Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017





Today is Veterans Day. It was first celebrated to mark the end of WWI and the Allied victory. In a number of cities across the country there are parades to honor those who have served and who are still serving in the military. A number of restaurants have chosen to honor the vets by serving free meals, including I Hop, Applebees, TGI Friday's, Outback, and Hooters. Apparently there are a number of others as well, not mentioned here. I find that admirable.  Of course, because this is America, and because millions of young men and women have made the sacrifices that it takes to serve in the military, we have enjoyed freedom in this country. That freedom even extends to those who hate the military or the government or the president or people like myself who don't agree with them. I see that Bradley (Chelsea)Manning had something degrading to say, and some students at Brown University felt the need to go around and rip up flags that were set in the ground on the campus. I don't doubt that is some of the milder stuff that has happened. Personally, I'd like to go through and rip them a new one, but they're entitled to their opinions, even as I am. As President Ronald Reagan mentioned, -if those who are protesting got the kind of government that they want, they wouldn't be able to do the things that they're doing. That fact gets lost in all the liberal teaching that is being passed off as an education on so many campuses today. It saddens and frustrates me, and I fear that one day this country will most certainly reap what it has sown and the things that they yearn for, they'll get. I would encourage them to take a good look at Venezuela to see what they can look forward to if they get what they want. In any event, this post isn't about the dissenters and anarchists, it's about the vets. Vice President Pence gave a speech today at Arlington National Cemetery, and one thing stood out to me. He mentioned that the benefits that vets receive aren't entitlements, they've been earned by the sacrifices of the vets and their families. I was very happy to hear him say that. My family has proudly served in the military down through the years, from my grandfather during WWI, to my father at the end of WWII to myself during the Vietnam War, to both of my sons. As the saying goes, freedom isn't free. So, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my fellow vets, wherever you are. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. God bless and keep you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Dog is Sick


 A few weeks ago, Jan and I decided to send in our eleven year old daschund, Rigby, in to the vets. He'd been having problems with peeing on the floor, and getting up two or three times a night to go outside to pee. We noticed that he was drinking an uncommon amount of water as well. Needless to say, the interruptions played havoc with our sleep patterns. Jan was gone for a few weeks, so all the babysitting was left to me. I slept with the bedroom  door slightly cocked open so he could push his way in and wake me up in the night. It wasn't any too restful to say the least. On more than one occasion he pushed open the door after he had already peed on the floor outside my room. Lovely. Anyway, we finally decided to send him in and see what the vet had to say. I was reluctant to send him in, I knew the bill would be a doozy, and I also hate to put him through the trauma of going into a kennel and transporting him on the plane. I'd rather be in the cage myself. I know, I know, he's terribly spoiled. I knew that would happen if I had a dog. I also knew that vet bills would be part of having a pet, and that when a mammal eats, it also produces waste. All things that I didn't want to deal with. Just today I was checking the anti-freeze in the truck when I stepped in a pile. I was really happy to have to find an old tooth brush and give my shoe a thorough cleaning during my lunch hour. I just finished and decided to don my slippers and go back to finish the job. I promptly found another pile hidden in the gravel of the driveway. I love my dog dearly, but I'll never have another. My heart will break when he passes on, but as we enter our golden years, there is less and less gold to go around, and his latest vet bill is going to set us back about $1,000.00. Plus his meds, which apparently he has to be on for the remainder of his life, costs an additional $72.00 a month. The hits just keep on coming folks. The bottom line is that he has Cushing's Disease. I guess it's caused by small tumors on the pituitary gland, causing it to put out too much  cortisol. The end result is the uncommon thirst, the need to urinate frequently, a rather large abdomen (not totally the result of the disease), and some hair loss. As it was, he was already taking thyroid medicine. Two pills a day. He has hypothyroidism. Unbelievably, so do Jan and I. All three of us are taking meds for it. What are the odds? In any event, if things keep going the way they are, all three of us will be sharing  the dog food, because we won't be able to afford both the medicine and food. Isn't life grand?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trick or Treat?


As most of us who live in the U S know, last night was Halloween. It's a night when multitudes of children dress in costumes and go around the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for candy. Of course the popular phrase when someone answers the door is "Trick or Treat! I recall years ago hearing from some friends, that the neighborhood where they used to live had one old grouch who, when the kids spouted their usual phrase shouted "Trick!" and poured soup in their bags. No doubt he would have been a candidate for the flaming bag of dog crap landing on his front porch. I have to admit that Halloween isn't my favorite holiday, but I go along with it. I remember it being a highlight of the year when I was a kid, and I don't want to rob other children of the chance to enjoy it. I do, however, like to have a little fun too. Last year when one group of kids came knocking, I answered the door and said that we didn't have any candy, but I'd be glad to give them some meatloaf. The leader of the pack looked a little crestfallen and said he didn't like meatloaf and turned to leave. Of course we stopped him and made sure he left with some more desirable loot. His father was escorting the kids, and couldn't stop laughing. He's mentioned it several times over the course of the year. This year, I thought I'd try something different and offer the kids a choice of Cream of Mushroom soup, a can of spinach or an instant lunch, like a Cup O Noodles. The first kid that knocked on the door was a nice little guy from down the street. When Jan mentioned that we didn't have candy, but we had soup. spinach or Cup O Noodles, he kind of mumbled that he didn't really like noodles. I don't believe he was all that fond of the other two choices either. Fortunately we had a bowl full of more desirable treats to share. We offered the alternate gifts to most of the kids who came knocking, with the exception of those too young, who in later years might be traumatized by the event. There were a few kids who liked the idea of the noodle soup, although no one seemed in the least bit interested in the cream of mushroom. At the end of the night, the same kid who was offered the meat loaf came by. When Jan offered him his choice of alternate treats, he piped in that he wanted the spinach. Since he was the last beggar of the night, I don't doubt that he left with an ample supply of candy, and Jan threw in the can of spinach as well. When he was walking off the porch he exclaimed to his father-"Hey Dad! I got a can of spinach!"  Oh Boy! Snickers and spinach, who could ask for more? Jan and I were both a little surprised that there weren't more kids out and about last night, but I guess that when the treats involve meatloaf, spinach, noodle or mushroom soup, you only attract a certain clientele. In any event, we didn't have to extinguish any flaming bags of excrement last night. Thank God we had some candy in case our other offerings weren't acceptable.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Move Over Smucker's There's a New Kid in Town

