Blog Archive

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Bowel Scraper

 With the lack of ferries, we're starting to experience less variety on our grocery store shelves. There are still groceries there, although there are more and more gaps showing up. Today there was lettuce in the produce cooler. It had dropped two bucks to $6.09 each. I know it's ridiculously high, but at least they have it. It's hard to make a salad if there isn't any lettuce. Jan and I walked up to the post office last week and since we didn't have the stamina or the desire to walk all the way down to Hoonah Trading and then back home, we opted to shop at Brand X. The selection of cereal was a little thin. I didn't really want a bunch of sugar coated kids stuff in my bowl, and I'd already finished a box of Cherrios, so I decided to opt for the Shredded Wheat. I rather like the flavor, and it has the added advantage of lots of fiber. I'm not real sure what fiber is good for, but judging by the way that cereal sometimes catches in my throat on the way down, thus choking me, I'm going to assume that it does an equally good job of scraping it's way through my whole digestive system, thus making my large and small intestines clean as a whistle. I imagine that the way I've neglected and abused my body all these years, I would have to have three bowls of Shredded Wheat a day for six months or more to have any real impact. I would suspect that Triscuits, the shredded wheat of the cracker kingdom would have a similar effect. I guess I could have Shredded Wheat for breakfast, then wolf down some Triscuits for lunch and again after supper. Before you know it my bowels would be a thing of beauty. Years ago when we lived out at the farm, we didn't have any control over what we ate. We all ate together like some hippy commune, and the folks in charge of the menus came up with some doozies. I was reminded today of one of my first meals there- a hearty helping of bear liver mush. It looked as bad as it sounded, and tasted even worse. I got about half a teaspoon down my gullet before I realized that it wasn't fit for human consumption. I wasn't sure what I would eat if  I continued to live there; blueberry leaves and grass were starting to look like an option. At one point  we were eating wheat balls for breakfast. I didn't even know that you could buy wheat balls, but you could and they came in fifty pound sacks, like animal feed. Actually, they didn't have a bad flavor, compared to say, bear liver mush, but they were really tough to chew and they didn't digest well. They departed your body pretty much the way they entered, unless you had jaws like a lion and could break them down. I remember Jan feeding them to one of our kids who was still in diapers, and when she went to change her, the wheat balls fell out and bounced all over the floor like rubber cement. Eventually someone figured out that we could grind them like flour and it made a kind of pasty cream of wheat like cereal. I've mentioned before that there was one gal at the farm who had some kind of lower tract problems. She used to mix up a little bit of volcanic ash into a glass of water and drink it in an effort to get things moving I guess. Perhaps if she'd had some Shredded Wheat for breakfast her bowels would have been scraped as clean as a stainless steel pipe. In any event, I'm glad that there is still a little something to buy at the stores. The cereal I bought the other day was a whopping $8.00, but I guess beggars can't be choosers, and besides, it's probably a small price to pay for a sparkling clean colon.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

  For the past few years Alaska has been suffering with a budget crisis. There hasn't been a state tax since I believe the first year I came here, back in 1976 or somewhere around then. When oil was discovered on the North Slope and Prudhoe Bay, the state was swimming in money from oil revenues. There was so much money that the governor at the time, Jay Hammond decided it would be a grand idea to share the state's wealth with it's citizens. Hence the Alaska Permanent Fund was born. It was a tremendous blessing to receive, and was doable because to this date I believe there are less than a million people who live here. So many folks find themselves out of work in the winter months because of the harsh conditions, so having an extra source of income in the fall really makes a difference. Some years back the price of oil started dropping, from over $100.00 a barrel to around $60.00 or so. The state for years has lived off that oil revenue,and when the prices started to drop, the legislature found itself in a bind financially. There was really a lack of foresight by those in charge and now the whole state is feeling the pinch. When the current governor ran for office, he promised to deal with the budget issues,and he  has. Unfortunately his plan has left the smaller, more remote communities in Southeast Alaska in a real bind. