Monday, November 12, 2018

Thanks to All Our Vets!




I would like to extend a hearty THANK YOU to all of our vets across the country and around the world, wherever they may be. Unfortunately there are still wars and hot spots across the globe that require sending our troops into harms way. In other cases, the various branches of the military are stationed where they need to be to be able to respond to conflicts if they should arise. In some instances, military equipment, as well as men and women are utilized to respond to natural disasters. These men and women don't have a say in where and when they'll serve. Once they sign on the dotted line they become government property and serve at the pleasure of those in charge, regardless of their political affiliation. All too often, the spouses and children of these service men and women are forgotten, and yet they bear the brunt of keeping the household running smoothly. I can only imagine how hard it is for a wife to have to keep up a brave face for the kids while she worries about her husband's well being. They have to deal with the loneliness and stress. So I would like to also thank all the spouses who wait for the return of their loved ones, who endure the long days and nights alone. I hope that as a nation we can lift up all the military families in prayer and ask for God Almighty's hand of protection, peace and prosperity on them all. I looked on History.com  and printed out a few facts on veterans today.

16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war
2 million veterans are women
7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War
5.5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War
Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, 558,000 are still alive
As of 2014, three states have more than one million veterans- California (1.8 million) Florida (1.6 million) and Texas (1.7 million). Though I don't have the statistics, it runs in my mind that here in Alaska we have the largest vet population per capita of all the states.

I know that there are a number of businesses that are honoring vets with a free meal today, and I greatly appreciate the offer. We're free to conduct business and carry on with our lives because others have paid or are paying the price for our freedom. I hope that the citizens of this country will check out ways to help our vets. There are several organizations whose purpose is to work for the well being of vets. Several come to mind right away - the DAV, Disabled American Vets works to help those who have suffered a loss as the result of combat. Samaritan's Purse, founded by Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham runs a program called Operation Heal Our Patriots, where vets who have suffered an injury as a result of combat are flown with their spouses to a remote lodge in Alaska where they can spend a week healing physically, emotionally and spiritually and and can renew their commitment to their spouses. I hope you check them out. Two of my favorite vets are pictured above, my sons Ben and Brian. Thanks boys for your service, and a hearty thank you to my daughter-in-law Candace who also served. Well done folks!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Straight and Narrow Way




 Have you ever watched a little kid when they first get the training wheels taken off their bikes? They keep looking behind to make sure that the parent is still hanging on to the bike; they don't want to fall. When they're finally on their own, there is usually a bit of time where the front wheels wobble as they try to maintain control. I'm not sure what happened  here in these pictures. I can't imagine anything like this happening in Juneau or Anchorage, but I can understand it happening in Hoonah. I mean, after all, that's where I live, and a good bit of my life is made up of the never before seen or experienced. Far be it from me to criticize the operator of the line painting machine. Lord knows that I could never paint a straight line, even if I had a thousand yard straight edge, somehow I'd manage to veer off the mark and end up with something that looks like this. Really though, what are the odds that the state of Alaska would hire someone like me to paint the lines on a state highway? I wish I could ask the guy (or gal)- what happened? Were you looking at your phone when you should have been looking at the road? Did a really attractive person of the opposite sex distract you- all up and down the road? Did a dog charge at you repeatedly and you were trying to keep from painting them into the pavement? What? What was it? Were your glasses foggy, did you forget to take your meds that morning, were there problems at home that kept you from keeping your mind on your job? Did you suffer from a bout of uncontrollable sneezing? When I look at this, I'm reminded of a story that my friend Bud Burnett told me years ago. He was living on one of the communal farms that were scattered around in Alaska and Canada. I believe they were going up north to pick up some horses or some such thing. There were two cars hauling horse trailers in the little caravan. Bud was in the front vehicle and a group of young men was in the back one. Periodically Bud would look in the rear view mirror to check on the boys and make sure there weren't any problems. While he was checking the progress, he noticed a car pull up beside the car the boys were in, and then all of a sudden the boys car started to swerve violently, almost running off the road. They got control and Bud watched as the same car came charging up behind him and pulled along side as if to pass. It was a car full of young ladies, and when they honked, Bud looked over and they raised their tops and flashed him. Of course it's hard to look at the scenery and still keep your eyes on the road, so he was all over the place. The girls laughed, honked again and took off down the road. Needless to say, such pleasant distractions , while memorable, could have turned out poorly.  Now I'm not suggesting that anything of the kind happened to paint guy. I guess we'll never really know what happened, but I would have thought that maybe the state would send him back with a can of black paint to correct the mistake. So far it hasn't happened. Maybe they assume that after the winter is over, it won't be so noticeable, but frankly, it's always been my experience that some things you just can't wish away.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Retirement





