The Call to Duty
This one’s for “The Boys.”
Most people don’t get my affection, my affinity for adventure and the unknown. For hard work, long hours and sometimes cold, sleepless nights. Heavy loads – physically and mentally, separation from friends and loved ones, including the four legged, wagging tail kind.
To some it may sound as a complaint, but it’s not. It is just a statement. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Yet I am often reminded during a distant reflection, while I type at the computer or top off a tank of gasoline, that it is not just all the wild, unexpected adventure and grueling hours, but that part of the call to return to duty is to be with your friends formed by the bond of guiding together.
It is not an easy explanation, nor is it always tangible, but it can linger… especially during rush hour traffic… and then again when you find a moment to yourself on the river.
“So you fished all summer? That must be nice,” most people say upon my return to the city, or as I attempt description of my summertime duty. We all make choices, but this is not the point. This is about the guides.
It is impossible to explain the rodeos – the crazy unexpected adventures, the important and quick decisions, the sweat, the leg burn while hauling gear up the hill, the hunger after a long day on the water, the dishwashing, the smile when you’re exhausted, the smile when you’re cold and wet, the weather, the flying, the smell of the air, the magnitude of the fishery, the pristine water and land – yet the one thing even more indiscernible and inexplicable is the look, the look of understanding, the unspoken acknowledgement when it is time to perform, when it is time to forget about yourself and cover the back of your teammate.
These guys would put their life on the line for you, and for them, yours.
Even harder to explain to people is why a job would even come to these terms. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it can and it does. Perhaps this is part of the unexpected bonding you experience. Whatever it is, this is what we become and is part of the strengthening and growing we do as a team.
There is the daily reality of guide life on the Alaska Peninsula – the boats, the guns, airplanes, helicopters, volcanoes, possible tsunamis and earthquakes, the weather and the storm warnings, the hiking, the tides, the waves and the bears. Oh yes, the bears – part of our daily existence. Part of the majesty and part of the experience, and part of the distance chance of irreversible encounter. Slim chance, but always possible and always relevant.
Nonetheless, the call to Alaskan guide duty is the call to friends. Life-long, irreplaceable friends. In this life, or the next. What we cannot relate in words can only be conveyed through experience. The experience of working together when the shit really hits the fan.
This is my thanks to the guys who have reliably watched my back, and who have given me the opportunity to watch theirs. See you next season.
Posted in Guide Journal