fish

Shirley and Uncle JimLong before our nation would find itself fighting to keep the right to bear arms, and long before people felt a serious need to teach their kids about guns at an early age, my Uncle Jim Wolfe was teaching his then two year old daughter, my cousin Shirley how to handle a gun. Much of her memory of that early time came from pictures of the process, but sadly those pictures were lost in a fire, and so live only in Shirley’s memory now. She remembers the picture showing a two year old Shirley standing in front of her dad, who squatted down to better match her size, and he was helping her hold the gun. I’m sure he began teaching her to shoot it then or very shortly thereafter, because from her earliest memory clear through adulthood, she remembers guns being a part of her life. By the time Shirley was old enough to hunt, she was an excellent shot, and the two of them very much enjoyed hunting together.

Hunting was not the only sport they enjoyed together though. Uncle Jim loved to fish, and taught Shirley to fish, build a campfire, and keep it going. Cooking those fish was a skill learned from her mother, however. Aunt Ruth had a way of cooking fish that was a family favorite, and if you wanted the whole family to like the fish, that was how you cooked them.

Shirley tells me that her dad taught her how to ride a horse, which surprised me a little, because her mom was an excellent horsewoman, who had even raced some. The she said that her mom helped with that, and it all made sense. If Shirley is anything like me, and most kids for that matter, she tended to learn easier from one parent than from the other. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them the same, but your learning style just seems to fit better with one than it does the other. As for Shirley, she got the best training that both could give and ended up being a pretty good horsewoman herself.

Uncle Jim and Shirley were in many ways, inseparable. She would do whatever he was doing, just to spend more time with her dad. That is the way many girls are…daddy’s girls, and since I was much the same myself, I can totally understand. They worked on cars together, much like my daughter, Amy Royce, but the big difference there is that Shirley really got into it and loved doing it, while Amy just loved to watch her daddy.

Uncle Jim told Shirley that he knew the girl he would marry, long before he met her, because he kept dreaming of her. He just couldn’t see her face. When he came home from the war, he went to Twin Falls, Idaho, because Uncle Jim, Larry, and Shirleyhe knew some people there. It so happened that the people he knew were Aunt Ruth’s cousins, who introduced them. He recognized Aunt Ruth before she even turned around. She was the woman in his dreams. It was love at first sight, and the rest is history. They were married for 46½ years before she passed away. Their love was meant to be.

Uncle Jim taught Shirley to dance by letting her stand on his feet, something I remember doing with my dad, although not to learn to dance. For Shirley though, the love of dancing continued all her life. She even danced on his feet while he was dancing with her mom…now that is a sight I would like to have seen. Shirley’s memories of her dad could go on and on, because they are far too numerous to name here, but suffice it to say that he was in every way, her hero. He made her life and the lives of the family, mine included, loads of fun. As his life wound down, I know it was hard for Shirley to see him in the weakened, forgetful state he was in, but she can always take comfort in the fact that his was a life well lived, and he is now in Heaven dancing with the girl of his dreams again…but waiting for that little one who likes to dance on his feet.

SashaThe BlowI never really gave very much thought to whales before our trip to Alaska. I had always thought they were interesting, and liked pictures I had seen of them breaching and of their tails standing straight up and then slowly slipping into the water and they dived down for another feeding run, but on a personal need to see them for myself kind of basis, no. I really never felt a huge tug at my heart for my own personal encounter with them, like my daughter, Amy had always felt about dolphins. Then, I went to Alaska, and on our trip, we planned a whale watching tour. That tour changed things for me. I didn’t want it to end. I found myself watching the water wherever we were, hoping for just one more glimpse of them…one more tail view…one more breach. It didn’t happen, unfortunately. After the whale watching tour, no more whales came into view, but that tour…well, I will never forget it.

We set out, and the plan was to go out to where the seals hung out…which we did, but we were surprised but a whale in that area. Her name was Sasha. We found it surprising that the whales had names, and even more that our guides were so sure that this one was Sasha, until we were told that the underside of a whale’s tail is like our fingerprint. Each one is unique, and the whales can be identified by the underside of their tail. So now we knew that this was indeed Sasha, and not just some guide pulling our leg. One of our guides, Mark Kelley, had been photographing whales for years, and had helped illustrate a book on whales that I had to The CaptureThe Breachhave. Mark was probably almost a friend to some of them, since he had been near them so often.

