west, all the way to Colorado Springs.  I flew in to Hartford Connecticut and rented a car from the good folks at Budget Car Rental. I had gone through the Costco Travel site and got a discount, something I'll be sure to do again. The folks at Budget set me up with a Volvo four door vehicle complete with built in GPS, something I highly recommend if you're going to be traveling in areas that you are unfamiliar with. It relieved me of so much stress, wondering where to turn or how much further I had to go. The Volvo was such a fine car too, very comfortable.
   I met up with my good friend Buffalo Bob in Brattleboro  Vermont and followed him to his home about twenty miles away. Buff lives  on a couple of acres of land in a hunting cabin that his father had built back in the 1950's at the end of a dead end road. There are a few other cabins scattered up and down the road and the entire area is surrounded by woods. I was surprised to see just how much of Vermont is wooded. I didn't run across any really large towns, but about every five miles or so there would be a village or small town. Most of the buildings are fairly old, dressed in white with dark green shutters and trim. Very neat, very rustic. In the three and a half days I spent with Buffalo, we covered probably a fifty mile radius. We stopped in at an antique store where he had purchased a new wood cook stove which he used to fix breakfast one day. We often took one of the many gravel side roads to go view some sight or another.I was surprised at the number of apple orchards in the area. I was also somewhat surprised that I never saw any deer the whole time I was there, although Buffalo assured me they were around, just wary. I did spot several flocks of wild turkeys though, something that we don't have here in Southeast Alaska.He wanted me to see the grave markers of his great,great grandparents. The grandfather's name was Squire and his wife's name was Lucy. On Lucy's marker it reads, Lucy, wife of Square Holden. For whatever reason  the name was never corrected and I guess she will forever be remembered as the wife of Square Holden. I guess that's not all bad. Sounds like an upright kind of guy.
   We got out on several occasions to walk around the woods and check out various sites. I noticed that no matter where we went there were stone walls. Years ago, when the first white settlers arrived, the ground was so rocky they couldn't use it for farming unless they first removed the rocks, which were plenteous. Rather than pile them up, they made fences, I guess to mark their property or separate fields. Bob says that you could walk for miles in the woods and find endless stone walls. One other thing I noticed, which was much less attractive, was thousands of yards of blue plastic tubing that is being used to transport the sap of the maple trees to the place where they make maple syrup. Gone are the days when they would tap a tree and hang a sap bucket. Now the trees all sport a tube that connects to an even larger tube that runs down hill into the collection point. It was rather unsightly and I was disappointed to see it, but I guess that's considered progress.
  In our travels we stopped at several diners. We dropped in at the Country Girl cafe in one of the little towns and had a delightful meal. The place was really hopping and it was obvious that the locals enjoyed patronizing the diner. The outside looked like a really large Airstream trailer and inside it reminded me of a fifties diner. It was quite fun, and the food was good.
  Buffalo took me to a spot where a small, swift running creek cuts through the limestone rock and forms several deep pools and chutes, much like a water park. There is a stationary ladder set up at the main pool with a sign stating that the ladder is just there so people can get back out of the pool instead of trying to slide down the chute to the next pool, which is probably a good thirty foot drop. The sign also states that over twelve people have died there and they discourage people from swimming there.
  For three and a half days we drove around and talked and looked at various  places of interest. Buffalo was my tour guide and I got to see things that I normally would have missed had I been on my own. I ate fresh tomatoes from  his garden that actually tasted like a tomato should taste. I listened to his stories and enjoyed his hospitality and then it was time to move on to my next  spot on the map, Marcellus New York. I'll do a post about my short visit there, hopefully in the not too distant future.











Thursday, September 24, 2015

Air Freshener? Really?



