Blog Archive

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Sorrowful Passing




 Tonight I'm going to write one of the saddest posts that I've ever done. Today around noon, our beloved dog Rigby passed on.  These pictures were taken just over a month ago, but when he passed today, he was just a fraction of the size that he was when these were taken. Over the past month he had steadily been losing weight. His ribs were starting to show and the skin on his belly was hanging. He's always loved to eat, and I indulged him. The kids were constantly telling me he was spoiled, but I don't care. My feelings were that if you were going to have a pet, and especially a dog, he was going to be getting the royal treatment. I've been thinking back over his life, from the time that our daughter Autumn first brought him down from Wasilla in a small carrying case that fit under the airplane seat. He was as cute as a button. For the first week or so he slept in that case in the laundry room and would cry at night. Eventually we purchased a small bed for him, but as dogs and kids are prone to do, he grew out of it. We got him a bed made for a much larger dog, but that's ok, at least he had room to move around. For the first few months he never even barked, and I was starting to wonder if he ever would, but he eventually found his voice, and from then on he would alert us to every dog, cat or person who passed on the street out front. Multiple times I would be in the back of the house or in the office and if he hadn't barked I would have had no idea that there was a visitor on the porch.  During the day he favored the couch, and then one day he decided on his own to jump up onto the back of the couch where he could get a birds eye view of all that was going on. That was his habit until a year or two ago, when either because of his age or the condition of his joints or whatever, he didn't jump up there any more. When he was younger he would sit in the chair with me, and though the chair was huge, would insist on laying on his side with his legs stretched out against the arm and pushing me against the other side. When it was time to go to bed I would get up, but he had no intention of leaving the comfort of the chair, so I would have to pick him up with a hand under his head and one under his backside and take him in to his bed. He was as limp as a wet towel and would look at whoever was in the living room perhaps hoping for rescue. I would lay him on his bed and cover him with a heavy down sleeping bag, where he would stay for the night. Early on, when we were training him to go outside to the potty, we would reward him with a snack- usually a piece of cheese. Being the stubborn breed he was, it almost always took a bribe to get him back inside. After a while the price of cheese was more than we could afford. He was making regular trips outside with the idea that he'd get a snack afterwards. I think he was storing up his treasures with the idea of a future reward, so we switched to the healthier and less expensive baby carrots. We ran through several bags of those every week. Some years back I got the bright idea of giving him a little bit of cereal in the morning when I got my own. At first he would eat it dry. Then one day I poured a little milk on it, and from then on he wouldn't accept it any other way. His tastes in food were diverse. Whenever I was making a salad, he would insist on having some. He ate everything that we did, with the exception of onions or celery. If I was cutting up cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots or any other salad fixings, he wanted some. When it came to food, he wasn't picky. We had a scare once when an older lady was staying with us and left a box of chocolate cookies in her jacket, which was hanging on a chair. He found it and ate every one. I understand that chocolate is fatal for dogs, but somehow he made it through without a problem. As a young dog he loved to go upstairs, especially when we had guests. If there was any dirty underwear on the floor he would grab them and charge down the stairs, running though the house, happy as a clam at high tide. He would stop then and start chewing on them, looking  up with his big brown eyes. It was hard to be mad at him. I think the greatest joy he ever had was charging down the stairs one day with Jan's bra in his mouth, trailing behind and between his legs. It almost looked like he was smiling. He never really played with toys much, but he did like to chew on things. We had a stuffed toy that was like a fluffy fleece shaped like a boy with two arms and two legs splayed out. His snout would fit perfectly into the crotch where he would proceed to chew until the stuffing was exposed. He loved that doll. It was bright yellow and we called it Golden Boy. Golden boy had his crotch sewed up by Jan's mom a number of times until there wasn't enough material left to sew. We tried other chew toys for him- a rubber hot dog, and I think a hamburger, and I don't recall what else, but nothing could withstand those sharp little teeth. Within an hour the toy was demolished and we had to take it away.Finally Jan came home with a toy made out of almost indestructable fire hose. I'm not sure how long it took for him to destroy it, but I do wish it had had a warranty with it. When he was still young a neighbor dog attacked him one morning while Jan was with him. Frankly I was surprised he survived the attack, but he did. Afterwards though, he never wanted to get very far away from the house. He never really cared for riding in the truck, but in the last year or so he would drive with me to the park and then walk home. It was good exercise for both of us. About eight or ten months ago, I can't really recall when, he started developing a tremendous thirst. He would drink all the water in his bowl and want more. Then he had to pee something fierce, something I can relate to. He started having accidents in the house, so we sent him to the vet, and $700.00 later discovered he had Cushing's Disease, so in addition to giving him a pill for hypo-thyroidism, we now had to give him one for Cushing's. He seemed to be getting better, but about a month ago the thirst and accidents started in again. We got an additional dose of meds, but he didn't seem to be getting any better this time. He'd been steadily losing weight, and for the last four or so days, was having trouble going up and down the stairs. It got to the point that we had to pick him up and set him down outside to use the potty. About three days ago, he stopped eating. Then he stopped drinking anything, so we were giving him water with a turkey baster. He spent most of his time in his bed looking off in the distance. Even though we knew his time was near, there was still a hope for a miraculous recovery. In any event, we didn't want him to die away from home, so we kept him as comfortable as we could and spoke to him, letting him know what a good dog he was. He's only been gone for about eight hours, but already I miss him terribly. It's surprising how many commercials come on TV that use dogs. I love them all, but I don't think I can ever have another one. I think I'll probably visit a shelter at the next place we move to. I'll take the dogs out for walks and feed them treats and hug them and talk to them like they're babies, and let them know that even though they're in the shelter, they're still loved. Jan and I are heart broken. For us Rigby was like a family member. We had him for almost thirteen years, but it wasn't long enough. I hope that if you have a pet you'll cherish it. They can be demanding and expensive and they take a lot of time, but they are a blessing from God.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