crab apples

Weighing them on the scale

Jen doing the tedious work of cutting them up

After they're cooked

Running them through the seive

The final product
  Several weeks ago, as I had mentioned, my daughter, Jen, and I went out on a rainy afternoon and raided the crab apple tree in front of our church. Last year it had actually fallen over because most of the branches were on one side of the tree, and a wind storm had knocked it over. Fortunately, our pastor is a tree person with the U. S. Forest Service, and there is an arborist out at the farm and with the help of some machinery, they managed to right it and secure it with ropes and stakes. They were so successful that the tree bore a bumper crop of fruit this year. I don't know what got into me, I guess that ancient desire to prepare for the upcoming winter, but in any event, I had a hankering for some crab apple jelly. I'm not even sure I've ever eaten crab apple jelly before, but nonetheless, I wanted some, and since I've never seen it on any of the store shelves, I thought I'd make my own. I discovered that it's quite a labor of love. First of course we had to get the crab apples off the tree, which was a feat in itself. I used a ladder, but the tree is located on a hill, which also happens to be lumpy, so standing on the ladder was a real challenge. I convinced Jen to go up the ladder and I would hold it for her. Foolish girl, she should know better. However, I needed her help after the harvest, so made sure to hang on tight, and no one got hurt. It wasn't until after we had tempted fate that I got the brilliant idea to get a rake and a tarp, and rake the tree and catch the fruit when it fell. Oh well, I'll know next time. Once we got the fruit home, it had to be sorted and washed in the sink. Then it had to be cut up. The stems and blossoms had to be removed and any unsightly bruises needed to be taken out. These things aren't much bigger than a marble, so by the time the parts that needed removed, were, there wasn't much to them. Thank God we didn't need to core or peel them or we'd only be left with a whiff of the original fruit. According to the Certo pectin box, we needed to have 3 1/2 pounds of cut up fruit to make a batch of jelly. We got them cut up, weighed, and dropped into a large pan of water and started cooking them. Eventually they were rendered down to a pink mush and they were soft enough to put through a sieve. You can use cheesecloth  too, but fortunately a friend had a sieve we were able to borrow. Once we extracted all the juice we could, we added a packet of Certo and seven and a half cups of sugar. Not a cheap operation. The jars were $12.00 a case, the Certo was $7.00, the sugar was probably another $3.00 or so. A little spendy, but when I did the math, we still came out cheaper than if we were to buy jelly from the store. The whole operation took about  three hours or so, but it was so worth it. I wish that when the kids were little we had done something like this. It was really fun, and I had the pleasure of spending time with my daughter. I still haven't tried the jelly yet. I wanted to use the store bought stuff that was already opened first, and I kind of want to wait until the winter winds start blowing before I crack open a jar, and even in the unlikely event that it tastes like crap, I'll at least have the memory of making it with my daughter, and you can't buy memories in a store.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's Harvest Time in Hoonah





  I'm not sure what's happening in the rest of the country, but here in Hoonah a harvest of some of the fruits of the land have been taking place lately. Actually, all year long is harvest time here if you consider the different seasons each offers. In the spring, fishing for King Salmon and halibut are on a lot of people's minds. I believe that's when folks go out to get their seaweed from select spots as well. During a large ebb tide, when the water falls below the mean low water mark, or minus tide, certain rocks provide an anchor for a particular kind of seaweed that the natives have harvested for years. I understand that it's high in Iodine which I believe prevents goiters. "Look Ma, no goiters! I've been eating my seaweed." They dry it out and put it in freezer bags and put it in the freezer. I think they like to cook with it in soups and it's popular to have with herring eggs, another spring time favorite. The herring spawn on kelp and rocks and it's a tradition to put spruce branches in the water for the fish to spawn on. One of the local boats makes a trip to Sitka every year to lay branches in the water and harvest the eggs. When he comes back to town, the word spreads and cars line up all over downtown to meet the boat at the city dock. People walk down with garbage bags and plastic totes and whatever else they can find to fill with the eggs. As spring turns to summer, dog salmon and sockeyes start to run. Dog salmon have the biggest eggs of all the salmon and for some folks they are a delicacy. I've tried them cooked in scrambled eggs once out at the farm. We managed to ruin a whole case of eggs  doing that. The fellow whose brilliant idea it was, loved to experiment. He thought that it would provide us with extra protein. That only works if you can eat it. Anyway, water under the bridge. The sockeyes are coveted for their oily flesh, which makes for some excellent smoked fish. A number of people go out and cut down Alder trees to put in their smoke houses.Alder provides a lovely smoke that flavors the salmon with the most delightful taste. I've got a partial case of smoked sockeye in the pantry right now that will be tapped sparingly throughout the winter to try and make it last. Coho salmon run from mid-June until September, and a number of people, especially those without boats, wait until the fish start to run up the rivers where they can catch them from the banks. With the beginning of September, it's the official start of the "R" months, when it's supposed to be safe to eat the clams and cockles that are prolific on the beaches around here. Shellfish are filter feeders and sift out what they need to survive from the water. If the water has something like red tide, the folks that eat the shellfish can contact Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. I guess there's less chance of that happening during the months that have R in them, because the water is colder and the algae is less able to survive.Of course,year round, folks that have boats and pots harvest Dungeness crabs and shrimp, if they can find them. The crabs are fairly easy to catch, the shrimp require a little more skill or luck. Unfortunately, what happens on occasion is that a fellow goes out to check his crab pot and someone else has already been there before him. That always starts off a round of suspicion about various folks who have a reputation of showing up with an uncommon number of crabs. King crabs live in the bay as well, but to the best of my knowledge they aren't allowed to be harvested. I've caught them on a number of occasions when I was halibut fishing, but I'm not allowed to keep them. Sitka Blacktail deer are abundant on the island, and the season opens for bucks only on August 1. Personally I've never hunted them then. They are almost always on top of the mountains during that time and I'm neither young enough, strong enough or ambitious enough to pursue them then. Actually that describes me now as well. Hunting is a lot of work, and I've found that I can go to Costco and get the meat I need for less than the cost of bullets, gasoline, and wear and tear on my body. Of course it's not near as much fun walking through the isles at Costco as it is rambling through the woods, but so far I haven't had to worry about bears when I was shopping. When most folks think of harvest time, they think about pumpkins or Indian corn. We don't grow either here. There is not enough darkness in the summer to grow corn, but if it grew in the winter, we would have bumper crops. I'm not sure why we don't grow pumpkins, I suspect it's too cold and not enough sun. We do grow cherries, apples, plums and lots of berries. Blueberries, salmon berries, raspberries, huckleberries and nagoon berries. The neighbor behind me has a plum tree that produced so many plums the branches were threatening to break from the weight. I've never seen so much fruit on one tree in my life. The cherries didn't fair too well this year, but I think I have some from last year in the freezer still, and a few weeks ago I made a delightful apple crisp out of some apples I picked from Jen's trees a year ago. This year I don't know if there will be enough to make even a pie. Jen and I went up to the church last week and harvested a couple grocery bags full of crab apples from the tree out front. We're going to try to make some crab apple jelly. Of course by the time we figure in the pectin, the sugar, the jars and the work that goes in to harvesting them, each pint will probably be worth about ten dollars, but it's awfully hard to put a price on something you harvest yourself. Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October Delight






