Posted: Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I finished my 2-week hitch on the slope as the warm summer weather was gradually turning colder. I was looking forward to hitting the Kenai River again in hopes of getting a few more salmon for the freezer. Since I left for work the dip-netting season on the Kenai River had been closed and then re-opened as a rush of late run Reds began flooding the River. Instead of being home on Friday, like I normally am, I was held up in Anchorage till Sunday night to attend a safety leadership class put on by the world famous Randy Smith instructors.

Yes the class was plenty interesting and there were plenty of opportunities to learn all sorts of things; however my mind was not into it. I dreamed of being on Elephant Lake relaxing or dip-netting on the Kenai with my family. Pulling weeds in my garden ranked a whole lot higher on my favorite things to do list then going to safety school. Building new nest boxes for my rabbits or repairing one of my small poultry buildings seemed like a whole lot more fun then sitting in a classroom for two days.

Often times my day dreaming simply got the best of me and I went into a self induced anxiety attack where I simply had to get up and walk out of the class room and wander the halls of the Marriott Motel for a while. Despite getting to go on breaks frequently I was really struggling to pay attention and sit still for very long, something I have never been very good at. I’m sure the instructors were probably thinking that either I had bad kidneys or a bad case of diarrhea.

I guess I should be thankful for the fact that I was not called on to answer a question or they may have gotten some pretty strange answers. Yes I already have the black bear skinned out, it looks like a 6 footer, or no that is not a deformed red salmon in your net it is a pink salmon commonly known as a humpy! Yes this weed is a real pest here in Alaska, easy to pull, hard to control but the chickens love it. Oh I’m sorry I thought you said chickweed You want me to read? Yes I drew a tag this year for mountain Goat, oh, life boat yes I must of misunderstood you. Each word or phrase to me sounded like something else in my state of simply wanting to be out of the classroom and doing outdoor things here in Alaska. For example “what would it take” sounded or rhymed with “Bradley Lake” where my son Travis and I are going mountain Goat hunting this fall?

Finally it was all over and the instructors then told me the biggest lie of all, “John we really enjoyed having you in class your input was excellent and you helped make the class a real success.” Instantly I thought Wow my constant going in and out must have helped move the air around, or perhaps it helped keep some other fisherman or hunter from falling in a boredom coma. Maybe it was because the instructor was just happy that I was not a safety school drop out. The conversation might have gone something like this: “Have you seen John?” “No not lately but the security guy said there was some big guy in the hall wandering around doing a scooping motion with a strained look on his face.” “Hurry up we must find him he thinks he is on the Kenai dip-netting again.” Or perhaps it went like this: “Did you see John? “Yes he went past me in the hall with a distant look in his eyes carrying an empty torn game bag mumbling that D bear!”

Yes I made it through the safety class and yes I even got a couple free hats and certificate. Yes I actually graduated from safety leadership class! In all reality I almost felt guilty accepting the official looking diploma as I perhaps set a new record as the one guy who missed the most class room time. I can honestly tell you this; I would rather go to town and get beat up then to have to spend two days in any safety class. Yes I believe in safety but how about next year you go to the class and then tell me all about it when I am sleeping.

I arrived home from Anchorage on Sunday night and Monday I was on the Kenai dip netting with my son Travis and a friend from the valley George Rauscher. My children were still painting my big boat so I could not use that boat and Ted Knight’s was broke down so I used my 16 foot Jon boat. I put on my mighty 4-horse motor and we were in business as I unloaded it in the river by the bridge on bridge access. You can imagine the wake that big motor caused as we motored down river.

Every fisherman has his day and this day belonged to Travis as he easily caught over 50 fish. We netted almost 80 that day and yes we got quite a few pinks mixed in with our reds but I personally like those nice big pinks too. They are a great fish to smoke or pickle and when used fresh they are as good as any salmon. But here in Alaska where they have to compete with the red, king, and silver they find it difficult due to firmness color and size. If you could find fish like the Pinks where I grew up in Wisconsin people would drive for 300 miles to fish them.

I had a great day of fishing with George and Travis and not once did I daydream about safety class! When we neared the bridge I called ahead on my cell phone to have my family bring more coolers for our fish. The whole family showed up and George exclaimed, “I did not know the whole army was going to show up to haul everything out!” See you next week!

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