Blog Archive

Friday, February 28, 2014

Clam Digging Tides

    One doesn't need a tide book to realize that this is a minus tide. Minus tides are ones that are below the zero mark. Tide heights are referenced with a base height set as zero. When the sun and moon are exactly opposite each other in relation to the earth or on the same side, the gravitational pull of the combined heavenly bodies has more of an affect on the water, so that the high tides are very high and the lows are very low, as in a minus tide. When minus tides occur, more of the beach is exposed, so it's a good time to go clam digging, as the fellows in the top picture are doing. I'm not real sure that I would be digging clams right where these guys are doing it. They're not all that far from the cannery where some years back the net house burned down. All the seine nets were burned up and the leads used to weigh down the bottom of the seines were scattered over the beach and in time most were buried. Several days ago my daughter Jennifer and her daughter and I went out on the low tide with the metal detector to dig for lead. The tide was way out and we ended up finding fifteen or twenty leads right on the surface of the beach. We used the detector to find I don't don't know how many more, but we ended up with a coffee can just about full of lead. Being the man of the family, I felt obligated to pack that heavy can of lead up the beach to the truck. I really wanted to pass it off to my granddaughter to carry, but I don't think that would have gone off very well- kind of like a lead balloon as the saying goes. Oh well, it's the price one has to pay for being a guy. However, if I ever make it to say, eighty, and I'm still digging lead, I'm not going to feel too bad about asking one of the grand kids to pack it to the top, regardless of the gender. Years ago there used to be an old decrepit wooden barge located on the beach in the center picture. My daughter, Autumn reminded me about an incident that occurred there some years back. All the kids were still at home then, so it's been quite a long time ago. One of the girls regularly babysat for a family here in town. The father was quite pleased with the way she took care of his kids, so he rewarded her with some fireworks he had left over- either from July 4, or New Years, I can't recall which now. Now, these weren't just a few sparklers or a string of those little things smaller than your pinkie; these things were like mortars, with multiple tubes capable of shooting one after another of these flaming balls into the air. Those puppies were for serious use. What the hell was I doing with them? Anyway, the kids of course wanted to set them off, and the only place safe and legal to do so was down at the beach near the cannery. Well, I decided to set the fireworks, Autumn remembers the name of them - Prairie Thunder- I decided to set the Prairie Thunder fireworks on the old wooden barge. The barge was on the beach, and as you can see, the beach slopes. I can't recall right now, but there's a possibility that the barge was pretty tilted anyway because it was falling apart. In any event, on the package of Prairie Thunder, the instructions say to set them on a flat surface. So I did. I mean, the term flat is relative isn't it? The surface wasn't lumpy as I recall, tilted perhaps yes, but not lumpy. I told the kids to stand back and lit the fuse or whatever it was I had to light to set the whole works in motion. For the first few seconds the flaming balls shot into the air,much to everyone's delight. However, as you can imagine, the laws of physics apply in nature, and even more so apparently when explosive devices are in use. While the fireworks were shooting up into the air, there was a bit of recoil action happening to the launch pad from which they were being shot. The blasted container of Prairie Thunder fell over and started shooting flaming balls in all directions. There were looks of abject terror on the faces of all of the kids as they took off three ways from Sunday trying to escape. Of course because I was faster, I was leading the pack. Fortunately none of the missiles came in touch with any of us or this would be a much different post. Afterwards we were laughing hysterically, and to this day the subject still comes up with a great deal of mirth. I have to admit, if everything had gone as planned and the fireworks had just shot up into the sky, it would have been amusing, but it would have been forgotten long ago. What we have here is a story to be shared for as long as it will be remembered, which no doubt will be for a long, long time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Glacier Bay Tribal House Project

