Blog Archives


My Dad Often Pretended to be a Duck


A duck call should not be a weapon or a flotation device.

Earl was a modern day Dr. Doolittle.  He was also my dad and I swear he could actually talk to ducks – calling to them like the Pied Piper called to rats.  He apparently knew the right thing to say because they always seemed very comfortable and relaxed right up until the moment they were blasted out of the sky with 2 3/4″ magnum sixes.  Boy, did my dad know how to call ducks!

NB: A magnum 6 is a shotgun shell that makes a huge roar and sprays little pellets at cute feathered animals with the force of a tiny Hiroshima.  In hunting parlance it would be considered the humane and sporting way to kill defenseless animals for fun.

There is something visceral and primordial about sitting in a duck blind trying to kill as many birds as possible, but even when I was young something seemed not quite right about letting good meat go to waste.  I guess I liked what it felt like to have my picture taken with dead animals hanging around my neck and knowing that I was a pretty darn good shot and I felt a weird sense of pride at being able to kill so well.  I even fooled myself into thinking that I was a good at putting meat on the table.   Technically, it would be more accurate to say that I was good at putting meat in our freezer because the meat never actually got to our table.  The frozen duck carcasses lay in our freezer for years until we moved.  At that point they were thrown away without a second thought.  But, at least having them in the freezer tucked away for years, nestled under the pizza rolls and boxes of ice cream, made me feel better about hunting.


I was never thrilled with hunting the night before a hunting trip.  Sleep rarely came easy because of the one thought that ran through my head on an endless loop: “there are living things out there right at this moment that didn’t know they would be dead in the morning.”  I was all bravado in the evening as we sat around talking about past exploits and how much we had killed, but then when I went to bed I would be racked with guilt.  The guilt would pass in the morning with the sunlight, but would crop up at times during the day whenever I had to wring the neck of a duck or goose that I hadn’t cleanly killed.  It has always been hard for me to grasp a creature by the neck and kill it because I decided it shouldn’t live any more.  But hey, I hunted on because you know the old maxim, “If there is no lead a flyin’ there’s no meat a dyin’.”

I hope you’re not getting the wrong idea about me.  Just because I’m not a huge fan of ME hunting, doesn’t mean that I don’t think others should hunt, even if it’s just for sport.  You will not find a single redwood splinter on me from hugging a tree or boat marks on my back from getting run over trying to protect the whales (whalers have to eat too).  I know where meat comes from and I have a 1/4 beef sitting in my freezer right now waiting to be charred over a hot bed of coals.  However, it does give me an added feeling of justification if the meat from my, or anybody else’s, road kill actually goes to some good use.


Earl on the right


My dad and his friends used to come home from deer hunting with so many deer slung over the stern of the boat that it looked like the boat had a hairy brown fungus growing over it.  I have heard that Orca migration patterns were changed permanently because of chum trail left in the boat wake on their return.

Once the pictures were taken at the dock and the posturing was done, and the talk of how there was going to be a huge a wild game feed was over, we would go home and the meat would never be seen or heard from again.   There must have been over 4000 pounds of meat on that boat and I never saw a single 8 oz. petite sirloin cross my plate.  I never, once, and I mean ever, had venison for dinner.   Where it went was a mystery.  It was like a giant sheet was placed over the deer pile and when it was pulled back a fanfare was played and the meat was gone.


Earl cleaning wildfowl that would never see our table

We never ate any wild game, not even salmon we caught, and we caught a ton of them.  I can remember catching salmon, cleaning salmon, fileting salmon and storing the eggs to catch more salmon, but I can’t ever remember eating any of it.  We gave a lot of it away though (mostly to Judge Keene). I guess I’m now wondering if Earl was greasing the skids in some way.  I’m not sure if he was trying to get rid of the meat because we wouldn’t eat it, paying the judge for the many times he didn’t get thrown in jail for fighting, or just showing off because he always sent me down with the biggest fish.

