Blog Archive

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Eve and Shoe Box Dinners

 For a number of years now, I can't really say how many because they tend to all run together, my daughter Jennifer has been hosting family and friends at her house on Christmas Eve for shoe box dinners. Jen is an elementary teacher and all elementary teachers worth their weight in salt have all manner of fun projects up their sleeves to make learning interesting to their students. I'm not sure where she learned about the shoe box dinners, but it's one of my favorite traditions during the holidays. She wraps shoe boxes with colorful Christmas paper, including the lids, and fills each one with some chips, a soda, a couple of mandarin oranges, some candy and a small gift for each person who is attending. While the gifts may be small, they aren't inexpensive, especially when she is getting something for a number of different people. This year I had several packs of hoochies in my shoe box. Our friend Mark received a flashlight, complete with a laser pointer. I can't remember what everyone else got, I was too caught up in eating my crab melt sandwiches and thinking of what fish I might catch with the hoochies. Our latest addition to the family was present this year, the gal who made us great grandparents, Evalee. She was passed around more than a joint at an Eagles concert. Babies really have to develop a toughness if they are going to survive in this world. They get man handled, kissed, hugged, squeezed, patted, rocked, jiggled and spoken to like they're some alien beings who have to be cooed at  more than any other species on earth. Can you imagine if adults had to put up with that behavior? All the bad breath you would have to tolerate, the ridiculous baby talk, the rocking and having toys and fingers shoved into your face and mouth. The only time anyone wants to put you down is when you start to stink. As soon as you're clean again, folks ( especially the ladies) want to scarf you up and start the whole process all over again. It's a testament to how well God made babies. They take a lickin' and keep on tickin'- just like Timex watches. This year we were blessed to have my daughter Autumn and her husband Aaron visit for Christmas. Autumn has inherited my sense of humor, for better or for worse. Since she lives in close proximity to Anchorage, she has access to various items that I would never have. Things like the book on bowel movements that I mentioned in a previous post. In case you can't read the cup  shown above, it states,
Dear Mom:
Thanks for putting up with a spoiled, ungrateful, messy, bratty child like my sibling.

Love, Your Favorite.

She is definitely a chip off the old block. Her and her husband left today, so needless to say, it will be a lot more quiet around here. Not a totally bad thing. As I age I find myself needing more quiet time. However, much like the See's candies, Christmas cookies, and re-runs of It's a Wonderful Life, it will be nice to see them again when the time comes. It is because my son-in-law was gracious enough to look at my computer and do whatever wiz-bang stuff he does that I'm able to do this blog post tonight, so I'm most grateful. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. If was anything like mine, you've been blessed indeed. If you're one of the millions who are traveling still, I hope you make it home to your loved ones safely, with pleasant memories to keep you company on your travels. Stay safe. God bless you and God bless America. Good night.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Little Toilet Humor

The other day my wife, Jan decided we needed a new toilet seat. I'm not sure why. The old one worked just fine, no splinters or anything, but nonetheless, she didn't like it, so we're now sporting a new one. With my arthritic back and knees, I was thinking that if it hasn't already been invented, a hydraulic toilet seat would really be nice. When you were done with your business, as soon as you flushed, the hydraulic rams would automatically kick in and lift your behind right off the potty. No doubt it's the next billion dollar idea.
  I spent ten years at a farm here in Alaska where there were no indoor toilets. We all had some manner of honey bucket in our homes for use during the night. As I've mentioned before, I never really had to avail myself of those once we built our house out in the woods. My closest human neighbor was over a block away, and the squirrels, deer, martens, bears and other woodland creatures never lodged a complaint when I just stepped out onto the porch and let fly. It was quite liberating, not worrying about having to find a bathroom or needing to go and finding the only bathroom in the house occupied. We did all have outhouses, which,while they will get the job done, don't hold a candle to an indoor toilet. There are a number of stories from my time on the farm involving outhouses, potty barrels, slop jars, honey buckets and whatnot. I remember Liz telling us many years after the fact that her older sister Jen made her pick up the contents of the honey bucket after she slipped in the snow on her way out to dump it at the outhouse. With sisters like that, who needs brothers? Liz is also the child who was totally distressed after a trip to the outhouse. She came in crying and distraught one summer day because the flies were feasting there. There's nothing like feasting flies to put a damper on your day. The top picture is a cup shaped like a toilet that my number five daughter, Autumn, bought us. She seems to be infatuated with toilet related items. Because the cup is a little awkward to hold, we opted to use it to hold our toothbrushes. No doubt we would create quite a few interesting conversations if we used it to drink out of, but after all, we're not dogs, so we don't drink out of the toilet. Autumn also bought me a book with an all brown cover that addresses what your bowel movements mean, complete with drawings. By far the fellow sitting on the john, strapped in with a seat belt and with flames shooting out of the base like a rocket ship with the caption #3 was the most entertaining. It's not the kind of book you want to have out on the coffee table when you're hosting your pastor's family. Actually, it takes a special kind of person to enjoy that brand of humor. Of all places I think she bought it at the Anchorage airport bookstore.  The roll of toilet paper with the twine was a gift given to us on Friday by some guests at our open  house. I really like practical gifts.  If you want to be a blessing to someone, give them something they'll use- like toilet paper. Perhaps the giver had overheard a conversation I'd had with my daughter Jen. I had commented that every time Jen comes to visit, she almost always without fail stops in and uses our bathroom right before she leaves. Her house is less than a two minute drive away, but miraculously she always has to go right before leaving our house. I figure that down through the years, she's probably used the equivalent of a case of  Charmin. She mentioned that she had given me a six pack of Kirkland not long ago, in hopes perhaps of shutting me up. I had to point out though that it wasn't a six pack- she only had five rolls left in the package, and it runs in my mind that before  I left her house, she decided she needed another of the remaining rolls to get  her through the night. Amazing. In any event, I'm delighted that ol' Thomas Crapper had the foresight and ingenuity to design such a practical contraption that would allow us to remain inside and take care of business. No doubt an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel prize.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Well, it's Monday morning. That means back to work for the masses after a long Thanksgiving weekend. If you were one of the multitudes who decided to brave the long lines at the airport or the unbearable traffic on the roads, I hope that you've made it home safe and that you found your excursion worth the effort. I, on the other hand, didn't go anywhere. I did leave the house with my daughter Jennifer though, on a walk out to the beach. In celebration of Thanksgiving, when the main dish in many American homes is a turkey, I decided to wear my chicken hat. Had I owned a turkey hat, I would have worn it in honor of all the unselfish birds who gave their lives. As it was, I felt fortunate to have access to a chicken hat. I only wear it on special occasions, like Thanksgiving. Frankly, if I get any bigger, I won't be able to shove my fat head into anymore, and I'll have to give it to one of my kids or grand kids I suppose. I'm fairly certain that they'll all be fighting over the chance to be the owner of such a fine piece of apparel.As you can see from the picture above, I'm quite at home with the hat, but Jennifer looks like she's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She has that deer in the headlights look. Unfortunately there were few people around to enjoy that fine hat on Thanksgiving. Everyone was either inside eating or watching a football game I assume. Just as well, I wouldn't want to be mobbed by people clamoring to touch the hat, hoping that the same bravery that it took to wear it would rub off on them. I would like to point out that there are probably few places in the world where a man is free to wonder the streets with such fine head gear. Is America great or what? No doubt you're wondering where I was able to purchase such a unique piece of clothing. Well, I'll tell you, I bought it for the unbelievably low price of ten dollars at a school carnival several years ago. I was helping my daughter set up her booth selling hats. I don't know why hats would be something that would be popular at a school carnival, but apparently they are, and when I spotted it my heart was filled with lust for that hat. I couldn't believe that they just ordered one. Had they purchased dozens, the amount of profit would have been through the roof. Being the crafty fellow that I am though, I convinced Jen to save it for me so I could buy it when the carnival opened. I could see the looks of envy of the other patrons as I walked through the school gym with my fine purchase. There were quite a few people staring as I passed through their midst. I held my tongue, but I really wanted to tell them that it takes a special person to be able to wear a chicken hat. Dream on folks. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Give Thanks

