Fish in the tub…

I’ve been busy lately.  No matter where you are in this huge state, Alaskan summers are short and intense.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my garden. Growing food and flowers runs my life in the summer… with my full co-operation , of course 🙂

I don’t know whether it’s the garden itself or this year’s circumstances- a new grandchild, increasingly frail aged  parents, issues in my neighborhood and around the state- but I’ve had gardens, growing, and food in general front and foremost in my thoughts.

With Father’s Day almost here, I’ve  had my dad much in mind, as well…

I have a learning disability which , with the strategies my parents helped me develop , hasn’t slowed me down much over my lifetime. It did put an end to my pursuit of organic chemistry studies years ago, when all my tricks and methods for hanging onto and translating  complex visual information finally found a wall they/I couldn’t climb.

 Ticked me off at the time but life has been full without alkenes and alkanes and suchlike…very full.

When I was a child I wore a black eyepatch to correct lazy eye and struggled mightily with trying to learn right from left amongst other things.  It stung terribly to be teased about being pitifully ugly and dumb.

The ugly-teasing went away when my ma fashioned a pirate costume for me for Halloween. Oh my, all the swashing and buckling I did! No one had ever thought about a girl pirate before. Some kind of mystique hung on long after the costume was hung in the closet and there was no more teasing about the eye patch.

I remember being so angry I was almost crying , trying to tell my dad about the right-left-dumb thing. He quietly interrupted me. “It’s hard but ignore them. Right and left only tell you where the world is in relation to you. I want to teach you how to know where you are in the world.”

He taught me how to orient myself to North, East, South, and West. The simple task of establishing North and where my feet are at a given point in time has seen me through many more important ups and downs than a bunch of kids teasing me over the years. The task  has come  to include a moment of thankfulness for my dad and my life, as bestowed and shaped by him.

Dad is unusual, for his generation and in general. He’s some kind of blend of very old-fashioned and very up-to-date that is hard to describe. In his 80s he still calls those older than him Sir and Ma’am, longs for the day when women all wore dresses, and has tried to never swear in front of his daughters . 

 I did hear  him say “damn” once. When a storm with 120 mph winds ripped  the roof off our house.

 He quit saying “cheese-and-crackers” when one of my siblings asked him what Jesus-crackers were.

 I do remember him tipping his head back, squinting, and saying, “ah, horsepunky!” when confronted with a preposterous notion of any sort. Not hollering, not angry… just sure.

 He had intended to make a career as a submariner in the Navy but a minor service-related disability ended that after 6 years. He then pursued a fish and wildlife biology career and worked on some of the important Kodiak bear studies after WWII.

We all laugh  because dad is rarely wrong about much, but he decided fish and wildlife management was becoming too much of a political football and he switched to teaching because education was not. Education, of course, became a political hot potato shortly thereafter but to the benefit of hundreds of 7th and 8th grade science and math students, dad enjoyed his 20 years as an educator enormously. Amongst other projects , his kids were making simple solar ovens and tramping the hills for foods to cook in them as well as laying out , cutting, and building stairs to understand y=mx+b in the 1950s and 60s.

Born of Kentucky dirt farmer stock , he  never blinked at hard work but  always scouted for better, more efficient ways to do things . He often had a second job and always fished and hunted. We didn’t know what store bought meat was until we were in high school.

He and ma planted and tended enormous food and flower gardens. Many of my childhood memories turn round the gathering, preparing, and eating of food. Cold, cold hands after landing my first fish and a mug of cocoa and many kind congratulatory words from dad, snitching fish from the smokehouse, picking peas or strawberries before school, canning parties for fish and fruits and veggies in the kitchen which always seemed to end with  a party- party with BBQed fish or venison and hand-cranked home-made ice cream.

When dad retired from education he bought a failed cranberry farm in southern Oregon and turned it into a place of serene beauty and success. I used to go help with harvest and off season chores. I helped with a windmill to pump well water to a hillside tank to gravity feed during  frequent power outages . I watched dad set up a then one-of a kind automatic system of temperature probes and sprinkler system to protect his bogs during extreme heat or cold, backed up by a generator .

He grew organic veggies for the local store as well and hunted until the loss of a new expensive pair of glasses in the brush , while hauling out his buck, made him decide venison had just gotten more expensive than running a couple of beef himself might be.

When we were small, we always took our baths in the evening because the tub might be full of fish in the morning.

It often was.

Dad would go fishing early, early and return to grade papers and get ready for work. I’m not sure how ma felt about a tub full of cleaned, cooled fish morning after morning. I’ve never asked.

But to me, it was always a good thing. The fish were beautiful and we ate well. We always had enough to eat.

Our house was often full of family, neighbors and friends and food and music and games. We always had enough food to share.

It took me a few days this week , when this story hit, 

 “Area M commercial fishermen volunteer to sit out first opening of June  sockeye salmon fishery”

 to sort out why I kept hearing my dad saying “ah, horsepunky !”

I have deep respect for the Tundra Drums and this IS news.

 But … well, the whole thing reads like a press release instead of a news story and I’m  wondering where the reporting part got to…

“For decades, Area M fishermen have been plagued by accusations that they are affecting commercial and subsistence chum salmon runs in the A-Y-K. In 2001, the Alaska Board of Fisheries implemented severe restrictions which nearly bankrupted the entire Area M fishing fleet. The fishermen lost nearly 70 percent of their fishing time. However, scientific evidence shows that the Area M sockeye salmon fishery has very little impact on the chum salmon stock.”