  This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous. Sunday was the kind of fall day that you want to imprint on your memory and drag out in the middle of January when yet another winter storm is raging and the landscape is covered in snow. I grabbed up Jan and Jen and we took a ride out to False Bay, a delightful little spot down Chatham Strait. We passed over the Spasski River and saw a number of Humpies  enjoying their last hurrah. They were looking pretty washed up, with large splotches of rotting flesh on their bodies and tails all tattered. We were hoping to see some bears or deer, but the only other wildlife that showed themselves were a number of daring squirrels that dashed across the road in front of the truck. It wasn't too much of a feat actually; the truck was unable to pick up speed from the bridge all the way out to False Bay. We couldn't travel twenty feet without running in to a pot hole, and usually not just one, but a whole succession of them. It was like the engineers had used a slice of swiss cheese for a template and applied it to the road. Twenty eight miles of bliss. It took almost two hours to get out there. I think I could have traveled faster if I'd been stuck in a traffic jam in L A. When we were most of the way to our destination we came upon an old Geo or dilapidated Suburu or some such thing parked right in the middle of the road. The owner is a fellow who has been accused a number of times of stealing fuel from various fuel tanks around town. However, he was loading up some firewood into the back of his car, so maybe he's changed fuel sources. I'm fairly sure he isn't the one who felled the tree. It certainly wouldn't make sense to run twenty miles out of town across a pot hole laden road to pick up enough firewood to heat your house for half a day. I'll say this for him, he's an opportunist. In any event, we had to wait until he had finished loading a round into the back seat and pulled over. When we finally arrived at our destination, two local teachers were eating a snack at the picnic tables. They had driven their car part way out and then decided to bike the rest of the way. They finished up and headed on down the road toward the area known locally as meals on wheels because of the large bear population. They didn't have any guns but they seemed confident that the bear spray and  noise makers they had would be adequate.  I guess they were right because I saw their car in town yesterday. The day was bright and sunny but cool so Jan stayed in the truck while Jennifer and I walked along the beach looking for interesting drift. She found a grocery bag and put it to work collecting oyster shells and a few barnacles and a nice piece of driftwood. If she could have, she would have walked half way back to Hoonah on the beach. I know the feeling. I wish my body would allow me to walk further and faster, but my days of long walks have passed, sadly. It's not all bad though. As you age you learn to compensate, and when the chance to go on  a drive on a nice fall day arrives, you take it and thank God for the opportunity. Anyway, it was a day to remember and I was pleased to be able to enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 Fishing Season- All Done but the Crying