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system runs throughout Southeast, and is the primary means of these smaller communities getting groceries and other necessities. For about three weeks we've been without any fresh milk, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese or any other items you might normally find in a dairy case. It's been about that long since we've had tomatoes and lettuce or cucumbers or bananas that aren't brown. I did manage to buy a green pepper the other day, but it was almost $3.00. It was a whopping $7.39 a pound. I bought a bunch of green onions today because I wanted to make Mexican Quiche. I paid $3.09 for six green onions. I guess I can't complain too loud, at least they had some. While I was at the store I looked for lettuce. There was none, which was just as well because it was advertised at $8.09 a head. I wouldn't have bought it anyway. Not having the ferry running in the winter is one of the worst things that can happen here. The weather has been horrible for the last few weeks, so flights in and out are few and far between. It's hard to order anything to fly over from Juneau because you don't know when the next flight might be and any perishable stuff could just stay there and rot. The other day I sat down to a bowl of corn flakes and had to put some powdered milk on it. It was the last straw. I choked it down and came to the office and sent off a letter to the editor. There is no reason in this day and age that we should have to suffer through a lack of ferry service. It's our primary source of transportation here. As I mentioned in my letter, if this were the height of tourist season, I can guarantee there would be ferries in and out of here. I invited the legislature to hold there meetings here in Hoonah. I'm fairly certain that after a few days of no fresh produce or milk or necessary medicines, the funding for the marine highway would be restored. When you're far removed from the pain of others, it's hard to be empathetic. What is really scary is that the lesson of putting all your eggs in one basket hasn't been learned yet. In my time here I've watched the boom and bust cycle here go from fishing to logging to the oil industry. Now there is a big push for tourism. As of right now there is a world wide scare over the Corona virus. How many folks are going to want to get on a cruise ship if they're afraid of coming down with that? I'm hoping that things are going to turn around soon. Frankly, I'm ready to move to somewhere that I can drive to the store and actually find what I'm looking for.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I Got A Ticket!!

  When you read the title of this post you might think I'm all excited about getting a ticket. Well, I am, but not in a good way. See, it's not like a ticket to a basketball game or a lottery ticket or a ticket to travel across the country on a train, this is a traffic ticket. For the first time in my 51 years of driving, I've gotten a traffic ticket. Frankly, I'm really peeved about it. It was so unnecessary.  Six months ago my driver's license expired. For whatever reason the state doesn't send you a message stating that it's expired, you're just supposed to remember that after five years, you need to renew your license. Well, let me ask you, do you remember to drain some water out of the bottom of your water heater tank every year? In the fall do you change the filters in your furnace? Are you remembering to check the belts, hoses and filters in your car every time you change the oil? Do you change the oil when the manufacturer recommends, or do you wait until the idiot light comes on? It just seems like it wouldn't be too difficult for the state to send out a reminder every five years before your drivers license expires. I don't know, maybe I expect too much. Its just one of those out of sight out of mind things. My wife remembered though, and frankly, she's told me more than a few times to get online and renew it. Because we live in a remote Alaskan village where there is no motor vehicles office, we are allowed to renew online. Sounds great doesn't it? If only it was. Yesterday I finally remembered that I needed to get the job done. I got on the state DMV website and filled out all the information. I hit the send button and promptly got a message that my information didn't match the records the state had. I copied the info right from the license that they had issued me five years earlier. Thinking that I might have copied something down wrong, I entered the info again. Again the same message popped up. After the third time it happened, I looked up the link to contact them. There was a message from the state mentioning that due to the high volume of business because of the new Id's that the feds require, that the state encourages you to do your business online. Yeh.... OK... I sent whomever a note mentioning my problem. To my surprise someone wrote back and asked if I had put in my height and weight correctly. I responded that I had. Then they  wrote back and asked if I had entered my birth date correctly. I responded that I had. Then they didn't write back. I guess because it was Friday and they wanted to get an early start on the weekend. So I didn't get to renew my license online like I was planning and indeed was encouraged to. That was the beginning of sorrows.