The only salmon I ever remember eating was when my mom made salmon cakes, and I know for a fact that the salmon for those cakes came from a can because I loved to open cans when I was a kid (more weirdness).   Can you imagine living in Alaska, being a salmon fisherman and eating only canned salmon?  I’m sure it was canned locally, but still, the idea of it is bizarre.

I hated salmon cakes because none of the bones in canned salmon were ever removed.  Most of them were soft enough to eat, but once in a while you would bite down on a vertebrae and it would make a soft, crunching sound like you were breaking the back of a slug (I know they are invertebrates, but that’s what it was like).   To this day I can’t stare a salmon cake in the eye without flinching.

Earl was an excellent caller of game.  Given his personality it makes a lot of sense.  He was always good at getting people to buy what he was selling,  luring them in with wacky advertising or promises of grandeur and then making the kill.  Whether it was furniture, fishing gear, golf clubs, totem poles or getting Governor Egan elected state governor, he always found a way to get people (or animals) to buy what he was selling.

He loved the hunt and the kill, but he was terrible at the follow through and he left the dead meat of countless “friendships” in his wake.  No one really got close to Earl unless you let Earl be Earl and did what he said and what he wanted.  If you didn’t, there would be hell to pay.  People either enjoyed the ride with my dad or they wanted to get out of the car really quickly.   Being young, I was in and out of his car so often that I wasn’t sure if I was driving, riding in the trunk or watching it peel away from the curb.

Earl loved almost nothing better than duck hunting though.   Some of my best memories of my dad come from sitting in the blind with him.  He wasn’t demanding or hollering or telling me or my mom what to do or reading his paper while you were trying to talk to him.   He was attentive, kind and encouraging and the only thing he wanted from me was to pour him about a half of a cup of coffee (a full cup got cold too quickly and he loved his coffee hot) into the red plastic cap of the thermos and kill as many ducks as possible.  I never drank coffee, but when I poured that half cup and the steam from it curled to my face  I wanted more than anything to WANT to drink coffee.  He would hold up his hand and say “give me some skin” and when I slapped his hand he would hold on to it for just a second and then take a sip of his coffee.

img057 Earl never wore gloves no matter how cold it was. He always said he liked to only wear them on the way home because it felt so good to put them on (I thought it felt good to have them warm both to and from the boat ride to the blind, but this was his logic, not mine).  His pale, thin-skinned hands, mottled with age spots would be red and looking like they had the beginnings of frost bite as he gripped the call like he was holding onto a roll of pennies during a fist fight.  He would cup his other hand over the end of the call to vary the sound, like a trumpet player using a mute.  He would press the call to his lips – a small bead of clear liquid always precariously clinging to the end of his nose – and blast away on his duck trumpet until my ears would split and then we would watch.

You could almost see the interest on the faces of the ducks as they  turned towards our decoys.  It was like a siren’s call that they had to answer.  He would blow a few more times even louder letting the ducks know that our decoys had seen them and were excited to have company.  As they got closer he would chortle into his Pied Piper’s flute and the feeding call would make the ducks think they were coming to a feast.  Closer they would come and then they would set their wings and my dad would say “now!” and we would jump up and blaze away into the overcast sky, ducks falling from the clouds like cats and dogs.


Lots of dead animals

Earl was constantly buying duck calls because he was always looking for the perfect sound.  He was like the Ace Frehley of duck calling.  The closest he ever came to finding the perfect call was when he brought home “Magnum.”  It was huge and about the best thing I had ever seen.  I have learned recently that the call was never designed to be used in the field.  It was a store display used to advertise a much smaller version, but it was his go-to call and had a mellow deep sound like the Barry White of duck calls (it’s probably why we shot more hens on those trips).   It was a pain to pack around since it was so large and looked like something a German soldier would throw in WWII movies, but Earl was never without it when we were in the blind.  He hunted for years with it and I think he even used it to club baby Harp seals once or twice.    I found it in his garage when he passed away.


Difficult harmony


Another use for Magnum

I never hunt anymore, but I have duck calls.  The closest I’ve come to using any of them is when the kids and I sat in my room the other day and tried to play the Vandal fight song.  These calls are not me.


