I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy–I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it–
Came out with a fortune last fall,–
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.
The Spell of the Yukon, Robert Service
Gold Fever. It’s a term you hear sometimes, but it’s not very applicable these days, if you take it literally. Gold fever is an addiction, if you get right down to it. You could replace gold with many different words. One gets a little taste of something–gold, alcohol, sports, money…you name it–and it keeps you coming back for more. You want a little more and a little more, until it seems to be out of your control. Now, my problem isn’t quite this serious, and actually it’s not a problem at all. What is it, you ask? Well…it’s fishing. Not the let’s-get-sum-worms-and-go-down-to-the-lake-and-maybe-we’ll-catch-an-ol-boot kind of fishing. I’m referring to commercial fishing in Alaska. Gillnetting for salmon to be specific. I fished for the 1st time in the Summer of 2010, 2 months after I was married. I had been laid off from my full-time desk job a few months earlier, and jokingly mentioned to Gail one day that I should fish with a friend of ours, who owns his own fishing boat. A few months and few phone calls later, and this far-fetched idea became a reality. I’d heard snippets about being a deckhand from Gail’s brother Garrett, who has been a deckhand off and on for several seasons. I didn’t know what was true and what was exaggerated, but in my mind I was prepared for anything. Our friend who owns the boat is Tanner. He and his wife Amy live in Wrangell, Alaska, population 13. Sorry, I meant 1,979. Gail and I took the ferry to Wrangell, and got there late at night in early June. It was cold, dark, and rainy. Tanner and Amy picked us up in their ever-reliable 1988 Honda Accord. This baby had over 200k miles on it and a few of the side panels were rusted through, but it ran like a champ. So good, in fact, that it didn’t even need the key. More on that later. I had met Tanner only a few years previous, and we didn’t know each other very well. We were friendly, but would never have said things like “you numbskull”, “ya big weinerschnitzel”, or “get your ugly mug over here”, such as we do now. These are always said with respect and love, of course. Anyway…the four of us drove back to their house, which is a single wide mobile home. Tanner fixed it up quite nice, and it has an amazing view of Zimovia Strait out front. Gail and I opted to sleep in the camper that night, and contemplated where we were going to live for the next 3 months. Would we stay in the camper? The back 10’x 10′ room in the house? Would we find an apartment? All these questions seemed just too much for my little bride to bear, and she had a little “moment” there in the camper. Maybe a breakdown would be a better word. Anyway, the female emotions were flying like lead snowballs after the first snow. Now mind you, being a “fishwife” is not an easy thing by any means. I suppose some have come to accept the fact that their husbands will be gone or busy 6 days out of 7 for the next 12-15 weeks, maybe longer, maybe shorter, depending on several factors. Some are used to it, some are just calloused, some probably find it nice that there’s a bit of quiet in the house for a change. Then there’s the ones like Gail, who are actually sad to see their significant other leave. For the record, I’m not sure how she feels about me referring to her as a “fishwife”, but I will continue writing. Perhaps I should ask–OW! OW! OW! Me being gone all the time was another factor in her epic (yet warranted, I suppose) meltdown. As you can see, I am still here to tell the tale, so I made it out of the whirlwind conglomerate of tears, emotions, and the female psyche alive. Barely…
to be continued…