Paul’s Goodbye

Paul’s daughters, with help from the rest of us, put on a great memorial for Paul. It was held at the Moose Club in Petersburg. At Paul’s request. It was his go to place to take people for dinner. And where he participated in sports’ pools for decades. The place was packed.

Kris gave a long biography of Paul’s life. I think everyone there learned something they didn’t know about Paul. I didn’t know Paul had been on the city council at one time. There were lots of pictures of Paul on tables, and many of the model airplanes he made in his lifelong hobby hung from the ceiling.

His grandson told a funny story about bugging his grandpa all day on the boat about seal bombs, and at the end of the day, Paul finally relented and uncharacteristically handed his grandson a lit seal bomb!  The grandson retreated to the back deck and threw it off the boat before it blew his fingers off.

I met Paul on the road from Freetown to Bo in Sierra Leone in about 1987. His daughter Nina had arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer a year before me from Georgetown, where she attended college with Patrick Ewing. She worked in a coastal village introducing improved fish smokers, if I remember correctly.

I had just graduated from UAF, and, on the advice of another mentor, Don Jackson, I joined the Peace Corps to work as a fish farming extension agent. Paul and Nevette were over visiting Nina and I just happened to meet them on the road. This was before I met Sara or lived in this part of Alaska.

Years later, I would meet and marry Sara when I moved to Juneau. Sara, it turns out, had been friends with Nevette since they were in high school. Paul came up to me at a troller meeting in Petersburg when I was there working for ADFG in about 1997. It was the first time I’d seen him since we met in Africa.  That started a friendship that grew stronger every year till he passed away this past Aug 1.

Paul and his best friend Tyler duck hunted together for decades. Paul was very secretive about just where they went down the channel from the house. So much of that trip was tradition and culture between the two of them. I knew I was “in” when I got invited on my first of several duck hunts with Paul.

Their duck blind was a large tree that had, I assume, come down the Stikine River. Paul said the tree had been there since he first came there duck hunting – so likely the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. The saltwater had preserved it well.

You had to get to the island as the tide was flooding, and be sure you left before the tide had fully ebbed, or you might be there another tide cycle before you had enough water to get home or back to the Forest Service cabin. We beached the boat on the shoreline opposite the tree, then hauled in more shells then we’d ever shoot in a weekend. Then the beer.

Paul tossed out decoys onto the mud flat in front of the log blind at shooting distance. When the tide came in far enough, it would float the decoys, and then the ducks should start flying in to them.

Paul then told me he hoped I didn’t mind, but since we had to wait for the tide, he and Tyler liked to enjoy a beer waiting for the ducks. Sounds good to me, I said. Then he said we also like to listen to the Seahawks game (it was a Sunday) that was carried by the local Christian radio station, as it didn’t seem to bother the ducks.  I told Paul I thought maybe we were Siamese twins separated at birth!

Paul sat at one end of the log, and Tyler at the other in the root wad.  They had me a short distance from Tyler is some other sort of woody cover. I’d hear Paul yell down to Tyler asking if the game was on yet, and Tyler would yell back, “No Paul, it’s time to pray!”. That was the beginning, really, of a lifelong relationship.

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From that point on, the phone calls between us became more frequent. In the last decade, they were weekly and more. I started going down to Petersburg for every Super Bowl, and we were joined by Kris, Steve, and Dick – and Tyler when he was in town. All now my friends, too. In later years, I also went down for the college football championships, and maybe a college basketball final.

The night before Paul’s memorial, Sara helped Nevette and Nina and Andrew and Peter put on a meal for several dozen people who gathered at the family house on arrival from out of town for the celebration. King and coho salmon from Petersburg, moose sausage, Portugal seafood tins, and imported cheeses from us, and baked goodies for desert from the in-towners that joined us.

The family house has become one of the most familiar houses I know now, having spent so much time there over the past decades. I always feel at home there, and glad the girls are hanging on to it.

After Paul’s celebration at the Moose, we again gathered that evening at Paul’s house, with left overs from the night before and left overs from the Moose Club. Most of the wine and booze was taken care of as well.

The next morning, Steve rode his ebike to the house, and he and I went up to the Petersburg landfill for scavenge day. We got there shortly after opening at 9 am, and one guy who had got there before us was busy taking part an electric box of some kind. A fresh 4 inches of snow overnight covered everything, making it a little difficult to see just what was there.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. The last time I was there, I was looking for seine netting, which I found right away in a recycle tote designated for fish netting. Then Steve helped me get some beautiful aluminum plate that now serve as the bases for the downriggers and pole holders on the tug. I also gathered hundreds of dollars worth of stainless steel nuts and bolts and washers.

