Blog Archive

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Smoke on the Water









  For the past three weeks or maybe a month we've had unusually hot temperatures here in Southeast Alaska. Actually it's been happening all over the state I believe. I know that eighty plus degrees doesn't sound so hot to some folks, but here, where the average temperatures range in the mid sixties to mid seventies in the summer, having the temps soar to the upper eighties was quite uncomfortable. No, it wasn't just uncomfortable, it was outright miserable, truth be known. Much like last year, there hasn't been any rain since the beginning of June, so the grass around the house was starting to dry out and turn yellow, and the creeks are exceptionally low. Not something you want to see right before the salmon show up to do their annual spawning run up the creeks and rivers. For some reason the horseflies seem to thrive on this hot, dry weather, and they were out in droves. I was fishing up the bay for King Salmon last week and the flies like to drove me nuts. I was knocking them down outside with my salt water wash down hose, and killing them by the dozens inside the cabin of the boat where they tormented me non stop. I hosed some of them right out through the scuppers and into the bay, but those sapsuckers took right off and came around for another bout with me.  I'd love to have an electric suit that I could put on and just stand out on the deck of my boat. When the horseflies landed on me, they'd fry like bacon in a hot skillet. That would be so satisfying ...at least until I splashed some water on me or it started to rain.This hot dry weather has messed up the fishing as well. I understand that the runs are several weeks late in some parts of the state, and I know that trying to catch dog salmon a few weeks ago was almost impossible unless you could get your gear down to almost 240 feet. The water temperatures are above normal, so I guess they're running deep where the temp is more to their liking. Day after day we woke up to bright sunny weather, which was refreshing on the one hand until about ten in morning when the heat would start to rev up. Then the fires up north started in. It's an annual thing for thousands of acres of forests to burn up in the interior, usually caused by lightning strikes. It appears that over in British Columbia there are forest fires too, because we've been inundated with smoke from the fires, so much so that there were unhealthy air advisories on the news. They were recommending that folks with respiratory problems remain indoors. It looked like parts of China around here, it might have made some of the tourists feel right at home. For the first time in all the years that I've lived  here, the July 4th fireworks display was cancelled. It was too dangerous. The NOAA weather station kept predicting rain and clouds and cooler weather, but time and again they would revise it for a few days later. It was all very frustrating. However, today I awoke to clouds (and smoke) and it actually sprinkled a little. When I passed by the information sign at the school the temperature was a very pleasant 65 degrees, much more to my liking. Everyone keeps asking me how I'm going to make it in Idaho if I can't handle the weather here. Believe me, I've wondered that myself, and lately I've been starting to lose a little sleep thinking about it. I guess the answer is air conditioning. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Where the Rainbow Ends



 I was coming in from fishing a few days ago and was a little surprised to see this rainbow. For the past week or so we've had a lot  of sunshine. It seems like it's been much longer than that though. I've mentioned before that when the sun comes out here in the summer, it can get brutally hot. Today the electronic sign at the school stated that it was eighty one degrees. Frankly, it felt even hotter. I'm looking at the clouds in this picture and wishing I could seed them and spark a thunder storm, or at the very least an all night cloud burst. I like the sunshine as much as anyone else. When you wake up in the morning and its sunny out, it makes a person feel pretty good. The bad feelings don't start until about ten in the morning when it becomes blatantly apparent that it's going to get blazing hot. I believe sweltering is a good word. When I lived in Charleston South Carolina, I expected it to get hot and muggy, but good Lord, this is Alaska for crying out loud. I dropped up  to the post office today and ran across two other people who ventured out of the comfort of their homes. One was a lady who lives in Anchorage. Her and her husband are here on a sailboat. She echoed the very words I'd spoken not ten minutes before. She said, " When it gets above 65 degrees around here, it's unbearable." No truer words were ever spoken. Then another fellow came in who had been driving some tourists around in a van sight seeing. They may have been out looking for bears. I suspect the bears are too smart to come out into the sunshine. Can you imagine how miserable they must be, living with that three or four inch long fur in this heat? To make matters worse, they stink, which attracts biting flies. That was something the man mentioned. The horse flies were atrocious. They happen to love this hot, sunny weather. Go figure. Anyway the fellow mentioned that several of his customers were from Arizona, and they were bundled up in jackets. They asked him not to open the windows too far because they were chilly. The poor guy was a retired meat cutter and was used to working in 45 degree temps, so to say he was uncomfortable was an understatement. To make matters worse, he's growing out his hair as part of a charitable act for children's cancer, so he had a six or eight inch pony tail hanging down his back. Now that's a sacrifice. One other disadvantage of these hot sunny days is that the wind blows like all forty. I  haven't been fishing for several days because the only area open is nine miles away across open water,so that even if the seas are calm early in the morning, by evening they can get upwards of five feet. Not my cup of tea.  I don't believe the fish much care for the sun and heat either. Most of the dog salmon being caught are between thirty and forty fathoms down. I suspect the water is cooler down there, and they aren't bothered by the glare of the sun. It looks like I'll be stuck in the harbor again tomorrow- the forecast is for more of the same- hot and sunny. Yippee. Perhaps I should be a good business man and start an air conditioning business. If things keep going this way, I think I'd do pretty good. As far as where the rainbow ends I guess it ends behind the Hoonah harbor. If there was a pot of gold there I didn't see it. Probably someone else got to it before me and bought themselves a ticket to somewhere cooler.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Sorrowful Passing