After seeing the seals, which is it’s own story, we went on in search of more whales, and we were treated to a fairly rare event, and one that many people never get to see…a Bubble Net Feeding. A Bubble Net Feeding is the whales’ most inventive technique; a group of whales swim in a shrinking circle blowing out bubbles below a school of prey. The shrinking ring of bubbles encircles the school and confines it in an ever-smaller cylinder. This ring can begin at up to 98 feet in diameter and involve the cooperation of a dozen animals. Some whales blow the bubbles, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd prey into the net by vocalizing. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the “net”, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp. Plated grooves in the whale’s mouth allow the it to easily drain all the water initially taken in. This procedure was something I had never heard of before, but we were told that whales most often feed alone, and so our guides and our bus driver after the tour were all very excited about it. I was too, because this is where I caught my best pictures of the whales.

I became mesmerized by these amazing mammals, and found myself snapping picture after picture, often of the same whale, who had only moved a few feet, not wanting to miss anything amazing they might do. I was not disappointed either. I got to photograph the whole group breaching, as they took in all those fish, and I photographed tail after tail…including my prize shot of a tail straight up in the water, before it slipped beneath the surface. It was an The TailSlipping Awayamazing day. I saw so many movements of the whales. They performed for us, without really even knowing or caring how we felt about it, although they knew we were there, because they have great perception concerning the things around them. Nevertheless, they were busy, and we were simply spectators to this amazing event. I had such a great time, and I can see how some people could be addicted to this pastime. So, would I go whale watching again…in a heartbeat.

Practice SessionAs a kid, I was probably…different than lots of other kids. While most of my friends were listening to rock and roll, I was too, but I also liked things that were different, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. When Neil Diamond did his narration, I found the story line very fascinating. Here was a seagull that wanted something different from life. He didn’t want the boring everyday existence, but the extraordinary. That was how I felt. It was quite easy to relate to Jonathan’s desire for excellence and yes, even greatness. He wanted to be remembered for doing something different, and like most pioneers, he was not appreciated for his efforts. The flock was disgusted with him, and threatened to throw him out. His parents were humiliated…horrified even, that their son wanted to be so different. That could sound like lots of parents today, but thankfully not my own, who wanted their daughters to be whatever they chose to be.

I have always loved to watch seagulls. Most of the ones I could watch…around the fast food joints in Casper, Wyoming, were of the same old boring race for food variety, but when you get out on the ocean…and watch them from a ship, it’s a very different thing indeed. Those The Food Huntbirds, much like Jonathan Livingston Seagull enjoy flying for the pure enjoyment of flight. I love watching them soar and glide across the sky and swoop down to glide just above the face of the water. As we sailed along, they keep the pace with the ship, almost like they are trying to stay close to the people on board. These were gulls who were doing un-gull-like things. Now, I know that none of these gulls was the famous Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but I have to think that one or two of them might be aspiring to be the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Maybe even a modern day Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who maybe goes by John Seagull, because those full names are so stuffy anyway.

There were lots of seagulls on our trip…the kind who went out by the fishing boats hoping for scraps of food, of course. There were also the ones who hunted for their own food, gliding low over the water, and then swooping down into the water hoping to catch their prey. They even hung out around the whales, although I have no idea what they were hoping to gain by that. Perhaps they thought the whales might stir up the fish, bringing them to the surface for easier hunting. While these gulls were doing what normal gulls do…hunting for food. They were not extraordinary and they were certainly not unique.
John Seagull
The gulls that loved flight were something so different, however. Yes, they swooped into the water for food too, but it did not seem to be the only thing they cared about. Watching them soar across the sky, or try to keep up with the ship, holding their position so they could look into the windows at the passengers, was so interesting. You would think that the ship, or at least the passengers would scare the birds, but they seem drawn to them. It’s almost like they are showing off. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, they seem to be shooting for something outside the norm. And that is what draws my attention to them too.