 Well, the 2017 fishing season is pretty much in the bag. At least as far as the cohos go. Without a doubt, it was the best year I've ever had in the thirty nine years I've been commercial fishing. One of the most fun for sure. For  most of July we had the best weather I'd ever seen. Day after day of calm seas, coupled with a steady run of cohos passing through Icy Strait from the beginning of the season to the end. We had so many good weather days that I was starting to wish for a little storm to pass through just so I could get some rest. Frankly, I was exhausted. Catching too many fish isn't the kind of thing that you want to bitch about too loud though. "Oh gee, I'm so tired of making all this money." Of course being  money, it comes and goes like the tide. I look at my checkbook and wonder where it all went. I know I made some, but where's it at? I learned years ago that when you have a good season, you need to invest in your business. Get the new equipment you need. Have a few more planks replaced, order the fishing gear that you might need next year now, don't wait. The money may not be there next year. For as good as the season was, there were still a few drawbacks. My radar went out on me-twice! I spoke to the technician who worked on it down in Sitka and asked if this particular model of Furuno radar was known for having problems. He assured me it wasn't. "It's just that all of your issues with the radar are so strange!" Go figure. Why can't I have normal problems like everyone else? Of course, maybe there really isn't any such thing as normal problems. Anyway, the last day I had a desperate desire to make the trip across Icy Strait to Homeshore. The water was calm, but the day dawned foggy as my brain when I first awaken. Unfortunately, it stayed foggy on the Homeshore side until after 3:00 PM. It takes me an hour and half just to go over there and of course the same to come back, so going wasn't really an option. Of course my friend Fagan was sure to let me know what a great day he had. Seventy five compared to the sixteen I had to settle for on this side of the Strait. Oh well, that's life. One nice thing about being out on the boat, you never know what you're going to see. I liked the rainbow quite a bit. We actually get quite a few around here because of it being a rainforest. I came into the bay recently and a pair of yearling Brown bears were walking along the beach at high tide, maybe searching for any dead fish that washed up onto the gravel. They're pretty industrious in their food search, and not that picky. Some bears will dig up rocks on the beach to get whatever marine creatures are hiding there. If there aren't any fish they'll dig clams or eat beach grass, or skunk cabbage. A few years ago there was a whale carcass on the beach out past Point Sophia that seemed to attract quite an audience. I can't imagine how they could get past the smell to scarf down any of that rotting flesh, but they don't seem to be particular. They used to go up to the dump and were known to munch down on Pampers. All the more reason not to eat one of those bruins. On another day I was in the bay when I spotted what I thought was a pair of porpoises. As it turned out they were just a couple small Orcas. Later I spotted one of the adults. I think they send out a scouting group in advance. As you can imagine, the fishing took a turn for the worse for awhile. The bottom picture shows two cruise ships, one tied to the dock and one anchored close by. I believe that was another day that it was foggy in the morning. I was sweating blood trying to make sure I didn't get in their path. There would be nothing but splinters and paint if I was to have an encounter with one of those monsters. One day we had three of the damn things in port at once. One was getting ready to leave, one was anchored out and another one was wanting to tie up. Way too many ships. It's my understanding that next year there is going to be a ship every day. I wouldn't bitch so loud if I could collect a fifty cent head tax from each passenger to offset the aggravation. I can pretty much guarantee that isn't going to happen. Anyway, I still need to try to catch 652 lbs of halibut for the city before October 10. On the eleventh the winter king season will open. I'm hoping to go catch a handful. It would be a nice way to end the fishing season.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Are You a River Or a Reservoir?



  Unless you've been living in a cave without any opportunity to hear the news and stay abreast of current events, you most likely know that Houston Texas was hit with a devastating hurricane  a week or so ago. It appears that Florida may also be in line for a pounding from the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. To say the least, the devastation is overwhelming. Honestly, I can't imagine what those poor folks are going through. Can you imagine losing your home, having to evacuate to a shelter with a whole bunch of other people whom you don't know, depending on someone else to provide you with a place to sleep, something to eat, perhaps something to wear. Privacy would go out the window. I don't doubt that everyone is stressed to the max from the storm. Throw in crying babies, confused elderly folks, the total lack of creature comforts, the lack of almost everything you're familiar with, and most likely the fact that you can't return to your job if it's in the flood zone. It sounds like a nightmare to me. All that being said, I saw on TV a number of folks who stepped up to the plate and helped their neighbors, or even perfect strangers. There was a need and they met it. It's the way it should be and it's heartening. Most of us don't live in Texas or Louisiana and aren't directly impacted by the hurricane. Every night since Hurricane Harvey, I've laid down in my soft, comfortable bed with clean sheets. I get up in the morning and have a few cups of coffee and some breakfast, go get a long, hot shower and go to the closet and dresser to choose what clothes I want to wear that day. I sit in my easy chair and read my bible, turn on the TV and watch the news and enjoy the relative quiet of my living room. A lot of folks down in Texas and Louisiana don't get to enjoy even the most elementary comforts that I do right now. Through no fault of their own, their lives have been turned upside down. From what I can gather, it's going to take a lot of work, and a lot of time - perhaps even years to get Houston and surrounding areas back up and running totally. It's going to take time and it's going to take money. A lot of it. The government will help out of course, and if you pay taxes, you're indirectly helping I suppose. However, I hope that you will examine your hearts, and put yourself in the place of those folks and see if you could send a little something to help out. Personally, I like Samaritan's Purse. The Salvation Army is also a very good organization when it comes to helping out in natural disasters. Obviously the Red Cross is doing a lot down there. I know that I've been blessed, and as a christian, I have an obligation to help those in need.It's the right thing to do. I've often heard it said that you can't out give God, and I know that it's true. The bible says that those that give to the poor are lending to God. He's going to repay, with interest! So I'll ask, are you a river, or a reservoir? Will you let the blessings that you have flow out and bless others in their time of need or will you try to hoard it all? I assure you, if you give, then at a time when you may have a need, it will be met. Please be generous and help out our fellow Americans in their time of need. Thanks so much, and God bless you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cell Phone Mishap