D- Day



Today, as many of you know, is the 75th anniversary of D- Day, the day that the allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was a decisive day in the war against Germany and was the beginning of the liberation of France and the rest of Europe and led ultimately to the defeat of the Nazis. When I was a kid, I just assumed that all of the men who were in the army were like super heroes, strong, brave, unafraid. I didn't realize that the majority of the men who stormed the beaches were young; many just out of high school, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old men who hadn't even gotten a good start on life yet. They were like young men everywhere with dreams and aspirations, perhaps with wives or girlfriends. I'm sure they had plans for a future that didn't include storming a beach in a foreign country with the noise and the smoke and the terror all around, watching their friends and fellow soldiers bleeding and crying out and dying on those blood soaked beaches, wondering if the next bullet or explosion would be the one take them out. They were afraid, like anyone would be under those circumstances, but they loved this country and were willing to die for it, in order to keep us free. For the past few days leading up to today I've watched the various interviews with the vets who have made the trip over to Normandy. It will probably be the last time there since the majority are in their nineties and beyond. I heard we're losing over three hundred of these heroes every day. I wish there was one of these brave men here in town so that I could extend my sincere thanks to him. Their sacrifices have made my life possible. The freedoms that we've all enjoyed here in America were bought at a terrible price. So many of the young men who died at Normandy didn't even get to return home in death. They are buried in a cemetery there. I hope and pray that America, and indeed the rest of the world will continue to remember and celebrate D-day and the brave men who stepped up to the plate to change the course of history, and deliver the world from tyranny. Tom Brokaw, a renown news anchor labeled the men who fought in World War II the greatest generation. I believe he hit the nail on the head. If you have a vet who served in the war I hope that you'll seek him out and thank him, and please give him a pat on the back for me. They deserve all the honor they receive.
  Just to clarify, the man in the picture above is my father, Benjamin B Botts. He was too young to join the army in "44. However he was part of the occupational forces in Japan after the war. He was another hero of mine.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Great Gifts For Fishermen





 A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a call from my friend Doug Courtney. I've known Doug since he was just about eight years old down in sunny Charleston South Carolina. I moved next door to his family in 1974. I took him out fishing with me a time or two at the Naval Weapons Station ponds back then. When his family moved to Hoonah a year or two later, I followed suit. We fished in my fourteen foot Highlaker and hunted for ducks out on the flats at Game Creek. I caught a thirty nine pound red king salmon one afternoon off the blinker at the cannery when Doug was with me in the boat. It was one of the most thrilling times I've ever  had in my life. Anyway, as I mentioned, Doug gave me a call and mentioned he was sending me a package. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what it could be. When the airline called and said it had arrived I went out and picked up what turned out to be the picture at the top. I was blown away. For those who don't know their fish, it's a beautiful king salmon with a really nice looking hoochie in it's mouth. I don't happen to have that particular hoochie, but  I may have to do some research and see if I can identify it. There is more than one king in the picture, and if all of them took that particular hoochie, I should probably be giving them a try. Speaking of hoochies, some friends at the forest service gave me a retirement party, which in itself was a surprise, but there were gifts also. One person gave me a hoochie coffee cup complete with  a package of my favorite hoochies. They're my favorite because they catch fish- that's also why I don't show a picture of them. I have a theory that if everyone is using the same bait, the fish will elect to try something different. There's no science to that theory, but if a person believes this or that about fishing, it can have an impact on how well you do. The other really dandy gift I got was this
hoochie mobile. I know that usually mobiles are something that you hang above a baby's crib to keep them entertained, but I have to tell you, no baby could ever enjoy this hoochie mobile as much I do. It was a gift from my friend Erin, the Bird Queen of Hoonah. There isn't a question you can ask about any kind of bird that she doesn't have an answer for. Amazing. While I was looking at the mobile, I got to thinking, what if I beefed it up a little bit, put some 100 pound test line on the hoochies and some number 7 stainless steel hooks and trolled it on the bottom spread near the leads, would I possibly catch five, six or more salmon at one time? I may have to try something like that some time. Not with this mobile, this one is just to look at and enjoy. Can you imagine if I could pull multiple fish off each leader? Of course the tangles that would ensue would be incredible, but if I could pull it off, I'd be the Hoochie King.

Friday, May 17, 2019

All Good Things Must Come to an End




 Last night was the final episode for my favorite show, The Big Bang Theory. It ran for twelve seasons, and while my work prevented me from watching the latest shows most nights, I watched frequent re-runs on Fox. I must say, the final show was done exceptionally well, with a good story line. It's obvious that the writers for the sit-com were in touch with the audience. I watched the after show as well, with Kaley Couco and Johnny Galecki showing us around the set and re-visiting favorite scenes. I don't care for Steven Colbert on the Late Show, but the cast of the Big Bang were going to be on, and I wanted desperately  to hang on to them to the last moment. I know that it was just a television show, but I felt like I could somehow relate to the characters. The beautiful Penny, so down to earth, Leonard, hopelessly in love with her and Sheldon so intelligent but so without a clue about normal every day life. The producers chose wisely when they decided upon who to play the assorted characters, and all of the actors played their parts to perfection. I can imagine it must have been a blast to be able to work with each other every week and bring the scripts to life. I would assume that once you've been type cast as a certain character, it will be next to impossible to ever play anyone else. They were so convincing in their roles that it's hard to imagine them as any other person. When the night ended, and I turned off the television, I was sad. I felt like a group of good friends whom I've known for years and whose company I looked forward to every week had moved to a far land, and I'll never see them again. I know that I'll be ordering all twelve seasons some time down the pike, and I'll laugh again and enjoy the people on the screen who will never get any older. From time to time I'll look them up on the Internet. I hope that whatever they pursue in the future will give them peace and joy. I hope they get a chance to just be themselves and not be hounded by fans, and I hope they'll know in their hearts how much they've felt like family to so may people around the world.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Grump Notebook