Earlier this year when I was driving my "92" Silvarado, I heard a noise coming from under the shift column on the floor. I managed to drive it up to the only mechanic in town with a shop. He climbed underneath and saw that a rod of some kind that connects to the shift lever had come out of it's yoke. It was a mystery to him how that could have happened. Of course he'd never seen anything like that before. Go figure, if it's never happened before, it will happen to me. Anyway, he got it put back where it belonged, but after that I had no four wheel drive. I don't think it was anything he did wrong, it just happened. In any event, we've had snow for the past week or so, and without chains or four wheel drive, it's almost impossible to drive on the ice and snow. I couldn't even pull out of my driveway yesterday. My daughter is out of town so we're watching her two cats, and she said to use her car if we needed to. It has all wheel drive and gets around fairly well in the snow. Anyway, the cats are at her house, and the streets are really slippery, and not wanting to fall and end up in the hospital, Jan and I decided to drive my daughters car to the house to feed the stupid cats. I decided to drive out to the airport to warm up the vehicle. It was pitch black out, so I had the lights on. As I was returning to town to deal with the cats, a car was coming toward me. I shut off the brights, not wanting to be rude and blind the other guy. As it turns out, I shouldn't have been so courteous. The car passed me, turned into the driveway of the forest service  building and proceeded to turn on his red and blue flashing lights. It turns out that my daughter's car doesn't have low beams on the drivers side of the car. Sooooo... I got pulled over. Let me tell you, it's totally humiliating to be sitting on the side of the road with a cop car pulled up behind you with the lights flashing. To make matters worse, the lights are brilliant and reflect in the mirrors, blinding you. I turned the rear view mirror up so that it wasn't reflecting in my eyes, and ended up putting my hat on the drivers side mirror to try and save my sight, but I couldn't do anything about the passenger side mirror. To top it off, the traffic stop lasted in excess of forty five minutes.  It turns out that the cop's computer was running really slow. Of course, what else would you expect where I was concerned. I accepted the ticket when I finally got it, and let him know, just for future reference, that in the event that they have to stop any old guys, keep in mind that most of us are dealing with a prostate problem. That means after about fifteen to thirty minutes, we probably have to pee. As I explained last night, I know you're supposed to stay in the car during a traffic stop, but given the choice between peeing my pants and getting shot when I stepped out of the car to relieve myself, I was strongly leaning towards dry pants and a bloody torso. I was fortunate that I hadn't had iced tea for supper and had used the bathroom before we left the house or the night might have ended much differently. As I mentioned, none of it had to happen. If my daughter had her light fixed, I wouldn't have been pulled over. If I had been able to download the license as I should have been able to, I wouldn't  have gotten a ticket. As it is, I'm going to be out $95.00 just because we had to go feed the cats. Maybe I can start a go fund me page. I can use the money to educate police departments across the country about the aging population and the effect of age on the bladder. Any extra money can go to buy Depends for the baby boomer population for use on any road trips longer than fifteen minutes.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Sinking of The F/ V Talache

  Last Friday I  got a call from my daughter who works at the city. She mentioned that her boss, whose brother is the harbor master said a boat had sunk in the harbor. When she asked which one, she was told it was the Talache. I'm quite familiar with that boat. Thirty years ago at the time I was buying the Bonnie J, two of my friends were also buying old wooden boats. It was what we could afford at the time. My friend Marlin Ryder bought the F/V Ricky Ray, and my friend Buffalo Bob Holden bought the Talache. He picked it up from a guy down in Sitka, who used to tack Masonite on the hull down by the water line so he could go fishing in the winter and not worry about ice cutting the hull. The boat was built with cedar from Port Orford Oregon. It is a double end troller, with both the bow and stern of the boat tapered. It's nice in a following sea, but it was a little narrow and tippy if it was at the dock. When the trolling poles were extended with stabilizers though, it was a fairly comfortable ride as I understand. At the time it was painted John Deere green with a