Monday, November 28, 2016

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Give Thanks

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Old Man and the Baby

Great Grandpa Tom and Evalee

Grandma Jen


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

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thirty Eight Years and Counting....

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

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's All My Fault!

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Let's Speak What's On Our Minds

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Please Don't Give Up Hope

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