No doubt you've heard of Forrest Gump, the movie that was so popular a number of years ago, starring Tom Hanks. Perhaps you also recall several movies starring  Walter Matthau. He was in Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men with Jack Lemon. Walter's love interest was Sophia Loren, a really hot Italian star from the sixties. Frankly, even though she must have been pushing 70 at least at the time of the movie, she still looked pretty appealing. Anyway, a few weeks back, my friends, Mark and Sarah took a trip to Anchorage, and while they were up there, they found this Grump Notebook and thought of me. Apparently I remind them more of Walter Matthau than I do of Tom Hanks, although not much separates grump and Gump. In the event that you can't read what the notebook says, I'll list the various complaints that are supposed to be logged in this fine notebook.
things that annoy me
enemies list
stern letters of correction
fresh rants
and last but not least
daily disappointments
I might also add irritants, much like certain chemicals on sensitive skin.There are some things that go beyond annoyance to the more advanced degree of aggravation considered irritants. I most definitely need that category to be here. I was at the post office when Mark passed it over the counter to me, and I immediately put an entry into it. I had come to pick up a set of new stamps that I found interesting, and there weren't any. I believe that there had been one set, but it had been sold, so under the heading Things that annoy me, I  listed- Getting only one set of desirable stamps. While I was still ranting, my friend John Murray came in and started giving me a hard time, so I had my second entry right away- Being harassed at the post office by Murray. While I was still there thinking about things that annoy me, I started to play back a scene from almost every year that I've ever gone fishing. The third entry was- People who catch more fish than me. I'm not comparing myself to the guys who go out with fifty foot boats and nets that scoop up thousands of fish in one setting. I'm talking about the guys who are fishing along side or in front of me, using the same gear, going the same speed, at the same depth and end up doubling my catch on a regular basis. It absolutely drives me nuts. I've been known to pull my gear and run to a completely different area just so I won't be confronted with my own incompetence. As I'm writing this I see that I need to list another annoyance: the fact that the post office offers priority mail service where your package is supposed to arrive in three days. It seldom does, so why do I have to pay for three day delivery? There should be a special reduced fee that you should be able to apply for when they know full well that it's not going to make it in time.
  Next up is the enemies list. I don't know if I have any real enemies per se. There's a guy down the street who I feel is continually abusing the federal subsistence law, and frankly I've had fantasies about shooting his boat and motor as it's parked at his place, but I don't know that he would qualify as an enemy. I really dislike most of congress, especially those on the left, and in particular the new batch of congresswomen who are completely radical in my opinion, but I can't really say they're enemies either. I just wish they'd wake up and have a reality check.
   I do like the line- stern letters of correction- it just sounds right. Perhaps I could send a few to the radical leftist congresswomen, but I doubt that it would do any good. If you don't vote in their congressional district, our senators and congressmen don't want to hear from us. I think that could qualify as a daily disappointment as well as a thing that annoys me, although I don't think annoy is a strong enough word to describe my feelings concerning congress. How they can continue to draw a paycheck when they don't accomplish anything is a complete mystery to me. And it really, really aggravates me. They don't even have to show up to work to get paid. Amazing. I guess I've started a fresh rant, or perhaps it's not so fresh. It's been hashed out and repeated countless times in every living room, coffee shop, restaurant, office and barbershop in America. However, nothing seems to change. I wonder what Walter Matthau would have to say about this.
   I doubt that I would have any problem finding new things to rant about, especially with the tourist season about to start here. I can feel my heart start to race at the very thought of what's to come. No doubt I'll be able to fill the book long before the summer is over.
   Ahhh, daily disappointments. I need to look no further than my own life and lack of discipline to fill a number of pages. However, if I unexpectedly am having a good day and find myself pleased with my performance, I'm sure I won't have to look long before I'll find something or someone to be disappointed in.
  I have to say, it was very thoughtful of my friends to buy me a book so that I could record my many and diverse complaints. Although there's not too much of a chance that I would forget what's bothering me, it's good to look back and be reminded of how much is wrong in the world. Heaven forbid that the news media would cease to bring daily reminders of how bad we have it.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Cottage on Normal Hill








