An Alaskan Short Story Adventure by Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson
As the old boat slowly made its way from the dock out in Homer, Alaska into the channel, I stood at the front rail, braced
against the waves. The feel of the salt spray on my face and the damp air blowing through my hair brought back memories
of my voyages on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Encompassed in my own world, I was not prepared for the jolt of high waves as
we left the channel and entered the open sea. The first big wave slapped me flat on my butt. I grabbed the metal rail and
pulled myself up. A powerful adrenaline rush swelled inside my body then erupted in hysterical laughter. Like a bucking
horse, the wood boat fought the raging sea. I hurriedly tied the rope on my life jacket to the rail and enjoyed every minute
of my violent ride in the stormy weather in the ocean of Alaska.
Too soon the sea opened to an expanse of calmer waves and easy winds. I cut loose from the rope. Invigorated I went
back to the cabin to hunt for some hot coffee. Upon the sight of my soaked appearance, the captain scolded me hard.
Although I tried to convince him I was an experienced Alaskan seaman, I was not let out of his sight again.
“So, you want a ship too,” he laughed. “You won’t get much painting done while fighting the waves. The sea salt will dry
your skin and hair. You want to be an old Alaskan salty dog like me?”
With that, the captain led me out to the deck. He roared as I swayed from the weight of the fishing rod. Throwing the line
over board, I almost went over board with it. I was tied to the rail again. No sooner had my line entered the water than I felt
a tug; no nibble here, the fish ripped my bait off the hook.
“Yank the line as soon as you feel the fish bite!” the captain hollered.
The line jerked. I yanked it with all my strength. The hook dug into the halibut’s mouth. I was in for a fight. I wrestled with
the line for twenty minutes. My feet braced against the rail and every muscle in my body struggling to pull him in, but we
just did a dance. In and out, back and forth we battled. The huge halibut was sucking the bottom of the cold arctic sea;
determined not to leave the water. I must have fought that monster for an hour.
“Hand me the bat!” the captain hollered.
The captain and I pulled the halibut out of the water. Its violent struggle for life rocked the boat. I fell to the deck as the
crew beat the halibut with bats. Grabbing a sharp knife, I attacked the fish determined to conquer it myself. Blood spurted
over me as I stabbed him. As I tried to get up from the slippery mess, a big wave hit the deck and threw me down again.
As I struggled to untangle the fishing line, I looked up to see the captain holding a gun. The captain helped me stand; then
he shoved his gun in my hand. I shot the halibut in the head. Finally the struggle was over. I caught my first halibut. The
crew said my halibut was close to one hundred pounds; we were all excited.
The mirror in the cabin showed a bruise on my head and scratches all over my arms. There was another bruise all the way
down the inside of my leg which was bleeding from rope burns. When we returned to the dock, the captain cut the fish in
large hunks for me. The hunks of raw meat weighed 120 pounds. After storing the halibut meat on dry ice, I returned to my
tent on the beach at the Homer Split and slept the rest of the day.
Hunger woke me that evening. Silence broken only by the sound of rain drops lured me back to sleep. After dreaming
about food for a couple of hours, I built a roaring fire hot enough to withstand the rain and cooked some halibut in my old
Still sitting in front of the fire alone, I spotted glacier ice in the distant mountains. Unfortunately a truck pulled into my view.
The young couple sat up a tent a few yards from me. I resented this invasion of my privacy. I immediately rearranged my
folding chair so that my back was facing the intruders.
The minute the couple were settled the male walked toward me with a friendly smile on his face and when he was close
enough to see I was female the usual female traveling alone query began. Short replies were politely given to his
questions. Enough, I excused myself, jumped in my jeep, and headed for the Salty Dog Saloon.
I never could remember to duck when I went through that door. A loud “ouch!“ announced my entrance as usual. The
friendly waiter welcomed me with hot buttered rum. I looked up to see business cards on the ceiling along with lacy
feminine underwear. I intended to stay just long enough for my neighbors to get to sleep, but I was drawn into
conversation some interesting characters. Ted and Jane led me into a night of shared sea adventures.
Jan was an Alaskan fisherwoman. Her accounts of many adventures at sea, made her sad eyes dance. A wisp of her dry
hair fell over her left eye like a burnt straw ready to crack and fall at the least touch. Deep dark circles under her bloodshot
eyes combined with leather-like skin that stretched thinly over her sharp nose and narrow lips, gave her deeply lined face
the look of a centenarian. Jan cooked all the fishermen, fished along side them, and she was paid the same money as the
men were paid. Soon, Jan would end her wandering life in Alaskan waters to live on a warm tropical island. Her face
softened, she reached for my hand with a tight clinch and a little hand shake. Jan smiled as I looked at her scarred hands
embedded deep wrinkles and rough dried skin. Her buddies arrived; I could see she had their respect. She praised one
and then the other to me as she introduced us. As the drinks warmed our bodies, we began to tell our stories. The stories
became adventures. We all boasted which led us to trade downright lies. My huge halibut accelerated into a two hundred
Ted was no match for this assertive group. He resisted telling his story, until one of the men began it for us. Not agreeing
with him, Ted began to set us straight. It wasn’t that he couldn’t keep a woman. Just that he couldn’t get one that obeyed
him, looked pretty, and stayed thin. The last one wouldn’t even clean the shark he brought her, and then she disappeared
in midwinter when the heating fuel ran out. I laughed till I was sore.
I was still laughing when I left this gregarious group. The campsite was quiet and I entered my tent. The next morning
brought a refreshing gentle breeze and a hazy sun.
Dianne Roberson Hendrix is a free-lance artist, writer, and photographer who works from her studio in Palmer, Alaska and
on line at: www.artworldplus.com where you can see her prints and original art.
|Salty Dog | Homer, Alaska
|Art World Plus Art Gallery | Alaskan Art by Alaskan Artist
Dianne Roberson Hendrix | P. O. Box 2243 | Palmer, Alaska 99645
Phone/Fax: 907-775-4229 | E-Mail: email@example.com
|Copyright 2013 © Dianne Roberson . All rights reserved.
|Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson with her halibut in Homer, Alaska.