Last month my wife, Jan, retired from the job that she's worked at for the past twenty three years. She worked at Hoonah Trading Company for half of our married life. When she first started working there, it was Hoonah Seafoods, one of three stores in town. Since then, L. Kane Store has closed, as well as Harbor Lights, and the only other store in town opened- Colette's Cupboard. She first started working in the hardware department. I can't recall if it was Ace  Hardware then or not. I think it was. Since then they've been involved with several other hardware companies. After a few years down there in hardware, the store's general manager asked her to come up to the office and work. That's where she spent the majority of her time, as a bookkeeper. She was also given the assignment of collecting delinquent accounts, and they couldn't have chosen a better person for the job. She was like a bulldog with a rag doll. I've no idea how much money she recovered for the store, but she knew all the tricks for chasing down the bums who thought they could get away without paying and she pursued them relentlessly. I was glad that I always paid up on time; I don't think she would have made any exceptions for me. Twenty three years is a long time to do anything. She worked her eight hour day, sometimes six days a week, and still came home and cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. I know it wasn't easy, and it wasn't always fun going to work. Even the best of jobs can be difficult to go to at times. She had a habit of showing up early for work  and staying late, and set a good example for those around her. I believe she worked under four different managers- five if you include the hardware manager. If you needed to cash a check or make a payment or order fuel, Jan was usually who you spoke to. Of course she did much more than that, I'm not even certain of what all things she did do. I remember her coming home and speaking about this or that and it would go over my head, but she was good at what she did, and I'm certain she'll be missed. Right now she's in Wisconsin visiting her mom, and I'm certainly missing her. I don't really know what her plans are when she gets home. It will be nice to have someone to share the chores with again, but two people only make so much mess. I do worry that we'll get on each other's nerves if we are both home all day. That won't be a problem in the summer, but we've got months of winter staring us in the face. It's not like we can hop in the truck and drive somewhere for the day to get out of town. I may have to take up checkers or open a barber shop so us old guys can have a place to sit around and reminisce. We wouldn't dare cut any hair, it would just be a hang out to keep us out of trouble.I'm sure it will work out somehow though. In any event, she's earned a rest, and I sincerely hope she enjoys her retirement.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Replenished







It's that time of year again. The time when farmers harvest their corn or at least I think they do. Where else would the corn stalks come from that show up in the supermarkets before  Halloween? I'm sure that the pumpkin harvest must be going on, as well as other fruits or vegetables or grains. I know that here in Hoonah, I once again took part in ravaging the crab apple tree in front of the Abundant Life church. Last year my daughter Jen and I picked a whole slug of crab apples and made jelly. It turned out wonderful, so I thought I'd try it again this year. I was down to the nubs in my jelly supply, and even though Jen couldn't help, her sister Autumn came down from up north and lent a hand. She really gets in to the whole growing, harvesting, processing thing. She would have made a good farm wife fifty years ago. Last year was our first attempt at harvesting the tree, so I took the lessons I learned and tried a different approach this year. We still used ladders, but this time I brought a garden rake and a leaf rake to really work that tree over, and we had a tarp on the ground to catch the little rollers. It worked out really slick. I don't know why, but when I see Autumn with that rake in hand, looking at the tree, I'm reminded of the Wicked Witch of the West- not that she resembles her in any way, but the rake makes me think of when the witch was addressing Dorothy,  with her broom in hand saying - I'll get you my little pretty! Well, I can tell you, she really got those crab apples. We ended up with four or five grocery bags full, and after we made over two dozen jars of jelly, we still had several gallon bags full of crab apples in the freezer. It was quite the abundant harvest. Of course I can't live on jelly, regardless of how good it tastes, I'm not like Pooh bear and his honey. It had been some months since our last Costco order, and the larder was getting pretty skimpy, so I decided to take a favorable ferry in to Juneau and do some shopping. I also dropped in at the Village barber shop for a haircut, and down to the Friends of the Library to get my winter's supply of reading material.  They have an overwhelming number of books there, all reasonably priced. I walked out of there with twelve hard cover books for $10.50. What fun.  I believe it was Henry Ford who mentioned that if you want to be rich, you must watch how much money you spend. My friend Buffalo Bob's father put it in a true New Englander fashion- It's not what you make, it's what you spend. I'm not sure that either of them would have approved of my recent shopping splurge, I won't mention how much I spent, but it was substantial. The fact is though, I was buying enough to carry us through the winter, so I had cases of canned corn and green beans, pineapple and applesauce, paper towels and toilet paper, laundry soap and dish soap and body wash. We needed juice and cup 'o noodles and baking supplies for the upcoming holidays. We had to have razors and bleach and peanut butter and coffee, to say nothing of two new pairs of jeans and a mattress topper. Oh, and don't forget the Trident Original gum. I bought five cartons, not packs, cartons. It all cost a pretty penny, but when the winter winds blow and we're snug in our home eating some toast and jelly and planning what to have for dinner, it won't take a trip to the local store. We just go around the corner to the pantry. What a blessing!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Made in America