  Before we took off on our trip to Idaho, we checked out places to stay. We needed to light somewhere every night for ten nights while we were away. Anyone who has traveled knows that choosing a good hotel can be a bit of a crap shoot. Fortunately there are web sites that give reviews that are for the most part helpful, but staying in an three star hotel doesn't always mean what you think its going to mean. For instance, the last hotel we stayed at had two dogs staying in several rooms on our floor. I love dogs, but I don't really want them as fellow guests. As it happened, both of them at different times did what dogs do, and started barking. Of course when one sounds off, the other responds. No matter how hard you may try, it can be difficult to silence them. I always think that I'm going to enjoy traveling when I'm sitting in my home fantasizing about a trip. It's not until the trip actually starts that I remember that it's not at all what I enjoy. Let me clarify. I absolutely despise sitting around in the airports, waiting. Jan is a nervous traveler, so she always wants to be at the airport extra early, which means we get to spend more time in the lounge. Airports are notoriously noisy, and very busy, so no matter how tired you may be, it's hard to relax. Inevitably there is always a few folks who feel like their private conversation would be of great interest to those around them, so they yak on and on, and you get an insight into their lives that you really didn't want, or really care about. Then, when it's finally time to start the boarding process, you have to wait while the VIPs, first class folks, frequent fliers, those traveling with little kids, the infirm and hopefully those actively serving in the military board. I understand giving some folks a head start, it just makes sense. I can't say I've ever really cared for the whole first class thing though. It makes me feel like a second class citizen. Some airports even have a different colored rug that separates the first class people from the rest of the masses. Anyway, that's just one aspect of the whole process.Frankly, rather than boarding the first class passengers first, I think they should board us peons who will be sitting in the back of the plane. Then we don't have to pass through the gauntlet of folks who are comfortably seated in their superior seats, and wait while folks who try to pack their entire wardrobe into a bag that's supposed to fit in an overhead bin. What do I know though, I'm just a second class kind of guy. The part of the trip I really do enjoy is the driving. I wish I didn't need sleep, I could just drive all day and night, burning up expensive fossil fuels and seeing the country. As it is though, I do need sleep, so I was very pleased to discover a delightful little bed and breakfast in Lewiston run by a lady named Theresa. I found her on Air B&B. I've never used them before, and I've never stayed at a bed and breakfast, so I was glad that my first experience was such a pleasant one. Theresa is considered a Super Host, and I have to admit, I'd give her five stars myself.  The room we stayed at was down in the basement, which had been remodeled and was so tastefully done. There were two single beds, which worked out fine for Jan and I, and each bed had a quilt that her mother had made. There was a private bathroom downstairs with a heated floor, and a nice strong shower head. There was a washer and dryer that she let us use and in the morning we had several delightful breakfasts. The room was so comfortable, and the rest of her home reminded me of a ginger bread house. It was small but very tastefully furnished and everything was as neat as a pin. Had it been May, we could have sat outside on her patio and shared a glass of wine. As it was, we were there during the rainy season, but she still had daffodils and hyacinths growing, and I believe there was a flowering dogwood out front. It was a very pleasant experience, and I'm glad my first time with Air B&B was a good one. I'm not sure when we'll be traveling again, but I'll certainly consider using them. It's a much more personal experience than a night in a hotel. If you should happen to be traveling in the Lewiston area and need a comfortable, reasonably priced place to stay for a few nights, I hope you'll look up Theresa. I'm sure she'll still be in her cottage on Normal Hill, and I'm certain she'll welcome you like family.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Have Hoochies, Will Fish





 If you've lived long enough you might remember an old TV western called Have Gun, Will Travel. It starred Richard Boone as a hired gun or bounty hunter. It's been so long ago since it's been on, that I can't really remember much about it, which doesn't really matter, because this post isn't about a western, it's about hoochies, one of my favorite subjects. The young lady pictured here is a Forest Service employee named Erin, who I am going to assume has been put in a position of authority for this year's Annual Kid's Fishing Derby. This year will mark thirty years. That's pretty incredible. Every year there is a saying that is printed on T-shirts that are passed out to the participants. I'm not sure what the saying and logo will be this year, but last year's slogan was Keep Calm and Fish On. I can actually relate to that. I've found myself on more occasions than I care to mention coming totally unglued, either because it seems like boats all around me are catching fish when I'm not, or some charter boat has decided to stop in front of me on the drag while I'm trolling and will dump his anchor to jig for halibut, or the wake from a whale watch boat has knocked me out of my chair on their way to  spot whales. Those aren't the only incidents that come to mind. I've snagged crab pots with my gear, lost cannon balls in the shallows when I got too close, had entire lines of expensive gear drop into the deep when a wire parted; I've lost fish and gear to sea lions and salmon sharks, and almost been run over in the fog by cruise ships who won't yield the right of way, I guess because they don't feel like they have to. Those are only the things that come to mind quickly. The fact is, a good attitude and a boat load of patience are often necessary when fishing.
  As you can see, there is quite a selection of delightful hoochies on display. The good folks at Silver Horde, a commercial fishing supply company generously donated four boxes of assorted hoochies for the derby this year. I can't think of anyone more qualified to receive them than Erin. If you look closely you'll see she has an octopus on her sweatshirt and she even managed to knit one into her hat. Of course hoochies are made to resemble squid or octopi, and they were work quite well when trolled behind a flasher. Just by casual observation I can see several packs of hoochies that I'd like to get my hands on to add to my already obscene supply. I'm not really sure what will happen to the packs that are left over at the end of the derby, maybe they'll go up for auction. Perhaps they will end up in the possession of a really talented person who can transform them into ear rings or children's mobiles. Maybe they could be glued to walking sticks or sewn onto hats like an Indian war bonnet; that would be cool. I have a light in my boat over the stove that has a pull string. In the past, when a hoochie was torn and no longer useful, I'd thread it on that string. Many of the hoochies I have glow in the dark, so when I turned off the light at night they glowed, kind of like a night light.  In years past various businesses have donated to the fishing derby, everything from food to rods and reels, tackle boxes, assorted gear and I believe even a bike or two. I'm starting to think that perhaps I should start my own fishing derby and ask for donations. I could always use a few more hoochies.
The 2019 T-shirt design brought to you by Erin, the Hoochie Lady