 This Thursday will be Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe that it's that time of year again already. I was listening to several Christian broadcasts on Sunday, and of course the theme was on giving thanks, which is always appropriate, but seems to take center stage during the week of Thanksgiving. I believe it was Dr. Charles Stanley who mentioned that when we thank God in every situation, even when we don't really feel thankful, just the act of thanking God can bring about a change in our attitude, and sometimes even in our circumstances. For the past few weeks I've had gratitude on my mind. I'm a fairly negative person by nature. I can find the worst in just about any situation. If I catch a lot of fish I can start feeling unhappy because I have to clean them all. If I should make a good bit of money on my catch, then I have to pay more in taxes. With that kind of attitude, it's hard to win at all in anything. However, as I mentioned, I've been thinking about gratitude, and asking God to give me a grateful heart. I think it starts when we acknowledge that we have been blessed with multitudes of blessings, especially here in America. Aside from the every day things that I enjoy, the air that I breathe, the ability to walk around, being surrounded by an uncommon amount of beauty, we've been blessed with things. I have money in the bank, our pantry is full, the fuel tank is filled up, our house is paid for as well as my boat and my truck. Granted, we don't own anything fancy, but what we have gets the job done. It's a tremendous blessing. Last weekend Jan had a little sort of yard sale. We went around and gathered up some things that we've had sitting on shelves and in closets and the attic. There was a ton of it. Things we haven't used and didn't need and things we want to get rid of before we decide to make a move. We were just scratching the surface. We aren't wealthy by any means, but we had STUFF! I remember my friend Buffalo Bob speaking about losing everything in a cabin fire up around the Delta area of Alaska. He said that within a year he had as much stuff and more than before the fire. Americans have access to so many things. When you get to my age, you struggle to find something that you need so that friends or family members can get you a gift for Christmas.  What a contrast to the rest of the world. I received a catalog from Samaritan's Purse, the Christian organization that was started by Billy Graham's son Franklin. They go around the world supplying the needs of people who have been left without the necessary things to support life, whether because of war or natural disaster. For several years now we've received their catalog and it's filled with gifts that you can purchase to help out people who have real needs. For example, for $7.00 you can feed a  child a hot meal for a week.  For $25.00 you can provide warm clothes, a coat and shoes for refugees. I don't know what it's like where you are, but it's darn cold here. I can't imagine going outside without the necessary clothing to keep warm, and yet for countless people, that is their reality. $60.00 will buy an emergency shelter for a family who has lost their home due to natural disasters in places like Nepal, Haiti or the Philippines. A mere $8.00 will buy soccer balls and other sports equipment, blankets can be purchased for $6.00 baby chicks to provide eggs and food for a poor family, only $14.00. Right here in America there are a number of military families who are struggling to stay together after our heroes have been wounded in combat and are suffering mentally and physically. Operation Heal Our Patriots brings the husband and wife together for a week for counseling and fishing and building relationships at a lodge run by Samaritans Purse in Alaska. Around the world we can help by purchasing fruit trees and livestock, farm and garden projects, fresh water wells and equipment to clean otherwise undrinkable water. When you look around at the great need that is in the world and then take a look at what we have, not being grateful just isn't an option. One way to express our gratitude to God for all that He's done for us, is to help to meet the needs of those who have so little. I can promise you, you won't out give God. I hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving, that you are safe if you are traveling and enjoy a wonderful day with family and friends. God bless us all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Old Man and the Baby

Great Grandpa Tom and Evalee

Grandma Jen


I'm not exactly ancient of days, although there are days when I wake up and certainly feel like it, but apparently I'm old enough to be a great grandfather, which is good I guess, because that's exactly what I am now. Yet another title to add to my resume. A few months ago, my oldest granddaughter, Ashia, had a little girl, Evalee and another new member was added to our family. I was  reflecting on how this could be, me being a great grandfather at sixty four. Of course I know how it happens, it just doesn't seem possible. I'm not even retired yet, although people observing me might be surprised to hear that. When I think of being a great grandfather, I think of someone who is wise from all their many years of experience on this earth. I guess I need to put in a few more years and hope wisdom is forthcoming.Having white hair and wrinkles doesn't automatically qualify a person as wise. My mother is still alive which  makes her a great, great grandmother. Because of Alzheimer's I doubt if she really grasps her title, but she did receive some pictures of the baby and she apparently realizes that she's somehow related to the baby in the picture. In many ways the very elderly and the very young have a lot in common. They are both dependent on someone else for so much of the care they receive. They both need to be shown that they are loved and there are times when they both kind of smell funny. No disrespect intended, it's just the facts of life. I'm really hoping that I will be spared the ravages of old age. What  I'm experiencing right now is plenty enough, thanks. I'm in no rush to pass on, there's still a lot of life to be enjoyed, but the bottom line is, while my granddaughter and her daughter still have most of life ahead of them, I'm on a downhill slide. I have to hope that the foundation has been laid in the lives of my granddaughter and her husband that will provide for her children and grandchildren and generations to come. From what I've seen so far, the future looks bright.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thirty Eight Years and Counting....