Pretty FishyMost little kids don’t really like fish much, unless it is in the form of fish sticks, and I don’t think fish sticks existed when my sister, Cheryl and I were little girls. I don’t know why Cheryl wanted to have her picture taken with all these fish, or if my mom just set her there because she would be a good point of reference to show just how many fish there were here, but I do know that it would have been a good thing that the fish were dead already, because if they had been flipping around, Cheryl would have probably been freaking out for sure…I know I would have, but then I was a baby. The fish were Smelt, and there were lots of them.

Rainbow Smelt, which are silver-colored fish about 6 to 9 inches long, are not native to Lake Superior, but rather to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Smelt entered the Great Lakes accidentally in 1912 when they escaped from an inland lake in Michigan where they had been stocked as forage fish. After that, they quickly spread throughout Lake Michigan and were finally discovered in Lake Superior in 1946. By that time, Sea Lamprey, which had also invaded Lake Superior, had begun reducing the number of native lake Trout, so there were far less Trout to eat the Smelt and they began to rapidly increase in number. Every year in mid-April, the Smelt head for the streams to lay their eggs. They are light sensitive, so smelting must be done at night. The best place to go smelting is at the mouth of the streams where they enter the Lakes. The rapids make it more difficult for the fish to jump over them into the stream, and so they are in abundance at that place. Smelting was a big deal at the time we were living in Superior, Wisconsin, when Cheryl and I were little girls.

When April came around in 1957, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Doris took Cheryl, me, and our cousin, Pam, and went smelting. Of course, the women pretty much just watched the proceedings, while Dad and Uncle Bill gathered up the buckets of fish that would be our haul for the evening. It was a good run, and the amount of fish they took home was amazing. The fish were then cleaned and frozen for lots of good eating down the road. I’ve never been smelting, at least where I actually participated, but I can imagine that it was pretty exciting to see all those fish all at once. usually think of fishing as a lazy day sport, and normally it is, but during a smelting run, it sounds pretty exciting to me!!

Rons-Fish-StoryIt seems to be the way of every fisherman to tell tales of the big one that got away, or just how many fish they caught. It also seems like those fish grow in size and in number with each telling of the tale. I think that just about every fisherman has engaged in such tales, and it appears that my brother-in-law, Ron is no exception. Now, I can’t say for sure exactly what he was saying when this picture was taken, but the fish hanging from his shoulder give me a pretty good idea. It would seem that age is not a factor when it comes to those fish stories, because Ron appears to be working hard to make his point. Of course, that seems to be the way it is when these guys are making up their fish story…they assume you won’t believe them anyway, so they really doctor up the story to start with, and depending on who they go fishing with, they could be learning from the masters of fish stories.

Ron loves to go camping and, as far as I know, still likes fishing today, as well as hunting, but I don’t know if he is still into telling the wild tales that often go along with those sports. It would not be surprising to me if he still told some whoppers, I mean after all, it is the sport for those wild tales. I have to wonder how far from reality most of the big fish stories really are. If you ask most fishermen, they seem to have all caught…or at least had Ron roasting marshmellowsa nibble on the line from a fish the size of a small shark, and who’s to say it isn’t so…right?

And, the fishing trip isn’t all about the fishing, it’s about camping and great times with good friends too. There is just something about sitting around the campfire, talking and telling those stories, while roasting marshmallows, that makes for the most enjoyable evening. Ron loved the whole marshmallow thing too. So, after a hard day of fishing, he would load up on those gooey, melted marshmallows while soaking his feet in a pan to get the dirt off from a long day in the woods. Awww!! Now, that’s what I call relaxing.

Delores Fern Byer JohnsonI didn’t know my Aunt Deloris as a child, which is to be expected, but one thing I have noticed is that she was always smiling. I only wish some of the pictures I have were a better quality. The things Aunt Dee, as we all called her, saw around her seemed exciting to her. And yet, she seemed to have a shy side to her. The Aunt Dee I knew in my childhood would bear that out too. She had a shy smile that always warmed my heart. I loved to have her come over. And it was always so much fun to hear the stories about the past that she and my mom talked about.

