Since my column with the Manteca Bulletin will end next Wednesday, I thought I’d get all nostalgic and find where it started.
Here it is… 268 weeks and 187,000-some words ago…
Reunion on a dock
July 9, 2008
With a population that fluctuates between 45 and 65, Klawock High School rarely has what would qualify as organized or intentional reunions for the 14 or so kids that enjoy commencement together.
The couple days I spent on the fuel dock with some old friends satisfied the requirements as good as any in the past four years, and only two of the six of us graduated the same year.
Justin Huggins and I spent 13-years together in every classroom in the school. Together we accidentally set the abandoned cabin next to our friends’ house on fire, and when I fell through a pocket of ice while ambling through the muskeg during our senior trip, he was there to laugh.
His neighbor Ryan Wangerin was a year younger and didn’t move to Klawock until middle school. He and his twin brother Bryan were only decipherable to me by clothing at first. One had a black and blue Nike jacket, the other a button-down flannel.
Ryan, now living in New Hampshire with his wife Michelle (a former classmate of mine), was desperate to pay off his pilot school. Justin had a solution – the 58-foot Seafarer, capable of carrying 51,000 pounds worth of scaly, slimy, debt payment.
Jason Smith, the first-year captain of the Seafarer, was a year older than Justin and me. He too had roamed the hall (there was only one) in Klawock from kindergarten to his graduation.
After a lackluster couple of opens near Sitka, Jason decided to make the run south to the home dock and add in a four-foot section to the nearly quarter-mile long net, allowing the web to trap deeper swimming salmon.
I went to the dock to see the boat, and ended up watching/helping for the better part of the evening and the following day.
Rick Smith (three years older) and I watched as the boys tediously sewed the insert which took nearly 18-hours over two days.
After a couple trips by the dock, members of the community also stopped by for a couple hours of sewing, or to drop by everything from donuts and Coca-Cola to words of encouragement. It’s not written anywhere that anyone has to help when others could use it, but it happens in places like Klawock. Despite its faults which match the shortcomings of any town across the country, the coastal village is guided by simple principles visible through actions sometimes lost in the frenetic activity of the digital, high-speed world.
During every event, whether it’s the three-legged race during the Fourth of July celebration, a basketball game, or Bingo night, the best seats are reserved for elders, any elders, regardless of resident longevity or income.
Compensation for work is done monetarily, or in salmon, deer, bear, crab, Native carvings, wolf traps, chicken eggs or power tools. It’s not necessarily about an even trade, it’s about a fair sacrifice.
This is how towns like Klawock, and the island community as a whole, survive. In spite of $4.58 gas, $5.05 for a gallon of milk, tough fishing at times, closed logging, a 35-percent fuel surcharge on the only mode of moving vehicles to the island outside of paying for space on a barge, the people that endure this as well as harsh, rainy, snowy, icy and dark winters, endure it all together. When things are good, everyone benefits. My family has received everything from deer jerky, halibut to five-gallon buckets of still snapping shrimp and wood carvings simply because people had plenty and wanted to share.
The Seafarer could use some luck, and more net, so people had an impromptu reunion, and pitched in.
The Seafarer sank a year or two later in a winter storm. Everyone survived.