Blog Archive

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lumbago Way

My daughter, Autumn ,is in Hoonah visiting from Wasilla. It's the same town where Sarah Palin was mayor. It's up near Anchorage for those who may not be familiar with Alaska. She had mentioned that she wanted to get some pictures while she was here, so the other day we had a break in the weather and went out. We ventured down to Lumbago Way. It's an upaved alley of sorts that runs along the beach. Garteeni Creek is on the far side of the peninsula in the pictures. In the spring the Dolly Varden trout show up to feed on the salmon smolt that are working their way out to the saltwater. In late summer and fall there is a run of Humpback and Coho salmon. There may be Chums that run up there too, I can't remember. The creek runs right by the breakwater for the harbor and past the boat haulout area. Last year I watched a few folks go out on the flats on a minus tide and take a few buckets of clams or cockles out of there. I wish Iliked clams- I'd go dig some myself. In the years before I came on the scene, there used to be several shops located along the beach where shipwrights worked on boats. Apparently one of the shipwrights also made caskets and just about anything else that a person needed that could be made of wood. Folks here had to be fairly industrious just to survive. I understand that there were a number of small fishermen's cabins down along the beach too. The cabins are gone now, but there are still a few ramshackle buildings left standing as well as several really nice homes. It confounds me that here in Hoonah we can have what would be considered basically shacks right alongside fairly expensive dwellings. On the one hand it's nice to not have someone dictating where you can live or how your home has to look, but on the other it can be somewhat discouraging that the zoning laws aren't a little more stringent.
When I was working at L. Kane's store, there was a man who lived on Lumbago who was a mechanical genius. His name was Alfred Luchinetti. He gave new life to all the old equipment at the Thompson Fish Company, as well as Kane's and the other two stores. There wasn't anything that he couldn't fix, that I know of. The bad part was, he loved to talk. He insisted that I be right there while he worked on some cooler or freezer that needed his expertise, telling me the whole time what the problem was and step by step of what he was doing to fix it. I didn't dare leave to do any of my pressing work for fear that he would get insulted and I wouldn't be able to utilize his services again. Since everything in the store was ancient of days, we were always calling on him to repair something. I remember working at Hoonah Seafoods and one of the freezers broke down. Unbeknownst to me he had been called and was inside working with the door partially closed. When I opened the door to get something my nostrils were assulted with the most pungent odor. " What's that smell Alfred?" I asked. When he replied that he didn't smell anything I was astounded. How could anyone not smell it? It wasn't until much later that I realized it was him. He consumed such quantities of garlic that it was seeping out through his pores. Needless to say, when it comes to characters, per capita, Hoonah is right near the top.
While we were on our walk I noticed a couple of Bald Eagles hanging out in one of the Cottonwood trees. I'm not sure what they're eating right now. I imagine they might swoop down on an unsuspecting Mallard or Bufflehead or perhaps there's a Bullhead in the shallows. They always seem to find something. Some years back I watched one attack a swan. That was distressing. I was working on my boat one spring when an eagle grabbed a Dungeness Crab out of a tidal pool. That crab didn't give up without a fight though. While the eagle had his talons in the crab, the crab had hold of the bird's leg and it was screeching something fierce. Sometimes living here is like being a part of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. As long as no one gets hurt, it's pretty cool.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I hope every one had a nice Christmas. We certainly did. As per usual, we ate too much, or at least I did. When I looked at the amount of food that was purchased prior to the holiday I didn't really believe that we could go through it all. Of course, once again, I was wrong. Thankfully I didn't eat it all myself. My sons Ben and Brian came for a visit, and my daughter Autumn and her husband Aaron were here. Then of course Jen and her tribe. Throw in a few friends and you have a pretty nice showing. On Christmas Eve we all descended on Jennifer's house like ants at a picnic. She has an annual shoebox dinner that she puts on. Fortunately we don't have to eat the shoes. Then the next day we're back again for brunch. For some reason she doesn't seem to get tired of company. She's the most sociable person I know. I'm really kind of glad she's that way. It gives all the guests a place to go when I get crabby, as I'm prone to do. All the kids seem to like to stay up late and play games and talk and eat. I, on the other hand, prefer the quiet of an empty house after about ten PM. I'm always kind of amazed that we made it through all the noise and hustle and bustle of seven kids for all those years. Perhaps that's why silence is so coveted now.
I posted these pictures, partly because I like birds,and partly because it reminds me of chowtime at our house during the holidays. These are Junkos. They show up every year looking for a hand out. I think they become dependent on the seed that gets tossed out to them in the winter. I don't know what would happen if I ran out of seed for an extented period of time- it might be like a scene from that Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds. Hmm... I wonder what would happen if we ran out of food for the guests at our house. I don't think I even want to think about that.
I'm not real sure, but I think all this extra eating that I've been doing may have led to some of the pain I'm experiencing in my back. It's been really hurting for the past couple of days. I think I'm suffering from a syndrome commonly known as Holiday Gut. It's also been called Thanksgiving Tummy and Cookie Dough Stomache.The more severe cases always appear right around Thanksgiving and usually don't subside until well into the new year. As the years pile on it becomes more and more difficult to get rid of HG, but it can be done.
I was sitting in Jan's rocking chair earlier with a special electric massage pad, for lack of a better word. Inside the pad were a pair of rotating balls and every time they came in contact with the sensitive part of my back I would squirm and yell- much to the delight of my wife and daughter. Autumn was enjoying it so much she dragged out her phone and was video taping it-perhaps to put on U tube or some such thing. In any event, I unpugged the blasted thing. I didn't want my pain to be giving the whole world too much entertainment. I don't mind laughter at my expense, but there are limits.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Party Time

Being an ignorant buffoon can be difficult at times. There are a few upsides though. If people realize you aren't the brightest bulb in the box, they have a tendency to not expect too much from you. Plus you can usually get some kind soul to help you out in your time of need. Such was the case today when I couldn't remember how to download my pictures onto a flash drive so I could come up to the library and do this blog. Fortunately, family friend and Stanford grad, or is it Stamford grad, well, whatever she is, Candy is really intelligent and she was kind enough to help me. I really appreciate the fact that she is so patient too. I know that I have a tendency to try even the most docile teacher who ever lived. I just don't pick up on things too quickly. Anyway, I got the help I needed and was successful in getting the pictures I wanted for this blog.
Back on the tenth of this month we had an open house. It's been an annual event for awhile now, though last year we didn't do it for some reason. I'm always surprised at how many people show up. This year we had 49. There would have been more but several folks were sick, and a handful didn't have access to a babysitter. Several years ago we had over 70 visitors. That was a blast!We don't do anything special- buy a bunch of food and open the doors- and here they come. Kind of like Ghengis Khan, only they're welcome here. Everyone seems to have a good time. It gets pretty hot and noisy in the house, and I always secretly hope that the floor joists don't buckle under all the weight, but once again they held up so I was pretty happy. We didn't even have to clean up any coffee or punch off the carpet. An added bonus. We had a handful of new teachers show up. I was hoping to get to know them better, but they moved out of the kitchen area and I didn't want to be too far removed from the food, so I still don't know who they are.
My good friend Jim Carey caught a ride in from Game Creek with someone just so he could come to the party. In a few months he will be 89, so I was really stoked that he chose to endure the trip during a very cold spell just to be there. He used to work as an illustrator for General Dynamics prior to moving to the farm in the eighties. Until recently he gathered Bear Breads, a fungus that grows on the old growth trees, and painted them white. Then after they dried he would paint diffent scenes on them. Everything from eagles and bears to fellows out fishing in the streams. He sold them at Tideland and I think some of the tourist shops in Juneau. They're really beautiful. I love talking to him because he has such a positive attitude. I guess opposites attract. He's so much like a child in the way he views things. He sees the beauty in everything. He's got a great sense of humor too. I was joking with him at the Thanksgiving dinner at Game Creek several years ago. He was drinking a second glass of punch and I asked him if he felt like he could handle it. " I'm an overcomer Tom!" he said. That was a word we heard a lot of out on the farm in the early years.
It's always a scramble at the end of the evening when folks decide to leave. As you can see, there's an abundance of boots and jackets here in the foyer. I ran to the church and grabbed extra hangers, and pulled all of our coats out of the closet to make room. There's still mass confusion when people are looking for their stuff, but I guess everyone left with what they came with. It never fails though, after the smoke cleared, aside from some left over Little Smokies, chips,crackers and broccoli spears, we had two canvas bags and a metal tray with Santa Claus on it. I tried to give away the stuff to who we thought it belonged to, but no such luck, so I guess I have to make some more room in the house. All in all though it was a delightful time and I hope we can do it again next year.
On a different note: I spoke to Gene the technician who is supposed to set up the Hughes Net sattelite for us. I hadn't heard from him for a week or so- I knew he was waiting for a replacement for his direction finder which had been stolen. When I called, he told me that he recieved the equipment, but then he suffered a small stroke. What are the odds? Of course I can't very well start bothering him about setting up my sattelite now. I'd be the hands down jerk of Hoonah if he was climbing on my roof and fell off because I wanted the stupid internet set up. Soooo... I guess I'll just wait and see what happens. There's never a dull moment in Bottsville.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Still Waiting