Door post with a goat head carved into it
Shark backbone doorpost
Killer whale doorpost
Octopus doorpost
Gordon Greenwald with one panel painted and carved
Herb Sheakley carving a cedar panel
It's been more than a few months since I last dropped in on the school auto shop to see how the Glacier Bay Tribal House project is going. I have to admit, I was pretty well blown away by the amount of work that's been done there. I love to see skilled people at work and it's obvious that the three carvers, Gordon Greenwald, Herb Sheakley and Owen James have carving skills in abundance. I regret that I was unable to sufficiently capture the detail and beauty of the carved objects. It was a little bit hard to get around in the building, and the fluorescent lighting leaves a greenish cast to the pictures. As you can see in several of the pictures, the upright blue lifts are still in place for raising cars  off the floor to work on. The shop hasn't been used for it's intended purpose for years, but it seems to work quite well as a large enough place to do the work on the door posts and tall panels. All of the wood is red cedar and the work has been done entirely by hand. All of the door posts are spectacular, but my favorite is the fourth picture of the octopus. Gordy was saying, quite sarcastically, that Herb loved working on the suckers. I can't imagine the patience that it takes to do this kind of skilled work. It sounds like the project could be finished by June; at least that's what they're shooting for. I'm not sure how they will transport it up to Glacier Bay National Park. I guess by barge. I'm sure they'll be supervising the whole process though. You wouldn't want anything to happen to years of hard work because of some careless buffoon with a fork lift or crane. Gordy mentioned that during the summer when the cruise ships are in, they have 300-400 visitors a day. For the life of me I don't know how anyone could get any work done with so many people in and out. I haven't been into Glacier Bay for a number of years. I'm not allowed to troll there, although I can long line for halibut because I have a Limited Access Lifetime permit. I'm not sure how difficult it would be to get into Bartlett Bay where the Tribal House will be located when the cruise ships are running all over, but I may just have to make a special trip there just to see the completed project. If you should happen to be in the area when it's erected, I would highly recommend visiting it. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Clear but Cold

Behind Lumbago Way
Frozen mud flats
Spud Creek's frozen
 For most of the three weeks that I was in Juneau for jury duty, the weather was clear and very cold. For the better part of the first week I knew it was clear, but we couldn't see the blue sky above because of fog. It was so severe that the commercial jets were forced to fly over Juneau and of course there were no small commuter flights between Juneau and the outlying areas, which meant no mail or freight that would normally be sent via airplanes. Jan always gets a little claustrophobic when it gets like that. It's a terrible feeling to think that you can't get out of here if you need to. When I finally got back home, I decided to go out and get a few pictures of the mud flats that surround Garteeni Creek. The creek itself was still flowing somewhat and the Mallards and Canadian Honkers were availing themselves of whatever there was to eat in the stream. I've heard stories of ducks being frozen into the waters before. I don't know how often that happens, but I don't doubt that it does. I've often wondered how the poor buggers could stand to be in that ice cold water, then my friend, Chris Budke mentioned that the blood in the feet and legs of ducks isn't warm, it's already cool, but warm enough to keep them from freezing. I believe they don't have as much blood traveling to the feet either, but obviously there's enough. I always feel bad for the animals who live outside in this foul weather. I guess they're prepared for it.  I know I sure wouldn't last long out in the cold. I whine when it gets below fifty. All the more reason to live in Alaska- we have so many tropical days. I find it amazing that it can get so cold that it freezes the salt water, but somehow the mosquitoes manage to escape harm all winter. What is that about? As soon as it warms up sufficiently, they hatch and fly around looking for a tasty morsel to munch on. It's even more amazing when you consider that further north where it gets many degrees below zero for much of the winter, the bugs still hatch, and in such numbers that they've been known to drive moose crazy. I guess that's part of the reason so many ducks and shore birds work their way up north every year, so they can fill up on the larvae. I think we should be breeding extra large ducks that can take advantage of all the chow. We could use the same technology that the folks who make Rolaids use. They used to advertise them as able to absorb forty seven times their weight in excess stomach acid. If each duck or shore bird could eat forty seven times it's weight in mosquito larvae, I would imagine that in a few years the bug problem would be solved. Of course if all the bugs were gone, they might turn their sights on other things to eat. If you thought it was bad being bitten my a mosquito, try being bitten by a Mallard; it might
present a problem. Guess we should just leave well enough alone.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Verdict Is In

