Sunday, May 12, 2013
If you follow this blog you'll notice that I haven't been posting quite as often as I'd like to. It's that time of year and I have to spend my time getting the boat ready. My most recent project has been an aluminum mast that I bought three or four years ago from my friend Barbie. She owns the F/V Talache, a nice double -ended troller that she purchased from my friend Buffalo Bob. Buff had the aluminum mast made to replace the wooden one that was originally on the boat. When I bought it I noticed that there were no cleats to tie the lines up and no ladder to access the mast light on top. I asked Buffalo about it when I spoke to him a few weeks ago. He said that he had just signed the papers for the boat over to Barbie and was in the process of putting her check in his billfold when the top three feet of the wooden mast broke off and fell onto the top house while they were talking on the float. He didn't feel like he could take the money with a good conscience, so he ordered a mast with only the cross tree and a place to hook up the antennas. He wasn't about to spend more than he had to on things like a ladder or cleats. Anyway, I didn't have the money to work on the mast until this year, so it sat in my daughter Jen's yard for several years. One of the local fellows here, John Murray, agreed to do the work for me, which I'm most thankful for. Finding qualified help is a real challenge in Hoonah. There are a number of people who say that they can do something and really can't, and then there are those who really can do something, but they won't, so I feel especially blessed that John is both willing and able to do the work I needed. For the past week or so I've spent a fair amount of time talking to him and I've come to find out that he is an especially fascinating man, though he would most likely brush off any such talk. The only reason I have a picture of him at all is that I caught him off guard as he was walking by. He doesn't want anyone to make a fuss over him. I've discovered in our talks that he is fiercely conservative in his political views, something that wouldn't seem to mesh with the fact that he was a college professor at the University of Fairbanks where he taught physics. One of things that I really like about John is that I can ask him a question about anything, physics for instance, which I know almost nothing about, and he will answer the question without any attitude of superiority or whatever. He doesn't look down on my ignorance, and though he claims that he wasn't a good teacher, I wish I could have sat under him in a class. I believe I would have learned a lot. He grew up in Waldport Oregon, along the coast. He was named after his father who I believe he said was named Edward. However he didn't want to be Edward Murray Jr., so when he was five he announced that he was going to change his name to John and so he became. He explained that his parents more or less gave him free reign in his life and though the name change hurt his father, he let it stand. When he graduated high school he and a friend caught a freight train up to Tacoma and then bummed a ride to Montana where he spent the summer working on the railroad, laying track and replacing the ties with the gandy dancers, a tough group of fellows to be sure. When he was twenty he worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a smoke jumper. Those are the fellows who jump out of airplanes to fight fires in remote locations. Somewhere along the line he realized that the options for a young man in Waldport were limited- either work in the woods as a logger, work in the lumber mill or go to college. He opted for college and obviously was good enough to earn a degree in physics and became a college professor. His interests and abilities are diverse. He's owned and flown three different airplanes, he was owner of a concrete company, started a company that built two dozen log homes up in the Fairbanks area in the summers when school was out, and he says when he retired at UAF he became a certified sewer inspector. He claims that all you need to know is that crap flows downhill and is thankful that he got an education that would allow him to learn that. At least one day a week he teaches karate at the school to a diverse group of kids and himself is holder of a third degree black belt. Just this past week he turned seventy five and shows no sign of slowing down. His shop out back is filled with all manner of tools, many of which he's gotten from his grandfather. There are tools I've never seen before in my life and John knows what each one is for and where he acquired it. I've been around guys who love tools, and a good many of them won't even let you touch them. That's not the case with John. He's offered the use of his shop and tools and his talents and to say that he's a darn rare gem in this day and age is an understatement. Needless to say that every time I glance at the mast when I'm out fishing I'm going to think of John Murray and hopefully pray a blessing over him, and I firmly believe that he's going to be blessed because what goes around comes around. It's the old law of sewing and reaping. Thanks a lot John.