Commercial entry commission cards for the various salmon seasons. For awhile the Pacific Halibut Commission was issuing cards as well. There are also a few tide books from years gone by.  A necessary asset for any fisherman, commercial or sport.

 When I first came to Alaska I was astounded by the unparalleled beauty of the place. Here in Hoonah there were mountains that tumbled into a salt water bay,  rivers that abounded with trout and salmon, towering Spruce and Hemlock trees and wildlife in abundance. The town itself was a different matter all together. The world war two vintage houses were in various states of need. The homes that were built alongside the dirt road leading to the ferry terminal were caked with mud from the few vehicles that plied the street. The windows were so streaked that it seemed impossible that any light at all could penetrate. There were several houses on the main drag that had been burned to the point of making them unlivable, and yet they were still standing. A walk through town would reveal that I was in a very different place from what I was used to. The values that I had grown up with, as far as home ownership,for the most part weren't evident  here. Instead of manicured lawns and painted houses, I saw washing machines and refrigerators and even a bus  languishing in the weeds in front of homes where they had been discarded. Many of the homes looked like they hadn't seen a coat of paint in many years, if ever. It was a bit of a culture shock. However, I was most pleasantly surprised that many of the people here were commercial fishermen. The idea that someone would pay me to catch fish was foreign to me. I never really thought about the guy who caught the tuna I shook out of a can or the men on the trawlers who brought me the delightful Mrs. Paul's fish sticks I so enjoyed. Of course they had to be paid, but to be able to catch a salmon on a fishing rod and deliver it to the dock and receive money, what a concept! For the first few years after my arrival, I wasn't afforded the opportunity to make any money to even purchase a boat. However, once I took a job in town and a few disposable bucks came rolling in, I decided to invest in a fourteen foot Hi-Laker fiberglass skiff with a fifteen horse outboard engine on the back. Initially I bought it to give myself some freedom to come and go back and forth from town to the farm where my family and I were living. But since I loved fishing and even more loved the idea that I could make a days wage off of just one good salmon, I decided to invest in a hand troll permit. The year was 1978. It runs in my mind that  a few years later that all troll licenses went limited entry. Prior to that it seems like anyone could decide they wanted to be a troller and could get a license from the state for a reasonable amount of money. Like anything though, if everybody decides they want to be a fisherman, than the amount of money that each fisherman receives gets smaller and smaller with each new entrant. Hence, limited entry came about. I was fortunate enough to qualify for an interim hand troll permit and up until 1995  I was what was known as a hand cranker. I could use up to four rods at one time or two hand gurdies from my boat, whereas the power trollers  could use four gurdies that were connected to hydraulic lines that were used to raise and lower their gear. In terms of efficiency power trolling was the only way to go. A fellow could run much heavier leads and much more fishing gear on each line, thus covering a greater area and gaining access to many more fish than a guy trying to bring up just a few leaders. As long as the hydraulics keep working, you can yard in as many fish as you can catch. With hand trolling, it's a matter of stamina. If you're in good shape you can keep pulling for a long while, but eventually your strength gives out or your elbow starts aching or something.  In "95" I bit the bullet and bought a power troll permit. At the time it cost me $28,000 and was a substantial investment. I took out a state loan to pay for it, but I never looked back on the decision to buy it. I can't say that I've ever made the big bucks fishing. If I weren't so afraid of the the weather out on the ocean I could do considerably better, but at this stage of my life, if I can go out around the local area and catch a few and enjoy some good weather and still be home for supper, that seems to suit me. I'm not sure how much longer I'll keep fishing. My mind says go until the end, but my body has different ideas. We'll see who wins out. In the meantime, it won't be long until the State of Alaska sends me the paperwork for the 2017 fishing season.I expect I'll fill it out and send a check for my salmon and halibut licenses and look forward to year number thirty nine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's All My Fault!

