Long before I returned home from working in the Beluga area I was reminded many times of my son Travis' new friend 11-year-old Joe Ben Hawkins. Joe Ben was on vacation here with his father Jim and sister Elizabeth (Ibby) from Clarksville, Michigan. As our two weeks of fishing adventures unfolded here I was asked each day by my 10-year-old son, "Can Joe Ben go too?" Each day I replied with the same answer "Yes Joe Ben can go too. Considering that Joe Ben was staying at the Dan and Sue Thornton home which is right next to my home the path certainly was more wore down as these too boys were together nearly every day.
Besides being a regular participant in the Perkovich family-fishing adventures Joe Ben also helped Travis with his chores here like feeding our rabbits and birds as well as weeding the garden. He even helped us haul hay from the Wayne and Mary Mize place in Sterling one evening. When it came time to clean fish Joe Ben was also a big help and was not afraid to get dirty either. Whatever we needed help with Joe Ben was there to assist us.
Joe Ben also fished with us last year but did not have as much luck catching fish as he did this year. One thing you could be sure of however was that no matter if he was catching fish or not he was going to keep trying. On one of our fishing trips to Elephant Lake we found the lake windy and the water rough, which made it very difficult to control our boat and when we tried to drift fish the boat moved so fast it was difficult for us to get our bait deep enough to catch fish. Joe Ben did manage to land a few fish that day despite some really rough conditions.
We also fished Upper Omar Lake and he also managed to boat a few Rainbows but the thing that impressed me the most was his unselfish attitude this young man had when it came time to assist someone in getting the net under a feisty rainbow trout. Joe Ben was always the first to lay his pole down and grab the net to help someone else land his or her fish.
My children have brought along many friends through-out the years to fish with us however I don't know if I have ever been any more impressed with any one like I was Joe Ben Hawkins. Joe Ben was named after a young boy in the Amazon Jungle in South America. His mother Denise was doing missionary work there. Joe Ben was such a polite young man and possessed such a determined attitude in everything he did. Even though he struggled at times to do certain things he never gave up. Despite spinningout two out of three of the first four laps while gocarting, he merely got red faced but kept right on driving. He said "Boy I'm really bad at that" as we drove away from the gocart track. A very humble boy who is one of those guys you always want on your team, nothing cocky or arrogant but one you just knew was going to get a little better each day in whatever he did. He filleted fish for us and after a few fish he was doing a really good job at that too.
I asked Joe Ben what his favorite part of vacation in Alaska was and he replied, "Swimming in the pool at Nikiski and fishing for rainbows in Upper Omar Lake!"
We have all heard the saying life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how we deal with it. We have also heard the saying life is cruel. Joe Ben taught my family a lot in each of his visits here to Alaska besides being a real inspiration to all of us. He taught us the importance in never giving up in life no matter how difficult things get from time to time or cruel or unfair life can be at times.
You see on December 20th, 2002 Joe Ben's mother Denise died from cancer...... Losing your mother before your tenth birthday has to be about as rough a start in life as I have heard about in a while. My family and I gave Joe Ben a leatherman knife with the following words engraved on it "Joe Ben Hawkins, Alaska 2005!" Joe Ben you and your father Jim and sister Ibby can be on our team anytime you want. Keep up the good work and thanks for all your help.
See you next week!
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