Well, here I am again- up at the library, trying to do a blog post and read my email. I got a call from Gene, the guy who is supposed to be setting us up with Hughes Net so we can get internet service at home. I was expecting to be all squared away by now, but he called and said someone made off with his direction finder. He needs that to make sure the antenna is pointed at the satellite, so I guess I have to wait until he gets another one. Go figure. To make matters more interesting, I can't tell which picture I'm choosing for the blog right now- it just gives me a number, which I randomly chose, so obviously I got the picture from my book. Oh well. To add to the situation, I only have thirty minutes allotted for this computer before it automatically shuts off and I lose everything. Can you believe it? Actually I can- nothing really surprizes me. " What doctor? I have the only recorded case of malaria in Alaska? No, I'm not shocked at all" "What's that you say? You've been a mechanic for thirty seven years and you've never seen this problem before? Really expensive to fix? Yes I figured as much." " What? Someone stole the direction finder for the satellite and now you won't be able to set up the dish? Oh well."
To compound the misery, I had a friend call the other day. Right after he said hi, he wanted to know when I was going to post to my blog. Well Doug, here ya go buddy. I have to write fast- the computer says I only have ten minutes left. I'll have to give a little backround on Doug when I'm not so pressed for time. I guess I should be really happy that the library is still available for use at all. The way things are going with this economy, I'm pleased that it hasn't been shut down yet.
Sorry this isn't a little more entertaining, but I don't work well under pressure and I'm rapidly running out of minutes. Hopefully the next time I post it will be from my own home. Until then, take care.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meanwhile, Up at the Library...

Whooee! It's raining buckets outside tonight; blowing sideways, cold, black as pitch. Just a typical late November night in Southeast Alaska. As one gal from the farm used to say, " It's raining like pouring pee out of a boot." Well, I've never poured pee out of a boot before- but if I had to,I can imagine that it would be quite a downpour. Obviously this isn't a picture of anyone pouring anything out of anything else. Because I'm using the library computer and I'm not overly comfortable with it, I'm digging into the archives of my picture file for something to write about. I don't want too much time to elapse without posting something to the blog. I decided to post these pictues of Brian Bitz. He was diving off the airplane float last year when I took these. I think he was looking for some crabs- the yellow bag is to hold his catch. He didn't get anything on this particular day, but he mentioned that he's picked up King Crabs on occasion and of course Dungeness. When they first started building the breakwater I remember coming out of the harbor in my Highlaker and looking down and seeing Dungeness crabs walking along the bottom. At low tide you could scoop them up with a long handled net.
I think it was January or February when I took these pictures. One of the really cold months. I don't even like to be on land when it's that cold, much less the water. You can't really tell from the pictures, but he was pretty chilly when he got out. He mentioned that there were about 100 bicycles laying around down in the harbor area. For some unknown reason there is a certain segment of society here that seem to derive some pleasure from stealing bikes and then riding them off the end of the dock. I don't know what fun that would be, but I've never tried it. I've heard from other divers who have said that it can be dangerous diving around the area. Over the years people have tossed all manner of things off the docks- engine parts, trolling wire, crab pots, cable, just about anything that could sink. Out of sight, out of mind I guess,unless of course you're diving, in which case all the junk can be a dangerous obstacle, capable of snagging your suit and possibly drowning you. All the more reason for me not to take up diving. I wouldn't mind going swimming though. I haven't done it for years. It looks like the pool may be up and running soon so I may have to give it a try again. I'm not a very good swimmer, but if I put on a pair of fins I can lay on my back and paddle around like an otter... a lumpy white otter with a big gut sticking out of the water. The very image is enough to scare anyone. Oh well. Maybe I can talk Brian into lending me his wet suit, it might prevent a panic at the pool.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Setbacks and Learning Experiences

My mind is a mysterious thing to me. Judging by the looks I get from some people, it's a mystery to them too. Out of the blue, some thought will appear and I haven't got the foggiest idea where it came from. Sometimes it will be triggered by something totally unrelated to the subject at hand. For instance, the other day I was walking back from the post office and I noticed this apple tree in Ernie Jack's yard. The apples reminded me of ornaments on a Christmas tree, and I was going to do a blog on it, although I hate talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving has even arrived. Then I started thinking about a pear tree that my neighbors up the street had back in Marion. I distinctly remembering being just a little guy, maybe three or four. It was summer and I was young enough that I was willing to wear a sunsuit without objection. I was barefooted and walked up into their yard. Pears had fallen on the ground and the honeybees were crawling all over them. I was scared of being stung, so I started stepping on the bees. Of course I got stung. That was a learning experience. I don't know why my mother didn't name me Brainiac. Which reminds me of the time I decided in grade school that I would list my whole name on a school paper. I misplaced the i and the a. Somehow Tom Brain Botts just wasn't appropriate, although my teacher and my parents were certainly entertained. For awhile afterwards I signed Tom Joe Botts- I knew how to spell Joe. Eventually I just signed Tom B. Chalk it up to another learning experience. I had a number of them growing up. I found out that you don't have to be in direct contact with a flame in order for a paint brush full of gasoline to catch fire. It happened like dad and I were cleaning out the garage one day and he found a really expensive paint brush hidden under all this junk. He was really happy, and stuck it in a small can of gas to loosen it up. He felt like he didn't have enough gas so he ran up to the gas station and left me behind to watch the bonfire we had going. Let me interject here that my dad was a very intellegent man. He obviously had a temporary lapse in his senses when he left me in charge. Of course as soon as he left I started flipping the brush at the fire, watching it flame up. A pyromaniac in the making. The first two times everything was fine. The third time was the charm though. It burned just like what it was- a paintbrush full of gas. I stomped it out and put it back in the can like nothing happened. Needless to say, my dad was not amused. He came back and poured the gas in the can and started swishing the brush around. When he pulled it out the blond, nylon brush was all black and the bristles were all curly-qued. Who knew? I certainly know now though. I put it on my list of things not to do. Some things are out of our control though. They can present setbacks. Several years back the transmission went out on my boat. Fortunately I was able to get it repaired and back in the boat before the next season. I've mentioned before about hitting the wrong computer key in my ignorance and wiping out an entire chapter in my book. That would qualify as a setback. A couple days ago I contacted the guy who published my book and sent him down a copy of the manuscript for a new book that I'm writing about the local fishermen. When he called later and said, " you know that I'm your biggest fan; you know I love you." I knew that there might be the potential for another setback. There was. He loved part of it, but the part that I thought would be best, he didn't. So, I know what I'll be doing this winter. No more bordom for me. Fortunately I don't need the internet to redo the manuscript, which is really good, because I found out yesterday that tomorrow the internet provider will be shutting down. So, as I mentioned the other day, until we figure something out, it might be awhile before I can post on here again. However, setbacks are just that. They can be overcome; they aren't permanent. As soon as I can, I will be back to writing the blog. In the meantime, it will be another learning experience. See ya soon. Oh, I almost forgot, Wilderness Blues is available now at Amazon in a Kindle edition for $9.99, for any of you folks that don't like paperback.$sr=1-1 .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Days Gone By