Unlike our two leading presidential candidates, I have no problem admitting to my guilt, at least as far as taking responsibility for the way my dog acts. Whenever my kids visit they are quick to point out that Rigby is totally spoiled. I couldn't agree more. I would like to mention in my defense though, that I really didn't want a dog. Not because I don't love them, I do. I used to walk around town with dog biscuits in my pockets just in case I ran in to one, but dogs are a lot of work. They have to be walked and fed and picked up after. When you have a dog like mine whose been robbed of the joy of sex, the only other thing that's left that brings such pleasure is eating. Of course only so much of that food is converted to energy or fat, and the rest ends up on the ground in a recycled form. Because he is quite fond of eating, there is an uncommon amount of pooping going on. That was one of my arguments against having a dog, however I was assured by the only other full time resident of the house that she would take care of it. You can imagine how well that has worked out. I could probably start a business cleaning up after him and the various and sundry other dogs that travel about the town. Tom's Poop and Scoop. The problem would be getting paid. If folks aren't interested in cleaning up after their pets, they probably won't be too interested in paying for my services either. Rigby was just in the office a few minutes ago to let me know that he was ready for his noon snack, a few Milkbone dog biscuits. When Jan comes home for lunch at 1:00, he'll expect another snack. Then throughout the day, whenever he comes in from doing his business outside, he'll expect a couple of baby carrots. I just returned from Costco with a big five pound bag. Of that bag, we may eat a handful of them ourselves, the rest will go to him. When he's being stubborn and wants to stay outside and sniff all the local haunts, we bribe him with an offer of carrots. Usually it works, but sometimes he's so engrossed in what he's smelling that we have to resort to the promise of a piece of cheese. We have to spell out the word cheese if we don't want to cause a scene, and we have taken to referring to carrots as orange tubers so that he doesn't know what we're talking about, in the event that we aren't ready to give him any yet. In addition to the noon and 1:00 snacks, he always has his regular Iams  dog food mixed with either pumpkin or plain yogurt, then when I eat breakfast, he insists on having some cereal (usually corn flakes) but they must have milk on them. Of course breakfast isn't breakfast without some toast, so he gets a few small bites of that, although I'm happy to report that he doesn't like oat nut bread, unless of course it has jelly on it. I don't want his teeth to rot out of his head so I refrain from giving him any jelly. Somewhere around 4:00 PM he starts bothering me about supper.  He's got the most annoying whine I've ever encountered. It's like he's trying to clear his throat or something and he can keep it up for hours. I'm usually able to put him off for awhile with a carrot bribe. If I feed him too soon, he'll think he needs to eat supper again around 8:00 or so. As it is, he gets what amounts to a midnight snack about 8:30 or so.After supper, he gets a piece of cheese surrounding his medicine. He's got a low thyroid condition, just like me, and he won't take his meds  otherwise. Frankly, I'm shocked that he doesn't weigh thirty pounds or more. Fortunately carrots don't add much fat to the diet, although the same can't be said about cheese or toast or perhaps even Milkbones.  In any event, much like Dr. Frankenstein, I'm afraid I've created a monster- who at this very moment is at the doorway doing his throat clearing whine trying to get my attention. Before I have to break out the carpet cleaner, I better tend to business. The fun just never ends.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Let's Speak What's On Our Minds

  I kind of enjoy bumper stickers, unless I don't agree with what they're saying, then I just feel like ripping them off or torching them right off the bumper. For a number of years I've had to put up with a sticker pushing the Obama/ Biden ticket. I wanted to puke every time I saw it. I happened to like the people who own the car, although I certainly didn't endorse their choice of candidates. About the only time I had to see it was when I was at the store or sometimes the post office, so it wasn't as in your face as some stickers I've seen. I happened to notice the top two stickers on the back window of a car that was parked at the Catholic church. I'm not sure who owned the car, I was starting to wonder if it might have been a lay preacher or some such thing. The car stayed parked there for several days. I'm not Catholic, but I have to admire a guy who is so behind his second amendment rights. If I had been in any trouble I might have forgone the cops and called him instead. I'm a little surprised at the third statement. It would seem to be something that would be more at home on the back of a Red neck's pickup, but I guess even Red necks want to keep the woods intact. It's kind of hard to hide a still out in a meadow.  I thought the fourth sticker was a little bit of a contradiction. On the one hand the statement is how tough Alaska girls are, like you wouldn't want to cross one, but then it says to choose respect. Perhaps if you tried getting fresh with an Alaska girl she'll  kick your butt up one side and down the other, and then you'd choose respect for her. Not sure how that works. The next two bumper stickers are from a fellow fisherman. He makes no bones about how he feels about conservatives. He claims to hate them. I can't quite follow his logic, but I know that forty years ago he would have been in a constant state of distress because being conservative was the normal. My how the times have changed. I just wish that both sides of the political spectrum would examine the facts before they come to a conclusion. This fellow is pretty outspoken obviously, and doesn't mind letting everyone know how he feels about the charter fishing industry. It's a sentiment shared by many of us in fishing communities. His brother happens to be a charter fisherman and when the cruise ships are in, he is running three different boats around the immediate area competing for the resources. I can only imagine what the dinner conversation is like  around the Thanksgiving table. A road to Hoonah would be kind of a nice thing on the one hand. We wouldn't have to put up with the ferry system anymore. Just today one of the aging ferries broke down in Petersburg. It's the one that I have to catch at 2:30 Thursday morning in to Juneau. I heard that it was back up and running again, so maybe I'll make it over there. Of course roads run both ways, and though it would be wonderful to be able to drive to Juneau and shop or catch a movie or have more than two or three choices of restaurants for dinner, it would open up the area around here to everyone who wanted to spend a weekend hunting or fishing in the local streams. I don't think we have to worry about a road any time soon. The state of Alaska is broke. I just wish they had upgraded the ferry system back when they still had money. For quite a while I was supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. I think our vets need to be treated with respect and if they are hurt in combat, we need to step up to the plate and make sure they get all the medical treatment they deserve. Unfortunately, it seems that some of the funds were being spent on weekend retreats at expensive resorts for the big wigs. It was a real black eye for the organization. I stopped my support and have directed it to other reputable organizations. I love the Go Home and Practice sticker. It's on the back of the car of the school's former music teacher, Bob Hutton. No doubt it's a sentiment that music teachers around the country share. Last but not least, it's always good to remember that even with all the bear attacks, early winter weather, discomfort and inconvenience that we have to endure here, at least we're not down south. We have a half a million people living in a state that is almost half the size of the United States. A good bit of it is drop dead gorgeous, there is great fishing, great hunting and if the caca hits the fan, at least we aren't going to starve to death. Hallelujah!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Please Don't Give Up Hope