black top house, and it looked sharp. It has a five bladed prop and I've watched it glide through the water without leaving a trace of a wake. It was quiet and smooth and could really catch fish. When Buffalo decided to move south he sold it to a gal who had some experience commercial fishing on her uncle's seine boat. She fished it for I think two years and for whatever reason lost interest. Eventually she sold the aluminum trolling poles to a fellow who was using wood ones, and when it became evident she was never going to use it to fish again, she sold the mast to me. Over the years she's lived off and on on the boat, although not so much in the winter in the past few years. I have to go past the Talache to get to my boat on the float, and for several years I've noticed that there was kelp growing on the bottom of the boat. I don't care to interfere,especially in other folks business, but when a problem can no longer be avoided, I open my mouth. I mentioned my fears for the well being of the vessel to the owner and was assured that a haul out was in it's future, but it never materialized.  It's been a number of years since the boat was hauled out of the water and the hull scraped and painted and new zincs applied. You can't neglect maintenance on a wooden boat, it's just the nature of the beast. Without zincs the fastenings that hold the planks on deteriorate and things like the prop and bow stem and rudder get eaten up by electrolysis. There are parasites called Torrido worms that eat through the wood  and leave holes. A friend who has a stall across from the Talache said at 3:AM the boat was floating, when he looked again at 6:00, it had sunk.  It's tragic to have such a fine old boat sink. I was down at the harbor the day it sank and saw one of the local guys diving on the boat trying to get a rope around it so it can be raised and pumped out. The weather has been so  cold and windy this past week though, that he couldn't dive again until it gets warmer. I told my friend Buffalo about the sinking and he mentioned that if memory served him correctly, the man he bought the boat from said that he had poured over a thousand pounds of lead in the keel for ballast. He was asking what would come of the boat, and if it was going to be trashed, he thought I should check on getting the lead. If that's truly the case, I'd love to buy the lead from the owner. I could have enough cannonballs to last me the rest of my fishing career. I'm not sure what's going to become of the Talache. Until it's raised and inspected to see the cause of the sinking I don't suppose much will be done with it. She had a Deutz German diesel engine in her. I'm not sure about the tranny. I suspect that neither will be salvaged, although I don't know. Since it wasn't running when it went down, maybe the engine could be cleaned up and used again. I'm sure any personal items- books, bedding, electronics are useless now. I can't imagine the trouble and money it would take to dry out the boat inside thoroughly enough to prevent mold, and I suspect if there wasn't money to do annual maintenance, there won't be money to put it into running condition anymore. To the best of my knowledge, they don't make wooden fishing boats anymore. One by one they're disappearing from the harbors, replaced by mass produced fiberglass or aluminum craft that lack the individuality and character that each old wooden boat possesses.  Much like the dinosaurs that once walked the earth they'll vanish and become just a memory in an old fisherman's tales or a picture in a book. There's no two ways about it, it's a real loss.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

'Tis the Season- Winter That is

 Those who know me know that winter isn't my favorite time of year. Cold air, snow, slush, frozen ground, frozen pipes, frozen hands, frozen equipment- not a big fan. I'm watching my friends' dog again while they're in sunny Mexico. Don't think I'd care to be there either- drug cartels, shootings, bad water. I pretty much manage to find something wrong with everywhere. Anyway, dogs need to be taken outside, for their sanity and yours, so I was taking my canine charge down to the park yesterday for a walk. We were having a good enough time; or at least he was. I'm not too interested in sniffing the deposits of my friends and colleagues, but he was in seventh heaven. As it was, another person showed up with their dog, and since Rabano doesn't get along well with any other dogs, and only a few people as far as I can tell, we took a hike down near the harbor. I was already having some difficulty walking since I woke up with an extremely sore back in the morning. Dr. Botts figured a walk might help it so I went out, not that I had any choice in the matter. Everything was going along fine, it wasn't too terribly cold and the snow had been plowed