Nike, Puma & Kobe


Kobe Wagyu Beef on the hoof. $4.48 per oz.

Nope, not that Kobe.

I wish I had seen these shoes prior to my last post.

puma baby 1

Puma toddler shoes $22.49 per oz.

nike shoe baby

Nike toddler shoes $14.66 per oz.


My Family of Imeldas


“I once had a friend put my shoe over his nose to see how long he could keep it there. He spent the evening in the E.R.”

When I first read in the Bible that the Apostle Paul compared people in the church to parts of the body – like the eye or the head – my first thought was “Please Lord, don’t let me be a foot.”

The foot is definitely one of the “unpresentable parts” of the body and, in the Most Unappealing Body Part category, consistently ranks in the top three year after year.  I am of the firm belief that feet need to be covered at all times and because of that,  I am suggesting here that all people everywhere, and especially men, need to start wearing burkas on their feet.   Feet are necessary, I get that, but they are an evil body part that lurks (like my great Uncle Lyman), sweating and molding and fungusing , waiting to jump out at you (like the Black Death) as soon as the Hello Kitty socks are removed.     They are constantly in some stage of  cracking, blistering, callousing or peeling, and, one or two of the nails are always in danger of falling off or getting bent back and they are always in a constant state of unwellness and in need of being rubbed.  I’m saying all this because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this post.  I, more than most, am all for covering feet in shoes, but really, family, why do we need so many stinkin’ pairs?!?

When I was young I only had one pair of shoes at any given time (yes, I actually did have to walk to school in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways with barbed wire wrapped around my feet to keep from slipping).   I’m sure, given my preferences, I would have liked to have less than five pairs of boots and more than one pair of shoes, but  I lived in Ketchikan and really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.  No one did.   Shoes stores sold two types of shoes.  The ones that got you beat up and the ones that got you less beat up.   There was no Nike back in the day. There were Buster Browns (aka, Zach Brown Busters your head open),  Keds (only your little sister wore Keds) and P.F. Flyers (aka get your Face Punched shoes).  In order to preserve your good looks there was only one shoe anyone could wear and that shoe was made by Converse.

The good thing about Chuck Taylors is that you got punched less when you wore them.  The bad thing about them was that they left nothing to the imagination (like Speedos on a fat guy) when it came to the size of your feet.  Since my legs were long I used to sit on the bus with my feet sticking into the aisle and on one of the daily punch fests (also known as the bus ride to school) I went from thinking my Chuck’s were pretty awesome to realizing that I had a horrendous birth defect – my feet.  They were freakishly huge in comparison to the rest of my body.  I didn’t realize until later in life that my head was way too big for my body, too, but at that moment the meat slabs attached to my ankles took all my attention and looked like something out of a science fiction movie. I fought the urge to say “I am not an animal, I am a human being!”  I glanced around the bus and was sure that everyone was looking at my monstrosities.  In actuality, I’m sure everyone (but that one guy who shaved at the age of 10 – he was too busy combing his mustache with that little comb that I wanted so badly), was looking at their own feet and feeling the same way.  Maybe that’s why bell bottoms were so popular because they hid teenage feet so well.  If someone had only invented bell bottoms for my face then my life would have been complete.

Chuck Taylor may have been a wife-beating, beer-swilling redneck from the south, but we didn’t care because if you didn’t wear Chuck Taylors you wore nothing at all.  They came in any color and style you desired – as long as the color you desired was black and the style you wanted was high or low top. The squeak they produced was deafening (current iterations of the shoes have an added material, similar to micronized talc, which makes them not only quieter, but as slick as bbs on a hot skillet covered in grease with a goose around).  Back then though they had enough traction to pop your ankle out of its socket and leave it behind you on the court if you cut too hard, especially so, if you wiped them on a wet towel before you hit the court (which we all did).  It got so squeaky at times that it sounded like a gym full of really aggressive and testosterone-addled crickets attacking a flock of defenseless mice.  Depending upon how much our coach (my dad) had to drink the night before, we sometimes had to practice in our socks to keep him from ripping his ears off and throwing them at us.