   This week Hoonah has been rocked by another tragedy. A young man with everything to live for decided to end his life. It was so totally unexpected that everyone who knew him is in shock. He was a newlywed, with a beautiful young wife, he had a good job, had purchased a boat recently, was in the process of gathering firewood for the winter, and I understand even had a deer hanging in the woodshed. He was well liked by his co-workers and even though he was quiet, was always pleasant to talk to. He had a great dog that he loved,and I know he loved his wife. What could have possibly have caused him so much distress that he felt like this was his only solution? I would like to appeal to anyone who may have contemplated suicide, or perhaps is thinking that it would be a way out of your problems now, please, please do whatever it takes to get some help. If you're under the impression that no one will care if you're gone, let me assure you, when someone passes in such an unpleasant and untimely manner, there is a void that is created in families, in the work place, among your friends and acquaintances, and with the people you may do business with. Death always leaves a feeling of sadness, but a death by suicide leaves a pall upon an entire population of people. Folks start searching for reasons- is it something I did? Could I have done something to prevent this? Did I miss some clue? The anguish and the guilt, though undeserved, can be overwhelming. There was a time when I was going through a hard time, and I didn't think that the situation would ever change, and so I felt hopeless and thought that possibly it would be less painful to die than to continue on. Fortunately I came to my senses and realized that nothing in this world stays the same. It doesn't rain every day, nor does the sun always shine. Though things may seem hopeless now, they won't always be this way. Change is the one constant in this world. Hard times will eventually give way to better times. Keep in mind all the good things that have happened in your life. If you're gone, you won't see any more sunsets, or the people you love. There will be no more barbeque's with friends or fishing trips or nights of passion. The every day joys of life, a good meal, a hot cup of coffee, the feeling of accomplishment for a job well done will no longer be yours. Don't listen to the lie that would go through your brain, that you're no good, nothing is going to change, it's no use, no one likes me, life is just too hard. I would encourage you to grab a bible and turn to the book of Jeremiah chapter 29:11. God is speaking to YOU when he says, " I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." I know that the world is in turmoil. Life is evolving in ways that I would not have chosen; there are a lot of unpleasant things happening all around the globe, but if you're not here to make a difference, we're going to be left with one less person to help shoulder the load. We're all in this together. Please don't check out before your time. Let's find out what plan the Lord has for your life. It's a good one I promise. The word says, eye has not seen nor has ear heard,nor has it entered into the heart of man the things the Lord has in store for those who love him. You are important and your life matters. God bless you and keep you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Painting the House

 I need to work on this really fast. I have something running in the backround of the computer that is eating up all my available allotment from Hughes net. Some days I don't even get on the internet and all 250 MB is used up. A friend came down and looked at it and thought that it was Windows 10 constantly updating. I don't know. Anyway, I have to hope for the best. this will either get done now or at a later date. Kind of like painting the house. I started painting last October when Jan was down visiting her mom. I got about half of one wall done, but that particular side is uphill and there is a large number of salmon berry bushes growing on the hill, making it extra difficult to work there. Of course I need to set up a ladder, which I don't like anyway, so I'm kind of hoping that a young man that I've hired to do the dirty work will figure it out.  I did manage to get the front and most of the back of the house painted this year, and as you can see, about three quarters of the other side done. I reached as high up as I was comfortable going on the ladder. As I've gotten older, I find that I really don't like heights too much. When I was young it wasn't an issue at all. I used to jump off of garage roofs and climb high trees just for the fun of it. Now I don't even like to climb much higher than the porch. We did get the one side done, although it doesn't show in the picture. I hired a young man who is fearless. That's one of the advantages of youth. You don't have enough experience under your belt to be scared yet. One of the disadvantages is that young people seem to be in a hurry, which when it comes to painting translates into sloppy. While he did cover the whole upper part of the house, he also covered the window and roof, the grass, the back porch, the steps and the concrete sidewalk. I'll probably have to climb the ladder and paint the window, which was something I was trying to avoid. If my friend Bob Pinard was here, he'd probably climb the ladder and paint for me, but I don't think that would be a very good idea either. He's older than me and has always had hearing problems which makes him unstable on ladders. He's fallen off of ladders or roofs at least three times that I know of. Probably more than that.He's a tough old bird though. To the best of my knowledge he's never suffered too much damage to his body. I've watched him walk down the street, and even on fairly flat ground he seems unstable on his feet, but he always gets where he's going without too much trouble. A ladder is a horse of a different color though. Speaking of colors, I'm not sure I'm 100% sold on the color of the house. It's a little darker than I was expecting it to be. Or maybe brighter, I don't know. I honestly think though that when I painted the house last time, like ten years ago, it was a similar color and down through the years it just faded. One thing is for sure though, I won't be painting it again. When you get to a certain age, there are some things that you just say, well, I won't be doing that again. Hopefully it only refers to things like painting the house or going  to work at the job that you had for the last twenty five years. Getting old does have some advantages. You can only be expected to do certain things up to a point in your life. No one is going to ask me to help them load hundred pound bags of cement into their pickup trucks, or climb around under their house looking for a leaky fuel line. Of course no young ladies are going to be giving me the eye either, unless it's a look of sympathy or because I remind them of their grandpa. I guess there's good and bad with every situation. In any event, with any luck at all, there will be a few more sunny, warm days and I'll feel up to painting those areas on the house that I can reach with a long handled roller, and I'll be able to entice that younger fellow to set up that ladder and finish what I started. I hate to leave a project half done.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Ship of Fools

  I went out fishing on Sunday. It's something that I seldom do. However, the season is about to end, and this time of year there are frequent storms that pass through, making fishing somewhat dangerous. Unfortunately, most of the fish being caught are over at Homeshore, an hour and a half run across Icy Strait. The winds have a tendency to blow west or east in the strait and it can be a pretty miserable ride at times. Anyway, there was supposed to be another storm coming on Monday, so I went fishing on the only day that I had when the weather was good, if you discount the fog which was thick and lasted until after three that afternoon. While I was trolling around in the fog, keeping an eye on the radar and GPS, I heard a voice on the VHF radio calling for a boat named The Ship of Fools. I'm not real sure why anyone would call their boat by such a name, but it takes all kinds to make up this world. As I mentioned before in a previous post, I thought  the name on one boat being paged on channel 16 was the Wafflehead.  It wasn't. It was the Bufflehead. I still contend that the Wafflehead would be a more memorable name, although not nearly so much as The Ship of Fools. For a few years during the summer, back before everyone had cell phones and just called each other  to let their buddies know where the fish were, the VHF would always ring with the sound of a captain calling a boat named The Pickle Jar. Again, it baffles me why anyone would call their boat The Pickle Jar. Maybe it was green and had knobby protrusions all over the bulwarks, I have no idea. I once ran past a dilapidated grey troller that was fishing down in Kakul Narrows, near Salisbury Sound, close to Sitka. The boat was in dire need of repair or replacement, and it was aptly  named The Pits. Getting back to The Ship of Fools though, I started wondering, what if that were a charter or outdoor adventure outfit? Perhaps Knucklehead Alaskan Adventures- would you dare to go on it? If Ship of Fools was the mother ship, would there be sister ships, like The Barge of Dummies or The Raft of Buffoons? Perhaps the outfit would have a reputation for running aground on well marked reefs or finding itself in the middle of a pod of Humpback whales as they attempted to bubble feed. It's hard to say what grand adventures a person might have on such a vessel. No doubt it would be memorable. You could buy a T-shirt or cup at the souvenir shop that reads I chartered with Knucklehead Adventures and lived to tell about it! It would be a real conversation piece. You could mention being too close to a glacier as it started to calve, or being stranded on a mud flats surrounded by hungry brown bears waiting for the tide to come back in. I've had my share of close calls, perhaps I should be the one to start Knucklehead Adventures. I guess I can't make Ship of Fools my mother ship, that name is already taken, however Skiff of Incompetents might work. I'll let you know if I decide to pursue this. Meanwhile, keep  your life jacket on and the bear spray close at hand.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Words of Wisdom

