Sunday, May 21, 2017

When The Herring Arrive, Everyone Fishes

Humpback whale and seagulls waiting for the herring
Whales on the prowl

Seagulls taking a break

Lining up at the airplane float 
Herring spawn discoloring the water
Halibut bait
jigging for herring at the harbor
 All winter long there have been four or five whales hanging out in front of town. Usually they go elsewhere for the winter, but I think that this winter, there was enough feed to keep them here. I 'm not certain what they were eating  but I suspect it was small herring. A few weeks ago, much larger herring started showing up at the small boat harbor. As is the custom here, people started bringing out their gill nets and stringing them across the empty boat stalls, and herring jigs started flying off the shelves at Tideland Tackle. Herring jigs typically have six or eight tiny hooks with beads or bits of plastic which resemble plankton.They are jigged up and down and catching multiple herring at once is quite common. It's a quick way to fill up your bait bucket or catch your dinner. When the herring start showing up in numbers, and especially the large spawners, it creates quite the stir amongst men and animals alike. It's been a number of years since I've seen the herring spawn in the harbor, at least in the numbers that are showing up now. I really kind of wish they would go elsewhere- away from the creosote pilings. I was down at the docks the other day and noticed the spawn all over the pilings. It's really a shame. The tide goes out and the eggs above the low water tide line are left exposed. One fellow told me that they can live for up to six hours out of the water, the amount of time it would take for the tide to turn and cover them again. However, I believe the creosote kills the live eggs. It baffles me that they don't have a natural instinct to stay away from such dangerous situations, but apparently God didn't give them a great deal of sense.  I sometimes wonder how they have managed to survive for so long. They are an important part of the food chain. Humpback whales, sealions, salmon, trout, otters, seagulls, eagles, and man all eat them. In one picture above you can see that the water has taken on a greenish cast. The herring were spawing right along the beach, under the windows of the Office Bar. The females deposit their eggs and the males fertilize them afterwards, causing the water to turn milky in color. When the tide goes out and exposes the eggs on the beach the crows and ravens have their turn at them. Apparently even the bears enjoy roaming the beaches at low tide and having a healthy snack. In Sitka the herring show up in huge numbers every spring, along with the whales and sealions that are naturally drawn to them There is a market in Japan for herring eggs, so a number of seine boats show up to take advantage of the hours long openings. The Tlingit Indians have traditionally eaten both the fish and their eggs for as long as anyone can remember. They put Hemlock branches in select places where the herring spawn, and retrieve them a few days later, laden with eggs. My neighbor up the street takes his boat down, the Shirley N to Sitka to harvest the eggs every year. When he returns, most of the town shows up at the city float with buckets and garbage bags and plastic totes to share in the bounty which he so generously provides. When I was interviewing some of the old timers who've lived here all their lives, they shared with me how the bay here used to fill with herring and with the King salmon who fed on them. Some years back, in the fifties or early sixties, sardine fishermen came up from California and started harvesting the herring for the oil, sending the fish down to reduction plants. Afterwards, the herring became more scarce, along with the numbers of Kings. Much like the buffalo the herring have been slow to rebound. It's nice to see that there are still some around, even if they aren't in the incredible numbers of years ago. Frankly, with everything out to eat them, I'm surprised that there are any at all. I can only hope that they continue to thrive and that somehow, against all odds, they might one day return in the numbers that they were enjoyed so many years ago.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Going... Going... Gone!!!









  I thought I would do a follow up on my last blog post. I came home  a few days ago to see that there was a dump truck load of gravel in my neighbor's driveway and a huge orange excavator next door. I also saw that someone had taken some of the windows out of the downstairs. I was glad to see that there was something being salvaged. The next morning a truck pulled up and a fellow I knew went inside and took out the kitchen sink and some interior doors. It wasn't long afterward that  Grant Coutlee and his crew drove up in a couple dump trucks and started in with the demolition. There was some concern on the part of Grant because of an active power line that feeds my house hanging right overhead, but he got positioned so that with some maneuvering skills he was able to keep from snagging it and getting electrocuted. The house came down surprisingly fast- I'd say in about an hour it was all on the ground. When I mentioned it to Grant he was lamenting the fact that it took so long. The power lines created quite the challenge. By the end of the day the house was down, the debris was hauled away and all that was left was a bunch of dirt and rocks. Already the lot is being eyed as a storage place for my neighbor, and a garden was mentioned as well. I have to admit, I've got my own plans for the place, even though I've yet to speak to the rightful owners. I'd like to go in and level out the ground, maybe get a load or two of dirt and plant grass. I'm afraid otherwise it will turn into a bog. I'm entertaining the idea of buying the lot. I don't really want to, but I'm afraid that other wise it will become like the wild west where everyone just uses it for whatever purpose they desire, which I'm quite certain will conflict with my desires. We'll see. Meanwhile, the demolition derby continues. Yesterday a house on the main street was destroyed. The person who lived there was is presently in jail for the murder of two Hoonah cops a few years ago and it's been abandoned ever since. While it was coming down, most of the police force was observing it's destruction. I'm sure it was a pretty bittersweet moment. Hopefully good things will come from the taking down of these derelict homes. Only time will tell.