 I  invited my daughter Jen over for dinner last night. She and her daughter came. It was a delightful meal  I must admit. I made Halibut Olympia and English pea salad. We also had some pickled beets and green jello with pears. Lovely. Afterwards she wanted to either go on a walk or a drive. I opted for the drive since my legs were sore from climbing up and down the ladder yesterday slapping some paint on the house. For whatever reason, Jen loves car air fresheners. I don't know why. There have been plenty of times when I wish I'd had one for my car, like after I've hauled bait in the front seat or packed a load of neoprene gloves that I use to clean fish. Inevitably they get holes in them and of course the blood and slime gets inside and it doesn't take long for them to exude a stench that can take your breath away, or perhaps you just wish it would. Anyway, we went for a drive in her car last night, and upon entering I noticed an overpowering smell. Initially  it wasn't totally unpleasant, but as we drove along, it started to bother me. The air freshener said it was lemon, but that's not what I smelled. Perhaps it was because she had six or eight other fresheners hanging on her shift lever, dangling like fruit on a tree. I don't know why she doesn't just discard the old one's. Perhaps she's being frugal and trying to extract every last molecule of scent from each one. Maybe she's just lazy and doesn't want to take off the old ones, I don't know She claimed it smelled strong because it was new. I replied that I'd rather smell a fart, and of course that started a whole new conversation; hence this blog post. We discussed marketing a line of air fresheners that stank. We could call them HIG's-  short for Hot Intestinal Gasses. You could purchase varying degrees of stench, depending on who you were trying to repel. We've all experienced uninvited or unwanted guests in our life. If you had company that was only mildly annoying, you could buy the popcorn fart HIG. Unpleasant, but not totally overwhelming, just enough to make the guest uncomfortable. For the guest who doesn't know when to leave perhaps the Wet One's HIG would be in order. You only bring it out after numerous yawns and glances at the clock have failed to imply that you are tired and want to go to bed and you wish they would leave. For really hard core cases, the Pants Load HIG would be in order. You would plug it in to a socket and a small fan would circulate the stench throughout your home. That way regardless of whether you're talking in the kitchen, the dining room, den or living room, the whole house will stink. We once had a couple who befriended us. I didn't know either one of them all that well, but in the course of an innocent conversation I had mentioned not having shot a deer yet. The man insisted on giving us one. He even butchered it and packaged it up. I was thankful and somewhat overwhelmed by his generosity. Well, pretty soon his wife was coming down to visit Jan during the day. Initially she would stay for an hour or two and then leave. As time progressed, she would come  every day and stay until almost supper time. Then it got worse. After spending the whole afternoon here, her and her husband would come by after supper. This went on for weeks. Finally we stopped answering the phone, for fear it was one of them. Jan was familiar with the sound of the lady's car, and when she heard it pull up, she would drop to the floor and hide. They finally got the message, but it was a most painful experience. Had there only been HIG's around then, we could have dealt with the situation in a much timelier fashion. I'm going to be traveling soon, and will be a house guest at several different homes. I hope that if the unmistakable scent of hot intestinal gasses starts to waft around the room, I'll take the hint and go get a hotel room.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Labor Day




















 This past Monday was Labor Day- a day of celebrating the folks whose hard work has made America what it is. It's kind of the unofficial end of summer I guess, although by the look and feel of the weather here in Southeast Alaska, summer started giving way to fall during the first week of August. That's when the cottonwood and alder trees started to turn from green to gold. My daughter Liz and her husband and youngest child rented a cabin from the Forest Service out at False Bay during the Labor Day weekend, along with Jen and Kaylahni. They invited us out for dinner, so of course we had to go. When the chance to eat your kid's food comes up by all means take advantage of it. It's payback time. Of course there was hot dogs and chips and soda, but there was also shisk- ka -bobs on the grill, which was an added treat. I noticed that Jen was sitting on a makeshift bench, and the smoke from the wood fire kept drifting right towards her. It's something she's inherited from me I guess. Not everyone is so lucky as to come home smelling like they've been grilled. I was looking at my daughter Liz and saw that the sweatshirt she was wearing had a slogan that said "Cute enough to stop your heart- skilled enough to restart it." She's a CNA so I thought that was appropriate. I wish I would think of a slogan like that. It's not that I never think of anything good, it's just that no one wants to pay me for my great ideas. What's up with that? My son-in-law and a family friend spent most of their time fishing. Unfortunately Bill had gotten some false information about how many silvers were being caught and he came out expecting to really clean up on them with his fly rod. The fishing in Freshwater was just as discouraging as it's been everywhere else this year.For some unknown reason the silvers just haven't shown up, at least not in any concentrations that would matter. I don't doubt that they're out there somewhere, I just don't know where. Once he got back in to town Walt Lindoff took him up Garteeni Creek and he got a few nice ones to take home and smoke. While we were there, Jan and I went into the cabin to check it out. It's very nice. There's no electricity and you have to provide your own firewood, but it's well built with built in bunks and a wood stove and picnic table in the kitchen area. There is a spacious outhouse near the rear of the building. You need to think ahead and bring toilet paper, unless you're really planning on roughing it. There is a porch and a balcony to sit out on, and the view is fantastic. It's very relaxing.  You can rent the cabin from the U.S. Forest Service on line. I believe it may be listed as the cabin at Kennel Creek, although it could be under Freshwater Bay. It's only $50.00 a day to rent, but if you should decide to rent it, give yourself plenty of time in advance.It's fairly popular, understandably so. I don't know if it's available year round or not. I think that hunters may rent it during the deer season, but as the season progresses and snow starts to fall, the road that leads to Freshwater can become impassable. Something to think about. Anyway, we were fortunate enough to enjoy the last holiday of the summer there, had a good time and ate some of the kid's food. What more could you want?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Root Beer Floats