 For the past several months I've been watching In Touch ministries on TBN on Sunday mornings before church. Dr. Charles Stanley is the pastor who speaks,and what he says really hits home for me. When I decided to start supporting his ministry, he sent me a packet that included the above message, along with a book mark that had nine life principles to live by. One of the principles should have been, keep an orderly space so that you can find what you want when you want it, because I've misplaced the bookmark in all the rush of life and lack of discipline in my housekeeping chores.  I suppose I'll find it eventually, or I hope I do. Dr. Stanley speaks from years of experience walking with God, and I value his wisdom. Of course all the wisdom in the world doesn't do a person any good if he doesn't utilize it. King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live is a prime example of that. What the good king needed more than wisdom or riches, was a heart that would obey God. That's exactly what we as  a people need, and me in particular. We are all born with a desire to do whatever we want, when we want it, and how we want it, and we want it now. We all want that Burger King experience, when they promise that we can have it our way. Of course the problem with that is that there are, what, seven billion people on earth? Guess what, we all want it our way. What happens when what I want is in conflict with what you want?  Hmmm.... trouble in paradise. But, what if I decided to do what it suggests there in Life Principle #2? What if I decided to obey God in every situation that confronts me? What kind of impact would that have on those around me? And what if you did the same? As I watch the news, it's apparent that the world is in great turmoil. In our own country the two political parties are at each other like cats and dogs. What would America be like if the leaders of both parties were to live by Life Principle #2? I'm quite certain that the mud-slinging and hateful rhetoric that has become so common in recent years wouldn't be able to rear it's ugly head. Perhaps there wouldn't even be two political parties, because we would all be in agreement with God. I imagine that this side of heaven that's not even practical to expect, but nonetheless, it has to start somewhere, and that somewhere has to start with me. I can't control what you do, but I can control what I do, and with the Lord's help, it will be to obey God, and leave the consequences to him. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Halibut Fishing 2016

Steve and Adam baiting squid on 16/0 circle hooks
Adam unhooking a hook from the ground line. It's always fun to see what's coming up
 Un-hooking a big skate

 Measuring the fish. The tidebook gives estimated  weights according to length

  Years ago I prayed for patience, and God in all His wisdom gave me what I wanted, or at least orchestrated the circumstances so that my prayer could be answered. I had seven children, I became a commercial fisherman, and I subscribe to Hughes Net. Waiting for the pictures to download is an exercise that could try even the patience of Job. I swear, if there were a contest between a sloth and Hughes Net, the sloth would win. Actually I'm surprised that I can even get on the internet. For the better part of a week I've been unable to. Oh well, patience my son, patience.
 Last week I went out halibut fishing in an effort to catch my commercial quota. I needed 1564 lbs and I wanted to get it done before the salmon start to run good and before my crew had to go back to school to teach.  I took Adam Gretsinger who has helped me for a few years now, and Steve Barry, another teacher who wanted to try his hand at commercial fishing. It took us three days from start to finish, but we got our quota and even a little extra. The first day I made a small fifty hook set in a spot that I hadn't tried before, but I wanted to expand my horizons, and I also wanted Steve to see what we would be doing. We made two longer sets and came  back and pulled the small one after a three hour soak. It had several salable halibut plus one that weighed 129 lbs. Unfortunately that was the only really nice fish we caught on that trip. As it was, it tangled the line and we spent over an hour trying to straighten out the mess. Fortunately the wind wasn't blowing too bad, so we could work on it without too much problem. We were encouraged by the big fish so we set more hooks in the same area. When we pulled it the next day the sand fleas had taken most of the bait, leaving us with bare hooks. There were two snaps side by side that were bent all out of shape, and a short ways down the line a huge sculpin or bullhead or double ugly was on the line; or his head was anyway. Something big had come up and sucked the body right off the hook, leaving just the head and a few guts dangling. I like to think it was a huge halibut, but I'll never know.  We lost a lot of bait to sand fleas on one of the other sets as well and didn't catch many sculpins or greycod to replace the bait, so we had to go in and buy three boxes of squid so we could re-bait. For the most part the weather was good, at least where we were fishing, not too much wind, although we were fishing during big tides-18ft plus. When you get the big tides, as I've mentioned before, you get a lot of current moving, as the tides are going in and out the bay, like filling and draining a bathtub. We didn't get any eels this time, but we did catch a few skates. They look a lot like a sting ray, but without the poisonous barb. They have beautiful eyes, green or yellow, and square lips which are located right on the bottom of their heads. I guess it helps with scooping up stuff from the bottom. I suppose that between the skates, halibut, grey cod, rockfish and sandfleas, the bottom must stay pretty clean. I'd love to have a submarine and go down for a look around. On one set we snagged a huge coral tree and broke the ground line. That's always a hassle.  We were able to go to the other end of the set and grab the bouy and get the remainder of the line back. The commercial Dungeness crab fishery is still going on, so I couldn't really go to all the areas I wanted to because certain spots were littered with crab pots, but in the end it didn't matter. We caught 1660 lbs of halibut, 96 pounds more than I needed, but the International Pacific Halibut Commission will subtract that from my quota next year, so it all comes out in the wash. The price was good, everyone made money and I'm free to go about my salmon fishing without having to think about the halibut now. All in all, 2016 has treated me pretty good.  I hope that you can say the same at year's end.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hog's Breath is Better Than No Breath at All

