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!