John and Tom got up early to organize their gear. Johnnie and I baited up the crab traps and dropped them in the bay. An hour later we had hit the motherload. One of our two pots we caught 20 crabs!
A couple hours later the floatplane landed taking Tom and John back to Ketchikan. Johnnie and I discussed our options. My vote was for Tombstone to hunt that big brown bear in Johnny K's tide flat.
Hunting Tombstone meant spending the night so we loaded up some food, and camping gear for an overnight trip. When we arrived at Tombstone Johnny K. had a good story. The brown bear had been in the flat the night before when suddenly another brown bear swam the channel and the two got it on! The X-rated show lasted quite a while until they both disappeared into the brush.
Johnnie and I took turns watching the flat that evening. At 8:10 PM I saw movement. The brown bear was out. Johnnie and I put the spotting scope on him and it was a big one. Probably between 8-9' but with a big rub down the spine. It was not so bad that I considered passing on the bear but it did diminish the trophy. We watched the big bear feed for twenty minutes but the wind was all wrong - blowing straight up the flat to the bear. It was no use trying unless the bear moved.
After several minutes, the bear swam the channel. We were back in the game.
Johnnie and I moved along the top of the bank, past the old burial ground and into the dark jungle. The bear could go in one of two trails from the bank. If he took ours, he was going to be in our lap at any moment. For a half hour we waited. The wind was perfect. My arrow was on the string, my fingers set around the nock. Johnnie had a position off the trail in back of me. His 45-70 cradled with a 405 grains of "buffalo bore" up the chute and ready.
The bear never showed and the wind began to swirl. We packed it in.
The rest of the evening was one of those special occassions where all you do is listen. Johnny K. was a kick. He told us story after story about hunting, fishing, life, people, women, you name it.
Neither Johnnie nor I asked about Lori, but it didn't take long for Johnny K. to bring her up. I asked him if he knew that Lori was once a 'he'? "Not a clue" he said, until someone told him and he asked her - straight out.
Johnny K. was 75 years old. His ancestors had settled Tombstone in the 1800's. He was born there and grew up hunting and trapping the Portland Canal. He hated bears: black ones, brown ones, white ones, glacial bears, it didn't matter and he shot lots of them through the years. He called every brown bear he ever saw a "Big Bastard" and saw his first brownie at Tombstone in the mid 80's. Now, he sees them regularly and he's not at all happy about it. His favorite hunt was mt. goats. He would row his boat down the Portland Canal and climb to high country. He even tried it with a bow one year but didn't care for it much. He looked up to the white-capped peak across from Tombstone and remarked "the last time I was on that mountain was 1942." But he's looked at it every day since then. It was sad, and yet fascinating to hear his tales. It told of a day long gone when people were free to hunt and fish. It wasn't a hobby or sport, it was simply a part of life.
For someone who's lived a life in the Alaskan bush, fishing and hunting - he was remarkably worldly and educated, and I enjoyed every minute listening to him.