Sunday, May 7, 2017

Demolition Derby








     I suppose every city has it's share of urban blight.Places like Detroit come to mind. Hoonah isn't exactly a metropolis. We only have about 850 residents who call it home year round, although with the coming of the tourist season there is an influx of tourist related business owners who are flocking to town. Some of them live on their boats which they use to charter out for whale watching or fishing. Some live in campers or travel trailers which they take with them when they go, and still others manage somehow to find a place to rent. There seems to be a surprising number of rentals in town, although none of them are cheap, regardless of the state of the rental. It runs in my mind that $1000.00 a month is the average, although I could be wrong. In any event, if the houses shown above had been maintained down through the years there would have at least been the option of providing the owners with a little rental income. As it is, they have all been condemned and are slated to be torn down. Frankly, I say it's about time. What seems to be the pattern here is that the owner will pass away, leaving the family with the property. Families being what they are, they can't agree on what to do with it; sell it, move into it or hang on to it for sentimental reasons.  In many cases the family doesn't live in town, so there isn't anyone to check on the house and it goes into a state of disrepair. All of the houses shown here have been vacant for years. In the case of the green one at the top, which happens to be next door to me, there hasn't been anyone in it for about ten years. The owner always rented it to school employees. One of my favorite neighbors was a teacher named Joe Digrande. He was a basketball coach as well as the school counselor. I loved his name and asked his permission to name a produce market after him, if I ever owned one. Digrande's. It's a place I'd sure want to shop. Anyway, the owners  never put any money back into the house and eventually there came a time when there was no heater inside and the school stopped renting it and it sat vacant. As you can see the roof is blowing off and the chimney is crumbling. The back porch is sagging and the water line froze some years back saturating the bathroom floor. It's been unlivable for quite awhile and has been slated for demolition. While it will be nice not to see it, I'm a little afraid that the empty lot will be an invitation for the neighbors to expand their collection of junk into the space. If I could afford to, I'd buy the lot and put up a fence to prevent that very thing from happening. Probably not in the cards though. Several of the older houses shown were clan houses. I can't pretend to know all that entails. Within the Tlingit culture there were two primary moieties -the Ravens and Eagles. Then there were a number of sub clans- wolf, shark, snail, frog and others. I'm not certain, but I assume each sub clan had their own meeting houses. To the best of my knowledge, neither of the two clan houses that are on the chopping block have been used for more than thirty years, and yet once word got out that they were going to be demolished, there was an outcry from certain citizens. Human nature I guess. It seems that Hoonah is struggling to balance the modern desire for tourism with the laid back ways of frontier Alaska. While I'll be glad to see the end of some of the houses that are no longer livable, I hate to see the changes come just for the sake of tourism. I really don't think that these changes would be happening otherwise, so it's kind of bittersweet. Anyway, time marches on and change happens -good, bad or otherwise. We'll just have to roll with the punches and hope that we're happy with the end result.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sequim