For a number of years I avoided  having a cell phone. I didn't like the fact that everyone seemed to be connected to them like they were an integral part of their bodies. At the airport, as soon as people entered the terminal, out came the cell phones and they proceeded to call or text whomever. In the store I was privy to private or what should have been private conversations while I was checking out the baby carrots or cucumbers. On those occasions when I have to take a trip to Juneau on the ferry, it's not uncommon for three four or more conversations to be going on right in the main lounge, regardless of the time of day or night or who might be listening, intentionally or otherwise. I find cell phones very invasive. When we get together as a family during the holidays, cell phones seem to be part of the table setting,alongside the plates, silverware and napkins. Personally, I think people spend entirely too much time on them. That being said, several years ago when Jan and I were traveling down south, we were visiting our daughter Amber in Iowa in the fall. After we left and were on our way to the hotel, a tornado splashed down in the immediate area. We had no way to get in touch with the hotel, which had lost power and was totally black inside, so we passed by it several times looking for it. We couldn't contact our daughter or anyone else for that matter. It runs in my mind that we stopped at a roadside rest stop to use a pay phone which didn't work, and ended up driving almost to the Nebraska border before we could find a place to land for the night. That should have cemented it right there, we needed a cell phone, at least for traveling. However, being the ever wise man that I am, I held out a little longer- until fishing season. Most of the rest of the fleet conversed on cell phones as apposed to using the VHF radio, which used to be the most common way to call each other. I'm not too proud to admit that I frequently listened in on radio conversations between fellow fishermen to try and determine where they were fishing and if they were doing better than me, which they almost always were. My friend Fagan Skafelstad, who is a very good fisherman, finally told me he wouldn't talk to me on the VHF- I needed to get a cell phone if I wanted to know where he was and how he was doing. I still held out until a few years ago when I was going on a trip south to visit Buffalo Bob in Vermont. Jan was visiting her mother in Wisconsin, and we needed to be able to communicate, so I broke down and bought a cheap go phone from AT&T. It came in really handy, letting my friends and family know where I was and when I would be at such and such a place. I'm still not a big fan of them, but they do serve a purpose. Of course so does the atomic bomb in the right circumstances. Anyway, several days ago I was working on the boat. My phone was in my front pocket and I was doing chores in preparation for going back out fishing. I dumped the water out of my slush bag, which flowed into the bilge where the float switch should have activated the bilge pump. I waited for a moment, but the pump didn't come on. I opened the cover to expose the bilge and bent over to check the switch.When I did, the el-cheapo phone fell right into the bilge, swimming with the grease, fish blood, salt water, oily residue and whatever dirt and debris  had called the bilge home. I promptly pulled it out and rushed home to rinse it in cold water. For a moment, the phone buzzed and hummed and acted like it might make it, but alas, it's life was short lived. I looked on line to see what could be done to rescue it, and was surprised at the number of people who have dropped their phones into water. The most common being the toilet bowl. I don't know which is worse, the bilge or the toilet, but there is something less repulsive about the bilge. I can't help but wonder why people feel the need to take their phones into the bathroom with them, but it is what it is I guess. In any event, I now am the owner of a new, more expensive, more complicated phone which I now have to learn how to use. While there is always a chance that I MAY drop it into the drink or the bilge, there is almost no chance that I will ever be fishing it out of the toilet.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Raising the Roof






  When we first came on the scene in Hoonah, house fires were a common occurrence. It seems like there were two or three every year, especially during the winter time. I suspect most often that wood stoves were involved with the possibility that alcohol may have played a factor in some instances. In recent years, there fortunately have been considerably less fires, something that both homeowners and their insurance companies are grateful for I assume. A few years ago however, a home just a few houses away caught fire. It was a relatively new home, having been built in the past six or so years. The owner had just returned from spending the winter in Nebraska. No offense, but how is Nebraska any better than Alaska for spending the winter? Anyway, the first day home he decided to make a fire in the wood stove. I can't say whether any adult beverages were involved in the unfortunate incident or not, but the bottom line is, the house caught fire.  It was one of the larger homes in Hoonah, and at the time the owner wanted to make it even larger than the three floors it was comprised of. Fortunately, planning and zoning put the kibosh on that. While I applauded that decision, the same planning and zoning group allowed a trailer to be brought in from the logging camp and un-ceremoniously wedged between two newer homes. The trailer has a roof that extends well over two feet from the edge of the walls, no rafters, just the metal roofing, so that the snow, when it accumulated, bent the roof down on the ends so that it now covers about half the wall. To this date there still isn't an occupant in the trailer. Anyway, I digress. The house you see pictured in the above photos is the same one that caught fire a few years ago. At the time, the owner had family come up from Nebraska, and in record time they took off the roof and removed the third floor and replaced the roof. Now the new owner wants to restore it to a bed and breakfast and has decided a third floor would be an asset. I don't know all the ins and outs of this little project, but somehow the contractors managed to separate the roof from the rest of the house, and with hydraulic jacks and cribbing, raised the roof and are at this moment putting in the beams and studs and all the other house building materials  necessary to enclose the third floor. It was really strange. I went out fishing one day, came back two days later and saw this. I'm sure the contractors and owner are grateful that  a storm didn't choose now to make an appearance, or they might have been replacing the second and first floors as well. Never a dull moment in Hoonah.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Breakdowns and Blessings