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Road Trip











    I know that it's been a few weeks since I posted anything here, but I was off looking around America, or at least a small part of it. It's become increasingly evident that it's time for us to look for another place to light in our old age. The cost of taking the truck to Juneau to buy groceries has risen, as has the cost of a round trip ticket on the local airlines. Recently I ran out of my prescription meds, and the doctor won't refill them after this last time until I come in for a physical. I understand; he's just doing his job. The problem is that it's going to cost a bundle just to get to Juneau from here so that I can go see him. It would be nice to be able to hop in the car and drive to the doctors or vets or dentist office. It would be great to know that regardless of the weather, you'd still get your mail, and your bills won't be delinquent because the mail couldn't get through. Hoonah has a lot to offer, but it's experiencing  a lot of change that I'm not comfortable with. On the plus side, there is no property tax, and thus far, Alaska doesn't have a state income tax, although that could change. It's gorgeous here, and if you like hunting and fishing, it's a great place to live. Unfortunately the town was discovered about nine years ago and now the  cruise ship industry has turned it into a tourist destination, complete with all the problems that come with that. This year alone there have an additional twenty five ships added to the already crowded schedule. The town is overrun with tour buses, vans, and people every time a ship shows up. At this juncture of my life, it's a hassle that I just don't want to deal with anymore, so we took a road trip to go look around. We returned to Idaho, and looked around the western part of the state. We spent time there last year as well. One thing that really stood out to me was how friendly the people were. Now if I'd said I was from California, I might not have had such a friendly reception, but as it was, we were treated very well everywhere we went. We spent about five days in Lewiston, which was our favorite place. Right now it's very comfortable, around 50 degrees or so. I understand that July and August the temps can soar into the nineties and above. I'm not so sure how I'll handle that. Maybe I won't. Perhaps I'll melt like the wicked witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz. I'll step outside one hot August day and end up a steaming pile of ooze on the sidewalk that people will have to step around. As it was, the Dogwoods were blooming, and there were daffodils and hyacinths in a lot of the yards. The tulips hadn't started to bloom yet, but it won't be long. We checked out the hospital, some of the many local stores, and quite a few of the restaurants. In fact we got sick to death of eating out every night. When we arrived on a Friday evening, the main drag was filled with cars,as were all the restaurants. I felt like I was in L A or some such thing. I guess we got there just as people were getting off work, so it was pretty busy. Obviously I'll have to get used to that. The nice part is that because we're retired, we don't have to go out and around when everyone else is on the road. We stayed at a delightful B&B for three nights in the older part of town, which I'll probably write about at a later date. We checked out several of the parks, drove to some of the smaller outlying towns, drove across the Snake River to Clarkson Washington where we could get a cheap lunch of a hot dog and soda at the local Costco, and spent time looking at the houses for sale. Until we sell our house, we won't really know what we can afford down there. It's going to be a big change, but if we don't do it soon, we may not do it at all, and I'll have to live the rest of my life wondering what might have been.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Wedding Like No Other










  This past Tuesday, the 26th of March,2019, Jan and I were invited to attend a most unconventional wedding for two very good friends. I don't mean that it was unconventional in a bad way, it was just different. The only tuxedo in the room was worn by the bride's dog, Robinau. I'm not quite sure how to spell his name. Sarah, the bride, says that his name means radish in Spanish. I've never bothered to ask why radish. Why not green pepper or tomato or pickled beet. However, radish is his name, and it seems to fit. He's a very pleasant dog, and he was on his best behavior while his owners were exchanging their vows. Now about the vows... they weren't what you would ordinarily find in a wedding either. In fact those of us who were invited actually came up with some of the wording. I know this sounds a little unusual, and it was, but the vows came out of a book of Mad Libs. It's a book that has pages that are making a statement with blank spots to fill in. There are spots for verbs, and adverbs and nouns and names and action verbs and things ending in "ing". It was all totally legal, and there was a magistrate to help administer the legal part of the proceedings. What I remember the most, aside from the feeling of joy and love that every one in the room was feeling for our friends Mark and Sarah, was the laughter. It was by far the most fun wedding that I've ever attended. I'm not a big wedding kind of guy. All the hoopla and dressing up and pomp and ceremony kind of turn me off, but this wedding wasn't like that. It was just fun for everyone. It was held in Mark and Sarah's home, and as I mentioned the dog had the only tux, so I guess he was the best man. Afterward there were snacks to eat and several cakes. Not a conventional wedding cake, but a cake nonetheless. Actually there were two. One had a kind of smorgasbord of veggies or fruits or both in it. Sarah called it a salad cake. I'm not real sure what the other cake was composed of, but it seemed to have German Chocolate icing, or at least that's what it tasted like to me, and it was very good. I should mention here that Sarah is a vegetarian. She eats fish and eggs, but no meat, so there was a "salami" roll that I believe she said was made out of figs. I had to decline on that. I have to admit though, a few weeks ago I had what I thought was a delightful burger made out of seasoned black beans and a few other vegetable and fruit concoctions that I was quite enamored with. There was also some Beechers Flagship cheese- mmmmm... delightfully sharp and tasty. They had also ordered in for this occasion a selection of nut butters. I don't believe there was any peanut butter on the table, but there was pecan butter and sesame butter, macadamia nut butter, hazelnut butter, almond butter I believe and a few others I can't recall. After the vows were taken, the rings were exchanged and it came time to kiss the bride, Mark kissed Sarah like he'd been off to war for a year. I finally told him to save some for later, lest they forget they had company. I don't know what the future holds for these two, but Mark is a much happier person with Sarah in his life, and he has apparently filled a void in hers, and if the wedding is any indication of what the future will be like for them, they're in for a good time indeed.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Uncommon Talent