Looking out on the Pacific Ocean 
The Dungeness Spit

Low Tide in Port Townsend

:
Ocean view 

The tourists

Port Angeles

My good friends Bob and Gail Pinard

Port Townsend

  Last week Jan and I took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp- no just kidding, that's a line from a song from the sixties about the war of 1812 I believe. Anyway, we did take a small trip. However we're back now, so anyone who might have wanted to rob our house while we were gone, too bad, you missed your chance. We went down to check out the lovely town of Sequim Washington, where our long time friends, the Pinards have moved. The trip down was quite the unpleasant experience. We woke up at 3:00 AM to catch the 5:25 flight down to Seattle from Juneau. We boarded just fine, but that was the end of the good experience for the remainder of the day with the airline. We sat on the tarmac for several hours while the mechanics fixed what was described to us as the air conditioning by the pilot. We finally got underway for what was supposed to be a non-stop flight to Seattle, but about 45 minutes into the flight I noticed that we were slowing down and getting lower to the ground. We had an unscheduled stop in Ketchikan and for all I know, that jet is still sitting there on the tarmac. It sure as the world didn't leave while we were there. Meanwhile, our friends were waiting for us at the Sea-tac airport, expecting us to be pulling in at 8:45 in the morning. We finally did arrive some eight hours later. Their patience borders on saint hood. I, on the other hand, was ready to blow a gasket. The good part is, we arrived safe and sound, and unlike several other incidents involving airlines recently, no one was forcibly removed from the plane or hit with their baby stroller by a flight attendant. I would like to mention that I had my arm bumped on a number of occasions by a stewardess with an ample behind, but I can't really blame her. The airlines have put three seats in the place where two used to be, so they had to make concessions somewhere. Once we arrived at Sequim (pronounced Skwim) we had a delightful time. Our friends were the perfect hosts, feeding and housing us in a grand manner, and even directing us to various points of interest from the back of our rental car. Usually I would discourage back seat drivers, but I was so pleased that they agreed to ride along in this instance. I know that driving can be a nuisance to people who live where they have to drive all the time, but for us, it was such a pleasure to be able to hop in a car and travel more than three or four miles of pavement. We went down with the idea that we would look at the area and possibly check out some houses. It was quite a delightful place, with flowers and trees in full bloom. As you can see from the pictures there is access to forests and the sea, both of which I have become quite enamored with in our almost forty one years here. Washington does have a high sales tax, and there is also a property tax, neither of which we have to deal with here in Hoonah. The houses are quite nice for the most part, but I'm afraid they may be a little out of our price range, we'll have to see what our house will appraise at. We went to several delightful restaurants, and went shopping at both Wal-mart and Safeway, where the prices are much more to my liking than the prices here. I'm quite certain that there are plumbers, contractors, furnace repair men and auto mechanics in abundance there. It's not that we don't have any of those tradesmen here, but many of them are also fishermen or working at the cannery or for the city, so they aren't quite as easy to get hold of. In any event, the trip was quite pleasant overall. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I think I could easily find myself in Sequim if the price was right.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Moose Lips



















 Once again my oldest daughter Jen has provided me with material for a blog post. She came by the other night for a visit- or maybe she was eating dinner I can't recall. She didn't borrow anything this time, although she always makes a point of using our bathroom before she goes home. Maybe she's stocking up on toilet paper while she's in there. I should probably check her pockets before she leaves. Anyway, she was sitting on the couch and reached in to her jacket and pulled out what looked like a glue stick and started smearing her lips with it. She was really going at it, like she was in love with the blasted thing. I think she was making out with her lip balm. She must have the driest lips on the planet.Well, not anymore, after she smeared a half a tube of schmutz on her lips. She seldom is without a tube of Chap stick and she uses it liberally. If not that, she's got a can of some kind of  lip goo, with names like Wild Honey Delight or Salmonberry Yum Yum. I think the stuff in the cans could be used to waterproof your boots.There is usually some commentary on whatever flavor she's applying and how wonderful it is. I don't think I've ever heard her say that she didn't care for one. This particular lip balm is called Moose Lips- Alaskan size lip balm. It's so big that you can cover both lips in one swipe; probably half your nose and a third of your chin too. Moose Lips. That's a catchy name. I've never really thought about it, but do moose even have lips? What would they need them for anyway? I guess I should have done some research before I started this blog post. What about cows or bears? I don't think my dog has lips. Now I'm probably going to lose sleep wondering about the anatomy of various species in the animal kingdom. I wonder what materials go into one of those lip balms. When my lips were dry I used to just get a dab of Vaseline jelly and pucker up. That stuff worked so good my lips were still moist the next morning. In the unlikely event that anyone needed a good morning kissing, I'd be ready. My son Brian was visiting and last night when Jen brought out her monster size lip balm we were both under the impression that she had accidentally grabbed the glue stick from the class room and was going to seal her lips shut for the remainder of the night. He commented that it might not be a bad idea if the schools actually had such an item. A combination glue stick/lip balm for kids who are disruptive in class. It might come in handy in other situations as well, like when a beloved family member is visiting and decides to strike up a conversation right when breaking news comes on TV, or you're watching a movie, or you're right on the verge of dropping off into slumber land. I'm sure there are any number of uses for such a versatile item. It would give new meaning to the word lipstick. So there you have it. In the event that you're in a location that doesn't have any moose, perhaps you can find some Turkey Lips balm. If you're a seafood lover, perhaps Carp Lips would be in order. In any event I hope your lips are soft and pliable and ready for any unexpected kisses that may come your way.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly



