Over the last few months I've been experiencing chronic pain and a good deal of fatigue. I'm quite certain that it has primarily to do with the arthritis in my knees and back. I'm not sure what to make of the fatigue, except that I'm getting older and my body doesn't want to do what it used to. I do have hypothyroidism. For whatever reason my thyroid isn't producing enough juice or whatever it produces to keep things running in top shape. Frankly, I really hate the whole process of getting older. It just isn't fun. Whoever coined the term "golden years" probably wasn't there yet. In any event, I'm still alive and kicking, although the kicking is a little half- hearted anymore. Periodically I run across someone down at the dock or in the store who ask how I'm doing, and I usually reply something to the effect that I'm surviving another day. Not the most optimistic outlook, but I've never been an optimist in the best of times. A few weeks ago I was searching through the mess on my desk and I came across this little coaster from the Hog's Breath Saloon down in Key West. Jan and I used to live in Key West back when I was in the navy. There was no Hog's Breath Saloon when we were there, just some head shops and Earnest Hemingway hang outs. I guess he used to frequent Sloppy Joe's bar. I never made it in there, but I was never much of a drinker, so it didn't really appeal to me. Anyway, in an effort to keep things in perspective, I have to admit that even with all the ills and ailments that I'm dealing with, there is still an awful lot of good things in my life to be happy about. I have a great family and some wonderful friends. I live in an incredibly beautiful place and people pay me to go fishing- at least on the days when I catch fish. I can still get out and around, I'm not stuck in a bed or a wheel chair. I'm not dealing with a drought or wildfires or floods. No hurricanes, tornadoes, or mudslides. No snakes, fire ants, scorpions or centipedes. We do have tourists, but for the most part they're harmless. Irritating for sure, but harmless. So, all things considered, things are pretty good. Now, I've never been told as much, but there's always the possibility that I suffer with hog's breath. Or rather whoever I might be speaking to would be suffering, but as the saying goes, "Hog's breath is better than no breath at all." You can take that to the bank. Enjoy your life people.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I've Had Nothing to Say

 I know that I've violated the first rule of blogging by not staying current on my blog posts. I suppose that at least once a week I should be posting something, hopefully entertaining or at least informative. However, I've found myself with nothing to say, or if I did have something to say, I don't have the time to say it; and if I did have the time to say it, the damn internet wasn't working anyway, so all that great commentary would be left to rot in my brain. I know that's not a very good excuse, but what the heck, it's not like I'm getting paid to do this thing. In fact it costs me money, which I don't mind so much. It provides me with an outlet to express myself, but like I mentioned, I really haven't had too much to say lately. I've been fishing more this year than I've done in ages. Unfortunately I don't get started too early anymore, so to escape feelings of extreme guilt, I stay out later, so that by the time I get home and have supper, it's pretty late and I don't really feel like doing anything. In any event, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. After fishing season it will be easier to start blogging on a more regular basis.... but what if I run out of things to write about? I've got very strong feelings about what is going on in the world right now, and I'm sure that I will be expressing those feelings somewhere down the pike, although I don't know what good it is to express my opinion. There's no shortage of people giving their opinions on the internet. Anyway, as I sit here, I'm getting tired. My gut is full of a cheeseburger that I had at Mary's Inn Chinese American restaurant. It's one of the few places that I know of where you can order a cheeseburger and fries and also a bento box at the same time. In any event, I wanted to touch base and let those of you who follow this blog know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. I'm going through a time of transition as I get older and have to face the fact that I don't have the energy I once did. I'll write more when I can. Meanwhile there are over 350 other posts that you are free to check out anytime the desire strikes. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Alaska's Bountiful Harvest

A Pacific Halibut about 71 pounds before gutting and removing the head

Three troll caught, ocean bright Alaskan King Salmon. The largest one was 22 pounds
Locally caught Dungeness crabs. My son's caught these in two pots set overnight
Fresh blueberries from the back yard. The kids picked about two gallons in a few hours
Samonberries from around the house

            One of the joys of living in Alaska is that there is so much to enjoy of nature's bounty. Many Alaskan's, especially those of us who are living outside of the larger towns, utilize the abundance of food sources that are prevalent here. Every season brings something that can be harvested. Right now salmon and halibut are abundant, and the wise person catches some for now and some for the long winter ahead. For many people, especially those out in the bush, smoking fish has been a way to preserve it for hundreds of years. Now we have freezers, but smoking is still a very popular way to preserve fish, and it's a very tasty way I might add. Dungeness crab is available year round, although it's much more pleasant to pick crab pots in the summer when the weather is more favorable. Although, here in Hoonah, it's only a five minute boat ride to the other side of Pit Island  to pull your pots. For some folks, who may not own a crab pot or two, on the extreme tides where the tide is very high, and then very low, in fact it's a minus tide, meaning that it is below the mean low water mark, large areas of the bottom are exposed, and those who want to can search the eel grass and find crabs hidden beneath. The minus tides are also the time to dig clams and cockles. They are fairly easy to find because they spit water out of their holes in the sand. Unfortunately, I don't care for either one, but I wish I did. I like to dig them, and I love harvesting what nature provides. The common rule for digging clams is that you only dig them in the "R" months, when the water is cooler and there is less chance of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The Salmon berries are almost done growing, and with the rain that we're getting today, I suspect that they won't be worth picking. They have a relatively short growing time- a few weeks of being ripe I would say. They are so named because of their similarity in appearance to salmon eggs. They are kind of a watery berry, but they are good to eat raw, or in jam. I'm not sure, but you might be able to make a pie with them; I suspect you would need a lot of corn starch or flour to thicken up the mix. You have some competition for them, as the birds and the bears also like to eat them. Just last week I saw a  rather mangy looking brown bear eating berries up behind a house on the upper road. With all the heat that we've had this summer, I think he was shedding his coat. Of course in the fall and winter here in Southeast we have Sitka Blacktail deer to hunt. Over on the mainland there are moose and black bears. I've never eaten black bears that I can remember, although I did eat some brown bear once, which is a real no-no. Terrible stuff and subject to Tricinosis. Some of the natives hunt seals. I ate that once also when I was living at the farm. To me it tasted like a raw fish, not to my liking at all. There is some kind of animal that grows on the rocks  that the natives used to harvest called gumboots. I don't know if they taste like boots or are just as tough as a boot or a combination of the two. I've never had the nerve to try one. For those whose tastes lean toward the exotic, there are also octopus here. I understand that on low tide some folks used to search the holes  in the rocks that were exposed and search for a pile of clam shells  outside the hole. They would then pour a little bleach inside to drive the octopus out. I've eaten it before, but it's not to my liking. Really tough, and the flavor doesn't appeal to me. Last, and certainly not least, there are shrimp in these waters. I've only had success catching them once. One time there were two octopus in my shrimp pot, so I suppose they had a feast. The other time I had seventeen big ones, one bigger than a dollar bill. They were tasty. Often when I'm long lining for halibut, I will catch Pacific cod, and they will be filled with shrimp. Surprising that anything that swims so slow could catch a shrimp, but perhaps they experience a burst of speed when there is food present. Kind of like me.Of course this isn't all that is available to those who want to harvest the land and sea. There are other plants that are edible, and fish and eels and skates. I guess if push came to shove you could eat these little squirrels. Up north there are caribou and moose and I don't know what all. I know that certain groups of natives hunt for whales. I'm not sure if they eat walrus or not. Doesn't sound appealing to me, but I grew up on Campbells  soup and Wonder bread, so I guess it's a matter of what's available. Anyway, there you go. It's the busy time of year for me. I've been out fishing quite a bit and don't have a lot of time for doing blog posts. However, there are about 350 others that I've written, so if you need a Wilderness Blues fix, feel free to check the archives. Hope your summer is going well. I'll chat again soon.