 Tonight I'm going to write one of the saddest posts that I've ever done. Today around noon, our beloved dog Rigby passed on.  These pictures were taken just over a month ago, but when he passed today, he was just a fraction of the size that he was when these were taken. Over the past month he had steadily been losing weight. His ribs were starting to show and the skin on his belly was hanging. He's always loved to eat, and I indulged him. The kids were constantly telling me he was spoiled, but I don't care. My feelings were that if you were going to have a pet, and especially a dog, he was going to be getting the royal treatment. I've been thinking back over his life, from the time that our daughter Autumn first brought him down from Wasilla in a small carrying case that fit under the airplane seat. He was as cute as a button. For the first week or so he slept in that case in the laundry room and would cry at night. Eventually we purchased a small bed for him, but as dogs and kids are prone to do, he grew out of it. We got him a bed made for a much larger dog, but that's ok, at least he had room to move around. For the first few months he never even barked, and I was starting to wonder if he ever would, but he eventually found his voice, and from then on he would alert us to every dog, cat or person who passed on the street out front. Multiple times I would be in the back of the house or in the office and if he hadn't barked I would have had no idea that there was a visitor on the porch.  During the day he favored the couch, and then one day he decided on his own to jump up onto the back of the couch where he could get a birds eye view of all that was going on. That was his habit until a year or two ago, when either because of his age or the condition of his joints or whatever, he didn't jump up there any more. When he was younger he would sit in the chair with me, and though the chair was huge, would insist on laying on his side with his legs stretched out against the arm and pushing me against the other side. When it was time to go to bed I would get up, but he had no intention of leaving the comfort of the chair, so I would have to pick him up with a hand under his head and one under his backside and take him in to his bed. He was as limp as a wet towel and would look at whoever was in the living room perhaps hoping for rescue. I would lay him on his bed and cover him with a heavy down sleeping bag, where he would stay for the night. Early on, when we were training him to go outside to the potty, we would reward him with a snack- usually a piece of cheese. Being the stubborn breed he was, it almost always took a bribe to get him back inside. After a while the price of cheese was more than we could afford. He was making regular trips outside with the idea that he'd get a snack afterwards. I think he was storing up his treasures with the idea of a future reward, so we switched to the healthier and less expensive baby carrots. We ran through several bags of those every week. Some years back I got the bright idea of giving him a little bit of cereal in the morning when I got my own. At first he would eat it dry. Then one day I poured a little milk on it, and from then on he wouldn't accept it any other way. His tastes in food were diverse. Whenever I was making a salad, he would insist on having some. He ate everything that we did, with the exception of onions or celery. If I was cutting up cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots or any other salad fixings, he wanted some. When it came to food, he wasn't picky. We had a scare once when an older lady was staying with us and left a box of chocolate cookies in her jacket, which was hanging on a chair. He found it and ate every one. I understand that chocolate is fatal for dogs, but somehow he made it through without a problem. As a young dog he loved to go upstairs, especially when we had guests. If there was any dirty underwear on the floor he would grab them and charge down the stairs, running though the house, happy as a clam at high tide. He would stop then and start chewing on them, looking  up with his big brown eyes. It was hard to be mad at him. I think the greatest joy he ever had was charging down the stairs one day with Jan's bra in his mouth, trailing behind and between his legs. It almost looked like he was smiling. He never really played with toys much, but he did like to chew on things. We had a stuffed toy that was like a fluffy fleece shaped like a boy with two arms and two legs splayed out. His snout would fit perfectly into the crotch where he would proceed to chew until the stuffing was exposed. He loved that doll. It was bright yellow and we called it Golden Boy. Golden boy had his crotch sewed up by Jan's mom a number of times until there wasn't enough material left to sew. We tried other chew toys for him- a rubber hot dog, and I think a hamburger, and I don't recall what else, but nothing could withstand those sharp little teeth. Within an hour the toy was demolished and we had to take it away.Finally Jan came home with a toy made out of almost indestructable fire hose. I'm not sure how long it took for him to destroy it, but I do wish it had had a warranty with it. When he was still young a neighbor dog attacked him one morning while Jan was with him. Frankly I was surprised he survived the attack, but he did. Afterwards though, he never wanted to get very far away from the house. He never really cared for riding in the truck, but in the last year or so he would drive with me to the park and then walk home. It was good exercise for both of us. About eight or ten months ago, I can't really recall when, he started developing a tremendous thirst. He would drink all the water in his bowl and want more. Then he had to pee something fierce, something I can relate to. He started having accidents in the house, so we sent him to the vet, and $700.00 later discovered he had Cushing's Disease, so in addition to giving him a pill for hypo-thyroidism, we now had to give him one for Cushing's. He seemed to be getting better, but about a month ago the thirst and accidents started in again. We got an additional dose of meds, but he didn't seem to be getting any better this time. He'd been steadily losing weight, and for the last four or so days, was having trouble going up and down the stairs. It got to the point that we had to pick him up and set him down outside to use the potty. About three days ago, he stopped eating. Then he stopped drinking anything, so we were giving him water with a turkey baster. He spent most of his time in his bed looking off in the distance. Even though we knew his time was near, there was still a hope for a miraculous recovery. In any event, we didn't want him to die away from home, so we kept him as comfortable as we could and spoke to him, letting him know what a good dog he was. He's only been gone for about eight hours, but already I miss him terribly. It's surprising how many commercials come on TV that use dogs. I love them all, but I don't think I can ever have another one. I think I'll probably visit a shelter at the next place we move to. I'll take the dogs out for walks and feed them treats and hug them and talk to them like they're babies, and let them know that even though they're in the shelter, they're still loved. Jan and I are heart broken. For us Rigby was like a family member. We had him for almost thirteen years, but it wasn't long enough. I hope that if you have a pet you'll cherish it. They can be demanding and expensive and they take a lot of time, but they are a blessing from God.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