  A number of years ago, when Clint Eastwood was still a fairly young man, he starred in a few spaghetti westerns, one of which was titled, The good, the bad and the ugly. I'm sitting in my home today listening to the wind howl, and the rain beat against the roof, and realize that I'm experiencing the bad part of living here. As you can see from the pictures, we're still dealing with the after affects of the last major snow storm. This past week it actually warmed up fairly well and with the rain the snow is starting to melt  a little quicker, so I guess in that respect the rain is good. However, it's gloomy and cloudy out, and that seems kind of bad. I almost wrote cluddy instead of cloudy. I think cluddy would pretty well describe the scene outside my windows. Kind of muddy, cruddy, rainy and cloudy all rolled into one. In other words, depressing. When we first moved into Hoonah, it was kind of a step up from where we had been living on the farm. The houses all had electricity (most of the time) there was indoor plumbing and warm toilet seats, there were three stores in town, and several restaurants, and telephone service. All the modern conveniences that a person could want. At the time I wasn't too concerned about issues like planning and zoning and whether or not my neighbors threw their washing machine out in the front yard if it quit working.  I just needed a warm, safe, dry place for my family. Now thirty years have passed. There have been some considerable changes to the town since we've first moved in. Some years back the state paved the streets, a big plus.That was good. We've gotten a modern ferry terminal and a new health clinic, both of which we needed. That was also good.  I would have hoped that some of the modernization would have rubbed off on some of the citizens and they would take a little more pride in how they live, but many haven't, which seems bad. It looks like tourism is here to stay, which could be good, bad or ugly, depending on how you view the impact that it has. There are a number of tourists who leave the cannery area and go walking around the town. I think many are struck by the contrast between the beauty of the bay and the  state of some of the homes here. For many residents, having a nice yard or a fresh coat of paint on your house isn't a priority.  In their defense, I have to say that I can only think of one or two homes here that have garages, so all the junk that everyone  stores in their garages down south gets left in the yard here. I guess you could suggest that maybe we should purchase less stuff, but hey, this is America, shopping is what we do. Out (in the yard) with the old, in with the new. Last year the city manager and the police chief identified somewhere between five and ten homes that were considered abandoned and were condemned. The green house next door is one of them. Again, that could be both good and bad. I've been living beside an empty house whose roof has been steadily blowing off with each windstorm for the past ten years. That's ugly.  I've been keeping the lawn mowed so it wouldn't detract from my home. On the one hand it will be nice to see it go.That's good. On the other, I fear that an empty lot will be an invitation for the neighborhood dogs to use it as a fresh toilet. That's bad. If I could, I'd purchase the empty lot and put up a privacy fence and build a garage so I could park my truck and store my excess junk, however, I don't think that's going to happen, so I have to hope for the best. Well, I guess I'm having a kind of cluddy day. I hope wherever you are the sun is shining, the neighbors are respectful and your garage has room for the car.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Why Do Men Have Nipples



 Yesterday, March 24, was our wedding anniversary. Jan and I have been married 45 years and one day so far. We got a lot of acknowledgements from our kids and friends, and as is often the case, my youngest daughter, Autumn, took it a step further. She sent us a care package complete with macadamia nut candy and coffee from Hawaii and this interesting little book. This is the same gal that manages to find some of the most bizarre and hilarious cards for all occasions. I've gotten a card showing the Titanic sinking and a fellow trying to patch the hole and  requesting more duct tape with the caption- If only Dad was there. I've also received a card showing a fellow in a custom designed suit that has a hose from his backside to a helmet on his head saying he liked the smell of his own farts so much that he designed a special suit for just that purpose. I'm not sure why she sent me that card, except that she seems to be infatuated with bodily functions. Not sure where she got that from. Anyway, this book addresses a multitude of questions that you've probably wondered about, but were afraid to ask. Usually we ponder these lofty thoughts away from the maddening crowds and distractions of everyday life. Perhaps sitting in a deer stand for hours waiting for a buck to wander by, or trolling for salmon where the minutes turn to hours and you've replayed the scenario where a big king strikes so often that even you don't believe it's going to happen and your mind goes off in another direction in an effort to save your sanity. I haven't had a chance to read this book yet, but I did peruse it a little. Right off the bat it's entertaining. The dedication is to all the special doctors who inspired the authors- Dr. Pepper, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, Dr. Scholl's and many others.  Chapter one starts off with the authors attending a Park Avenue cocktail party. One of the authors gives the hostess, whom they describe as a botox junkie, a kiss and tells her to lay off the collagen. "Kissing those lips is like making out with the Michelin man." I'm truly looking forward to reading the rest of it. When so much of what passes for entertainment on TV, or news for that matter, is so disturbing, it's nice to know that there are still intelligent people out there who have a good sense of humor and in the case of this book, which is a New York Times best seller, are able to profit from that humor. Way to go guys! Autumn, thanks for the care package, as always it's not necessary, you could just send money. However, we do appreciate that all the gifts were either edible or small enough that they won't take up too much space. We're trying to downsize you know. Thanks also to our other kids who blessed us with a phone call and well wishes on our anniversary. We love to hear from you. Frankly, I don't know how you remember the date. I had forgotten it until Jan told me on the morning of the big day itself.  Anyway, we're working on number 46 now, and with any  luck there will be many more to follow.