It snowed today for the first time this season. It didn't amount to anything, just a few flakes falling, not even enough to cover the ground, and then it was gone. I don't know why, but up the bay by Neka Mountain the ground is covered all the way to the beach. Maybe it was colder there than in town. Anyway, it probably won't be long now and we'll have to deal with the blasted stuff. Just in case, I climbed under the house and wrestled out a snow shovel. Since there wasn't any snow to take pictures of, and since I don't really want to think about winter yet, I thought I would display a few pictures from a little outing that I took with Jan and Jen and Kaylahni awhile back. We were going to go out to Freshwater Bay, but as Botts luck would have it, they were refurbishing the road, so we went to another spot. It was a beautiful day so we parked the car on the side of the road and ate a sandwich and sat in the sunshine and enjoyed each others company. It had the added benefit of not having to watch out for hungry brown bears so much, which we would most certainly have had to do if we had made it out to Freshwater Bay. Nothing ruins a picnic like being mauled by a bear. All in all it was a nice day. As we move deeper into the year, when the cold winds blow and you swear it's never going to be warm again, it's pleasant to look back and remember the days gone by, when sunshine and shortsleeves were the norm.
Before I forget, I should mention that today when I got on my email, the local internet provider informed me that they will be shutting down soon. The place where the server is located is on private land and it looks like the land is no longer available to the provider. As a result, sometime in the near future I'll go to turn on the internet and it won't come up. Soooo... I guess we'll have to figure out something different. Welcome to Hoonah! Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Hooterville. Not to be mistaken for Hooters restaurants. While it might be amusing, and even delightful to live in Hooters for awhile, I imagine it would have it's down side too. For those who are too young to remember, Hooterville was a fictional little back woods town in a television sitcom called Pettycoat Junction. I think it also may have been a backdrop for the Greenacres TV program. In any event, I can always blog from the library... I think. However, I don't believe I'll be able to display any pictures. All the more reason to expedite getting a new internet provider when necessary. If I have to rely on my razor sharp wit to entertain, then I'm afraid we'll all be sorely dissapointed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over The River...

When I was in elementary school, many, many years ago, every year, about a week or so before Thanksgiving,we'd sing this song. I don't know what the name of it was but it went... Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh- something, something, something. I can't remember the rest of the lyrics. I don't know if they still sing it or not. I was young enough at the time that I hadn't experienced enough life or picked up enough baggage along the way to become self-conscious, so I would sing that song with gusto. I thoroughly enjoyed Thanksgiving, not so much for the food, although the pumpkin pie was always a treat and it was the only time we ever ate turkey. There was something about that day that I knew was special. I don't know if it was because we were out of school for a few extra days or because Mac usually had his shipment of Christmas trees arriving in boxcars about then or if maybe it was that the first snow usually fell about that time. I remember my Dad always wore a suit and tie on that day and we sat at the dining room table instead of the kitchen and Dad would bless the food. I felt warm and secure and happy and though I didn't express it, I think I was thankful.
Today I experienced those feelings from so long ago again. Though it's not Thanksgiving day according to the calendar, today we celebrated a day of thanksgiving at Game Creek in what has become an annual tradition. The folks at the farm welcomed the entire town of Hoonah for a feast and people in record numbers showed up this year. People who've been coming there for years as well as folks who set foot on the property for the first time showed up. We had a whole batch of school teachers and fishermen, loggers and greenies and folks who lived there at one time and don't any longer, and of course those who still do, and everyone in between. I heard that at least 120 guests had shown up and I think folks were still coming in after the counting had been done. The farm provided the turkey and stuffing, potatoes and gravy and I don't know what all else and the guests added to the pot with salads and pies and sidedishes of all kinds. Of course the food was delicious, but more than anything else, I enjoyed the fellowship. I talked with old friends and met new ones and everywhere I looked people were having a good time. For a short while we put aside the lables that we usually assign to others and just enjoyed a delightful meal in the company of friends. It's what good memories are made of.
Speaking of good memories and friends, for anyone reading this who may not know them, the top picture is of my very good friends Bob and Gail Pinard. They lived at the farm during the time that we were there. You can see they are both wearing Xtra-tuff sixteen inch boots to make the treck across the fields. It's standard fare here in Southeast. Someone is actually writing a book about Xtra-tuffs. I'm not sure what all you can say about them to hold the reader's interest, but I guess that's not my problem. Bob is packing a twelve guage shotgun just in case an unwelcome brown bear should want to challenge our presence there. Needless to say there were a number of guns that made an appearance on the trail between the parking area and the tabernacle today. Fortunately they weren't needed, but this time of year when food is getting scarce for them, you can't be too careful. I took a picture of the cabin just because I like the way it looks. It was built sometime before 1976 when we arrived, and as you can see no one has lived there for a good long while. Anyway, that's a short look at another wonderful day of thanksgiving at Game Creek, and like those days when I was just a boy, today once again I felt warm and secure and happy and I'd like to express my gratitude to the folks at Game Creek who opened up their home and welcomed a multitude to a banquet. Thanks so much! God bless.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Boy

Well, Halloween has come and gone. I'm kind of glad. I'm sure the dog is. He had to suffer through the embarrassment of wearing this ridiculous pumpkin costume for a while on Halloween night. When he saw it he ran under the table and had to be enticed with food to put it on. Unfortunately the Jack O' Lantern is just the beginning of sorrows. I think there is a Santa costume and something that looks like a clown one hanging in a closet upstairs. How humiliating. Dogs have feelings you know; although a piece of cheese can go a long way in helping to offset any loss of dignity. I don't know how anyone else fared, but here in Hoonah we had such a dreadful wet, cold, blowy evening that we hardly had any kids come by. Wouldn't you know it? I had gone to Walmart several weeks ago so I was all stocked up with stuff and ready for the big onlslaught. Of course it didn't happen. If I had forgotten to get anything for Halloween, there probably would have been a warm front pass through and a bright harvest moon with hundreds of kids swarming the house begging for treats. I just can't win. To make matters worse we have this big bowl of candy sitting on the TV stand just waiting for me to saunter past. It's almost sinister. I never used to like Skittles, but since we have a large number of packs of them, I thought I'd give them a try. Either they've changed the formula for making them or my tastes have changed. Now I can't leave them alone. The receptionist at the forest service where I clean apparently didn't have too many trick-or-treaters come to her house either, so she brought all her left over candy and left it on the counter where I have to pass by six or eight times a night. To my delight/dismay, lounging in the bowl in their bright silver wrappings are multitudes of miniture Three Musketeers bars, or as E P Mac Affee used to call them, Three Musty Steers. He was the fellow that owned Mac's Trading Post and called us fellows, girls when we came in. I didn't have any idea what a musty steer was, but as long as it only cost a nickel and tasted like chocolate, it was fine with me.
In any event, the holiday season is officially upon us I guess. For the next couple of months we'll be inundated with all manner of tasty delights,none of which will be healthy. My already rotund body will expand even further, creating all manner of guilt and frustration and stretching the skin over my gut like a basket ball that's been overfilled. I'll hate the way I look and feel, dragging around these extra pounds like a ball and chain and wish that I'd been blessed with a little more self- discipline. Perhaps if I had to wear a pumpkin outfit after I gained so many pounds I would be less inclined to overindulge. At the very least I would have Rigby to keep me company.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Almost Here!