D- Day



Today, as many of you know, is the 75th anniversary of D- Day, the day that the allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was a decisive day in the war against Germany and was the beginning of the liberation of France and the rest of Europe and led ultimately to the defeat of the Nazis. When I was a kid, I just assumed that all of the men who were in the army were like super heroes, strong, brave, unafraid. I didn't realize that the majority of the men who stormed the beaches were young; many just out of high school, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old men who hadn't even gotten a good start on life yet. They were like young men everywhere with dreams and aspirations, perhaps with wives or girlfriends. I'm sure they had plans for a future that didn't include storming a beach in a foreign country with the noise and the smoke and the terror all around, watching their friends and fellow soldiers bleeding and crying out and dying on those blood soaked beaches, wondering if the next bullet or explosion would be the one take them out. They were afraid, like anyone would be under those circumstances, but they loved this country and were willing to die for it, in order to keep us free. For the past few days leading up to today I've watched the various interviews with the vets who have made the trip over to Normandy. It will probably be the last time there since the majority are in their nineties and beyond. I heard we're losing over three hundred of these heroes every day. I wish there was one of these brave men here in town so that I could extend my sincere thanks to him. Their sacrifices have made my life possible. The freedoms that we've all enjoyed here in America were bought at a terrible price. So many of the young men who died at Normandy didn't even get to return home in death. They are buried in a cemetery there. I hope and pray that America, and indeed the rest of the world will continue to remember and celebrate D-day and the brave men who stepped up to the plate to change the course of history, and deliver the world from tyranny. Tom Brokaw, a renown news anchor labeled the men who fought in World War II the greatest generation. I believe he hit the nail on the head. If you have a vet who served in the war I hope that you'll seek him out and thank him, and please give him a pat on the back for me. They deserve all the honor they receive.
  Just to clarify, the man in the picture above is my father, Benjamin B Botts. He was too young to join the army in "44. However he was part of the occupational forces in Japan after the war. He was another hero of mine.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Great Gifts For Fishermen





