Mr. Bill and Miz Mona

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moose Pass Journal/ Skagway/ July 10, 2011

Bill Says: One of our friends in Skagway was a commercial fisherman/crabber. He was my size and had been a Skagway cop years earlier. He'd bring us king crabs, the whole thing, during crabbing season. He'd also fish for halibut, working the boat by himself and boy did this guy have muscles on top of muscles. He'd have to pull up his pots by hand, working with a series of pulleys and hoped to soon have a motor for it. His halibut lines or what is called skates were sometimes down over a 1,000 feet or more. I learned the only thing in his living room was a set of weights and a weight bench, and he was into carrot juice. He was also dating one of the bartenders, who disliked the smell of fish. It was not a match made in heaven, but it did survive.

Mona and I would spread out some old newspaper on our miniature kitchen table, (remember this was a 10' x 40' trailer in the pumpkin patch and the table was about coffee table size at best), and a big stew pot boiling on the stove. Then we'd eat king crab until full, struggling to ignore the crab's beady little eyes. For only $13 a crab, we ate good. I could never order king crab from a restaurant again though- they never gave you enough and cost  $30-40 for a half dozen legs. He was bringing in a lot of 300 lb halibuts or better and once brought in a halibut that weighed close to 400 lbs. The thing that made it different was how it had a bite taken out of it that measured more than 36 inches wide. Apparently we had some big predators down at those depths and I saw the halibut to confirm the story. We suspected it was most likely an Orca chowing down or some fairy tale sea creature of sorts. Drunks were always reporting sea serpents in the bay. Years later they caught a 22-foot white shark about 60-miles south of Juneau, this was when the warm water currents shifted and they began seeing tuna off of Juneau. But me, I was catching bicycles, coils of rope, the bottom and the occasional codfish. Everyone in town enjoyed hearing about my various catches, but I did close out several cases of missing bicycles.

I should also mention here how one of the old timers had photographs of him out in the bay late at night with a Russian sub beside his small boat- red star and everything. So I can imagine what a drunk would think when a periscope went sailing by.

Legend of Bullwinkle: One late evening while on patrol I noticed some activity down by the boat loading ramp and found one of the ferry workers busily driving around in a forklift, trying to load something from the water's edge and having some difficulty. Scotty, who was known as the town's jester of sorts,  was rapidly becoming a town legend with his wild antics. When I walked down there I found a very large bull moose, very dead, floating there in the shallow waters off the ramp. Now this not being moose season, I became quite curious and Scotty was very nervous to find me standing there. I learned he was out fishing and had found the moose floating in the canal and an idea formed for one of his jokes. He tied a rope to it and towed it back home. He planned to load it on the forklift and transport it across town to leave in the driveway of a female friend, who was having her 21st birthday.

I soon examined the moose and couldn't see any sign of gunshot or arrow wound and began to believe his story. I determined in my limited CSI techniques that the moose, whose legs were broken, had probably fallen off one of the steep bluffs, maybe chased by a bear and landed in the water, and drowned. Sad for such a proud animal. The meat was no longer any good and soon, I became part of the conspiracy and it nearly cost me my job. I called over to the state fish cops in Haines and told them what I had and they simply advised me how I needed to confirm it wasn't illegally taken by nefarious hunters and then have it destroyed. So, not thinking too straight from working too many long hours, I let Scotty have the moose for 24-hours and actually escorted him through the town. Thankfully it was a week night and nearly 2 a.m., so there were not too many people out and about. We also took the back roads.

The lady lived in a duplex on the north side of town and had her car parked in a carport. Scotty lowered the big bull, probably 1800-2,000 pounds of moose, on the ground and against the back of the car. We rested the legs up against the trunk and the rack was very visable from the driver's mirror. We were quiet and no one was awakened. He hoped she would come out, get into her vehicle and then see the moose in her mirror and freak out. Now remember, this also blocked her from pulling out. We shook hands and I went on my way, while he returned the forklift to the harbor.

Sure enough, she was freaked out, but immediately realized Scotty was at work here and she walked to work. But before noon, I was awakened by a very upset Chief Hester. He was home recuperating from his surgery, but was still taking calls and he was receiving a lot of them over this moose event. Knowing Scotty, Chief Hester called him up and quickly learned what had happened and of my involvement. The Chief was NOT happy. I had to get a hold of Scotty, get the forklift and destroy the animal in some fashion, as it was reportedly now quite ripe and neighbors were complaining about the stench and the squadrons of flies buzzing about. I found Scott, got the forklift and by the time we made it to the girl's apartment.... here was tour bus, filled completely with gray haired old ladies and a bored looking driver. They were all standing around the moose, posing for photos and especially one series of group shots.... that I took for them. Now this thing stunk, but it didn't seem to bother them, though the bus driver wouldn't come near the thing. I've always wondered what happened to the photos and though promises were made I never got one in the mail. In fact, of all the photos taken of me by the tourists, mostly while making my walking patrols downtown, I only received a single copy in the mail from my over 2 yrs in Skagway. The most photographs thing in town was an old 90 lb or better white husky dog that slept across the boardwalk and out in front of Deadmen's Photo Shop. The dog usually looked dead and did eventually die in that same spot, but the tourists loved him and I never did see him wake up to their busily sidestepping him.

Scott and I talked and we decided to transport the moose back to the bay. I escorted it and it became sort of like a parade as dozens of people came out to watch us move the foul smelling beast through town. We took it down tot he ferry float, tied cement blocks to the legs and after cutting it open so it would sink, ( this was a job in itself as the skin had become rock hard and I nearly shot it just to make a hole). Anyway after some effort, a lot of people laughing at Scotty and me, we lowered the beast into the cold waters of the Lynn Canal. We new the fish and crabs would consume it.

The story didn't end there though. I received quite a counseling from my boss and a year later, a diver came to town to work on the city's water system. A pipe emptied out into the bay. Poor guy suddenly came upon this huge skeleton with its legs tied to cement blocks and he nearly cleared the surface of the water in his excitement...or fright. He wanted to know what the poor critter did to become victim to a mob hit. He also commented on how it seemed no one in Skagway properly digested their corn...uck!

Christened Bullwinkle of course, the skull and rack was eventually removed from the ocean bottom and hung off the wall of the Red Onion Saloon, for which Scotty soon became part owner through marriage. When I returned to Skagway in 1993 to conduct a state investigation, I found Bullwinkle hanging there still and Scotty working the bar- he was happy and still pulling pranks. But he admitted Bullwinkle was his best joke.

 More later!

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