My kids wear Chucks, but they are not their father’s canvas Converse.   Chucks now come in hundreds of colors and styles – they have to since there are close to five hundred different brands of sneakers alone to compete with.  Diversify or die is the shoe mantra and my kids have drunk this Koolaid in spades. They have more shoes than monkeys have butts and the majority of them come from the evil four letter word shoe company.

My friend, Steven, calls Nike “Satan’s shoe company,” but to my kids, who have worshiped at the altar of Nike more than once, they are almost the only thing (aside from the occasional foray into Chuckdom) they’ll attach to their stinky feet.  That swoosh means more to them than a bag of diamonds and if you stuck that swoosh on two dead squirrels you found on the road my kids would say “Awesome!,” slip those suckers on and head over to their friend’s house to show them off.  I personally don’t get it and think Nike is the Bernie Madoff of the shoe market.  I mean how can any company, in good conscience, charge so much for something that weighs so little?  I have paid less per ounce for Wagu beef and in my opinion if you buy a pair of shoes for $200 they should weigh roughly the same as a bowling ball.


Bought these beauties for a quarter at a yard sale.

My wife doesn’t have a shoe problem.  She has more than two pairs, but just barely.  She is like the anti-Imelda and tends to wear her shoes until a little hole appears on the front of the shoe from where her big toenail presses into it day after day, year after year.  She doesn’t throw her shoes away until her entire toe pops in and out through the opening at every step (I married the most frugal woman in the world.  Hurray for me and too bad for all you suckers who married someone else).  During our first five years of marriage she wore the same pair of Birkenstocks until those shoes and her feet were one.  They were so comfortable because the fibers of the shoes had woven themselves into her flesh until the shoes and her feet were no longer separate entities.  The shoes had become a parasite (“PAIRasite”) that lived off of her feet.  It took special surgery to remove them and we had to drown the shoes in the river to keep them from seeking her at night like the severed hand from so many campfire ghost stories.

Apart from my wife, it has often felt like I live with four little Imeldas.

NB: Imelda Marcos was the wife of (now dead) Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines. When they were deposed they found her collection of 3000 shoes.  It’s my own personal belief that Imelda had exceptionally ugly feet and that Fernando kept purchasing shoes for her to keep them covered up.  Do a Google search of Imelda’s shoes and you will notice that not one of her 3000 pairs were open toed.

I write this sitting in my 25 year old Nevados sandals (I got them on sale for $8.99) so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, but I would never dream of getting rid of a pair of shoes unless they are completely unusable.  My old shoes get relegated to the closet, to the back porch, to the mud room, but they never get thrown away until the funnel web spiders have set up shop in them and the empty carcasses of long dead moths are strewn all around.  Only at that point do I exercise my charitable duty and bring them to Goodwill.

Until then, any shoe is a good shoe.  My mind doesn’t really work right at any time, but especially when it comes to shoes.  It starts to play tricks on me the moment I try to Goodwill a perfectly good pair of “work” shoes.  The term “work shoes” has become a euphemism for any pair of shoes that I might put on to do any kind of work that doesn’t involve a computer.  It’s odd, but when work does actually occur it is way too much of a hassle for me to change into my work shoes.

I am a very careful painter after all and there is no need to take the time to change.  On the first careful stroke, I inevitably have splattered my good shoes and the next day I am forced to buy a pair of  “I told you so” shoes.

My old, good shoes are now my new paint shoes and my old paint shoes get moved to the back door to be used as mud shoes.  The mud shoes get sent to the barn to be used as clean out the barn shoes and the new paint shoes get put in the closet for the next time I paint.  I’ll be too lazy to change into either the new paint shoes or the new mud shoes or the new barn shoes when needed and the vicious cycle will be repeated ad infinitum, until the Lord comes and brings me and all my shoes up to heaven.

My shoes are not me and I was able to actually get rid of three pairs of perfectly “good” shoes today.