It's November 2, and although it's election day, and that in itself is pretty scary given the condition of the country, I'm not referring to the political landscape; I'm speaking about the changes happening in the natural one. Winter is on the way and as much as I might like to deny it, I can't avoid it. As you can see the snow on Ears is much lower than it was just several days ago. Most of the plants in the garden have died or are in the process of dying, with the exception of the Rhododendron and the Dusty Miller. It poured buckets last night and most of today and when I took the dog out a little bit ago to do his thing I darn near froze. Of course he doesn't care about how I feel, he's too busy smelling pee and other gifts that the neighborhood dogs have left, to worry about me- the selfish little brat. Sometimes I feel like Rodney Dangerfield, I don't get no respect. Soon I'll be forced to go out and shovel little paths in the snow so the dog won't get his little belly cold when he has to go potty. Little poop paths. It doesn't get much better than that. I can hardly wait.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Deer Hunt

Several days ago my friend, Bob Pinard, asked if I wanted to go hunting. The weather was supposed to be good, and since I didn't have anything pressing, I agreed to go, although I had to think about it for a little bit. In years past when I've hunted with Bob it required my being up well before daylight, packing a ten thousand calorie lunch and taking enough ibuprofen to pre-empt the pain that I knew I would suffer after traipsing through the thicket, up mountains and down ravines. He always seemed to choose the very places that I would never even consider hunting. He's one tough fellow. At sixty-nine years old, he's got eleven years on me, but you would never know it. He seems to have the ability to shrug off pain and most challenges don't seem to bother him. Though he wouldn't approve of my saying anything, it's my blog, so I'll mention that he's one of the most generous people I've ever met. On the day we went out hunting we took his truck and he insisted on hunting an area that I'm familiar with. One, of course, that isn't too terribly difficult to get around in. He wanted to follow me, thus giving me the first chance at any deer that appeared. It just so happened that after a relatively short walk I spotted this buck following a small doe at the edge of a muskeg. He was completely enamored with her to the point that he let down his guard. It cost him his life- kind of like Samson in the bible. Let that be a lesson to ya fellows- sex is great, but don't lose your head over it. Before I could even get out my knife, Bob bent down and started gutting it, the whole time telling me what a great deer it was. Afterward, he reached in his pack and drew out a drag strap and together we dragged it back to his truck. There was no snow on the ground and the deer was heavy and most of the way was uphill, but Bob didn't hesitate. We had to stop frequently to rest, but we got it delivered to the truck. Since I don't have a place to hang a deer, he stopped at his shed where he helped me get it hung up. Then he helped me skin it. This Sunday I'm going to his house and we're going to butcher it- in his shop of course. I may not be a wise man, but I sure know how to pick friends.
On a different note, I noticed several things after I posted these pictures. The deer looks better than I do. It certainly looks much neater. I look like I've been in a fight with a grizzly bear- and Bob did most of the work! It looks kind of like the buck is wearing mascara or eye liner, while I look like an animal that got caught in the headlights of a car. How can I explain that? I really should work on my appearance I guess. Not only do I look slovenly, but I look older that I am too. One of the gals here in town thought I was old enough to be her grandfather, and she's twenty four. I guess I need to lose thirty pounds, get some false teeth and dye my hair. Oh well.
One final thing, though it has nothing to do with deer hunting, friends or false teeth. I have in front of me a quote from a book from Robert Fulghum. He's one of my favorite authors. The book is Word's I Wish I Wrote. It's full of quotes. In this season of political ads this particular quote seems appropriate- at least to me. "If you're not involved in the sweaty work of the world, you shouldn't be in charge of the deodorant concession." I totally agree.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October Splendor

I was going to post something here several days ago, well, actually it's been longer than that, but I didn't want to just be putting anything on here. I guess that's what Twitter or tweeter or twiddle dee, twiddle dum, or tweetie bird or whatever that site is, is for. I didn't think anyone would be overly interested in, say, my shopping experience at Costco. "Well, I'm pushing a huge cart right now. It's really getting heavy. I just picked up four cans of Folgers and I'm heading for the green olives. Maybe I'll buy a jar of pickles while I'm there."

Maybe I'm fooling myself. Perhaps what I write about is less interesting than stale bread, but I do have some nice pictures now and then. If nothing else, it's fun to share the beauty of this place with those who can't be here. This past Sunday was one of those days when I can't imagine being anywhere else. It was so beautiful -sunny and warm too. I sat out on the front porch and enjoyed the sunshine and talked with one of the local fishermen for awhile. Later in the afternoon I got on the bike and rode out to the airport to get some pictures. The two top pictures are from there. In years past I shot many a duck out there. Or at least I shot at many ducks. I imagine if I had to figure it out, each duck I got was worth about forty dollars a pound if you took into consideration the number of shells I expended. It used to be a lot of fun: walking through the waist high grass with enough ammo swinging from my jacket pockets to arm a small militia, filling my waders with icy cold water, straining my eyes in the dark trying to find the road, and on those rare occasions when I actually shot something, sitting out on the front porch trying to keep from retching while I take out the entrails. Good times. I don't know why I don't do it anymore. Oh well, there's a season for everything I guess.

While I was out and around I took another picture of Ear Mountain. I don't know how many pictures I have of it. I never get tired of looking at it though. The snow has been up there off and on for about two weeks. I suspect it's here to stay now. It's always exciting when the first snow shows on top. I don't know why. It's a reminder that winter is coming and I'm not a big fan of winter in Alaska. At least we don't have to worry about gnats and misquitos right now, and it shouldn't be long before the bears start hibernating. I wonder how long I could sleep without having to eat. That would be kind of cool - nap for a few weeks, wake up, you've lost twenty pounds, have a snack and go hit the sack again for a few more weeks. Before you knew it, winter would be over and you'd be back to a healthy weight again; plus you'd save a bundle on food. Except for a few things like having a job, brushing your teeth and having to use the bathroom, it would probably work. Until I can get those minor setbacks worked out I guess I'll stick with the way things are.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cups Are Us

With fishing season over for the year, at least for me, I'm left with my annual inner conflict of what to do with my time. I absolutely hate wasting time, but I'm so undisciplined that unless I go to bed with some idea of what I'm going to do the next day, I drift about like a man without a country and then suffer with a guilty conscience for not accomplishing anything productive. As long as I'm not doing anything else, I don't mind cooking and cleaning the house. I'm not going to run out and buy an apron or anything, but it gives me something to do and it gives Jan a break. Yesterday I was making supper- shrimp salad. I don't know why it takes so many utensils to cook a couple pounds of shrimp and cut up some veggies, but it does. I wonder if Martha Stewart makes a big mess when she cooks. I guess it doesn't matter if she does, someone else will clean up after her. I don't have that option. While the shrimp was boiling I did some dishes and dried them and started putting them away. We have a cupboard that has two slide out shelves for the pots and pans. It's located down low next to the stove. I don't know how Jan manages to get all the skillets, lids, loaf pans, dutch ovens, sauce pans and pie plates in there, but she does. I don't have that much patience so I usually stuff it all together and shut the doors real quick. It seems to work. I do the same thing with the tupper-ware stuff that's in the cupboard above the microwave. For some reason we have about twelve different sizes and shapes and none of them are compatable with each other. If you kind of balance them for a few seconds you can slam the door and they'll stay put. The problem comes when you open the door to get one. It's not a bad idea to be standing under an umbrella before you open the door. That way the avalanche won't hurt you. There's a good reason why the heavy stuff is located down lower. Anyway, I was drying the dishes and while I was putting away the cups, I started running out of room to put them, so I thought I would line them up and see what all we had. Let's see- Jan has a cup that say's Hoonah on it. On the bottom it says "get mugged". I guess that's the manufacturer. I have a cup from China that Candy, a family friend,gave me when she got back from her semester at sea, an unsolicited cup from some veterans place that says Freedom isn't Free, a colorful scenery one that says Albuquerque- boy that would be a good word for a spelling bee, a Cabela's cup from my daughter Camille, another Alaska cup, a Statue of Liberty one from Jen, one that Jan bought for herself that says Crabby till I get my Coffee, some girlie cup, a large two tone brown hand made cup that could probably hold a quart of liquid easily, a nautical theme cup with ropes and portholes, a blue cup that's shaped kind of like an hourglass. It used to have felt on the bottom. I think it came from my boat. We have a plastic cup with a picture of Scooby Doo that says "Grandma you're more fun than anyone." I should get one with my picture on it that says "Grandpa you're a jerk!" I wonder if those would sell. I do have one from my grandkids that says Big Dog Dad, My House, My Rules. It's also huge. I should use it more often. I'm sure that after lifting it to my mouth every morning I would see a noticable increase in my bicepts. We also have a pink one with a moose whom I guess is the Caffine Queen, one that shows a bear drinking coffee- advertizing Grizzly Blend beans, the cup says The coffee is a bruin, a large blue tea cup with matching saucer and last but not least, a one quart, green Alladin cup. I wish I could say that was all of them, but we have even more in the other cupboard. A dozen or more from a Correlle dish set and some antique ones, to say nothing of the cups in Jan's bras, but we don't drink coffee from those. Needless to say, we have plenty to choose from when the urge to drink arises, so kids, if you're reading this, I love you, and I love the cups you've given us down through the years, but we're probably set for awhile.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tideland Tackle and Marine