  I've been trying unsuccessfully to access the internet for the past few weeks. I'm not really sure what's going on. At best it's been sporadic, so doing a post has been very difficult. However, for the immediate time being, I do have the internet, so I'm going to attempt to post something.  Several weeks ago, during a rather extended hot spell that we were going through, I had the wonderful idea of enjoying a delicious rootbeer float, and believe me, enjoy it I did. This particular rootbeer is a delightful brand sold at the local market, Henry Wienhard's. It's some of the best I've ever tasted. When I was a kid Barq's root beer was the local favorite. I don't know if they still make it or not. Hire's root beer was always good, and of course one of the highlights growing up was a trip to the root beer stand on a hot summer night for a frosty mug. Oh my! I did a little research on the origin of root beer. Apparently some semblance of it has been around for quite a long time. Not doubt the natives in the lower 48 had something resembling root beer made from various herbs, berries and roots. The first commercial rootbeer marketed in the U.S. was produced by Charles Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist. It was originally an herbal tea. Hires first introduced it to the public in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.  He originally marketed it as root tea, but a friend, realizing the potential increase in sales if it were re-named, convinced him to call it root beer. I found it interesting that initially it was served hot and un-carbonated.- yuk!  I saw an ad for his rootbeer showing a little kid holding a glass of  it and pointing to the reader with a caption that says, Say! You ought to drink Hires Root Beer. The caption above it reads -The great health drink. I never thought of rootbeer as a health drink, but I would imagine it must have some redeeming qualities about it. In 1960, the Food and Drug administration banned sassafras as a potential carcinogen. As most folks probably know, sassafras is one of the ingredients used to make rootbeer. Only the oil in the sassafras is considered dangerous, so when they figured out a way to separate it from the plant, it was all systems go again. In 1919 Roy Allen opened the first rootbeer stand in Lodi California. I wonder if they had girls in roller skates taking the customer's orders. In 1920 Frank Wright joined Allen, thus A&W was born. One last little bit of trivia. The first rootbeer float, known as a black cow is credited to one Frank Wisner of Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1893. Since then there have been all manner of variations, including the alcoholic  version of the float. In any event, whatever variety you imbibe, I hope you'll raise a glass to ol' Charles Hires for a fine darn concoction.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I think our boats hate us




