Aunt Dee was always coming up with some new invention or idea. She wanted to find a way to feel like flying, and not alone. So she came up with the idea of using her dad’s trench coat and she and my mom got in it and off they went. She loved doing things for her family, like catching fish at the river, and putting them in a wading pool for the other kids in the family to enjoy. She bought a piano for the family for $35.00, and it was in her mom’s house until her passing. She taught the rest of the family a dance that she learned in 5th grade, and to this day, my mom remembers that dance.

I remember her laugh, that could light up a room. She would come up with some funny thought, and then start laughing. Well, you couldn’t help but laugh right along with her. I have a feeling that her sisters and brothers found a lot of her schemes…or at least the scheme failures, to be pretty funny too. When things worked exactly as planned, it was just pretty cool.

Aunt Dee passed away in 1996 from Brain Cancer. If my she were still alive, she would be turning 81 years old today. I still miss her very much. She had a loving nature that was very endearing. It makes me sad that we were not able to have more time with her. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We all love you very much.

My niece, Susan was the last of the nieces on Bob’s side of the family, and in fact there would not be another girl born in the family for 15 years. That, in itself, was surprising, because up until that time, the family had been mostly girls. You could say that we were very used to little girls and their ways. Susan was unique in some things, such as her imaginary friends. Yes, many people have imaginary friends as children, but she was the first, and I believe the only one in our family to have them, and we all thoroughly enjoyed their antics.

Through the years, I have watched Susan go from being a cute litle girl, who always made us laugh, to a beautiful woman, wife, and mother to her 2 daughters. Susan has a sweet spirit, and a bit of a shy smile, but inside her lives a heart of gold. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, since she lives in Powell, and in many ways I feel like those of us who live here have missed out on all the good things Susan is.

One thing I didn’t know about Susan is the outdoorsy girls she is. When I look through her pictures, I see her camping with her family and fishing with her little Kaytlyn, which is quite funny, since Kaytlyn was not impressed with the fish they caught. And I can’t blame you Kaytlyn. I like to eat fish, and I don’t mind fishing, but someone else needs to put the worm on and take the fish off…that is just a rule!! But Susan took it all in stride, and Kaytlyn made it through that horrible ordeal with that monster from the water. Whew!!

The years have flown by so fast Susan!! I remember when you were just a newborn, and now you have children who aren’t even babies anymore. It just doesn’t seem possible. Today is Susan’s birthday, and we want to wish her the very best of birthdays. Have a great day, Susan!! We love you!!

My Aunt Deloris…Aunt Dee as we all lovingly called her…was an amazing woman who left us far too soon, and I still miss her very much. I remember her beautiful smile. She was always a very happy person. I have been thinking a lot about her lately, and had the chance to visit with my mom about her. Mom had a several great stories to tell that I think you will enjoy too.

My mom describes her sister as very inventive. One time when they were little girls, Aunt Dee came up with an idea that involved Grandpa’s long trench coat. She and my mom went out into the street. Aunt Dee put her arm in one sleeve of the coat and my mom put her arm in the other sleeve. They put their other arm around each other, and ran down the street into the wind. My mom said, with a far away look in her eye, “It felt like we were flying.”

When Aunt Dee was in 5th grade, her class learned the Mexican Hat Dance. She was so excited about it and enjoyed it so much that she came home and taught it to all her sisters and brothers. Mom can still picture that dance in her head. And another time, Aunt Dee went down to the river and got a bunch of fish and put them in a wading pool at the house, because she decided that the other kids would really enjoy it. And they must have, since it was never forgotten.

But, probably one of the greatest things my Aunt Dee ever did was when she heard that a place in town was selling pianos for a really great price, $35.00, which was a lot of money back then. Aunt Dee worked really hard to come up with the money, and went down, picked out a beautiful piano and gave it to her family. They all enjoyed that piano through the years, and as one of many grandchildren, I can say that her gift was even more far reaching than just her siblings and parents. It was played by grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. Little did you know, Aunt Dee, what a loving impact you would have on several generations of this family. You are loved and missed by all of us.

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