My favorite place to shop in Hoonah is here at the Tideland Tackle and Marine store. If they would expand their inventory a little to include perhaps milk and bread and of course cheese and Pace chunky salsa, there might be little reason for me to shop anywhere else. No doubt I'd probably get in trouble if Jan sent me down for a loaf of bread and some lunch meat and I came back with a box of 8/0 stainless steel hooks and a pack of OG55R glow in the dark hoochies, but it would still be nice to have a little larger inventory. Unfortunately, I don't know where they would put anymore stuff. The store is painfully small as it is. As you can see, they carry a pretty good supply of guns and ammo, reels, trout lures, spoons, hooks, flashers and my favorite, hoochies. For anyone who doesn't know, hoochies are little vinyl octopus lures that come in a variety of colors that you tow behind a flasher to catch salmon. Those wicked employees at Tideland intentionally order all manner of delightful hoochies in order to entice innocent fishermen like myself into buying a few packs, knowing full well that we suffer from an anglers syndrome known as Hoochie Lust. I have two tackle boxes on my boat filled so full of hoochies that I can scarcely close the lids, and yet they have the audacity to stock new varieties every year, placing them right near the front of the store where you have no choice but to see them. Of course, once you've glanced in their direction, you're irrevocably drawn to the display and it's only a matter of time before you've added another pack to your swelling collection. Off to the right of the store the walls are painted a rather striking cerise color. I didn't take a picture of that. That corner houses the wooden puzzles, jewelry case, sweatshirts for grandkids and other more touristy items. I don't know what that has to do with a tackle shop, but since there are busloads of tourists offloading down at the harbor, it's probably a good thing to carry.
The store has come a long way since Tom Leblanc first built it over twenty some years ago. He started a small store in his house, devoting one room to all manner of commercial fishing gear- groundline, hooks, knives, gangions and whatnot. I guess when he saw the need for a larger space he built the building down in the harbor. It was Tom's Commercial Marine at the time. Then he left and sold it to Loren and Marylyn Lawson. They worked at the logging camp at Whitestone and owned a little place out there called the Tackle Shop. So Tom's became L&M Marine until Mt. Bether bought it some years ago. It's really an asset to the town. Dave Austin, the guy in the top picture, manages the store. He expanded into hydraulics, which was a good move in a fishing village, and as far as I know is the only local place to get any work done on your hydraulic system. They are the only place in Hoonah that carries hunting and fishing licenses and only one of two that carrry sport fishing bait, including Tom's Halibaits, premium halibut bait- I of course being the Tom from the Tom's Halibaits. Obviously Dave has impeccable taste when it comes to halibut fishing bait.
Like everyone else on the planet, Dave is an intersting character. Prior to moving to the farm some years back, he was a professional musician. He still is for that matter, and aside from running the store, he teaches music lessons at the school. However back in his younger years, he worked for the Hartford (Conneticut) symphony playing the cello. He said that on some pieces of music the trombone and tuba players sat in the back and had magazines on their music stands that they would read until their part came up. Apparently the guy who played the triangle only had one or two notes, so he would go behind the curtain and play pinoccle until his time came. Ahh, the secrets are being revealed.
I believe Dave said his father was a professor of philosophy at Wheaton college in Massachussettes. Dave attended a prep school where the dress code required the boys to wear a tie. Apparently several of the boys rebelled in their own small way, fulfilling the letter of the law, if not the spirit. He said one young man wore the same tie every day and had a habit of letting it dip into the soup at lunch time. I guess by the end of the school year it was pretty stiff and no doubt somewhat aromatic. Another boy started the week with a bow tie. On Tuesday he wore a wide tie, Wednsday a thinner tie, Thursday an even thinner tie and by Friday he was wearing a string bolo. He just kept adding a new tie every day. I guess by Friday his ties stuck way out off his chest. I would think that it would become hard to breathe, but I don't know. He mentioned that as long as the boys were wearing a tie, they didn't get much grief, so I guess some of the fellows knotted their ties way down by their stomaches. Boys will be boys.
I find it fascinating that a person who grew up in a well to do family with a backround in music would find his way to a Christian community in Southeast Alaska and end up managing a tackle shop. When it comes to characters, we have them in abundance right here in little ol' Hoonah Alaska. I'm so glad.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Zip Line

Before summer becomes too much of a distant memory, ( and before I lose the fact sheet that my grandson Kristian gave me) I wanted to do a post on the zip line, one of the popular attractions at Icy Strait Point. This isn't the best picture ever- I was shooting into the sun, but it was the only one I could get at the time. I was coming back from a days fishing earlier in the summer and I had a chance to get the most breathtaking, clear shot of the zipline- the wires were visible right unil they disappeared into the mist at the top of the mountain. It would have been a world class shot. I turned the boat around so I could get the best advantage, I turned on the camera and got just the right placement, and right when I pressed the shutter button, the battery died. Go figure. It was a classic Botts situation. After I got done swearing and a little time passed,I could see the humor in it. I still wish I could have gotten that shot though.
Just looking at this picture is enough to make my stomach queasy. I'm not too fond of heights. It didn't used to bother me. When I was a kid I used to climb on the roof of my neighbor's barn, I don't know why there was a barn in a residential neighborhood, but there was, and I would jump across to Mrs. Jones's cherry tree and steal cherries. I remember repeatedly jumping off a garage roof too just for fun. Now if I have to climb on a step stool to change an overhead light I get vertigo. What a whimp! Anyway, back to the zip line. It runs in my mind that they had to have a helicopter ferry the concrete and other building materials to the site at the top of the mountain. I believe that's how they strung the lines too. It was opened in 2007 and is over a mile long, with a 1300 foot vertical drop at the beginning of the ride. Ooh, just saying sounds scary. The riders have to catch a bus and take a forty five minute trip to the top. Then it's another five minute walk to the top tower. There is a maximum weight restriction of 275 pounds and a minimum of 90 pounds. Five people can go at one time, and go they do at a speed of 60MPH. The ride lasts for one and a half minutes and judging from the screams that I've heard, it must be thrilling. Jan says she'd like to try it next year. We'll see. Maybe if I take a tranquilizer and have a box of Depends handy, I'll give it a shot.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Sign of the Times

The sign kind of says it all doesn't it? How many times have you felt this way... the boss is yelling at you, your spouse is being a jerk, the kids are acting up, you just found out the repairs that your car need are going to cost you the next two months salary. Things happen in life and you just wish that they would happen somewhere else to someone else. I don't think that any of that crossed my daughter's mind when she bought this sign for us. Maybe she was thinking about addressing the neighbor's dogs when she picked it up. I think I've mentioned before that Hoonah has a leash law, but it's not always enforced. In fact it's seldom enforced so we get random dogs running through the neighborhood at times and since they don't like to get their butts wet, they prefer to visit a yard that has been groomed. Namely mine. I don't mind picking up after Rigby, but that's where I draw the line. It would be nice if I could train him to use the toilet like a civilized dog, but I don't think he's that smart. I vaguely remember my brother Mark reading a Mad Magazine one time and cracking up, so he decided to share with me the source of his humor. They had written a verse about taking your dog out to relieve itself and put it to the music of The Street Where I Live- at least I think that was the name of the song. It went like this -"I have often walked my Pierre outside, but I didn't like him in the dirty air outside, so now he sits upon, his own private john, that I built for the dog that I love." If I could sing it for you I would, but I can't so I guess I won't.
I had thought about getting a bunch of these signs and placing them outside the porta-potties that dot the landscape here during the tourist season. Unfortunately the humor would be lost on the foreign tourists, unless they could read English.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The F/V Judy Ann