      As I mentioned in my last post, I was on jury duty. Note the past tense- was.  We finished up the trial last Friday. I've never been on jury duty before, so it was a learning experience for me. Now that it's all done I can speak about it, although there isn't all that much to say. There were four defendants and multiple charges regarding transporting big game across boundaries from the United States to Canada. We found all the defendants not guilty with the exception of one charge of falsifying documents. Believe me, it could have been much worse. The men got off, not because of any exceptional work by their lawyers, but because the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes had been committed. I'm quite certain that the prosecutor was disappointed. There was a lot of time and money that went into this case to say nothing of the effort. I'm not sure how many of my fellow jurors were from out of town, at least four I believe. For me alone, the hotel bill was $1641.00. Then there was the per diem and of course my PAY of $40.00 a day. There were also three Wings of Alaska flights between Juneau and Hoonah and one ferry ride and another $31.50 for bus tokens.  Never let it be said that justice is cheap. All things considered, I would have to say that I was glad for the opportunity to sit on the jury. That's not to say that I would ever want to do it again. You might like to stick your finger in a light socket just for the experience, but unless you're a little strange, you probably wouldn't want to do it more than once. One of the things that made the experience interesting, was my fellow jurors. We were quite a diverse group. There were several young ladies in the group,one of which works with my daughter Liz, three or four more elderly ladies, two of whom were widows, two commercial fishermen, both from Hoonah, an inspector of sprinkler systems, and about three men who would probably be in their thirties. The foreman was one of those, an employee at Greens Creek mine.For one fellow, this was the fourth time he was chosen for jury duty. Talk about unlucky.There were two alternates who sat in during the whole trial until it was time to deliberate. The alternates were chosen by picking their names from a box, like a lottery. I was really  hoping to be an alternate, but I figured there was about as much chance of that happening as there was of me losing forty pounds overnight. Once we were in the jury room, it was interesting to see the diverse personalities. We had twelve different lifestyles with twelve different life experiences, prejudices and all the rest that makes up a person. Some folks were liberal and some conservative. Some people had very distinct feelings about what justice would look like. For myself, I entered the jury room with pretty solid opinions, but found myself swaying like a front porch swing, first one way and then another, depending on what argument was being given at the time, and argue we did. It's an emotional experience, being locked in a room with eleven other people, all of whom would rather be doing something else.Throw in the fact that there were two bathrooms in the small jury room, about two feet from the edge of the table where our fellow jurors were sitting. I was having heart palpitations fearing that the overwhelming urge to pass gas or worse yet, take a crap would fall upon me like the plague. I was on a steady diet of Shredded Wheat, Triscuits, fruit and yogurt hoping to somehow control the call of nature during the deliberations. How could you possibly face your fellow jurors and argue for or against an ideal knowing full well that you sounded like a fat man playing a tuba in a tunnel, then opening the door and having the stench waft out into the room where the windows don't open. You would never be taken seriously. No doubt you would be given the nickname Stinky and would be ostracised by the group. I'm happy to report that I was able to avoid any such unpleasant experience, but had the deliberations gone on much longer, the odds were in favor of me totally humiliating myself. Anyway, we all persevered, we hashed out our ideas and in the end, I think I can say that justice was served. If any of my fellow jurors should happen to read this, I would like to say, it was an honor to serve with you. I'm proud of you and glad that I got a chance to know you. After it was all over I think we all parted friends. It was a sunny Friday afternoon. The weekend was upon us, our duty was done and the rest of our lives were stretching before us. What more could you ask for?

Saturday, February 1, 2014


     For the past two weeks I've been involved in the process of jury duty. Since no cameras or cell phones are allowed in the courtroom, I have no pictures to accompany this post. One of my fellow jurors took  a picture from the top of the federal building in Juneau, but I can't make it work right now, because I'm on a computer in the hotel lobby.  Like many of my fellow citizens, I wasn't overly enamored with the idea of being picked for jury duty. Frankly, I didn't really expect it to happen. I was one of 100 people who were summoned to show up for jury selection. That means I had a one percent chance of being chosen. Imagine my surprise when I was. Go figure. It doesn't make much sense to me to be taken, given the expense of having to  house me in a hotel, give me per diem for food and provide an allowance for transportation. It becomes a pretty spendy ordeal. I can't say I'm enamored with the whole process of being away from home and eating frozen food or dining at the local restaurants. The way it works is that I have to foot the bill for everything and then I'll be reimbursed later- like two to three weeks after the trial. If I don't lose the receipts.  I'm making a whopping $40.00 a day as a juror plus the per diem. To make matters worse, I'm going to be taxed on any money I get. Hallelujah! It's no wonder people don't line up to do this. However, as it's pointed out, if you were charged with something, you would like to enjoy a trial with twelve of your peers who hopefully are unbiased. I'm not sure how the trial system works in the rest of the world, but I would feel safe in assuming that our system is probably one of the best in the world. While I can't comment on the case until it has been decided, I have to say, it's been an education. I've had the good fortune of serving with thirteen other folks who all seem to have a pretty good re pore. While it's true that there are only twelve people who make up the jury, there are two alternates. I guess that's in case someone is unable to complete their service for some reason. Once the closing arguments are finished and the jury retires to the room to discuss the case, two people will be randomly chosen to leave, so there's always a chance that I won't finish up my service. If that happens, I may be disappointed on the one hand, but I will be so glad to get back to my normal life. With the longer days and extra sunlight, I'm starting to get anxious to start work on the boat. I still need to finish up tax papers and I really miss Jan and the dog. Hotels and restaurant food are fine for awhile, but nothing beats your own bed and a home cooked meal. I'm not sure when I will be able to update this post again, but as soon as I can I will. In the interim, please stay out of trouble so that you won't be burdening you fellow citizens with jury duty. Thanks.