On this morning, I spotted some kind of structure that may have been an antenna tower, all taken apart and in a bundle. There were multiple heavy wires with loops crimped in both ends that were stays to hold the tower in place. Each end was attached to a pad eye with a stainless steel quick link. I tried loosening one of the links by hand, and it backed right off. Soon, Steve and I were busy removing every link on the pile of antenna tower. We got 37 of them in the end, worth about $300 or more at the hardware store. Steve took some lengths of the wiring and a couple links to use on Paul’s boat, and that’s all he wanted. I took the rest of the links home with me to Juneau. They will come in handy on the boat or for pulling logs down the hill if I can keep track of them, which is always an issue with a hoarder.

We got back to the house from the dump at 1030 am, and people were gathered for coffee and pastries. Most of us were on the 1 pm flight north to Juneau and beyond. An hour later, we started to filter out to drive the short distance to the airport and fly to Juneau on a beautiful crisp sunny winter day.

Paul would be happy with his weekend.

fish in a large white bucket on a boat deck

February Trap Line

A mutual friend of my nieces’ cousin called on the cousin’s suggestion. I know the mutual friend just casually through trapping correspondence, and remember he told me his sister lived in Madagascar when I was planning my work trip there.

His two boats were dead for now, and he needed to go out and check his trapline. I’d told him years ago if he ever needed someone to go along, I wanted to go to see what dryland trapping for big furbearers was all about. Did I want to take him in my boat tomorrow?  You bet, I said.

The hour was late – approaching 10 pm – as he’d already tried asking a dozen other friends, and only came to me when the cousin suggested it. Normally, I’d like to leave early on such a trip, but the boat hadn’t been out of it’s stall in over a month, and I didn’t recall just how much fuel I had. So, I told him to meet me at 8 am, in case we needed to stop at the fuel dock.

We left at 8 am, as tanks were nearly full. It’s a 3 hour ride over to the mainland where his traps are in my 6 knot boat. It was a fine winter day, with some blue patches of sky and almost calm seas.

I put him off into the punt to row ashore at his first beach trapline. I was having issues again with my charging system on the boat, so ran offshore a bit, killed the engine, and changed the V Belt. That seemed to help, and I could tell now that the other belt was stretched out, so maybe not working just right. I wasn’t sure how long he’d be, and so I dallied around the boat putting things away and such. With nothing else to do, I put out my fishing gear to see if there were any king salmon around. I fished up and down the shoreline. No action, and nothing showed for feed on the sounder.

About 2 hours after I dropped him off, I saw him come down to the beach for a spell, and eventually to the punt. He radioed that he’d row down the beach to the point, check his traps there, and be done in about 20 minutes.

The 20 minutes turned into an hour. Eventually, I saw him coming through thigh deep snow through the trees behind the beach. He would pull something out of my view towards him, trudge a few steps more in the deep snow, and pull it towards him again. When he got almost to the waterline of the snow I could see it: he’d caught a wolf. A big wolf.

He pulled the punt down to the waterline, loaded his trapping gear, then dragged the wolf to the boat and rolled it in. Out he rowed. The wolf was massive. The largest I’d seen in person. The only other wolves I’d seen were on Prince of Wales Island, and they are smaller and leaner. This wolf looked all of 75 lbs, with huge feet. I can only imagine how impressive the 100+ lbs wolves are up in Alaska’s Interior. My friend also caught 3 marten – two of which were almost jet black in color. Much darker fur than those I’d caught on Admiralty Island or down by Craig.

We motored to the second beach, and repeated the process. My friend rowed to shore, and I fished. Nothing showing for feed on the sounder along this beach either, nor any birds working. This check was shorter, and produced one marten.

I dropped him at a third beach. I almost wasn’t going to fish here since I’d seen nothing at the other two spots, but there were a few gulls on the water. They weren’t diving on feed or anything, but looked like they were there for a reason. I put the gear out – I put 50 feet of wire out and fished in about 60 feet of water. I fished out of the little cove past the point where the beach turned north, then turned back into the cove. There seemed to be some feed on the sounder here and there. And then it happened. I looked back like I had all day, and this time the rod was bouncing up and down. I immediately thought I was in too shallow of water, but the sounder showed I was not. I put the boat in neutral, and ran back and grabbed the rod. The fish was taking drag. A few more runs, and I thought it was a keeper for sure.

When I got the line tight, I cranked up the down rigger wire the line had been attached to. Then stepped over the wolf on the deck to the other rod and down rigger. I managed to get both of them up and out of the way, playing the fish as necessary in between.