I'm not sure what mountains these are. They may not even have a name, I don't think most of the mountains around here do. They sure are pretty though. They aren't too far from False Bay. Whenever I see them I know we don't have too much further to go. You can see the blue sky in this photo. Totally unlike the a normal September as I mentioned in my last post. Today is more typical- it's blowing about twenty five with rain coming down in sheets. Thank God things are returning to normal. If we kept having all that good weather who knows how many people we'd have living here. On our way out to False Bay a few weeks ago, shortly after we left the pavement, we passed the remains of two more fine old wooden boats. The green one is the Judy Ann. It belonged to Terry Shepard, a little gnome of a man who calls himself the Hobbit. He looks the part. Just over five feet tall with a full grey beard and a walking stick, he called the Judy Ann home for years. When I first met him the boat was purple. I asked him about it and he said it was the result of a compromise. His daughter wanted it to be painted pink. He didn't feel that pink would be a good color for a fishing boat, however, purple was a majestic color and he liked purple, and apparently so did his daughter, so purple it was. It was only in the past eight or so years that he changed the color to John Deere green. I happen to like green and it made it easy to tell where his boat was when you saw him in the distance. He used to have a plastic stork and a lawn chair on the top house. I don't know if he ever sat in it or not. I did an interview with him several years ago for a book that hopefully I can publish soon. He's quite a fascinating fellow. When he was fishing he only hired women for crewhands. He hired one gal who came from a rather aristocratic family and she never had to do any domestic duties. He said when she would make him a tuna fish sandwhich, she just opened a can of tuna and dumped it on the bread. No mayo or butter or anything. Same with soup. She'd open a can of, say, mushroom soup and put it on the stove- no water or milk or anything. I think she's the one whom he said liked to steer the boat all the time. He would come in from pulling or cleaning fish and he had to practically beg her to let him steer his own boat, she didn't want to relenquish the wheel.
The other boat is the Chappy. I remember fishing up in Glacier Bay years ago on the Miss Valerie with Bob Clark. We were catching king salmon like crazy when the Chappy showed up and if I remember correctly he called in some of his friends on the bite. Bob wasn't too happy about that. It had a different owner then. The last owner wasn't so illustrious of a character. He and his father came to town years ago and were always quite a mystery. They were real reclusive and you never really knew what to make of them. His father passed away a few years ago. He lived on the boat until he got into some trouble with the law and moved away suddenly. I guess the boat wasn't in good enough shape to salvage, with the exception of certain parts.

I don't know why the city tows the boats out past the airport now. Probably some environmental regulations in case there is any fuel residue or oil left behind. They used to just run the old boats up on Graveyard Island across from town where they could die a dignified death, decomposing naturally at the hand of the elements. When they take them out the road people throw rocks at the windows and smash the wood or take whatever may be left of any value. It's like overnight what was once a valuable asset is junk. How can that be? One day it's worth something, providing shelter and comfort and the next day it's hauled away to be picked apart like a dead persons estate. I hate to see that. I hope that for as long as I own the Bonnie J I can keep up the maintanence and turn her over to someone who can use her for many more years. I don't want to see her hauled off and dismantled like something of no value. She deserves better than that.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

False Bay

We've been enjoying the most lovely September that I can ever remember in my thirty four years of living here. Typically, you don't need to look at the calender to know that September has arrived. Usually the continuous rain and cold winds leave no doubt in anyone's mind that winter is on the way. Most years, by mid- September the mountains over at Homeshore would have terminaion dust on them. That's the first light dusting of snow that shows on the higher elevations. That's sure not the case this year. The weather has been unseasonably even. I don't want to complain, but I probably will anyway. I just worry that all this sunny,dry weather will play havoc with the salmon. We need all the rain we usually receive at this time of year so the creeks will fill up and provide a good place for spawning. Fortunately I never had to worry about whether or not it rained- we had kids in all kinds of weather. Oh well- enough of that. As I was saying, this weather has been so enjoyable that you just can't stay inside. I feel bad for anyone who has an inside job when it's this nice outside. Last Sunday Jan and I decided to take a drive out to False Bay. It's down Chatham Straits aways, between Whitestone Harbor and Freshwater Bay. It would probably take me about five hours to get there in my boat. By car it was almost an hour and a half. The sign says it's only twenty five miles from the city limits, but there are stretches of the road that are so rough, that driving at much beyond twenty miles an hour is almost a guarantee that you'll break something on your vehicle or perhaps something on yourself. Jan made the mistake of taking a half cup of coffee with her on our trip out there. She didn't end up wearing it all, but suffice it to say, if she had been wearing a pair of dining trousers,as I mentioned in my last blog entry, she wouldn't have suffered the discomfort of wet clothes. False Bay is one of my favorite places to go for an outing. Perhaps it's the uncomfortable trip getting there, or just the anticipation of what awaits you, but when you first break out of the woods and get that first glimpse of blue-green water and the tree-lined rocky shore, theres a feeling like when you were a kid on your way to the county fair and see the top of the ferris wheel. You know it's going to be fun- and it was. Jan had the foresight to bring a few plastic chairs and a newspaper. We had the good fortune of having the place all to ourselves and when we set up the chairs in front of the fire pit, there were still hot coals burning from the folks who had just left. I did a little beachcombing for some driftwood and added to the coals, so we were able to keep the fire going while we were there. The beach there is great for searching for driftwood or shells or rocks. Whenever my daughter Jen goes there she always seems to find oyster shells or some other neat thing. I always manage to find bear poop. I don't know why they would like to come close to the beach like that, but they do. Aside from the poop , I also found three sea urchin shells in really good shape and a big barnacle and a pink shell of some kind, possibly a scallop. Jan likes to keep that kind of stuff up in the bathroom upstairs in a basket. My son Brian joined us later. He brought his four-wheeler out. He pulled up a chair next to the fire and almost immediately the smoke started blowing into his face. Usually that's what happens to me. It's really funny when it happens to someone else. It's like that shirt that says-" It's funny until it happens to someone else- then it's hilarious!" There's something about me and campfires, we just don't seem to be compatable. When I was twelve I got in trouble with the cops because of a campfire. Someone called them because they thought we were going to burn down Indian Mounds. It wouldn't have happened, but how would they know. It seems that I must have inadvertantly passed my bad luck on to the kids. That incident with Brian and the wandering smoke is so typical. No matter where you go to try to get away from it, the wind shifts and directs it right into your eyes. Then there's Jen and the dissapearing hot dogs. False Bay is where we were when she lost two weinies to the fire. She had them on a stick and both times the end of the stick burned to the point that the weight of the hot dogs broke it and the whole mess fell in the fire. Two times in a row! We're thinking about going out to Freshwater Bay tomorrow. Jennifer is supposed to come with us. I think I'll ask her to bring hot dogs.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Mitten Diet

