Friday, September 30, 2011

Careful what you wish for

I love being on the water. I purchased a boat so my family could enjoy the freedom of being on the lake and enjoy more time together. Some of our best times have been on the lake water skiing and fishing.

My daughter Betsy has always loved fishing. At the age of six, she had already proved her prowess by catching innumerable crappie with a $5 Zebco rod and reel. On one trip she came with my friend my friend Mark and I in pursuit of large mouth bass. I set her up with a jig and she immediately went to work pulling in the paper mouths.

Mark and I rigged our $100 rods and began the search for large mouth bass.  We were not having any luck for bass when Betsy yelled "Ive got a big one dad."  "Its a carp" I barked certain that no bass would bite at a crappie jig. 

After all, Mark and I, were the expert fisherman complete with the expensive rod and lures. Once again Besty cried  out "dad, really, its a bass".  Thinking she had a carp, I slowly rose to see the large mouth on the end of her line. She landed the 5 pounder on her own.  The only bass caught that day.

Deciding a more expensive rod and reel would improve her success, I began to teach  Betsy how to cast with an open face reel. Those of you familiar with this equipment understand that in order to cast, you must:
  • Trap the line with your index finger.
  • Lock the trap open.
  • Release the line from your finger as you cast the pole forward.
Betsy's eyes started to brighten as she brought the pole back for the first cast. I could see the visions of another five pounder dancing  in her head. Her first attempt ended up a mere 2 feet away.  Undaunted she repeated the steps. Two feet again. A third she started forward, I yelled "now let go."
She did exactly what her dad told her and let go of the pole. I stood speechless as I watched the $100 rod and reel sink to the bottom of the lake.  I stared at her. She could only reply, "I did what you told me dad."

So why am I telling you this story?  I LEARNED an important lesson that day.

If you want your kids to do everything you tell them to.....they just might 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alcan Highway

The sounds of the freeway surround my Jeep as I drive home from a round of golf. The setting sun paints the sky orange as the heat of the day starts to subside. Its still hot and I long for the cool of the evening to soothe me on my long drive home. Thinking of cooler climes and times is the only relief I get until I pass the black Ford Expedition on I-15.

Inside I gaze at the trappings of our overindulged society. Two high tech car seats are securely in place in the back. In them two children, a boy and a girl, stare blankly ahead. Puzzled, I slow a little and see that they are watching different cartoons on their individual DVD players hanging on the back of their parents seats. As I resume my speed, I see Mom and Dad are both busily engaged in conversation..each on their own cell phone. Dad seems to be particularly engaged...."Hang up and drive, man!" I mutter to myself and continue on my drive home. The image stays with me. As I pull into the driveway I wished I could have said "hang up and look around you are missing out"

In 1968, the new Toyota Corona was parked in the driveway of our home in Anchorage Alaska . Dad had just finished packing the trunk for our first trip back to Utah. More than 3,300 miles separated us from our destination including 1,200 on a gravel road known as the Alaska Highway to most Americans but the "Alcan" to Alaskans. Five boys, ages 9 to 17, Mom, Dad and the family dog "Bandit", piled into the car and we began our journey. A little more than ten miles into the trip it was evident that none of us would have to worry about fighting because with 4 in the back and three plus the dog in the front, most of our time would be occupied with trying to breathe.

Three days was the time allocated to complete the drive to Utah. Seven days to visit, then three days for the return trip back to Anchorage. Dad thought nothing of driving 1000 miles a day. Once we acclimated to the confined space, we found ourselves alternately gazing in awe at the rugged beauty of the far north and engaging in conversations about food, relatives or any topic that came to mind. Nintendo, Videos and Satellite radio, were only dreamed of in science fiction novels. It was a simpler time and I often wonder how many sights and experiences our children miss out on today in the name of "mobile" entertainment/appeasement.

We crossed the Canadien border and the gravel road immediately started to snake back and forth like a switch-back up the side of a steep mountain. It made no sense why a road would do this on flat land . Dad explained that the "Alcan" was built during World War 2 to provide a land route to supply Alaska. More than 10,000 US Soldiers completed the road during a brutal winter when the temperature would often dip to 79 degrees below zero. In the summer heat and mosquitoes plagued the work. Still, the dedicated soldiers finished one of the modern wonders of the world in just eight months living in tents. The switchbacks in the road were to protect convoys from Japanese aircraft strafing runs.

By Midnight the pale twilight of the midnight sun cast a pink hue on snow covered mountains with no names. I woke the next morning, outside the gold rush town of Whitehorse. In 1896, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie discovered gold in the Klondike. By 1898 more than 30,000 fortune seekers came north to pan for gold. A railway was built from Skagway to Whitehorse, heart of the klondike to bring the gold to port.A long bridge spanned one of the many rivers we crossed. More than 153 major bridges were built during that amazing time of March-November 1942. I can still see the deer, moose, bear eagle and other wildlife in abundance on this thin line of road cut through the heart of a wilderness.

We passed thru Dawson Creek, Milepost 0, then traveled through the vast wheatfields of Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. Prairie so wide you could see the curvature of the earth. Further south back into the U.S. and finally to Utah and family.

On the way home to Alaska, we stopped by Watson lake. Today this lake is a world class sport fishery. A small truck stop Chinese restaurant lies on the outskirts of town. The site of our huge family falling out of such a tiny car must have left quite an impression on the owner. We ate there every yr we journeyed to the "lower 48", and he remembered each of our names.

For 7 yrs until dad passed away, we repeated the journey. So much to see. So little time. Every yr as the time grew near, the excitement built in our family. Imagine, 7 people and a dog crammed in a tiny car excited about driving 6,600 miles in 6 days.....

The garage door shut, and as I entered my home a smile came to my face. Grateful for childhood memories filled with the people, conversations and wonderment of nature instead of the Xbox, MTV and Vampire Wars......