 I'm well aware of the fact that I haven't posted anything for awhile. It weighs on me like a lead coat, or if I were Hillary Clinton, a lead pants suit. I don't know why, it's just something else that needs done when I feel like I don't have enough time to do all the other things that need attended to. As I've mentioned here before, in the summer, my primary interest is in fishing. Blog posts, trivia, visiting and all manner of other things don't hold the same high priority. However, that being said, I'm posting now, for better of for worse. In case you don't realize it, the thing you're looking at in the upper picture is a radar stand, which is mounted on the mast. What you don't see, and what should be on that stand, is the radar. And now for my sad tale of woe.... The beginning of the salmon season this year has been painfully slow. I don't think I even caught a king salmon until June, and then I only had a total of six, versus twenty nine last year. With that in mind, I was anxious to try and catch my share of kings on the outside coast when the summer season opened on July first. As it turns out, the first was a dreadful day out on the ocean, with high winds and high seas, neither of which I will venture out in. As it happened though, I was blessed when  a friend of mine asked if I could catch him some dogs and humpies for halibut bait. Since I wasn't planning on being on the outside coast on the first I said sure. In about 5 1/2 hours I picked up about 150 humpies and six dogs. I received a good payment for them and was happy as a clam at high tide for the success. That happiness however didn't extend beyond the first of July. I spent the night in Flynn cove and started out for the coast, glad that the forecast was more reasonable for fishing. When I rounded Point Adolphus, I was met with a bank of thick fog. No problem, I had a radar which I turned on, and a GPS to guide me out through South Inian Pass and on to the ocean. Wonderful. What wasn't so wonderful was that as I was passing Lemesuire  Island, the radar decided it no longer wanted to work. As my friend Buffalo Bob would put it- it crapped the bed.  I waited until the fog lifted and went through the pass and hung a left into Elfin Cove. I borrowed a ladder from a friend at the Elfin General Store and checked to see if the problem was just a slipped belt. HA HA HA HA- of course it wasn't anything that simple! How foolish of me to think it could be! I went ahead and ran out to Cross Sound in hopes that there would be some fish biting there, but the place looked like a desert on the video sounder. No sign of fish or feed, or even birds. I spent the night at Ewe Ledge and went back through the pass on the third. I had to send the radar down to Sitka for repair. Since it was MY equipment that needed repaired, it came as no surprise when the technician called me and said he had no idea what the problem was, which always means you better have a wad of cash that will choke a horse, because this is gonna cost you.  So, here it is, two weeks after my initial attempt to get to the coast, and I guess my radar is repaired  for a mere $666.00 and  change, plus of course the cost of the freight to get it here. 666- hmmm, not a very good number according to the bible. To add salt to the wound, the boats fishing outside, which is almost everyone with a boat, are having a record year fishing for cohos. The weather has been good and everyone is making money. Actually, I should be happy about that. I've prayed that the fleet would have success. It's  not that I haven't caught any fish, it's just that I haven't caught as much as I could have that bothers me. Oh well. But that's not the end of my story, oh no, no, no.Yesterday I decided to go try Eagle Point for a few hours. It took me two hours to get there. I slowed down the boat to trolling speed and turned on the hydraulics only to hear the most ear splitting screeching emanating from my hydraulic pump. I'm not mechanically inclined, so of course all I can see is more money flying out the window. I shut off the pump and turned around to make the two hour trek back home. Fortunately my friend, Kevin Friday, who has been a real blessing to me on more than one occasion, came over and looked at the pump, determined that it was fine and made a suggestion to correct the problem. So now, even though I don't have the radar yet, it's on its way, and the hydraulic problem is fixed. I may get a chance to salvage the day and go fishing, although I have to tell you, I'm always a little on edge wondering what next. The bottom line is though, no matter what problem comes up, I'm not left without a way to correct it. God in all His mercy has sent me friends who are willing to help, and even though I'm not catching the numbers of fish that my fellow trollers on the coast are, I'm still making ends meet and then some, and I don't doubt that by the end of the season I'll be in the black and re-living the experiences I've had this season-for better of for worse.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Treasures From the Deep










  As any fisherman knows, there is no guarantee that you're going to catch something when you go out. That was made very real to me this year. For the first six or so times I went out trolling, I was skunked. It was quite a contrast to last year when I picked up  a total of 29 king salmon during the spring opening. Finally a week or so back, the fish decided to make an entrance. I was out fishing last Wednesday and picked up a few dogs, a couple of sockeyes and some pinks, which was all fine and dandy, but I really wanted to land a king. When my tattle tale spring started jumping, I could tell it was a decent king salmon on the line. When I started pulling it in with the gurdy, he was towing the 50 lb cannonball around pretty good.I was starting to get excited when the line went dead. I wasn't sure why I lost it until I examined the spoon he hit- the hook was broken in two. He swam off with the business end of the hook and I was left with a great bit of disappointment. I was pretty bummed and figured that would probably be the only king I'd get that day. Fortunately, I was dead wrong. Not long afterward the spring started jumping like a kid on a trampoline. It was  a 29 lb red king. I was pretty jazzed, and then a short time later a got another strike. When I got the fish to the surface I could see that it was even larger than the first one. That's always kind of scary. They're so powerful that one wrong move and you can lose them. Anyway, I was blessed and was able to haul him over the stern, although I thought I might suffer a hernia in the process. I really wasn't expecting anything else, but shortly before I pulled the gear I picked up a third king. The second and third ones were both whites- the meat is white instead of red, something that only happens around Glacier Bay area I understand. The two white kings had a combined weight of 59 lbs. Needless to say, I was having quite a grand time that day. While the weather is still good, and I could get the crewmember I wanted before he goes back to work, I decided to knock out my halibut quota. It took several trips, but we got it done. No really big fish- I think the largest was 101 lbs. I took my daughter Jen with me.It was her first time halibut fishing, and we all had a good time. Lots of laughs. When you're bottom fishing, you never know what you're going to get. We snagged some red tree coral, as well as some other coral that a basket star fish had taken a liking to. They are unique in that their many arms can move simultaneously rather rapidly, unlike their more sedentary cousins. They're both beautiful and kind of scary looking at the same time. I didn't take any pictures at the time, but we caught four king crabs on the set up the bay, and I think we caught a total of eight or nine wolf or money face or clown face eels. When it comes to eels I'm no expert. They were all about four feet long, and almost always they swallow the hook, making it necessary to dispatch them in order to retrieve the hooks. I've tried using them for bait before, but the halibut don't seem to like them. The meat is really white and firm. I've actually eaten it before when I gave an eel to the Chinese couple who were running Mary's Inn restaurant. It was quite tasty. We also caught a handful of skates and a few rock fish and grey cod. I guess the skate wings can be passed off as scallops. I've never tried them, I always turn them loose. Anyway, it's always a surprise to see what the sea will yield. Sometimes snails, sometimes Arrow tooth flounder, sometimes the target species. Tomorrow I'm going out to try my hand trolling for kings. The summer king salmon season is going to open Saturday, but the weather is supposed to be foul, so I may have to fish around here. In any event, I won't be posting anything for awhile. Its the busy time of year for me. Hope you all enjoy your summer.

