Friday, August 30, 2013

The road less traveled

One of the things that I get a certain amount of negativity from people I grew up with is because my life was entirely different than theirs.

I often get called either a Republican or a Tea party member, of which I am neither. I am just a person that has shaped his life from my experiences.

After I got out of the service I spent the next 20 years of my life in far-flung remote outposts in places like Wyoming, eastern Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Most of it was in Alaska on Kodiak Island which was then and is pretty likely now a place that breeds fairly self reliant individuals.

A decade or more in places like that tends to change a person. Generally for the better although some people do not seem to think so.

The time I spent both on the road and in Alaska taught me to pretty much rely on myself and that if I wanted something done I had best plan on doing it myself.

Alaska was a harsh place to live in ways. The penalty for screwing up was often paid at the cost of one's life as many found out.

By the time I was 35 I had been to maybe four or five weddings and over 50 funerals and memorial services. It was one hell of a way to live and the fact that I even reached 35 was nothing much less than a miracle.

If death didn't come early to one of my peers in a boat, it was in a small airplane. If it wasn't in either of those it was in one of about a million little insideous ways. None of it was very pleasant and when the time came it was generally a pretty horrible way to go. Being eaten by a bear, as one guy I knew was one way to go that must have been unpleasant.

One  of the things I learned early in the onset was the value of making good decisions. It didn't take long after I arrived to find out that a newly made friend had accepted a job with a skipper of dubious reputation and had paid for his decision with his life.

My friend had wanted the fishing job so bad he let his emotions take charge. It was then that I decide to do my best to rely on logic. Doing so has done me well.  

Still, there was money to be made, adventures to be had and interesting things to do. I was constantly learning and I was drawn to that sort of life like a moth to a candle flame.  

Generally speaking, when a day was over it was pretty much used up.  It was seldom difficult to achieve sleep after a long day. It didn't take long to become both physically and mentally tough. 

Many of my skills were self taught.

I learned to sail a sailboat simply by buying one in Everett, Washington and sailing it up the inside passage to Yukatat. From there I had gathered enough experience to sail her from there across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak where she stayed for about a year until I took her south again. I spent a glorious winter living aboard her.

I didn't really have to worry about getting something to eat, though, as salmon, venison, King crab, halibut and a lot of other things were readily available if you were not too lazy or stupid to take advantage of it. A crab pot off of the fuel dock could keep a number of people fed for a lot of the year.

I learned to be patient and shoot straight because a head shot ruined less meat and a gutshot deer did nobody any good because the animal generally died a horrible death somewhere seldom to be found and the meat went to waste.

It is truly astonishing how much of my diet did not come from various stores. I caught or shot much of it. Some of it was traded for what I did catch or shoot.

I learned the value of tools and how to use them.

I learned to trade and found that more often than not, payment in kind was a pretty good deal. An example of which was when I traded an afternoon's work for a lightly used Genoa for my sailboat. The Gennie retailed for about $750.

I also learned that the bank will generally work with someone a couple of days after they have stored a two or three pounds of shrimp in their safe deposit box.

My first seven or eight years in Alaska I suppose by stateside definition I would have been considered to be homeless as I had no fixed base of operation other than a local ginmill I checked into daily. Yet I always seemed to have a roof over my head and a warm place to sleep and a full belly which was all that mattered.

I learned the value of being trustworthy and that led to relationships with families and individuals that would generally shock most people stateside. There were a number of homes I could simply walk into and use the shower to get cleaned up in simply because I left it cleaner than when I found it.

I learned about the kindnesses and cruelties of small town living. I also learned when to leave some things well enough alone which is something a lot of people don't know these days.

I learned that kindness, patience, respect and generosity pay pretty damned good dividends to most people. I learned to slap down ruthlessly those that would take advantage of someone's good nature.

I learned that the guy managing the city dump was more useful and more important to know than the mayor by a long shot. 

Many of these lessons came hard, many came easy. Still, all in all I am a product of the lessons I learned on the road less traveled.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this:

No comments:

Post a Comment