For an isolated fishing village in Southeast Alaska, Hoonah has attracted quite a number of people down through the years. In the forty three years I've lived here I've seen a pretty diverse group. Some have come to give, some to take and some to try and hide out. There has been no shortage of transient folks, people who've come to take jobs at the cold storage or on fishing boats and in recent years filling the jobs at the cannery in the tourist industry. Once in blue moon we are graced with an individual of uncommon talent, such as the young lady pictured above. Her name is Christina Baal and she's a professional artist. She has a strong interest in birds and a desire to paint all ten thousand species. I hope that she lives long enough to see her passion fulfilled. I first saw an exhibit of her talent when I was working in the Forest Service building. The top photo of the Sockeye Salmon shows an example of her work. I was immediately drawn to it, in part because I love fish and fishing, and in part because of the vibrant colors.It's my understanding the she whipped it out in about two hours in response to a request for a design for the annual fishing derby. That she could do it that quickly is incredible, but what is truly amazing is that she's able to pull off such a work of art on a piece of plywood located under the stairs at her apartment. What I find even more fascinating, is that she sells her work for so little. I can't say here what she gets for each piece she does, but I do know that anyone, even a tourist looking for a bargain can easily afford to buy a print from her. I believe she's hoping to set up a little sidewalk stand this summer to pedal her goods,and she's agreed to carry my books as well, which I'm delighted about. Because of her talent, I fully expect to see an increase in sales. When I dropped by to see her today, she was almost done with the print in the middle. She's taking it with her to Philadelphia,I believe to display in an Audubon show. Her talents aren't limited to drawings or paintings.  When she found out that I loved hoochies, she got on line  and downloaded some pictures of them and put them on a button for me. At the time she had no idea what hoochies were. Frankly, I used to think that people with a degree in art were pretty much wasting their time. You always hear about starving artists, but Christina has managed to carve a niche in the art world that allows her to follow her dreams and put her talent to work. I recently checked out her web site and was blown away by her paintings. Her passion is birds, and she's able to capture them in an exciting and unique way. I hope you'll take a look at her web site. It's -drawingtenthousandbirds.com 
If you find something you like, or just want to say  hi, please contact her at 
drawing10000birds@gmail.com
I think you'll be glad you did.



Sunday, March 3, 2019

That None Shall Perish



This sign is hanging on the wall in our church. I see it every Sunday, but much like looking at the scenery around me, I don't give it a lot of thought. I should though. It's a powerful message. I'm sorry that the picture didn't come out so good. Today was sunny and the light coming from the window was reflected on the poster. The scripture is 2 Peter 3:9-What it says on the poster is - The Lord is not willing that any should perish. The whole scripture,starting at 2 Peter 3:8 is- Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Thank God for his patience. If he were anything like me, the judgment would have come down mightily a long time ago, after I had been saved of course. I'm often amazed at myself, how judgmental I am, how very critical I can be of others. It's no wonder that so many people don't want to come to church.With jerks like me in the church, why would they? Fortunately, God is merciful and when I ask for forgiveness, he gives it.  As the very popular Christian author, Max Lucado mentions in one of his books, many people whom we look down upon would find a warmer welcome at the corner bar than in many churches. That's not to say that we should condone ungodly behavior. There is a very strong push in this country to say that any kind of behavior is acceptable, regardless of how offensive, rude or immoral it may be. In an effort to be politically correct many people have accepted ideas that they know aren't right. They don't want to be labeled as intolerant though, so they go along to get along. Somehow, as Christians we have to be able to separate the sin from the sinner. As the saying goes, God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. He's gone out of his way to draw us to him. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:4- Do you show contempt for God's kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? If you're reading this post, and you haven't already committed your life to Christ, I hope that you'll consider what has been written. God is certainly long-suffering, and as He says in his word, He gets no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I've mentioned my favorite scripture in this blog before, and as it was relevant then, so it's relevant now. Jeremiah 29:11 states- " I know the plans I have for you" says the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." The Lord is your biggest fan. He wants what is the very best for you. He loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him. It's the best choice you could ever make. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll choose life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Vernor's








 Jan and I were having dinner with my friends, Mark Smith and his fiance' Sarah Quiggly a few weeks ago.They spend a good bit of time figuring out new and exciting dishes to try out and they like to share what they've discovered. Because they experiment with new recipes, our conversations often revolve around food. During the course of our discussion,the subject of Cream of Wheat came up. I'm not sure why, but it did. Well, one thing led to another, and I think I commented on the old fellow on the box. We discovered that his name was Frank L. White. He was a chef who was originally from Barbados. He has a very pleasant appearance and I guess whoever was in charge of marketing at the company thought he would be a good representative. I did a little research and discovered that he lived in Michigan and passed on in I believe, 1938. For a number of years he didn't have a proper grave marker, but a few years back his story was told on one of the major news networks and he was given a granite stone with his name and I believe his affiliation with Cream of Wheat. Then the conversation turned to Uncle Ben's rice. The guy on that box looks like a friendly sort as well. As it turns out, his name was Frank also. Frank Brown. He was a Maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant. I asked about Aunt Jemima also, but she was just a figment of someones imagination apparently. While we were on the subject of food and drink, I happened to mention one of my favorite soft drinks, Vernor's Ginger Ale.  I guess it's called ginger soda now. In any event, we can't seem to get it up here. For awhile the Northern Sales Company in Juneau distributed it, but I haven't seen it for years. However, that didn't hamper Mark. He discovered that he could get a case sent up from Target, with free shipping, and ordered a case before the end of dinner. Well, it arrived the other day, and Mark and Sarah made a special trip to the house to deliver me a few cans. I know that Sarah had never had it, and I don't believe Mark had either, so to celebrate, we took out some frosted wine glasses from the freezer and poured ourselves a few drafts. It's really bubbly, and both Mark and Sarah, as well as Jan  all started coughing when they first brought the glasses up to drink. I knew what to expect and was spared. It was funny to watch though. Vernor's is described as  deliciously different, and the taste is declared both bold and bracing. When I was a kid I was attracted to the bottle originally because it had a green and gold label that was eye- catching. However, once I tasted it, I was sold on the flavor. It was very hard to get, even in my home town in Ohio, though it was manufactured in Michigan. However, whenever I could find it, I made sure to stock up. Vernor's  was created by James Vernor, a pharmacist in Detroit. He sold it in his soda fountain. If I recall correctly, he was called up during World War I and stored the ingredients in oak barrels for four years. When he returned, he tried some and found the aging in the barrels enhanced the flavor. For a number of years it was advertised as being aged in oak barrels, now I believe is may say it's aged in wood, but there isn't a specific time mentioned as I recall. Apparently the drink was so popular that he sold the pharmacy and just opened a soda fountain. He eventually sold the formula to other soda fountains with strict orders that the formula had to be followed carefully. In time it was sold to a bottling company and now I think it's owned by the folks at Dr. Pepper.  It's said that it can be used for cooking, and according to an article I read, the late, great Aretha Franklin used to make a glaze for her Christmas ham with it. So there you have it. Personally, I highly recommend you give it a try. It's caffine free, and as they say, it's deliciously different. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mechanical Hell