so it wasn't too deep. What I failed to notice, which I guess is reasonable since I couldn't see beneath the layer of snow covering the road, was that beneath the snow was a layer of glare ice. I managed to hit a patch and promptly hit the  ground. It's strange how a person can go from thanking God for a beautiful day to swearing as their head bounces off the ground. Fortunately I wasn't hurt, but I had noticed right before I bit the dust or ice as the case may be, there was  a fellow working in his boat close to where I was walking. Before I even took inventory of my physical condition, I checked to see if he was laughing hysterically. I know I would be. Apparently he was engrossed in the work he was doing and didn't notice my snow dance. At least my pride was still intact.  A student I once worked with came to school with a sweat shirt that said-"It's always funny until someone gets hurt- then it's hysterical." Truer words were never spoken.  I guess I can't really complain too much about this winter. Up until the first of the year we had only had a smattering of snow, and then it had all disappeared under the constant rain. Although I'm not a big fan of snow, I realize that it's a necessary evil in salmon country. Last summer the snow pack was pretty well gone from the mountains by April, and there wasn't much rain for weeks on end. I fear what the outcome of that drought is going to be on the salmon runs in a few years. I have to admit that the snow gives the area a certain beauty.It looks so clean until it starts to melt. I went down to the park and harbor and took a few pictures that I can look at if I'm down south and in the middle of a heat wave. I always feel bad for wildlife in the winter. I know that they are prepared for it, at least as much as they can be. When the snow gets too deep the deer go to the beach and eat kelp. I guess the ducks must gather either in the salt water or where the creeks flow still. We have so much fresh water here that there are times in the bays where the wind doesn't blow that ice will form on top of the salt water. I often wondered about how the ducks feet stayed warm, and my friend Chris Budke mentioned that the blood in their feet travels up into their bodies. Even so, it can't be much fun swimming around in frigid water. The ducks pictured in the two photos above are Bufflehead or Golden Eyes I believe. Both are fish ducks, meaning they have to dive under the water to find some chow. Oooooo.. the very idea chills me to the bone. Fortunately I don't have to live outside in the cold. As long as the power doesn't go out I'll stay pretty toasty. Looks like we're in for some single digit temps for the foreseeable future, so I guess it will be sweaters and warm socks inside and a prayer of thanks that I don't have to go out to use an outhouse anymore.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas!!

 Several hours ago I had some idea what I wanted to write for this post. I suppose I should have stopped right then and written it, but I had to make a trip to the store and the post office. There were some muffins to make for some friends whose family is visiting for Christmas. I needed to go to my daughter's house and enjoy an annual shoe box dinner with her and two of my grandchildren and a great granddaughter, as well as some close friends. These things are all blessings to me. Tomorrow we'll open gifts and have more family and friends over to share an abundance of food and hopefully and abundance of laughter. Like so many others, I sometimes get caught up in all the gift giving and holiday cheer, that I forget that there is a reason why we celebrate Christmas. It's because God loved us enough to send His very best. John 3:16 states that "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. For God didn't send him into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Take a look around you. Pick up a newspaper or spend a half hour watching the news. A lot of people don't want to because the news is depressing. It seems like the world is going to hell in a hand cart. Do you think it was any different the night Jesus was born? The Romans were occupying Israel, folks were being killed, there were riots and lust and greed just like now. Times haven't changed all that much. The same problems that plagued the ancient world continue to plague us now. That first Christmas night though, hope came into the world. God didn't wait until there were enough decent folks in the world to warrant the gift of eternal life. He looked down and saw what a mess we were,and knew that we couldn't and wouldn't change on our own, so in order for us to have eternal life, He sent Jesus. Don't think that Jesus was forced to go, that he grudgingly obeyed his father. He knew what was in store for him before he ever came to earth. Look at the story of his