When I find something I like, I usually stick with it. I'm fairly loyal. When I drink a soda, it's usually Pepsi. When I want salsa, I settle for nothing less than Pace Picante Sauce. The cupboards in my kitchen are Kraft made. I'll never get any other brand. I know what I like, and I support it with my money. Recently the blanket that I've had on my bed for over twenty years started to show signs of it's age. The edges were getting frayed, and there were spots that were looking kind of sparse in the fabric. The original blanket maker was Vellux. It was a velour blanket, and I loved it. Of course I wanted to replace it with another one. Well, I looked around on line, and all I could find were velour blankets made in China. There were assorted complaints about them, everything from smelling like formaldehyde to having them slide off the bed during the night and ending up in a pile on the floor beside the bed. Hmmm.... not good. I decided to check out blankets made in the good ol' USA, and ran across the American Blanket Company, out of Fall River Mass. I checked out the reviews and they seemed favorable. Frankly, the price was a little spendy. I'm normally a $30.00 blanket kind of guy, and the one that interested me the most, the Luster Loft, was ringing in at a whopping $99.00 plus shipping. Now, they do offer $10.00 flat rate shipping in the lower 48. I inquired about getting the $10.00 rate and it was explained to me that Alaska didn't qualify for that rate. It was going to be $55.00 to get it here via the USPS in three days. That alone was enough to make me really wonder if I wanted a good quality blanket that badly. I started thinking about the cost, and then figured what the cost would be if the blanket lasted twenty years. It worked out to less than $8.00 a year. If you spend about a third of your life in bed, $8.00 a year sounds pretty economical. I was still wavering back and forth when I called back and happened to speak to the most delightful young lady on the other end of the phone. She seemed genuinely  happy to speak to me, and when she found out I was from Alaska she convinced me that this was the blanket for this harsh climate. It was apparent that she believed in the products that they sell. Of course the added bonus is that the blankets are made in America, providing Americans with jobs. They're guaranteed for life,so maybe I'll be buried in it.  I ordered it, and three days later it arrived at the Hoonah post office. I had been telling me friend Mark, the post master, about the blanket, so when it arrived, I opened the box, peeled back the plastic covering, and stuck my hand deep in the folds of that wonderful blanket. I invited Mark to do the same, and no doubt we looked like a couple of freaks fondling that incredible softness right in the Hoonah post office. I had ordered the Patriot Blue, a dark, rich, blue color that looks almost snobby it's so luxurious. To say the fabric is soft, is like saying Alaska is big. It doesn't begin to describe the degree of comfort I experience every night now. When I told Mark I wanted to take my blanket home, he reluctantly removed his hands, but had the audacity to ask if he could come feel my blanket when he visits. I told him no, but to offset any hurt feelings, I asked Ari, The Blanket Lady, if she could send some swatches, which she did. Mark now has his own swatch of Luster Loft to comfort him in his quiet times. He wants to order a throw blanket, and he's discussed ordering the chocolate brown in Luster Loft, and already has visions of sitting on his front porch on a winter's evening wrapped in  his wonderfully warm, soft throw blanket drinking a cup of hot chocolate and looking out over Port Frederick. Can a blanket be so good it's sinful? I don't know, but perhaps it's just the opposite. Perhaps its a blessing from above. In any event, I'm delighted that I bit the bullet and purchased this wonderful blanket from a delightful young lady, who works for a great American company. If you're in need of a new blanket, I hope you'll give Ari, the Blanket Lady a call.
The number is 877-750-5331 or email them at www.americanblanketcompany.com
Tell her Tom sent you. And ask about their free blanket give away. I believe it's every Wednesday. Just to be clear, I'm not being compensated in any way for this testimony. I just really, really like my blanket. Sweet dreams!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Choices We Make