I got the landing net under the fish, and the king salmon was on board. I stunned the fish, removed the hook, broke a gill, and slid the fish carefully into a bucket of seawater to bleed.

It was almost dark now, but I put the gear back out and made a pass where I caught the fish. When I didn’t hook another, I cranked all the gear up, as it was now dark. My friend was soon rowing out, the twinkle of his head lamp moving to the rhythm of the oars. We got him on board and the punt secured for the run home. He caught nothing in his traps on this beach.

Two hours later, we neared the harbor, and  stopped at his last beach. He had a couple otter sets here, but neither connected.

We got back to the harbor, long after dark, about 9 pm.

As I tied up, I thought: I’m never leaving this place.

fish in a large white bucket on a boat deck

Kickin’ it with Bob

Came off of a subpar ski on the cross country trail at Eaglecrest yesterday and saw I had a phone message.  Bob said if I was ready to fix my ski, he could do it.  I called him back and said I’d stop on the way home.

Bob is a craftsman’s craftsman.  He’s had a hand in most every museum in the state setting up displays, from Dutch Harbor to Utqiagvik to Skagway.  He’s also a stringed instrument builder and repairman.  He supervised the building of the state museum in town.

I’d mounted bindings on the skis, and they were not lined up.  Not centered properly and canted to one side.  But the mount was not off by much, so you can’t just back out the screws, line it up, and reinstall the screws because the new holes will be so close to the old one that you’ll just be making one big hole that the screw will not hold in.

Enter Bob.  While we talked, he methodically went to work.  I helped him back out the old screws.  Then he got a drill of the size of a piece of maple dowel he had, put a piece of tape on the drill bit about a half inch from the tip so he could drill all the holes to the same depth, then drilled out all the holes.  Next he mixed some JB Weld quick setting epoxy and filled each hole.

He then cut little pieces off the maple dowel for each hole with the band saw.  These were going every which way off the saw.  When he was done, we picked the pieces up off the floor and took them over to the ski.

He set a piece of dowel in each hole and pounded it in with a hammer.  Then he took a fine little saw I’d guess he uses for instrument repair and cut the dowels off even with the top of the ski.  Next he used a fine scraper to get them as flush as he could with the ski top.

Now he went to work finding the dead center of the ski. He made his marks with a punch, then drilled down.  He did the top center and back center screws of the nnn binding.  Once these were lined up on the centerline, they would hold the binding in perfect place to put in the two side by side screws of the nnn binding.  By doing the centerline screws front and back first, it was impossible for the binding to move and cant to one side as I had done.  Simple stuff.  Crap, a guy can learn a lot in 30 minutes.

Bob and his wife have helped me out in any number of ways over the years.  I met them through Sara right after we were married, and they are about 10 years older than Sara and I.  Bob welded zincs on the Dutch Master when I needed it.  He helped me plan and build my garage.  Laura, a graphic designer by early trade and social worker later in life, designed our company logo.  She also took a deer backbone, cleaned it all up, glued it together, then painted it to a beautiful art piece she gave me as a present.  Laura and I gather fiddleheads and nettles each spring. Sam used to go with us on the expedition when he was a kid.  Me – I just keep them in deer, moose, salmon, crab, and halibut.  A perfect match.
Took the ski out today to Montana Creek trail with Kurt, and it worked perfect.  

Air Fryer Incident

So, after falling in love with the Instant Pot – a logical, I guess, from a guy who does a lot of pressure cooking canning, my buddy Kevin said he was hooked on the air fryer. So, I found one for $20 on Craigslist. From my loan officer at our bank. Small town funny.

I watched America’s Test Kitchen yesterday and they made chicken sandwiches in the air fryer. I thought – that’s a good test for fried fish.

We had all the ingredients except Panko. My friend Ken used this often as I remember. I stopped at IGA downtown to buy some. I felt this would be a 5 minute in and out. Nope. Up and down the isles I shopped. I then checked the Asian isle. Didn’t see it. I asked one of the checkers. Both she and a customer directed me to the flour and bread crumb isle. So I back tracked there and scanned back and forth again. I’m 60 now. I know it could be right in front of me and I wouldn’t notice. Sort of like Sara coming home with a new hairdo. Nope. I could not see it.

I hit every isle in the store. I went a last time down the Asian isle. Then boom. There is was. On the top shelf. Hiding itself in plain site. Panko. And luckily only 2 choices. I grabbed one, along with an apple fritter as a reward, checked out, and was on my way.

We decided to do the fish the next day – today – as Sara had a long day at the legislature. I got the ingredients together and got air frying today.