And Then Depression Set In


That little white note says: “Free!”

This was the hardest thing to walk away from this year – a free “leather” and wood recliner.  Yes, it did need refurbishing, but only a bit, and hey, I’ve always wanted to learn how to refinish a leather chair.  Kelly gave me THAT look as both she and the newlyweds went on and on about some stupid air conditioner that was for sale.  All the while this gem sat quietly calling to me, begging me to take it before someone else did.  As Kelly continued on unabated, I kept glancing at it, hoping she would take a second look.  I peeled myself away from the intriguing air conditioner conversation (my IQ was dropping by the second) and sat in my chair.  I leaned back and I felt the mechanism click into place, reclining me to the perfect position without a sound.  I imagined myself sitting on the deck with a beer and, just as the the heavens began opening a bit, they were  immediately snapped shut by Dream Crusher.

“John, we need your help making a decision about this.”

All I heard after that was blah, blah, blah air conditioner.  Blah, blah, blah air conditioner.  Do you know how hard it is to find justifications for a free chair in your head with all that yackin’ going on?

In the end I walked away without a backward glance.  Hmm.  I wonder if it’s still there. Maybe it’s time to take a little drive.


Punctuation and Other Necessary Evils


“Punctuation is the Devil’s workshop!”

Kelly is my editor-in-chief, but I’m beginning to get a little hacked off at how much she laughs at my grammar.  I think I can string a sentence together just fine, but my lack of putting the little marks in between words and making some letters bigger than others (like at the beginning of a sentence) apparently isn’t my strongest attribute and it gives her such a charge that it’s becoming more than a little annoying.   I keep telling her that I don’t really need the running commentary and that she should just edit in silence like a good little editor.

She’ll be quiet for a while, but then her shoulders start to shake, she snickers and then her outburst wakes the dog.

“John, Greenland is not a continent!”

“Uhhh, it used to be?”

“John, do you really think you should capitalize firetruck?  How about yellow?  How about tire?”

“Uhhh, yes.  You always capitalize proper names.”

“John, why would someone name their child ‘Tire’?”

‘Uhhh, well, Michael Jackson might.”

“And why did you put a comma here?!”

“Uhhh, because it separates the prepositional phrase?”  I get desperate sometimes and start throwing out terms that have no actual meaning to me, but that I’ve heard her use in “that” tone as she edits my writing.

“Nope.  Wrong Again!”  Then she breaks into a fit of laughter that rivals what she goes through whenever I hurt myself in a really bad way.

I stubbed my little toe so badly one time that it disappeared inside my foot like a turtle hiding in its shell – the doctor had to use an extractor to get it back to its original position, like pulling a cork out of a bottle.   As I held my foot and hopped up and down and screamed in agony I looked to the wife of my youth for comfort and solace.  I was hoping she would help me to a chair and get me some ice.  She was in no shape to help because she was completely immobilized, and not because she had fainted at the sight of the blood that had sprayed all over the wall.  No, she was immobilized because she had collapsed into a fit of laughter so pronounced that her face was red and tears were rolling down her cheeks.  She lay there, laughing in silent agony, not wanting to hurt my feelings by actually laughing out loud, but unable to control her mirth at my misfortune.   As soon as our eyes met, she lost it even further and burst out laughing so loudly that all the dogs in the neighborhood began barking.

One would think that turn-about would be fair play so I tried this once when she hurt herself in a similar fashion, but I was instantly frozen in place (my guffaw dying on my lips) by the icy daggers that she fired from her bloodshot eyes.  It was like that scene in Star Wars where Darth Vadar makes that guy choke on his own spit without really touching him and then says, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”  Except she said,  “I will kill you and no one will find your body for a month and by then I’ll be in Mexico drinking beer on the beach.” (Well, it was something close to that.)  She even sounded like James Earl Jones for a split second and I found that I couldn’t breath until she released her grip on me and I collapsed back onto the couch and spilled my beer ( which she then made me clean up).