Friday, June 16, 2017

17 Inches


Today when I opened my email, I got a forwarded message from my older brother Mark. He was sending a message to my younger brother Brett, who has a son that really enjoys baseball. When I saw the title-17 Inches, I wasn't sure what the heck to expect. We all share a good sense of  humor and I wasn't certain that he wasn't forwarding some off color joke. As it is though, he sent an article that really hit home with me, and one that I hope will impact you as well, hopefully in a positive way. I don't know the author of the article, I wish I did. He certainly deserves credit for it, and I'm in no way trying to claim it as mine, I just want to pass on something I think it worth reading, so here it is.

Twenty years ago in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,00 baseball coaches descended upon the Opreyland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA's convention.

While I waited in line with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.  One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment- "John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare."

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter: I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948.  He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung- a full sized, stark white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he'd gotten on stage.  Then finally...

"You're probably all wondering why I'm wearing home plate around my neck," he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. "I may be old, but I'm not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I've learned in my life, what I've learned about home plate in my 78 years."
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room.  "Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?"

After a pause, someone offered,  "Seventeen inches?" more of a question than an answer.

"That's right," he said. "How about in Babe Ruth's day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?" Another long pause.

"Seventeen inches?" a guess from another reluctant coach.

"That's right," said Scolinos.  "Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?" Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.  "How wide is home plate in high school baseball?"

"Seventeen inches," they said, sounding more confident.

"You're right!" Scolinos barked. "And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?"

"Seventeen inches!" we said in unison.

"Any minor league coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?"........ "Seventeen inches!"

"RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?"

"Seventeen Inches!"

"SEVENTEEN INCHES! " he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.  "And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can't throw the ball over seventeen inches?" Pause.  "They send him to Pocatello!" he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. "What they don't do is this: they don't say.'Ah that's ok Jimmy, if you can't hit a seventeen inch target, we'll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We'll make it twenty inches so you can have a better chance of hitting it. If you can't hit that let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'"

Pause. "Coaches... what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? Or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach's message began to unfold.  He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. "This is the problem in our  homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline.
We don't teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!"

Pause. Then to the point at the top of the house he added an American flag. "This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?"

Silence. He replaced the flag with a cross. "And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it."

  "And the same is true of our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don't apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch."

 I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and  how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right,lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

"If I am lucky." Coach Scolinos concluded, "you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: "If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to those same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet that standard, and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to...

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside,..."We have dark days ahead!"

His message was clear: Coaches, keep your players- no matter how good- your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches."

So there we have it. I know that this post was long, but sometimes that's what it takes to get a message across. It doesn't take a genius to see that for some time now we in this country have been widening the plate. I've mentioned before and I'm sure I'll say again, you reap what you sew. You can't plant potatoes and raise cantaloupes. We can't let our moral standards slip and expect to be a great country. Whether we like it or not, there is an accountability for our actions. Just turn on the news and you'll see that we're reaping what we've sewn, but the good news is that it can change for the better. It starts with being accountable ourselves and then holding others to that same standard. Let's expect the best from ourselves and  all our fellow Americans. God bless you all.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

It's Official- I'm a Senior Citizen (aka Old Fart)




 Well, I've made it to that magical age of 65. I wasn't sure it would ever happen. When I was younger I would pray that the good Lord would allow me to live long enough to get my youngest children through high school. I figured after that point they would be able to get along well enough to start getting established in life. Now they're in the their thirties, so my prayers were answered. When I was a young man, sixty five seemed far away, now it seems that seventy is rushing up to meet me. I've often heard it said, and I've said myself on more than one occasion, that getting old isn't for wimps. No truer words were ever spoken. It's hard work. All the things you used to take for granted when you were young stay behind as you age. I went into the bathroom today to take a shower and was a little taken aback by the old man that was looking back at me in the mirror. My gut is out of proportion to the rest of my body and I've got boobs.  I look like a Picasso drawing  of a person with a bowling ball stomach supported by two toothpicks for legs. Judas Priest! I was wondering if they make training bras in size 44 A. I feel like I could be a candidate for a "Manzierre" or a  "Bro" as was discussed on one episode of Seinfeld when George's father took off his shirt in front of Cramer.  My son's think dealing with the weight is a simple matter of exercising. If only I could. They can't begin to understand that when arthritis sets in to the knee joints and back, just getting out of the easy chair almost takes an act of congress. Of course I could stop eating so much, or at least eat more practically, but at some point you start to realize that there isn't a whole lot else that you can do in life that can bring as much pleasure so you indulge yourself. Then there is the hair thing. To the best of my knowledge baldness has never run in my family, however, I've noticed a distinct thinning of my hair. Every day when I finish my shower I notice a little wad of hair congregating in the bathtub drain. When I run the brush through my hair it's like wind through a fence row. If only the hair on my head would grow like that which sprouts from my ears and eyebrows. If I could grow cauliflower like ear hair I'd be the vegetable king of Hoonah. I had often heard that some folks had problems sleeping as they age. I can certainly attest to that. Part of it is no doubt because of the excess weight I'm packing around, part is the pain in my back and legs and part is having to get up several times a night to pee. As the saying goes, there is no rest for the wicked. For the past six months leading up to my sixty fifth birthday, I've been inundated with all manner of literature speaking of the need for me to get ready for Medicare and all that that entails. I'd love to have the money that AARP has spent on literature informing us old folks about health care. I could retire in comfort and afford the same health care that congress gives themselves. You would think that after living sixty five years you'd be given a little break, but noooooo... the government has other plans. They give you  a few months to apply for medicare in all of it's many forms, and depending on who you listen to you also need to have supplemental insurance and insurance for long term health care and God knows what else. I find it all very confusing. You'd think you'd be allowed to grow old in peace, but it's not to be. One of the boys called to wish me a happy birthday  and mentioned that sixty five isn't that old. Perhaps not compared to  Methuselah, but I've  noticed that only two groups of people think sixty five isn't old. Those who have yet to experience it, and those to whom sixty five is a distant memory. In any event, I've made it to this milestone, hallelujah!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