I went out fishing on Friday. The season is rapidly coming to a close and I wanted to eleviate any feelings of guilt that I will most certainly experience this winter for not putting enough time or effort into the season. As often happens with me, I go through these long droughts with no fish during the typical day. Sometimes, if I happen to have a good book to read, I can just put the boat on auto-pilot, aim for the deepest part of the bay and start reading, occasionally looking up to see if the lines are jiggling. Depending on how long it's been since my last bite, and how interesting the book is, I'll either jump up and run outside to go pull the fish, or I'll reluctantly put the book down and walk slowly out to the cockpit, put on my wet, stinky gloves and proceed to pull up the fish, cursing it for not biting sooner, before I got so engrossed in my story. If the fish is especially big, to where the tattle -tale springs are really pounding, the adrenaline spikes and I can get pretty excited and charge out the door. On more than one occasion I've walked forcefully into the steel boom that stretches from the mast back to the hayrack. I know that it's there, it's been there since I bought the boat back in 1990, but somehow in my excitement I still forget. I've hit it so hard that I've nearly knocked myself out, but the beautiful ringing sound that bone makes when it connects with hardened steel is almost like a church bell. Most days though, when fishing is slow, I find myself searching for something to eat. Usually finding something isn't all that hard, because I know from experience that there will be at least part of the day when the fish aren't biting and I'm quite certain I will want something to munch on. Lately, my snack of choice has been grahm crackers. I justify buying the large package by saying that they have less calories than, say, fudge striped shortbread cookies or chocolate mint squares. Plus, if I buy the large pack, I don't have to shop quite so often... right? Anyway, I was in the middle of a slow day the other day, so I grabbed a cup of instant coffee and a package of grahms. The better brands are wrapped in cellophane by deviant terrorists who conspire to drive honest Americans mad while they attempt to participate in their favorite pastime, eating. I first ran across this phenomenon some years back with potato chip bags. They cleverly put a picture of the chips on the outside of the bag, thus whetting your appetite. It's only after you've purchased the chips that you realize that they have greased the outside of the bag with a fine coat of invisible oil, making it impossible to get a good grip on the special paper the bag is made of. If for some reason you are finally able to penetrate the bags first defenses, you are then left with the demonic stretchy paper at the top of the bag, where you are led to believe you are supposed to access the contents. You pull and pull, using enough strength to dislodge a "62" Volkswagen from a slime pit. At the last possible moment, right before you pass out from exhaustion, the top separates, causing some of the chips to launch into outerspace and the rest to fall upon the ground, where ravenous dogs challenge you to your right to pick them up. It's all quite wearying. Well, as I was saying, it was after a bout with the package of grahms that I had the idea for the Mitten Diet. By simply donning a pair of soft woolen mittens, you can render the job of opening practically any junk food package almost impossible. The mittens will simply slide over the cellophane or plastic demon stretch paper for almost as long as you care to try to open it. The harder you try, the more calories you burn. If you keep in mind that the simple act of trying to get a snack is in fact causing you to lose weight, you can keep your cool, thus robbing the snack terrorists of their victory. I think this is one of the best things that I've thought of in quite awhile. The last idea I had that was this revolutionary was the Taco Bell dining pants- they're like bib rain pants with a trough around the middle, about stomache height. They would issue them when you placed your order. Then, when the contents of the taco you were eating slid out,as they are prone to do, you simply retrieve them from the trough and continue eating- no waste, no messy clothes. Don't worry, I can almost guarantee I'll have more great ideas like these in the years to come. I have more than my share of slow days- plenty of time to think.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fallen Heroes

I've been wanting to post to this blog about one of the most trying weeks I've ever experienced in my life, but before I could, I had to wait until this evening. On Saturday night, August 28, I was sitting in my living room when I heard a shot ring out.

It's not all that unusual to hear shots here in town, especially around this time of year. Frequently Brown Bears wander in to town in search of food and the police are called to chase them off with rubber bullets. Shortly after the first shot, I heard two other shots. I heard a truck come charging up the road and screech to halt out front of my neighbors house. Haley Tokuoka flew out of the truck and ran into her parents house, screaming "Oh God! Oh God!" A few minutes later my daughter called to let us know that Haley's husband,Matt, and another police officer, Sgt. Tony Wallace had been shot. At the time it wasn't known if the shooter was roaming around the town freely or if he had gone in to his house. Like many uncommonly stressful situations, there was a lot of confusion and rumor flying around. We shut off our lights and I armed myself and waited in the dark with the windows open trying to hear what was going on outside. Jen called periodically with updates. We discovered that John Marvin Jr. had ambushed Sgt. Wallace just after he had made a routine traffic stop in front of Marvin's home. Matt had just returned from a fishing excursion with his family and had his wife and two children in the truck and had stopped to talk with Tony when Marvin opened fire on Tony. Matt got out of the car, yelled for Haley to take the kids and go and proceeded to grab Tony and pull him behind cover. Matt was unarmed and not wearing any manner of protective vest when Marvin opened fire on him as well. Both officers were taken to the clinic. We heard shortly after 1:00 Am that Matt had succumbed to his wounds. We found out later that morning that Tony also passed away. Words aren't sufficient to describe the feeling of numbness that one feels at such a moment. Hoonah is a small town of about 800 or so people. In one fell swoop we were robbed of half our police force, a wife was left a widow and five children were left fatherless. Two sets of parents had their sons stolen from them and the feeling of safety that we've lived with is gone forever. On Sunday morning the town was swarming with over forty police officers and SWAT team members as well as several EMTs from out of town. Front Street, where Marvin was barricaded in his home was closed down, and just getting to my home, which was several blocks away, required me going several blocks out of my way to avoid any chance of stray gunfire. The coast guard stationed a cutter out in the bay in front of town and escorted boats in and out of the harbor because Front Street was parallel to the bay. It wasn't until Monday morning that the stand off was over. The police lobbed teargas into Marvins home and he came out and surrendered. It's my understanding that he'd had previous run-ins with these two officers and I think he was just waiting for the opportunity to extract his revenge, which he did in the most cowardly way possible, with no thought for the families who would be impacted by this terrible act.

Today we had a memorial service for these two fine young men, and what a service it was. The normal state ferry which would usually service Hoonah was too small for all the people who wanted to attend, so they put on a much larger ferry, able to accomodate 500 people as I understand. There was also an additional catamaran or two for the spill over. The new gymnasium was set up with chairs as well as the bleachers on both sides, and the old gym was set up as well in anticipation for the unprecedented crowd. Amongst the guests to attend were Governor Shawn Parnell, U S Senator Lisa Murkowski, various state lawmakers, several judges, and more uniformed police officers than I have ever seen in my life. We had officers attend from Chicago, Minnesota and Washington state, and possibly elesewhere that I'm not aware of. There was a detatchment of Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their red uniforms, as well as dozens of officers from all over this vast state. We also had members of the Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy here. For the first time ever the Honor Flag, which flew over ground zero after 9/11 came to Alaska, and was flown at half mast at the school today. It was almost overwhelming, but I was so pleased to see the way these officers and their families as well as the entire community were honored. The out pouring of support has been gratifying.

During the memorial we discovered that Tony was a tremendous wrestler and was inducted into the wrestling hall of fame at the college he attended in Rochester New York. If I remember correctly, I believe he was the only legally deaf man to graduate from a police academy. He was a favorite of the school kids here and went out of his way to befriend them.

Matthew was a former marine who served honorably. Various people came forth with testimony about his integrity and love for his family. In the book of John, Jesus said, " Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend." Matthew selflessly sacrificed his life in an attempt to save the life of Tony.

At the end of the ceremony three bagpipes and a drum played Amazing Grace and the people were dismissed by several members of the Alaska State Troopers, row by row. It was a beautiful service and one that I'll never forget, but hope to never experience again.

We are all left with questions. What happened doesn't make sense. Many of us are angry. It shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. There's no do-overs, no matter how many of us wish we could just go back and change things. We're left with a profound sense of loss and the sadness that the whole town feels is immeasurable. Regardless of our differences, when something of this magnitude happens, we all feel the pain. I hope that I can bring to rememberance the words that our pastor, Chris Budke spoke after the tragedy. For the immediate time being there is a tremendous outpouring of support, but it will be in the weeks and months ahead when it is behind us and not so fresh in our memory that the families will feel the full brunt of their loss. It's then that they will need us the most. God help me to be sensitive to their need and willing to help wherever I can.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What's in a Name?