First, I cut up 4 red potatoes into wedges, then dredged them in an olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and parsley dredge till they were all coated. I put these in the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

While these were cooking, I got the fish batter together. First I coated a cup of panko with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl, then microwaved them for a minute at a time to brown the panko. While I was microwaving, I mixed an egg with a tablespoon of flour and 3 tablespoons of siracchi, some garlic powder and salt and pepper.

At 10 minutes, I shook the potatoes and cooked them another 5 minutes. When they were done, I put them in a bowl and into the toaster oven on warm. I cut the bomber rockfish fillets in half, dredged them in the egg mixture, then coated them in the panko, and put each piece in the air fryer. I used up all the egg mixture and panko on 5 pieces of bomber fillet. ‘

I cooked the fish for 5 minutes at 400 degrees, then flipped the fillets over, and cooked for 5 more minutes.

We had ketchup for the potato wedges, and I made kelp relish and mayonaise tartar sauce for the fish. Sara and I both approved. An easy meal and no guessing on oil type or temperature to cook the fish and the potato wedges  (we could give a crap about whether it was “healthy” or not!).

Lots of snow in Juneau

January Snow: Storm 3

It rained what seemed like a foot this past week, and it was incredible to see how fast 3 feet of snow can melt off. The sloped part of our driveway was bare. Until yesterday at 3 pm, when the third January storm hit. Luckily, Kurt and I got in a ski just before.

We had another foot of snow overnight, but luckily we got Roy and Brenda and dogs from the airport, and Zeke, their son from Haines who arrived on the ferry, back to the house and got their vehicles up the driveway before the worst of the snow had piled up.

When everyone cleared out this morning, I put the plow back on the truck. I’d bought 2 sets of brand new tire chains on Facebook. Funny how sometimes you see an item has been on there awhile, and you say you are interested, then don’t hear back for maybe a week. Then boom – a reply that they are still for sale. I think busy people put stuff on there and don’t check responses to their ads for awhile, and maybe I was the most recent to reply and so I get the call. Anyway, the seller worked at Bobcat, so not only were there chains, but the tensioner…..and an extra tensioner. $50. For 2 pair!  And unused. They went on almost too easy. And boy, did they seem to make a difference. With the front tires biting more and slipping less, the plow seemed to dig in better. I got to plowing and it looked great when I was done. Still doesn’t take the snow right down to the gravel, and the driveway is still slippery, but my neighbor’s driveway that was plowed out by a professional wasn’t a whole lot better it didn’t seem.

There was just enough snow to shovel that I couldn’t get with the plow to rehab my hip. It’s really something how much better my hip feels. I’ve got a new outlook on things. I feel like I can pack a deer out again. I can climb through the snow again to get to the truck or the woodpile. Maybe this is what people with knee or hip replacements feel like after they get the new part in and get past the pain of rehab, which Brian is going through right now.

No long melt off in sight now. Hopefully we’ve got reliable snow for skiing for awhile.

Lots of snow in Juneau

January Snow

We got socked with snow again. Three feet of snow in a couple days. People looked sort of shell shocked when I passed them along the road as the storm progressed. Shoveling again. And again. And again, as the snow just kept coming. Many don’t have driveways you can really plow, so it’s shovel or snowblow.

I was all fine with it til I managed to bury the truck nearly to the axles in soft ground under the snow in our gravel driveway while I was plowing.  Now it was back to the shovel for me, as I’d given away the snowblower and my tow truck company’s truck was down.

When Sara got home at night, I was bushed, and a little depressed. “This is why people move south or get a condo here” I told her.

But as the storm progressed, and the shoveling went on and on, I realized: hey, this may be good for my hip.

Today was the best my hip has felt in a year and a half. The inflamed bursa finally seems to be subsiding.

I went to the boat to do the post storm shovel off. Chris checked the boat for me yesterday when he went down to check his boat, and said mine was okay, but would “need a haircut” before the rain started. When I got down there today, I saw what he meant-  the wet exhaust pipe, which is usually showing the top half of the pipe above the waterline, was all underwater. Chuck, the dock manager, had just sent me a text when I got there regarding the boat, too, to let me know it was time to get her cleaned off. I looked around and saw I was one of the last boats to get cleaned after the storm. And with my hip feeling so good, I kind of enjoyed it. And I noticed Eaton’s work painting the boat name on the bottom of the skiff pulled up on the stern of the tug has been impervious to the snow.

Weather has warmed up to freezing and supposed to be in the 40’s for a week. Ski trails should be able to weather the warm up now for a long time.