 Have you ever noticed that some guys are just naturally gifted handymen.  I'm not one of those guys. I rely on the integrity of the gifted ones to help me out.You take your car in because it's not running right and they can look at it and know right away what the problem is. "Well Mr. Botts, it's obvious that the bungflogger here has become disengaged with the hornwiller, so the flipstopper isn't going around." That's all very entertaining, but I haven't got a clue what they're talking about.  I can only hope I don't have to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay to fix it. A few weeks ago our Samsung TV crapped the bed. It started off with not wanting to turn on with the remote control. I'd always heard that you do the simplest thing first, so I replaced the batteries with a fresh pair. It didn't help.I was standing in front of the TV pushing the on button like my life depended on it, but to no avail. I felt like I was a contestant on Jeopardy trying desparitely to answer the question, but the button doesn't work.So then I got online and read that sometimes if you unplug the TV from the back, it will fix it. So I tried that and, miracle of miracles, it did work. At least for a few days. After that was no longer effective,  I tried unplugging the TV from the wall outlet, and that worked for a few days as well, but eventually that also failed, so we sat like a couple of  monkeys staring at the blank screen willing it to come on until we finally acknowledged that it was dead.  I spoke to a friend who said it was probably the mother board, and to contact a place called Shop Jimmy. They claim to have hundreds of thousands of parts for televisions in stock. I looked them up and It certainly appeared that they had tons of parts- just not the one I needed. Not only did they not have it, but there isn't even a remote chance that they'll get it. Go figure. They did have a little black chip with metal tabs on the ends that they emphasize MAY fix the problem, so for twenty bucks I bought it. On line it looked like the size of a bread box, but when I received it in the mail, I thought the package was empty. The part was so small I needed a magnifying glass to see the little metal tips. I ended up taking the back off the TV but I couldn't even find a part that looked anything like the one they sent me, and if I'd had, soldering it would have required the skills of a robot in a factory. Of course because it's electrical, there's no sending it back for a refund, which is just as well, because by the time you've paid for shipping both ways, even though it weighs less than a gnat, it ends up costing more than the part itself. Lovely. I procrastinated for awhile and finally decided to order a TV from Best Buy up in Anchorage. I thought they would send it to me from there, but nooooooooo... its coming from Oklahoma somewhere. It flew UPS and made every stop from Oklahoma City to Pacific Washington where they finally pawned it off to the U.S. Postal Service in Federal Way Washington, where I can only assume it's on it's way on the barge. I'm not a big fan of the Federal Way distribution center. We've had more than a few problems with getting stuff that comes through there.The local postmaster assures me that it should be here in another nine days. By the time I get it, assuming it's in working condition after being manhandled like a hooker at a longshoreman convention, it will probably be a relic. But that's not all! Oh no, no, no, there's more. I was making a CD on my  computer for a friend the other day when the machine started making a squirelly noise and all of a sudden there was loud POP. I managed to kind of get the CD drawer open and I could see dozens of pieces of CD hanging out inside. Thinking it was a minor fix I grabbed my little shop vac and tried to vacuum them all out.  Well, that worked about as well as anything else I attempt, so I ended up turning the computer upside down trying to shake out the little shards. There was quite a pile of them on the desk, but the drawer still won't close. All the shaking apparently shook something loose and I ended up having to go to the hardware store and buy a new ether cable. That didn't fix the CD, that just made the Internet work again.  My son-in-law, up in Wasilla said I probably need to get a new CD drive. Right now I'm waiting on another person to come and take apart the drive so I can see what I need to get to replace it. I wish I could say that that's all the mechanical issues I'm having, but it's not. Last spring I had a local mechanic rebuild the parts in my 1992 Chevy Silvarado truck transmission. It ran fine until he left for Missouri, now it's giving me problems again. The reverse doesn't want to engage and it revs up in low gear before finally finding second. Of course he won't be back until April, so I have to keep babying it, pouring five dollar a quart tranny fluid into it, hoping I don't get stuck somewhere. I know that in the grand scale of life, these problems are pretty minor, but there are times when I wish I had been born handy instead of so darn handsome.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me!