I went out fishing this morning, but the weather is so foul that I decided to come home early and try to get a picture to download for the blog. This little stream flows into Chatham Straits and as far as I know salmon run up it, but on the day this picture was taken there weren't any that we could see. The name of this stream is Featherduster Creek. I like the name. I don't know why it's called Featherduster. There is usually a reason that something is named a particular thing. Ears Mountain is so named because it looks like the ears on a bears head. Port Frederick is named after the son of one of the kings of Europe. My boys are named after myself and both sets of grandfathers. I don't know who I was named after. No one that I know of. In fact Tom isn't the name on my birth certificate. It's Tommy. I don't say anything to Mom about it, but that's a name that could get a guy beat up in grade school. I always went by Tom. That didn't keep me from ever getting beat up, but I can only imagine the frequency of the beatings if I said my name was Tommy. The only other Tommy I ever knew was the Tommy on the Micky Mouse Club that I used to watch years ago. He was pretty much an adult then, so it looked kind of strange for a full grown guy to be hanging around a bunch of little kids wearing a pair of Micky Mouse ears. Hmmm. So much for guys named Tommy. On the other hand... maybe he was like me and just about every other boy from the ages of eight to fifteen back in the fifties and he had a crush on Annette Funicello. Holy smokes! Even with those goofy mouse ears on she was a fox. I don't know what there is about the name Tom that brought up so many negative connotations. Tom foolery, peeping Tom, Tom, Tom the pipers son, stole a pig and away he run. On the other hand there was the Tommy gun, a totally cool machine gun that gangsters used back in the days of prohibition, and Anna May Johnson whose husband owned the Vine Street Market back in my home town always used to call me Thomas Aquinas. I looked him up in my dictionary. It says he was an Italian scholastic philosopher. That hardly describes me. I'm not Italian at all. The whole thing that got me to thinking about names was when I was out in the boat the other day. On slow days, when the fish aren't biting, which have been numerous lately, I find myself sitting in the wheel house eating grahm crackers and listening to the radio. I usually monitor channel 16 on the VHF radio. That's the channel that you use to call other stations. I happened to hear a boat named the Bufflehead calling another boat, the name of which I can't remember. For those who may not know, a Bufflehead is a small black duck that feeds on small fish and is fairly common here in Southeast Alaska. Anyway, the guy who was being paged misunderstood who was calling. He thought a boat called the Wafflehead was contacting him. It may have been a mistake but I really liked that name. Because I'm at the age where my hearing is going, I could understand how the guy could have heard wrong. When Jan and I have a conversation anymore, every other word is "what?" or Huh?" and if we happen to be watching tv it's, "what did they say?" Even though I don't like waffles, I think if I ever get another boat, I'm going to seriously consider calling it the Wafflehead. I'm sure it will be the only one in the fleet with such a fine name.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Out Front

I should be down cleaning out the fish hold and getting it ready to receive a shot of ice for the upcoming opening, but I was actually able to get on the internet for a few minutes and so far got one picture to download, so I thought I had better take advantage of the opportunity. We are in the middle of a four day closure for cohos, which really worked out good for me because I had to do a bi-annual cleaning of the forest service building, which includes cleaning all the windows inside and out and powerwashing the whole building outside,as well as shampooing all five thousand square feet of carpet. It's quite a chore so I was happy that I could do it during he closure. The tides are huge right now too, and I don't normally like to fish too much when there is so much water moving. Depending on whether you're going with or against the tide, the boat is either going too fast or too slow. If you go cross ways to it the lines can sometimes get tangled. It's best just to avoid them if you can.
This picture is from my front lawn. Some years back we went on a picnic to False Bay. It's a delightful area down in Chatham Straits that you can drive to on the logging roads. It's a rough ride and takes about an hour to go the twenty five or so miles, but the view is breathtaking. While we were there I was walking along the beach and noticed all these pieces of drift logs. Being stronger than what I am now, I picked up three or four and hauled them to the car. I had been wanting to do something with the front of the lawn for awhile so I took them home and dug a three foot hole and buried them. While I was digging, the young lad from across the street called over and wanted to know who died. He assumed I was going to bury someone out front. Hmm... I don't know how he came up with that assumption, but maybe his Uncle Zeke is buried in his back yard. Anyway, I bought an old anchor from a friend who was moving and got some rope to wrap around the whole mess and was rather pleased with the end results. This year we went to Juneau and picked up bedding plants from Glacier Gardens. Everything we bought from them was so nice. They operate a really nice tourist attraction in a separate location too. Lots of flowers and other unique arrangements. One of the things that stood out the most was the trees that were turned upside down and used to plant flowers in the roots. I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Juneau.
We get a lot of tourists passing by the house. Foreign visitors in particular seem fascinated by our place. We had one couple from Bombay who wanted to take a picture of Jan and I while we were out on the front porch. When I asked him why, he said, " You are from Alaska." Oh well. Maybe I can just sit out front and charge people five bucks to take pictures of me. I'll throw in a glass of lemonade for an extra dollar.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Ilse and the Interim

I tried unsuccessfully over the past two weeks to get these pictures to download. I finally had to bring in the big guns to get the job done. Our family friend, Candy, a Stanford grad suggested that I try only downloading one picture at a time. Obviously it worked. I'm so glad that there are assets of such value here, even in tiny Hoonah Alaska.

Several weeks ago I took the dog down to the cannery. Periodically I mention going in the truck to the beach. His little tail wags like it's going to fly off and he can barely wait until I open the door and lift him on to the seat. It's at that point that he abruptly changes his mind about going anywhere in a vehicle and the crying starts. It's only a five minute drive to the cannery from my house, but it seems like an eternity for both of us. Once we're at our destination though, he's happy as a clam at high tide, sniffing the abundance of new smells and having acres of area in which to do his duty. It was during our last excursion that I noticed the daisies growing under the hull of the Interim. That's the troller with all the paint missing. All the things that a trolling boat should have are gone- the poles, the gurdies, the rigging, the anchor. I'm familiar with this boat, I remember when it was still fishing some years back. At one point, whether because of neglect or whatever, it sank, right in it's stall at the harbor. I believe it was winter and I'm not sure, but I think it may have had an abundance of snow that had accumulated. In any event, it was a hell of a waste. I hate to see a good boat neglected. There's no two ways about it, a boat is a lot of work. Even fiberglass ones need maintanence. There's a saying amongst boat owners. Two of the happiest days of your life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it. In any event, I thought it was fitting that daisies are growing under the Interim. It's nice to see some flowers at its final resting place. The other boat, the large one that still has paint is the Ilse. If memory serves me correctly it hit a rock and got a hole in it. I believe the owner sold it for a pittance and collected the insurance. Eventually they both ended up at the cannery as points of interest for the tourists. Like the Interim, the Ilse has been stripped of all it's working hardware. The boom and powerblock are gone and of course the seine net and probably all the hydraulics. Too bad. There probably won't ever be any more seine boats or trollers built again. Certainly not wood ones. They represent a bit of history. I suspect that eventually, like these two fine boats, all the commercial fishing boats will one day be gone. People will resign themselves to buying seafood from some sterile farm with pen raised fish and shrimp and clams. The joy of being on the high seas and the challenge of Mother Nature will be replaced with the safety of a nine to five job tossing pellets to a bunch of Pisci wannabes. That will be a sad day indeed. I hope I'm not around to see it.
On a lighter note, I noticed this stand of Fireweed growing between the beach and the road. I love Fireweed. It adds such a spash of color and contrast to all the green. I guess when the entire plant blooms all the way to the top, it means summer is over. That usually seems to happen in August. While everyone in the lower forty-eight is suffering through the dog days of summer, our fall is beginning. After thirtyfour years here, its still hard for me to accept. I guess I just don't want to think about the impending winter.
After every big tide, all the kelp and grass and assorted other flotsam and jetsam gets deposited above the high tide line. The simple act of walking the beach at that time is an awakening to your senses. The smell of the kelp and small sea creatures that have died and washed ashore. The screech of the seagulls as they fly overhead or perch on the pilings or docks. The feel of the gravel as it gives way under your feet or the crunch of small clam or mussle shells, discarded by birds or starfish. On this particular day there was a jellyfish mixed in with the seaweed and other drift. It was a dark amber color and for all the world it looked like a huge, soft gem, like something that should have been surrounded by gold filigree, but it was much too large to make a pendant of, except perhaps hanging from a huge chandelier in a majestic hall somewhere. There were small starfish and a few hunks of driftwood scattered in the mess. I've often picked up interesting pieces to take home and put in the garden or as with the smaller ones in the bathroom upstairs. Jan likes lighthouses so our upstairs bathroom has a collection of of lighthouses and other things pertaining to the sea. One of our young citizens with special needs has made a business out of polishing the glass he's found on the beach. His name is Casey Bitz and his business is Bitz of Glass. He sells his product at the store that the school maintains at the cannery. I believe he's expanded it to include earrings now and possibly other pieces of jewelry.
Well, as per usual, I've rambled on again. Its how my brain works- now trying this, now trying that. It's a potpourri of thoughts that may or may not come together and perhaps I should be emberrassed to put them all out there for whomever to experience, but I'm not. Hopefully it won't be so long before my next entry. Until then, goodnight.