I guess I’m just tired of bowing down to the conventions of grammar and I’m not going to take it any more.  I feel that things like punctuation and other grammatical nuances should be beaten into submission and do what I want for a change.  I’m tired of being held to such a strict law in my writing (can I get an “Amen!” from the congregation?).  The English language is supposed to be fluid and changing – like the wind, and, come to think of it,  maybe I’m just a ground breaker.  Maybe in the future people will use commas in all the places, I, choose, to, use, commas.  I’m tired of fighting with punctuation and I would give up on it entirely if I weren’t so stinkin’ afraid of my wife.

i guess, until that day happens, I can rest, in the knowledge, that IT makes my wifes’ day when I Punctuate. so Badly: .,; (have fun deciphering that one honey);”


My Saturday sickness


One step forward and two back

I have to give you a glimpse into my thought process in order for you to understand what I go through and why it’s going to be so hard for me to stop.  Every Friday I think that maybe we won’t go to any yard sales on Saturday.  But, then I check the want ads to see what’s being sold (just in case) and that gets my mind wandering.   I see something I might want, but know it’s probably junk, but how would one really know without checking?  I think about all the great “finds” that I’ve made over the years and then imagine someone else getting that Nikon camera for five bucks and that camera would have been mine if I had only decided to go and then the next thing I know it’s Saturday morning and I’m all keyed up, list in hand, hustling Kelly and the girls out the door even before they’ve showered or had their morning coffee.

Yes, this is a cry for help.

Today’s plunder:
1. Vulcan Golf Hybrid club #2.  No one can hit a #2 club.  No one can.  I’m not sure why they even made this model, but hope springs eternal and I got it for $2.00.  Hey, it’s a “Vulcan” club and any club good enough for Spock is good enough for me.  “Live long and drive well off the fairway.”

2. Red mugs made in China. Real China mugs for 25 cents each?  Who can pass up a deal like that.  And, besides, the other mugs in the cupboard were getting lonely.  Kelly has her favorite mug and I never use any mugs, but they are laser etched and have good hand-feel.  A true bargain at twice the price.

3. White wedding china.  Yawn.   It’s our discontinued pattern so we had to buy these.  Way too practical for me.

4. Reese towing mirror extenders.  The rubber holders are starting to rot a little and there is only one in the box, but I think one is better than nothing and duct tape is my friend.  We don’t own a trailer….yet.  But, when we do I’ll be ready.  I am kind of hacked though.  I offered a dollar and she cackled and said she was happy to get a dollar because she didn’t know she even owned a mirror extender until she found it in the garage.  I could have had this gem for a quarter.

5. Black cabinet knobs. This was an absolute steal at $7.00  There were 42 of them, which was almost exactly what we needed to replace the Holly Hobby knobs in our bathrooms.  We only have 28 of these left over.  Anyone need black knobs (some might have a little bit of glue on them)?  A bargain at only $15.

6. Schmid WWII Puzzle. This brand new puzzle is really awesome.  It depicts a B-24 bomber sitting on the ground with guys standing around it (one of them is even smoking a cigarette).  I love anything to do with WWII airplanes.  However, because true color wasn’t invented until the sixties, this puzzle is just a morass of greens and browns, and since our puzzle person is going to school this semester, it will never get put together.  Wesley loved WWII stuff when he was twelve so the bonus is that since it’s still in the shrink wrap we can give it to him for Christmas.

7. Axis and Allies &  Risk.  I hate both of these games and usually end up getting stuck on Greenland or some other inconsequential country (I did have to change that last word from “continent” to “country” after I found Kelly in a fit of hysterics).  If I were playing a game of dice golf instead of A&A  I would win every time because I am probably the most consistent roller of ones and twos of all time.  This was a nostalgia purchase and will probably have to go to Goodwill at some point because we already have eight different versions of each game.

Fifteen bucks and three hours of my life that I will never get back.    I did get to spend those three hours laughing and talking with Kelly and the girls and Kelly’s two cousins Kolette and Kim… And I got some really “cool” stuff in the process.  So, I guess it wasn’t a total waste.