  Way back in 1990, I had the genius idea that if I had a bigger boat, I would catch more fish, which for any fisherman, is the ultimate goal. I still had a bunch of kids at home at the time, and could only afford a wooden boat, which I knew would be a lot of work. However, the Bonnie J had a fairly new Isuzu diesel engine in it, and the boat looked sound enough, and the price was right, so I procured a loan and low and behold, I was the owner of a wooden troller. Twenty five years later, I hate to think of the money I've poured into the old gal. Just recently I was hauled out of the water for four months getting some planks replaced on the port side. Lord knows how much that's going to cost. I haven't gotten the bill for the labor yet, and I'm kind of afraid to see it. By the time I finally launched the boat (for the second time) the king salmon season was over. Cohos hadn't really started in yet, and the only thing biting was humpies, which were worth only 25 cents a pound. At least they didn't have to be cleaned. With all the competition for the halibut now, I thought I had better go get my quota before it got too much later in the year. They start to move into deeper water as the season progresses, and the weather only gets worse as fall nears. I took a couple of friends out with me to fish for the halibut. We went up into the bay and had just started to make the first set. We put out about thirty hooks of the 150 or so we were going to set when the hydraulic motor started leaking. I couldn't continue on like that, so we cut the set short and ran back in to town, about an hour and a half away. Seven hundred and some dollars later, I had a new motor. I saw my friend Jeff from the F/V Bifrost and told him about the motor. He got a disgusted look on his face and swore. Then he said, "I think our boats hate us Tom!" He might be on to something there. He spent the last fall having his engine rebuilt, as well as having planks, deck work and I don't know what all else done. It was an enormous amount of money to spend on the boat though, and when it comes time to sell, he'll most certainly only receive a fraction of what he spent for it. The thing is, he'll probably be like most boat owners and gladly take what is offered. Like the saying goes, the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it.  Lord knows I've had more than my share of boat fun this year. First it was the hydraulic motor. Then the chain that controls the long line drum had to be replaced. Then the engine overheated on the way in from halibut fishing. The thermostat that I just replaced a year or two before gave up  the ghost. Then the other day I was on my way out to pick another halibut set. It was foggy, so I figured I'd turn on the radar. Well, it wouldn't come on. No power. SOOOOOO.... I replaced the fuse. Now I had power, but there was a message on the radar screen that said - no heading pulse, no bearing pulse. I got out the manual that came with the radar and did what it said to do when that happened, but to no avail, so I guess I'll contact the fix it shop tomorrow and go from there. I'm going to have to get another job just to afford my fishing habit. I'm beginning to think that Jeff may have been right- our boats do hate us; and after all we've done for them too. Go figure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Help Me, I've Been Humpy'd






















 It's sunny and windy today, two weather events that I don't care for very much when I'm out trying to fish. They actually go hand in hand. Most sunny days around here are accompanied by the wind. It makes for a miserable day out on the water. On the one hand, if there wasn't any wind, the heat would be almost unbearable. On the other, the wind makes it so difficult to control the boat,and it almost always gets lumpy and very uncomfortable. Sooooo, I took care of some projects on the boat and I'm working on getting some stuff done around the house so that maybe tomorrow I can go out and catch a fish or two. What you see in the pictures above are almost all Pink salmon, or Humpbacks, or as they are so affectionately known by the fishermen, Humpies. They are the smallest of the salmon, averaging around three and a half pounds more or less. This year the processors are only paying a quarter a pound for them, so a lot of them aren't even worth a dollar each. It's really kind of depressing to have to deal with them for so little money. The upside is, if there is one, is that this year is a record year for them. You can catch as many as you can hold in a day, or as many as you want to catch. They just keep on biting. On the one hand, it's kind of nice, with a fish on almost every hook, you're making money. The bad part is, you have to do the same amount of work as if you were catching something worth six or eight times as much. Humpies are a really squirrely fish. From the moment they bite they are fighting tooth and nail to get off the line. When they come aboard they flap about violently and almost always sling blood everywhere. If you have twenty or more flopping around at once, it looks like a war zone. You have to spend  half your time just hosing off the deck or the blood will dry on it and make a hell of a mess. Fortunately the cold storage is buying the fish in the round, meaning we don't have to clean them. That's nice. However, because I needed some to sell for sport fishing bait as Tom's Halibaits, those that we caught one day had to be cleaned. I think we had 175 of the bloody little buggers, which meant they all had to be gilled and gutted. What fun! Fortunately my daughter Jen is one of the maybe handful of people in the whole world who like to clean fish. She really gets into it. I have no idea what is so great about cleaning a bunch of Humpies, but I"m glad she likes doing it. It really simplifies my life. I enjoy the catching part of fishing and she enjoys the cleaning part, so we make a good pair. I went out by myself on Saturday and in half a day I think I ended up with around 700 plus pounds of Pinks. If I had gotten there early and spent the whole day I'm sure I could have easily doubled my score, however, the slush bags that I use were temporarily out of commission and I had to resort to using the half totes, which don't hold very much. Oh well. I'm hoping that the Humpie run will gradually subside and the cohos will come in to replace them. As it is, any other fish in the area doesn't stand a chance to grab the bait. Too much competition.  It would be like living in China at a Chow Mein Noodle factory. God forbid you should stand in the way at lunch time. Anyway, I'll just keep grinding away and hope for the best. About the time I have a day when I go out and don't catch anything, I'll long for the days when I couldn't keep the Humpies off my line.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back in the Stall Again



















