Nick C. Varney - Reeling Em In - Fishing Columnist

Nick C. Varney - Reeling Em In - Fishing Columnist

Unhinged Alaska: A different kind of gift

Dec. 11, 2018 nearly slowed my Christmas spirit roll to a complete stop when Old Man Winter suddenly showed up flinging copious quantities of freezing décor at our cabin like someone decorating a tree with a tinsel-spewing fire hose.

First came some light drizzle pushed sideways by wind wheezing across the bay. Nothing to worry about, right? Heck, we still had green grass.

The breeze then went turbo and the rain morphed into a combo of sleet and freezing rain, perfectly mixed to lay out an excellent foundation of underlying ice for the snow skulking over the horizon.

All of this, of course, was accompanied by vacillating visibility that wavered from obscuring our access road to giving us trouble making out the vehicles parked in front of the bungalow.

Overall, it was a challenging day scrambling to get to our rigs relocated to the backyard so the plowman could clear the driveway all the while valiantly trying to keep our steps and ramp free of snow and ice.

The dogs didn’t help either.

When the sudden change of weather hit, they were hard to convince that it wasn’t cool to just step outside the door to pee on the welcome mat instead of ambling out to their customary message center adjacent to the flower bed.

The winter front had wussified them to the point that they would rather invite a burglar inside for serious yap ‘n’ growl rather than get their tootsies frosty.

Their attitude hasn’t changed a bit to this day, although our primeval monster mutt Howard will reluctantly trudge into whiteness if the wind isn’t in gale mode and he’s not in danger of tipping over when he lifts his leg to salute his favorite sapling.

Our miniature rescue poodle, on the other hand, refuses to dip her delicate anywhere near a frozen surface and I can’t say that I blame her. All it would take is one case of a traumatized tush and the battle would be on to make sure she even made it to the deck instead of a nice warm piece of carpet.

If all of that wasn’t a pain in the keister, one other incident steamed my patience to a parboil status on the 11th.

Out of nowhere, I received an email from one of my ex-military buddies grumping that he didn’t have clue what to give his two grandsons for Christmas this year.

The boys were now in their early teens and, according to him, “Were runnin’ on high octane hormones and were so deep into clueless phone gawk and universe-annihilating video games, that he was amazed they remembered their potty training and how to acquire food without having it delivered.”

He was dismayed that everything they seem to be interested in nowadays required electronics sufficient to run a space station and/or sufficient apps to coordinate a research module’s touchdown on a passing comet.

He recalled days when the boys thought camping-out tool gifts were terrific but had now morphed into wired adolescents with device wish lists that he could neither understand, much less afford.

J.T. said he remembered that I had an uncle who was famous for handling his kids’ unrealistic gift wishes and was wondering how he handled things.

He was wrong. It was my dad.

I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say that one year I ended up with something less than an expensive “must have” Premium Lionel train set.

What I found leaning against the tree was used, pedal powered, and had a picture of the train set I wanted in its front basket along with a newspaper boy application.

My sister also came up short on her quest for grabbing the gold ring on the merry-go-round of wishes.

She had been campaigning for a fancy doll castle so she could start a miniature mannequin collection.

The jolly old fella left her a diminutive Sleeping Beauty doll along with a fancy scrolled message designating my father as an honorary elf assigned to help her build her own chateau for its future occupants.

Neither of us ended up with what we wanted for Christmas that year but we were gifted with the pathways to reach our goals.

As for my friend, I’m not quite sure what he can do with a family that talks more to their home appliances than they do each and consider the term “fruit” as a secondary definition of an apple.

If I were him, I’d send them a picture of his mountain cabin resting on the banks of a quiet, trout-laden lake. His family loves it up there and has always assumed that it would be part of his passing bequests to them.

Maybe it’s time to rekindle their interest in helping maintain the parcel that has dwindled so significantly after their headlong dive into the internet culture.

Maybe it’s time to offer a pathway rather than guarantee. Such a simple gesture can be a very insightful and precious gift.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Nick can be reached at

• By NICK VARNEY, Peninsula Clarion

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