Have you ever pondered the direction your life has taken? I suppose all of us would like a second bite at the apple. A chance to go back and correct mistakes we've made. Unfortunately we're not given that opportunity. We can certainly change our behavior and make wise choices from here on out, but we can't erase the past. Yesterday is gone and will never return. I remember a song I heard once, back when the kids were little. I believe it was on Sesame Street. The words were- Yesterday, today and tomorrow, whether they bring pleasure or sorrow, time is something no man can borrow, yesterday, today and tomorrow.- Truer words were never spoken. Anyway, at this juncture of my life, I find myself reflecting on my past, and wondering about my future. I don't want to feel like I wasted the time that God has given me, but that doesn't mean that every day has to be filled with activities either. I truly believe that we need to start every day with the Lord. Spend some time reading your bible and praying. Find out what God has in store for you today. It may be going to the same job you've had for twenty years, but perhaps he'll show you a new way to do it. Perhaps you're retired, and are bored. Maybe He'd like you to volunteer the skills you've developed  helping a disaster victim. It could be that a visit to the local diner is in order, maybe with an old friend you've lost touch with or a neighbor who is down on his luck. I once read a book titled The Blue Bear, by a Juneau author named Lynn Schooler. Lynn had a boat called the Wilderness Swift that he used to take clients out on for trips into the wilds of Southeast Alaska. One client was a famous Japanese photographer who hired Lynn to help him find and photograph a blue bear. Certain black bears have a blue or blue gray coat. Anyway, something happened on the trip that caused a conversation between the two about life and death. The Japanese man stated that when we are born, all of us are given a certain number of calendars. As each year passes, we're left holding one less calendar. We don't know when the stack will run out. As Dr. Stanley has so wisely stated in the above article, it would be disastrous if after we came to the end of our lives we discovered we had been pursuing the wrong things. I hope you'll take some time and reflect on your life. Are you spending time with God? Is He directing you to take a different path? When the last page is turned on your particular calendar, I pray that you will discover that you've chosen wisely and will hear the words, Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Infestation!






 I know that it's been awhile since my last blog post. My apologies, but it's fishing season, and I need to make money, like most of the rest of the world. Couple that with the fact that I'm getting old and tired, and by the time I get home and have supper, it's usually after nine o' clock,  I don't have much energy left to do a blog post. I'm writing one now because it's really foggy this morning and I wanted to do something before I go wet some lines.

In the pictures above you can see that we've been visited by an infestation of hungry caterpillars. These particular ones are called Wooley Bears, at least that's what I've been told. I normally don't have anything against caterpillars. When you see one or two around town, it's kind of a neat thing. However, I guess due to the extended spell of hot, dry weather this summer, we got inundated with the blasted things. I had dozens of them every day on my flowering crab apple tree in the front yard. In the second picture you can see the destruction that they bring. They have an appetite that is unrestricted. They don't stop eating until they've consumed everything, and then they move on to the next green bush.  They only seem to like particular plants, and of course those appear to be the very plants that I have in my yard. Go figure. I've never seen so many caterpillars in my life. Jan and I went out the road last week for a drive and they were crossing the road by the dozens. It was like Wooley Bear New York City. I personally picked probably a hundred or more from my tree and bushes, and yet every day there are more. Where are they all coming from, and why aren't there any birds hanging around feasting on them?  Every winter I spend big bucks making sure my feathered friends don't starve to death. You would think that there would be a little appreciation and they'd come back and start chowing down. What's not to like about a big, juicy, fuzzy caterpillar? Especially if you're a bird. It's like your job to eat them! Ah well, nature out of balance. I need to stop here and get ready to conk some fish so I can make some money so I can sit at the computer all winter and do whatever I do. I hope wherever you are you're pest-free and enjoying the green things that grow around you.  Have a Wooley Bear day!