  It runs in my mind that there is an old western song that talks about being back in the saddle again. I'm not sure, but  I assume it's because whoever was singing it was away from their  horse for awhile and had finally returned. I can really relate. Back on March 29th, when I hauled out the boat for some plank work, I had no idea that I wouldn't be returning the Bonnie J back to her assigned stall for almost four months. It's been years since I've missed this much time during the fishing season. I've been chomping at the bit to get out for quite some time. Unfortunately I missed the king salmon season and though historically there is a little mop up for the remaining quota in August, this year there will be no mop up. Part of it is politics and part science I guess. I won't be able to catch another king this year until the winter season starts on October 11. I may be down south then, so chances are I won't catch any kings this year at all. Bummer. If there is any silver lining at all, it's that the season hasn't been very good. The prices are low and there aren't many fish around, with the exception of Humpies. That's fine with me, I need some for halibut bait and to sell to the two stores in town who carry Tom's Halibaits for sport's fishermen. Personally, I think salmon is one of the best baits a person can use for halibut. It stays on the hook well, and has enough scent to attract them. Even with all the work I've done, I'm still dealing with a small leak around the rudder post. I thought I had it fixed, but this morning when I launched, my friend, Vince, said it was leaking. He put an extra strand of packing in the packing nut, but then he couldn't get it to tighten down. Right now I'm not too concerned about it, but I may take a little time and deal with it tomorrow. Little problems have a way of becoming big problems if you don't deal with them, especially on a boat. The time to take care of a problem is when you're tied up at your stall- not when you're battling six foot seas. Having spent the last four months on dry land, the boat really dried out badly. The red bottom paint that is showing is testimony to how dry it got. I need to get some fuel tomorrow, and that will help to bring it down a little, and as the wood swells it will take on some water weight. I'm glad that the wood does swell, it helps to close the seams and make the boat water tight. I like that. I want to keep the water on the outside of the boat- much less stressful that way. Anyway, for those who may be following this blog, I just thought I'd let you know, she's back where she belongs. Hopefully when I go to check on her tomorrow I won't see  just the mast and poles sticking up out of the water.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When....



















    There are certain things in life that are indicators that perhaps you've entered the "golden years". One is when you have a cupboard specifically designated for holding all of your medicines. I'm not talking about the medicine cabinet in the bathroom where the tweezers, band-aids and Neosporin are located. I'm talking about all the pills you need just to keep life at some semblance of normal. Things like blood pressure meds, prostate pills, thyroid medicine, calcium supplements, Vitamin D tablets and assorted and sundry other things. The container  that separates all of my pills into daily doses is so full that I can hardly close the lid anymore. Between my wife and I, we could probably open a pharmacy. We have pills, ointments and creams for everything from hemorrhoids to shingles; high blood pressure to Padget's disease. Holy cats! When we order our medicine from Juneau it comes in a bag the size of a small suitcase. One of the other more common issues that we of the older generation faces, is the inability to see very well without the aid of glasses. I'm fortunate in that I can still see without them for  things at a distance. The last time I had my eyes checked they were 20/15. Pretty good for an old guy. However, for reading and work that requires a little closer inspection,  I have to have glasses to see. This past Friday my oldest granddaughter got married- a sure sign that you're getting on in years, unless of course you were married when you were seven. Anyway, in all the rush to get ready for the wedding, or perhaps it was because the tie I was wearing was choking off blood to my brain, I forgot to grab a pair of glasses to take with me. I did remember the camera, but without any specs, I couldn't see the settings on the dial. Consequently, some of the pictures I took came out rather blurry. Otherwise I would have included more in this post. As further proof that I'm on the back side of life, my oldest son, Ben and his wife just had a baby. That makes eleven grand kids- I think. It's hard to keep up with them all. We'll have to get one of those reverse mortgages just to send a little cash for all the birthdays. I guess we'll never be able to retire. Oh well.