When The Herring Arrive, Everyone Fishes

Humpback whale and seagulls waiting for the herring
Whales on the prowl

Seagulls taking a break

Lining up at the airplane float 
Herring spawn discoloring the water
Halibut bait
jigging for herring at the harbor
 All winter long there have been four or five whales hanging out in front of town. Usually they go elsewhere for the winter, but I think that this winter, there was enough feed to keep them here. I 'm not certain what they were eating  but I suspect it was small herring. A few weeks ago, much larger herring started showing up at the small boat harbor. As is the custom here, people started bringing out their gill nets and stringing them across the empty boat stalls, and herring jigs started flying off the shelves at Tideland Tackle. Herring jigs typically have six or eight tiny hooks with beads or bits of plastic which resemble plankton.They are jigged up and down and catching multiple herring at once is quite common. It's a quick way to fill up your bait bucket or catch your dinner. When the herring start showing up in numbers, and especially the large spawners, it creates quite the stir amongst men and animals alike. It's been a number of years since I've seen the herring spawn in the harbor, at least in the numbers that are showing up now. I really kind of wish they would go elsewhere- away from the creosote pilings. I was down at the docks the other day and noticed the spawn all over the pilings. It's really a shame. The tide goes out and the eggs above the low water tide line are left exposed. One fellow told me that they can live for up to six hours out of the water, the amount of time it would take for the tide to turn and cover them again. However, I believe the creosote kills the live eggs. It baffles me that they don't have a natural instinct to stay away from such dangerous situations, but apparently God didn't give them a great deal of sense.  I sometimes wonder how they have managed to survive for so long. They are an important part of the food chain. Humpback whales, sealions, salmon, trout, otters, seagulls, eagles, and man all eat them. In one picture above you can see that the water has taken on a greenish cast. The herring were spawing right along the beach, under the windows of the Office Bar. The females deposit their eggs and the males fertilize them afterwards, causing the water to turn milky in color. When the tide goes out and exposes the eggs on the beach the crows and ravens have their turn at them. Apparently even the bears enjoy roaming the beaches at low tide and having a healthy snack. In Sitka the herring show up in huge numbers every spring, along with the whales and sealions that are naturally drawn to them There is a market in Japan for herring eggs, so a number of seine boats show up to take advantage of the hours long openings. The Tlingit Indians have traditionally eaten both the fish and their eggs for as long as anyone can remember. They put Hemlock branches in select places where the herring spawn, and retrieve them a few days later, laden with eggs. My neighbor up the street takes his boat down, the Shirley N to Sitka to harvest the eggs every year. When he returns, most of the town shows up at the city float with buckets and garbage bags and plastic totes to share in the bounty which he so generously provides. When I was interviewing some of the old timers who've lived here all their lives, they shared with me how the bay here used to fill with herring and with the King salmon who fed on them. Some years back, in the fifties or early sixties, sardine fishermen came up from California and started harvesting the herring for the oil, sending the fish down to reduction plants. Afterwards, the herring became more scarce, along with the numbers of Kings. Much like the buffalo the herring have been slow to rebound. It's nice to see that there are still some around, even if they aren't in the incredible numbers of years ago. Frankly, with everything out to eat them, I'm surprised that there are any at all. I can only hope that they continue to thrive and that somehow, against all odds, they might one day return in the numbers that they were enjoyed so many years ago.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Going... Going... Gone!!!









  I thought I would do a follow up on my last blog post. I came home  a few days ago to see that there was a dump truck load of gravel in my neighbor's driveway and a huge orange excavator next door. I also saw that someone had taken some of the windows out of the downstairs. I was glad to see that there was something being salvaged. The next morning a truck pulled up and a fellow I knew went inside and took out the kitchen sink and some interior doors. It wasn't long afterward that  Grant Coutlee and his crew drove up in a couple dump trucks and started in with the demolition. There was some concern on the part of Grant because of an active power line that feeds my house hanging right overhead, but he got positioned so that with some maneuvering skills he was able to keep from snagging it and getting electrocuted. The house came down surprisingly fast- I'd say in about an hour it was all on the ground. When I mentioned it to Grant he was lamenting the fact that it took so long. The power lines created quite the challenge. By the end of the day the house was down, the debris was hauled away and all that was left was a bunch of dirt and rocks. Already the lot is being eyed as a storage place for my neighbor, and a garden was mentioned as well. I have to admit, I've got my own plans for the place, even though I've yet to speak to the rightful owners. I'd like to go in and level out the ground, maybe get a load or two of dirt and plant grass. I'm afraid otherwise it will turn into a bog. I'm entertaining the idea of buying the lot. I don't really want to, but I'm afraid that other wise it will become like the wild west where everyone just uses it for whatever purpose they desire, which I'm quite certain will conflict with my desires. We'll see. Meanwhile, the demolition derby continues. Yesterday a house on the main street was destroyed. The person who lived there was is presently in jail for the murder of two Hoonah cops a few years ago and it's been abandoned ever since. While it was coming down, most of the police force was observing it's destruction. I'm sure it was a pretty bittersweet moment. Hopefully good things will come from the taking down of these derelict homes. Only time will tell.