Friday, June 3, 2016

And Yet Another Botts Family Outing

Like so many Americans this past Memorial Day weekend, my family, or at least my oldest daughter Jen, my wife Jan and myself took to the road. It was only a thirty mile trip out to False Bay, but nonetheless it took the better part of an hour and a half to cover the distance. To say that the road is rough would be the understatement of the year. Even the potholes had potholes. I was weaving around the road like a drunken sailor trying to find a spot that I could drive  without dislodging a kidney. In that short drive I think I had to stop at least twice, maybe three times to take a leak. All that bouncing kind of shakes down the juices. At least once I stopped because of Jen. Whenever we take her on a drive anywhere, we always make sure we have at least a half roll of toilet paper or some paper towels, because she will most certainly have to go before we get to the destination. The road to False Bay is littered with discarded TP from the various trips that she has made. The number of pot holes was rivaled only by the piles of bear crap. Frankly, if  a person could figure out a way to collect it and turn it into an asphalt type material, they would be rich. It would kill two birds with one stone too. Filling in all the potholes with bear poop would be a win-win situation. You know that age old question, does a bear crap in the woods? Well I believe the answer is no, not if there is a road available. I don't know  what there is about walking down a road to make them so free flowing, but obviously the need for a laxative doesn't exist. When we finally got to our destination, I was surprised that no one else was there. It was really kind of nice, not having to listen to anyone else's kids or any loud music or arguing. Jennifer decided she would make the fire so we could roast some weenies. Frankly, I had my doubts that she knew what she was doing. The first twigs she grabbed had leaves on them. Not exactly what most people use for fire starter.Nonetheless, she assured me that she loved to start fires and was quite good at it. Ok Pocahontas, go for it. I left her to her own devices and went on down the beach to pick up some pieces of driftwood for the fire. When I returned, to her credit she had quite a nice blaze going. Fortunately it hadn't rained for a week or more, and the remains of a previous fire were still in the fire pit, some charred wood and ashes. We added some of the driftwood and cut some sticks to skewer the hot dogs. In short order there was a good bed of coals so Jan decided to roast her dog. While I was sitting in the chair relaxing, I noticed that a steady stream of black smoke kept pouring from the fire. I asked Pocahontas Jen if she had put some plastic in the fire, but she said no. Meanwhile, for reasons unknown, Jan  had her hot dog placed squarely in the black smoke. I'm not sure, but maybe she thought the fire was hotter there. When she pulled it out, it wasn't the least bit cooked, but nonetheless was totally coated in black. It looked like one of the animals that was rescued from Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez disaster. She wiped it off and showed me all the oily residue. We searched the fire and discovered that one of the pieces of driftwood was bubbling with a tar like substance on the end of the stick and was producing all the smoke. Fortunately we were able to remove the offending stick. What are the odds though? Of all the driftwood that ends up on the beach, we manage to find one that was once part of an old creosote piling to burn? It's a typical Botts thing. In any event, Exxon Jan re-dogged her stick and was able to enjoy a well cooked weenie with only the normal offending wood smoke chasing her around the fire. She kept smelling her hair and sweatshirt and declaring that she smelled like wood smoke. I'll never understand why anyone would seek out an offending scent and keep sniffing it if it was offensive. However, for reasons unknown, that's what she does.After scarfing down a few weenies, Pocahontas Jen and I took off down the beach to do a little beach combing in the tide line. I took a pistol with me just in case one of the bears decided to make an appearance, which fortunately it didn't. Ever the teacher, Jen enlightened me about the various life forms that had succumbed to the elements and were deposited on the beach. She found a number of oyster shells as well as a moon snail and lots of sea urchins. She always makes the most of every situation and seems to thoroughly enjoy herself. We walked on the shifting rocks until I was quite certain my legs were about to detach from their sockets and then turned around. Meanwhile, Exxon Jan was putting away the picnic supplies and playing musical chairs with the fire, trying to find a spot where the smoke wouldn't blow in her face. I could have told her it's no use. No matter where you sit, that's where the smoke is going to gravitate to. All in all it was a pretty pleasant day. We made it home with our kidneys still intact, I could see through my smoke stained eyes well enough to avoid a number of the potholes, and by the time we had driven the last few miles to our home, most of the bear poop that had been embedded in the tread of our tires had worked it's way out and was laying along side the road for some unsuspecting jogger. Good times.