 A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a call from my friend Doug Courtney. I've known Doug since he was just about eight years old down in sunny Charleston South Carolina. I moved next door to his family in 1974. I took him out fishing with me a time or two at the Naval Weapons Station ponds back then. When his family moved to Hoonah a year or two later, I followed suit. We fished in my fourteen foot Highlaker and hunted for ducks out on the flats at Game Creek. I caught a thirty nine pound red king salmon one afternoon off the blinker at the cannery when Doug was with me in the boat. It was one of the most thrilling times I've ever  had in my life. Anyway, as I mentioned, Doug gave me a call and mentioned he was sending me a package. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what it could be. When the airline called and said it had arrived I went out and picked up what turned out to be the picture at the top. I was blown away. For those who don't know their fish, it's a beautiful king salmon with a really nice looking hoochie in it's mouth. I don't happen to have that particular hoochie, but  I may have to do some research and see if I can identify it. There is more than one king in the picture, and if all of them took that particular hoochie, I should probably be giving them a try. Speaking of hoochies, some friends at the forest service gave me a retirement party, which in itself was a surprise, but there were gifts also. One person gave me a hoochie coffee cup complete with  a package of my favorite hoochies. They're my favorite because they catch fish- that's also why I don't show a picture of them. I have a theory that if everyone is using the same bait, the fish will elect to try something different. There's no science to that theory, but if a person believes this or that about fishing, it can have an impact on how well you do. The other really dandy gift I got was this
hoochie mobile. I know that usually mobiles are something that you hang above a baby's crib to keep them entertained, but I have to tell you, no baby could ever enjoy this hoochie mobile as much I do. It was a gift from my friend Erin, the Bird Queen of Hoonah. There isn't a question you can ask about any kind of bird that she doesn't have an answer for. Amazing. While I was looking at the mobile, I got to thinking, what if I beefed it up a little bit, put some 100 pound test line on the hoochies and some number 7 stainless steel hooks and trolled it on the bottom spread near the leads, would I possibly catch five, six or more salmon at one time? I may have to try something like that some time. Not with this mobile, this one is just to look at and enjoy. Can you imagine if I could pull multiple fish off each leader? Of course the tangles that would ensue would be incredible, but if I could pull it off, I'd be the Hoochie King.

Friday, May 17, 2019

All Good Things Must Come to an End




 Last night was the final episode for my favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. It ran for twelve seasons, and while my work prevented me from watching the latest shows most nights, I watched frequent re-runs on Fox. I must say, the final show was done exceptionally well, with a good story line. It's obvious that the writers for the sit-com were in touch with the audience. I watched the after show as well, with Kaley Couco and Johnny Galecki showing us around the set and re-visiting favorite scenes. I don't care for Steven Colbert on the Late Show, but the cast of the Big Bang were going to be on, and I wanted desperately  to hang on to them to the last moment. I know that it was just a television show, but I felt like I could somehow relate to the characters. The beautiful Penny, so down to earth, Leonard, hopelessly in love with her and Sheldon so intelligent but so without a clue about normal every day life. The producers chose wisely when they decided upon who to play the assorted characters, and all of the actors played their parts to perfection. I can imagine it must have been a blast to be able to work with each other every week and bring the scripts to life. I would assume that once you've been type cast as a certain character, it will be next to impossible to ever play anyone else. They were so convincing in their roles that it's hard to imagine them as any other person. When the night ended, and I turned off the television, I was sad. I felt like a group of good friends whom I've known for years and whose company I looked forward to every week had moved to a far land, and I'll never see them again. I know that I'll be ordering all twelve seasons some time down the pike, and I'll laugh again and enjoy the people on the screen who will never get any older. From time to time I'll look them up on the Internet. I hope that whatever they pursue in the future will give them peace and joy. I hope they get a chance to just be themselves and not be hounded by fans, and I hope they'll know in their hearts how much they've felt like family to so may people around the world.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Grump Notebook