birth. His mom and dad lived in an ultra religious society where being pregnant out of wedlock was scandalous. Who would have believed Mary if she'd said that she was still a virgin? Forced to travel far from home by the government, by the time the baby was due there wasn't even a room to rent in the inn. Poor Mary had to deliver her first baby out in a barn with the animals. There was no doctor or midwife to assist. I'm sure Joseph had never delivered a baby before. He wasn't a doctor, he was a carpenter by trade. There wasn't a crib to lay their new born baby in. They had to settle for a feeding trough. Not a very glamorous setting for the son of God, but it was the way God set it up. Joseph and Mary might have  had some doubts about this whole experience if they hadn't already each heard from angels directing their paths. I'm sure they were encouraged all the more by the arrival of the shepherds who spoke of a heavenly choir directing them to the manger, and the visit from the wise men bringing gifts for the king of all the earth. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. You'll never get a better gift for as long as you live, but as with any gift, you have to accept it. You can't buy it with money. You could never do enough good works to earn it. Nothing you have now or will ever have in the future can compare to salvation. If you don't already know the story of the first Christmas, I hope you'll check it out. More than that, I hope that you'll accept the gift of salvation that the God of all the universe is offering. Have a merry Christmas. God bless you all.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Bench

 It's been awhile since I've written any posts. I haven't been out with the camera much lately. I guess I haven't seen too much that I wanted to photograph. The weather has been foul for weeks, rainy, snowy, windy- typical weather for Southeast Alaska in the late fall/early winter. Who really wants to see pictures of cloud shrouded mountains or rain thick seascapes? I started looking back through the archives of my pictures hoping to find something worth while to write about and I came upon this bench from down at the cannery. I remember asking my friend John Kveum about it some time back, but I can't really recall what he told me. I know it's been around for quite a long time. Back in the days when the cannery processed salmon, many a captain or crew hand or maybe cannery worker sat on this weathered bench, knife or fid in hand and decided to leave his mark. I guess there's something in all of us that wants to make a statement or be remembered. Maybe that's why we have grave markers. We want there to be a record that states we once passed this way. Lately I've been thinking about my own demise a little bit. Unless Jesus comes before then, I suppose my passing on is inevitable. I think I'd like to be cremated and have at least some of my ashes scattered here in Port Frederick, where I've spent so much time fishing. I'd like to have some of them put in a jar or can or urn  or something and maybe hang out with Jan, if I go before her. I've yet to decide if I'd like to have a permanent final resting place, or where I would want it to be. I don't much relish there not being a record of my time on earth. I guess I'll have to think on that some more. Maybe for awhile the kids could pass me around to each other for a few months at a time. I could be the perfect visitor. They wouldn't have to feed me, no one would have to give up a bed for me and there wouldn't be any aggravation at having to wait to get into the bathroom.Plus, if they were doing something they know I wouldn't approve of, they wouldn't have to worry about my giving my opinion, although I think in the back of their mind they would know my feelings and would stop. Something to think about.  I've been re-reading several books by Robert Fulgham lately. He's done time as a minister, cowboy, philosopher, author,folksinger, artist, salesman and teacher. He could look at this bench and see a story behind each mark. The philosopher in him could surmise the boredom or anger or pride that each carving represents. He once looked at a can of tuna in an Albertson's grocery store in Pocatella Idaho and produced several paragraphs describing his thought process concerning that can; that it wasn't just a can of tuna. Someone had to catch and process it. It had to be put in a can. A label was designed for it. It was put in a case with dozens of other cans and shipped to a warehouse and eventually to Albertson's and after that to someones home. Fulgham could look at that bench and find just the right words. Unfortunately they seem to escape me. I look at the bench and I see a work of art. A piece of history. I'm hoping my friend will grab it up when he retires. It belongs here in Hoonah where it's always been.