  I was rummaging around in one of my dresser drawers the other day looking for a small screwdriver or some such thing for the crew who was working on the bathroom. I don't usually keep tools in my dresser, but this screwdriver was made for eyeglasses, and I didn't want to lose it in the mess that I call my tool room. Anyway, I came across a card that I got for my birthday last year. When I opened it, there was money inside! Woo Hoo! I'd forgotten all about it, which was fine, because otherwise it would have been spent already. Well, it just so happens that my favorite store, Tideland Tackle, started carrying a line of Ray Troll t-shirts. For those of you who may not know Ray Troll, he's a famous Alaskan artist who made fish art really cool. He does some other things too. I've seen t-shirts with dinosaurs on them and I can't recall what else. My interest is mainly in fish, so I don't pay attention to anything else. He came up with a design for the under appreciated and often times cursed pink salmon or humpy. It's the smallest of the salmon and unless you're fishing for them specifically, they're a nuisance, They aren't worth much, and they are voracious feeders, so you can load up your fishing lines with them and the money fish can't bite because all the hooks are full. Anyway, Ray came up with a design with a bunch of angry looking humpies with huge teeth and the slogan, Humpies From Hell. It was pretty popular. There was also a shirt that mentioned Creek Street down in Ketchikan where he has his studio. Apparently Creek Street was the red light district some time back. The slogan on the shirt was-Creek Street, where both men and salmon go to spawn. I haven't seen that one in awhile either. I can't begin to remember what all he carries. There are a number of really interesting slogans with corresponding drawings. If you get on the Ray Troll web site, you can see for yourself what's available. I happened to love the one I'm wearing. The colors are so vibrant and the message is spot on. Commercial fishermen, especially Alaska fishermen, are feeding the world.  Now a note about my picture. Jan has a habit of cutting my head off when she takes my pictures, although in her defense, I guess if the whole t-shirt was going to be shown, something had to go, why not the top of my head? I always look like I'm angry in all my photos.I'm not sure why that is. I think it's those blasted bushy eyebrows. I trim them almost daily, and overnight they grow like dandelions. I don't understand it. It looks like I'm getting a mug shot taken. Actually, that wouldn't be so bad if I could wear my Ray Troll. That gives me an idea. States could get sponsors from various companies, you know, Coca Cola, Frito Lay, Budweiser. Then when a person gets a mug shot, the corrections officers could give them a shirt for the photo shoot thus advertising for the company.Of course the down side would be if people looked at the sponsors shirts and equated them with criminals. The upside would be that It would give the tax payers a break, and maybe provide some money for the prison recreational fund. A new ping-pong table or Foos ball might be appreciated. I suspect that a dart board wouldn't be considered, unless it was covered in felt and the darts were those flat faced Velcro things. Anyway, something to think about. So, if you're at a loss for what to buy a friend or family member, consider a Ray Troll t-shirt. They're colorful, fun and neat to look at; or just give them some money and they can go buy their own.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Turn and Burn









    For years Jan has been after me to replace the last four original windows in the house. They were standard issue back in 1945 when the house was built. They were good windows, wood and glass, but they weren't insulated and were really showing their age, kind of like me.  A quick side note. Did you realize that glass is liquid? A science teacher told me that years ago. The molecules move at a snails pace, but apparently over a period of hundreds of years, it would be noticeable I guess. At least that's what he said. Anyway, back to the story. We finally decided to replace the last four windows, two in the dining room and two in the living room. We also decided to have the bathroom remodeled. A fellow I'd used before for several previous projects showed up on Wednesday with three Mexicans and a stepson. Sounds like a title for a sitcom on TV. "Tune in tonight on ABC for Three Mexicans and a Stepson on channel 8 at 9:00 PM." Anyway, they didn't waste any time. On  Wednesday afternoon, as soon as they got here, they started staging the materials on the front porch. The next day they started right at 8:00 AM and worked until almost 6:30. That first day they got all four windows installed and started taking apart the bathroom. By Thursday afternoon, they had the vanity out of the bathroom and  sitting in my living room, they had taken the toilet out (which fortunately wasn't sitting in my living room) as well as the old tub surround and put a rubber sheet on the walls around the tub. They also put up cement board and sealed it with another water proofing material. On Friday the new medicine cabinet was up, as well as the mirror and lights and  the tile in the shower. Also the new ceiling fan and the flooring. The new "comfort toilet" was installed also, but we couldn't use it yet because the goop sealing the valve needed a night to set. That was a bit of a pain, having to go upstairs to use the potty in the middle  of the night. I like the "comfort toilet" though. It's three inches higher than a regular one. It's much easier on the the knees because you don't have so far to go before being seated. I guess if you had little kids it wouldn't be ideal because their feet might dangle up off the floor, but as long as I don't shrink too much more, I'll keep enjoying it. Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the toilet would be proud I'm sure. By Saturday the tile was all grouted, the towel bar was mounted and the new doors for the shower were installed. I was wondering why they cost so much when I bought them at Home Depot, but when I went to pick one up the other day, I understood. Those doors must weigh seventy five pounds apiece. Holy Toledo! I better keep a phone in the shower in case I get too weak to slide the doors open and have to call 911. Unfortunately, there was an oversight and somehow the handles for the doors weren't sent, and neither was the sealer for the tile, so I still have to go upstairs to get a shower.  Hopefully that will be solved soon. However, it's snowing right now,which means no planes, so it might be a few days before freight comes in. One of the disadvantages of living in a remote place. You can't just go down to the local Home Depot and get what you forgot. There's always a lot of planning that goes into a remodel like this. Anyway, by Saturday afternoon the crew was packed up and on their way back to Juneau. It was a whirlwind experience, but when it comes to having your life turned upside down and your house turned inside out, it sure beats dragging it on for weeks.