I have read the Aleutian East Borough’s fisheries pages from stem to stern trying to find links to studies which specifically establish the last sentence…

I have read fish studies, til my eyes feel like they are going to fall out, from ADF&G, U Dub fish school, UAF fish school trying to find definitive studies  on this subject.

IF scientific evidence exists which proves the Area M fishery has a negligible effect on the AYK chum fishery, where is it?

This has been a horrible situation for everyone involved, pitting neighbor against neighbor, for, what, three decades now?

I am remembering the Kodiak bear studies dad worked on so long ago.

Fishermen were sure a dramatic drop in salmon was related to the bear’s impact on pre- spawning returnees based on a preliminary study which seemed to indicate just that. The studies dad worked on were followups and contradicted the original in that 98% of the salmon the bears ate ( see page 5, sec2.2.7 ) had already spawned. He said tensions ran really high and that he was glad he was upriver and not at the mouth where angry fishermen periodically took pot shots at the biologist’s camp from their boats.

Tensions have run high in the AYK area , Bristol Bay and Area M for years.

In March this story made all of us sigh with relief, at various levels.

“The study is scheduled for release to the public in the summer of 2012, to allow time for writing allocation proposals to be considered at an Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting later that year…
 Stock composition is a heated issue in Western Alaska, where salmon harvesters north of the False Pass area, known as Area M, have voiced concern for years that their fish are being caught in Area M commercial fisheries, rather than the commercial and subsistence fisheries of Bristol Bay and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.”
 IF evidence already exists, which clearly shows the Area M fishery has little impact on fisheries north, where is it? And why are we spending a bazillion bucks to do genetic research to see whether there is an effect, if there isn’t?
 Yup Dad, it IS horsepunky.
And since I’m hoping for fish in every tub, I’m waiting for the rest of the story.
 It’s not enough to know where the world is in relation to yourself, you must strive to know where you truly stand in the world…
And what is really going on.
And Happy Pop’s Day!
Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I LOVE your musings today about your childhood and your parents. My parents are long gone, which makes me appreciate yours all the more. You sound like you could not have asked for any better.

    Like yours, my dad just never really cussed, either. One day, he laughingly told my mom a story about something that he’d heard from someone at work that day. Apparently, the co-worker had used the word “damn”. In telling the tale, my dad just slid right through the part containing that word and finished the story although I don’t remember the rest of story at all. I just stood there, really shocked, to hear my dad use a cuss word. I had to remind myself that it was only in his telling of the story. Funny how things like that stay with you, so many years later.

    I look forward to learning more about Area M as things unfold there.

    • How funny – about your dad!
      I was more shocked, at the time too, at my dad saying “damn” than the spectacle unfolding outside our front room window which caused his almost involuntary swear word…
      He and I, I was 8, were watching great pieces of our roof flying off overhead and sailing out away from the house. the wind was almost deafening, and I barely heard dad wheeze out “well, damn!”
      We had all moved to that most protected side of the house to wait the storm out…
      Watching the roofing mow down a nearby fence like a knife cutting butter was what did it for dad, I think 🙂
      We retreated from all the windows then and waited it out while I pondered, kid fashion, the enormity of an event which moved my dad to swear…

  2. Good story; my tubs are clean and ready for fish. It’s the middle of June already and there is no word of Salmon arriving anywhere in the Norton Sound yet. People have their fingers crossed. Maybe they are late like they were on the Kenai River.

    • I sure hope they are just late. My thoughts are with you all there.

    • Oh, lordy, hope you get your fish SOON! Let us know what happens, please.

  3. Hopefully the Salmon are just late alright – heard they started hitting the Yukon River a few days ago. It’s usually about a week later when they arrive in the Norton Sound rivers. People are starving for Fresh Salmon and are hoping we get enough to put on our drying racks.

  4. Conflicting opinions up here in the Norton Sound – some say that the salmon are “early” and some say that the salmon are “late”. It’s either/or right now. Not much in the news about the lack of huge salmon runs around the state.

    Alaskan’s all over the state need to demand to our State Government to grow a set and declare that we will no longer tolerate being treated as a Colony of the Seattle based Factory Trawlers. They are destroying our Salmon Stocks out there in the Bering Sea!

  5. Hey Pi, you must be as busy as everybody else preparing for the upcoming winter. I miss your writing.

    • Yes :-)- I have been busy… and it’s not far off. Seeing color on the mountain tops now where alpine plants are finishing their fast and furious season with beautiful shows of color in berries and leaves. Two days ago I was out picking berries and watching salmon in the creek … so very near the end of their spawn…
      Not too long now before the first dusting of snow covers the ridges…
      Tonight I’m going to get up in the short dark and see the aurora…
      Hoping you and yours are safe and well, neighbor.

  6. Lots of big news today – Denby Lloyd’s DUI arrest in Juneau and the possible death of former senator Ted Stevens in the plane crash near Dillingham last night. These two high profile men have influenced the Salmon Politics in Rural Alaska to the point where we are now. It’s their karma I guess.

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