I was surrounded by people that had cooler jobs than me, or at least, jobs that seemed more centered around passionate fun rather than dutiful nobility.
I do love my job, but it’s hard not to get caught up in their descriptions.
Tyler cooks for the Fireweed Lodge during the summer fishing season and spends the rest of the year feeding his wife and child while watching the empty lodge. Big screens, billiards, a spa and the kitchen are at his disposal, and steelhead a short beach walk from the front deck.
By the time the fishing season ends, he’s got four more months to get his deer and the following spring for bear and trapping.
He can travel if he wants, but stays put for the most part. At 23, he’s got a setup that made me jealous, though I did immediately think of The Shining.
After some coaxing, I was able to get my hands on his recipe binder and jotted down his mango salsa stuff for salmon in my best handwriting.
Mad Dog has been responsible for tons of fish being plucked from the ocean and Alaskan rivers. He works between 40 and 60 days a year, guiding clients onto the ocean over fish and telling them where to drop their lines. There is the occasional — OK, maybe frequent — fisherman that has difficulty following directions, but his morning commutes past eagles and whales to the fishing grounds are probably a lot less dangerous and stressful than the morning treks of many.
With a name like Mad Dog, one might expect a crusty sourdough with a penchant for one-upping everyone else’s fishing story.
In reality, he seems more willing to laugh at someone else’s stories than hold fort with his own. This is probably what makes him one of the more popular guides at the Fireweed. Once his term at the Lodge is finished, he retreats to Washington for nine months of odd jobs, golf and mental preparation for fishing.
Jody cuts fish, vacuum packs it or smokes it, then freezes it. Her specialty is smoked salmon which she doesn’t eat. Doesn’t eat salmon, period, but one of her favorite childhood pastimes dialed in her ability to flavor fish.
She didn’t have Barbies growing up, rather, her dad had a smoker and she played with recipes until dad’s palate was satisfied. Dad happens to be the owner of the Fireweed Lodge, so after years of cutting fish on the dock for the Fireweed Fleet and tweaking her smokehouse savvy she went into business on her own specializing in her own market.
She cuts, prepares and freezes seafood from early June until August, then closes up shop and heads to her winter home in Oregon where she quilts and fills her days with the duties of a wife as she sees it.
Jody’s dad, Bob, oversees this from his perch as owner of the Fireweed Lodge nestled at the end of a forested spit near the terminus of the Klawock River.
He shakes hands, chats, discusses fishing and also gets a healthy serving of BS and laughing daily. Since he bought the lodge, he has been constantly attempting to offer his guests the amenities of an Alaskan resort even through strained economic times. He’s managing quite well.
Aside from keeping his rooms booked and guest fish boxes full, Bob has other story problems that would make my brain swell.
The even more terrifyingly logistical part of his retirement career is spending a couple thousand dollars to get his guests off the Prince of Wales Island on a boat when the weather was too bad for planes to fly, then another couple hundred to charter taxi cabs to get them from the ferry terminal in Ketchikan to the airport because the “bridge to nowhere” that would have provided a road to Ketchikan International was mocked and not funded.
So the only way to get to the airport is taking a ferry that leaves every 15 minutes during the weekday, every 30 on the weekend, then walking up hill 200 yards to pay the $5 for the ferry then finally into the terminal. The walkway is half covered, which doesn’t really matter when its 37 degrees and the rain is sideways.
Mad Dog, Jody, a couple of the fish cutters and I discussed the ins and outs of our annual schedules. They have hard working, but great jobs that allow for a considerable amount of free time during the year. I work most of the year in a more stressful environment but get to play during the best season.
It was a push, but made for time-speeding conversation.
The next morning, I drove away from my hometown; truck loaded with everything from dad’s shop tools to snow shoes. As the M/V Taku drifted south toward Prince Rupert and I let the first thoughts of the upcoming teaching season creep, I recalled the best and worst the last pair of months had to offer.
I decided I might just have it a little better. Though my playtime is shorter, it’s intensely filled, and my fun is dependent on no one else.
They’d probably argue the opposite, which is perfect.
It must be as such.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.