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The day I fired my mother.

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The day I fired my mother.

Postby Salty » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:03 am

The day I fired my mother.

Marilyn Jordan George was born in Tipton, Iowa in 1921 and is presently residing in Lewiston, Idaho. After completing a college degree in experimental cookery at Iowa State University she was seduced into marrying a Norwegian immigrant fisherman Wilhelm (Skip) Jordan in the spring of 1946. He took her the next week to Wrangell, Alaska where they bought a 32 foot wooden double end troller, “Ma”, which Skip promptly renamed “Salty”. Her first years trolling were chronicled in a four part series called “Trolling Poles” in Alaska Sportsman magazine in the late 40’s. Her life story is chronicled in an award winning book “Following the Alaskan Dream”.
In brief, after a life of writing and fishing with two different husbands she ended up in the late 80’s and early 90’s with only one ride available to go trolling. So, I took her for a trip in the spring and then for about 10 days in September when I was usually fishing out of Elfin Cove in Cross Sound. It was a tempestuous but wonderful arrangement. The best times were when Marilyn and one of my two sons would both be my crew in the spring. The most challenging times were when Marilyn and I were alone together.
There needs to be a brief aside here. While I am a loud and exuberant type of person I do not scream at my crew except in the extremely rare situation of a genuine safety problem. There is a whole story about how my wife, Sarah, who still crews for three months a year with me, “cured” me of ever yelling at her. And if you know either of my sons, both wrestling champions, you would quickly understand that screaming at them was not advised.
Marilyn and I, on the other hand, would somehow end up in a fuming yelling match nearly every trip. I would hate myself every time but somehow we would work it out and continue fishing together. A big reason for the yelling was usually not safety. Marilyn loved to steer the boat on the troll drags. She also had definite ideas about speed, drag etiquette, and a long memory of perceived or real misbehavior on the drags toward her or previous husbands by other trollers going back to 1946. She also just loved to drag the edge as close as possible. For some reason even with all those years of steering on the drag she had very little sense of the boat in space and her perspective of what was coming up in terms of kelp, pinnacles, etc. was quite short. That may have been a vision problem but I am not sure. She claimed she could see just fine.
So, she was often steering in the wheelhouse while I was running gear. Those of you who are trollers can imagine some of the yelling from the back deck suggesting avoidance of kelp islands, that the leads are bouncing on the bottom, that now isn’t such a good time to turn as we will tangle the tip I am trying to put out with the heavy etc. Another common exchange was why we were suddenly right in front of some other troller which commonly resulted in a long story of either recent or past transgressions by said troller. Believe it or not my sweet mother had quite a repertoire of language to describe the character and behavior of the transgressors.
I hope this little bit of history helps describe the character of my mother and our fishing relationship but it is not why she got fired. We were fishing out of Elfin Cove one September when there was a particularly nasty stretch of SE gales with heavy rain. So, I went over to North Inian Pass where there was some lee and fished the flood. We were running one fathom spreads and 25 flashers a line for silvers. It was a lot of gear and a lot of work. Mother did not clean fish or scrub up but she loved to haul fish even though by that time she could not conk or gaff salmon in the water due to a Parkinson’s tremor in her hands. On my boat at that time we conked all the kings and silvers in the water and carefully gaffed and “slipped” them gently over the rail into the checkers. We compromised and I let her run gear on the port side and she would pull the fish on board and I would lean over and conk them and remove the hook while I was running my side or cleaning fish. It was quite inspiring to see this 70 plus woman with a tremor willing her body to run gear and pull fish.
Mother got tired in the afternoon and she took about an hour nap every day. It would refresh her and she would then be able to work late into the evening if we fished late. On this particular rainy and windy day in North Pass with the silvers coming steady on the flood she finished putting out a line and told me she need a nap. I said fine and she went in, took off all her rain gear, which was quite a job with her tremor, and laid down in her bunk in the bow. An hour or so later she got up, put on all her rain gear and came back out. While she was sleeping, toward the end of the flood, the coho bit really well and we ended up with over 200.
Most of the fleet had not done so well we discovered when we were unloading in the Cove that evening. Being the humble guy I am I observed to the buyer that we might have had over 300 if my “deckhand” had not taken two hours off during the peak of the bite. Mother overheard this comment.
The next day the SE was still blowing and the rain was coming even harder. The fish started biting on the flood and we were hard at it again. In the middle of the afternoon flood mother looked at me and told me she was really sorry but she had to take a break. I said fine and kept at the hauling and cleaning. Mother disappeared into the cabin and I thought she was sleeping in her bunk. Something came up and I needed to run into the wheelhouse. In the wheelhouse, on my bunk, in my sleeping bag, was my mother sleeping in her wet slimy raingear.
I did what I needed in the wheelhouse and went back to work without waking her. One of the real pleasures of the day after working in the wind and rain hauling and dressing coho is to slip into a warm dry bed. For the next hour while I was working I was fuming about the prospect of a slimy wet bag that night.
Mother finally woke and sprang up fully ready to haul fish in her raingear. As she stepped out onto the deck I advised her that she was “fired”. I patiently explained that crawling into the skippers bunk, into his bedding, with slimy wet raingear was intolerable. She explained that she was just trying to save time after hearing me complain about her absence from the hauling during the bite yesterday. I believe some yelling back and forth commenced with her final rejoinder that I would hire her back as soon as I got hungry. Which was an excellent point since my mother was one of the finest fishing boat cooks ever.
I called my partners and explained on the VHF what had transpired and asked for advice. It was interesting as most agreed that crew should not be crawling into the skippers bunk with raingear and that it might warrant being fired. Nevertheless those who commented felt that I needed to rehire mother. After some thought I rehired her within the hour with a caveat that we needed some “rules” for us to continue fishing together. But that is another story.
Salty
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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby Purple » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:23 pm

I recently finished your mom's book.. Loved It! Their 1st year fishing in AK, 1946 was the year I was born..
My wife is reading it now..

I'm doing boat work in Wrangell now.. Your mother is known, loved and respected there..

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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby Salty » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:20 am

I am so glad you enjoyed the book. I have had so many wonderful comments on it over the years. Hope you enjoyed this story, which in my mom's tradition does not sugar coat the memories.
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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby kellyp08 » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:07 am

Salty

A great story! Thanks. And what a woman your mother must be!

Pat
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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby Salty » Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:05 am

Fishing Potrait.jpg
Marilyn Jordan George in Raingear
Fishing Potrait.jpg (45.21 KiB) Viewed 9829 times
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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby joeman79 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:32 am

I read your moms book and it was autographed and I was going to say it wa just like my grandmothers writing who has Parkinsons. I loved the book and can not wait to expierience trolling this summer. And I loved the book, except for the part when Your Father died, the courage and faith they had in themseves and each other is rare. How wonderful!!
Joe
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Re: The day I fired my mother.

Postby Salty » Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:45 am

Marilyn Jordan George died on July 1, 2010 at 89 years. A wonderful funeral service was held in Petersburg on August 7th celebrating her remarkable life documented in her book, "Following The Alaskan Dream", My salmon trolling adventures in the last frontier.

She documented the trolling experience in "Alaska Sportsman Magazine" in 1946 in a four part series titled "Trolling Poles" which is still considered a classic in some circles. An award winning journalist and photographer, her reporting, photographs, and interviews have become an important contribution to the history of SE fishing. A collage of her photographs is on the office wall at Icicle Seafoods in Petersburg. Marilyn loved fishing and continued going with her son, Eric, well into her 70's, as documented in this thread.

I am sure she enjoyed being accompanied on July 1 by a whole lot of Chinook on her way to heaven.
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