No doubt you've heard of Forrest Gump, the movie that was so popular a number of years ago, starring Tom Hanks. Perhaps you also recall several movies starring  Walter Matthau. He was in Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men with Jack Lemon. Walter's love interest was Sophia Loren, a really hot Italian star from the sixties. Frankly, even though she must have been pushing 70 at least at the time of the movie, she still looked pretty appealing. Anyway, a few weeks back, my friends, Mark and Sarah took a trip to Anchorage, and while they were up there, they found this Grump Notebook and thought of me. Apparently I remind them more of Walter Matthau than I do of Tom Hanks, although not much separates grump and Gump. In the event that you can't read what the notebook says, I'll list the various complaints that are supposed to be logged in this fine notebook.
things that annoy me
enemies list
stern letters of correction
fresh rants
and last but not least
daily disappointments
I might also add irritants, much like certain chemicals on sensitive skin.There are some things that go beyond annoyance to the more advanced degree of aggravation considered irritants. I most definitely need that category to be here. I was at the post office when Mark passed it over the counter to me, and I immediately put an entry into it. I had come to pick up a set of new stamps that I found interesting, and there weren't any. I believe that there had been one set, but it had been sold, so under the heading Things that annoy me, I  listed- Getting only one set of desirable stamps. While I was still ranting, my friend John Murray came in and started giving me a hard time, so I had my second entry right away- Being harassed at the post office by Murray. While I was still there thinking about things that annoy me, I started to play back a scene from almost every year that I've ever gone fishing. The third entry was- People who catch more fish than me. I'm not comparing myself to the guys who go out with fifty foot boats and nets that scoop up thousands of fish in one setting. I'm talking about the guys who are fishing along side or in front of me, using the same gear, going the same speed, at the same depth and end up doubling my catch on a regular basis. It absolutely drives me nuts. I've been known to pull my gear and run to a completely different area just so I won't be confronted with my own incompetence. As I'm writing this I see that I need to list another annoyance: the fact that the post office offers priority mail service where your package is supposed to arrive in three days. It seldom does, so why do I have to pay for three day delivery? There should be a special reduced fee that you should be able to apply for when they know full well that it's not going to make it in time.
  Next up is the enemies list. I don't know if I have any real enemies per se. There's a guy down the street who I feel is continually abusing the federal subsistence law, and frankly I've had fantasies about shooting his boat and motor as it's parked at his place, but I don't know that he would qualify as an enemy. I really dislike most of congress, especially those on the left, and in particular the new batch of congresswomen who are completely radical in my opinion, but I can't really say they're enemies either. I just wish they'd wake up and have a reality check.
   I do like the line- stern letters of correction- it just sounds right. Perhaps I could send a few to the radical leftist congresswomen, but I doubt that it would do any good. If you don't vote in their congressional district, our senators and congressmen don't want to hear from us. I think that could qualify as a daily disappointment as well as a thing that annoys me, although I don't think annoy is a strong enough word to describe my feelings concerning congress. How they can continue to draw a paycheck when they don't accomplish anything is a complete mystery to me. And it really, really aggravates me. They don't even have to show up to work to get paid. Amazing. I guess I've started a fresh rant, or perhaps it's not so fresh. It's been hashed out and repeated countless times in every living room, coffee shop, restaurant, office and barbershop in America. However, nothing seems to change. I wonder what Walter Matthau would have to say about this.
   I doubt that I would have any problem finding new things to rant about, especially with the tourist season about to start here. I can feel my heart start to race at the very thought of what's to come. No doubt I'll be able to fill the book long before the summer is over.
   Ahhh, daily disappointments. I need to look no further than my own life and lack of discipline to fill a number of pages. However, if I unexpectedly am having a good day and find myself pleased with my performance, I'm sure I won't have to look long before I'll find something or someone to be disappointed in.
  I have to say, it was very thoughtful of my friends to buy me a book so that I could record my many and diverse complaints. Although there's not too much of a chance that I would forget what's bothering me, it's good to look back and be reminded of how much is wrong in the world. Heaven forbid that the news media would cease to bring daily reminders of how bad we have it.