An Outdoor View: The tackle box

Author’s note: I offer the following to put you in the mood for Hanukkah, Christmas, Festivus or whatever celebration gives you warm feelings and urges you to eat, drink and give to excess. — LP

Virginia was trying to put on a happy face for Christmastime, but it wasn’t easy. Earl, her husband of 53 years, had died three years before. It had taken him 15 years to get the job done. The physical and mental stress had left her badly shaken, but the financial drain had been the last, cruel straw. This year, she had no money to buy Christmas gifts for her grand-children. In years before, she had always made caps or mittens for them, but arthritis had taken the joy out of knitting.

Earl, wanting her to happy, had told her to remarry. She hadn’t been interested in other men, but to honor his wishes, she had tried to find a man. After a year of half-hearted looking, she had given up. What little happiness she found now was with her grand-children and her cat.

“Trouble is,” she thought despondently, “the kids can’t be pulled away from their video games to spend time with boring old grandma, and the cat has maybe a year to live. Less if he keeps peeing in the closet.”

Sitting alone in her small house, she thought about her overdue utility bills, her leaking roof, her backed-up toilet and her inability to give gifts. She wanted to cry, but she was too tired to cry. Exhausted from worry, she prayed that things would get better.

It seemed to help. Feeling a little better, she fixed herself some soup for lunch. She had just sat down to eat when she heard a knock at her door. It was her neighbor, Mildred Adams.

“Hello, Virginia,” Mildred said. “Good news! I sold that tackle box full of fishing stuff that you gave me to sell in my yard sale.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Virginia said.

“What’s nice is that the buyer said those old fly-fishin’ reels were worth a lot more than the 500 bucks you were askin’. He said he didn’t want to take advantage of you. Handed me 50 hundred-dollar bills!”

“Oh, my!” Virginia said. “I had no idea. Well, you keep some of that for your trouble.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Mildred said, handing her the money. “He was so friendly, so generous and so handsome, I’d have paid him just to hang around for a while, if you know what I mean.”

The money was a godsend. After eating lunch, Virginia paid all her bills, and called the men to come and fix her leaking roof and her backed-up septic system. She then took a bus downtown and spent the afternoon happily buying gifts and getting her hair done.

That night, sitting in her chair with her cat in her lap, she found herself thinking about the tackle box. She had always loved to fish, and that box held a lifetime of memories. Her favorite bobber, given to her by her grandfather when she was 4, had been in that box, she remembered, along with dozens of flies and four Hardy reels. Earl had given her the reels. She hadn’t known they were worth so much. She hadn’t wanted to sell them, but she had been desperate.

On Christmas morning, Virginia baked blueberry muffins. After breakfast, she would take some muffins over to Mildred and wish her merry Christmas. Her son was to pick her up at noon, and she would be spending the afternoon with her family.

When Virginia pushed open the front screen door to go out, she felt it bump into something. Looking down, she saw a large box. She wasn’t expecting anything. As to who sent it, there was no clue. She took it inside. Inside the large box was a smaller box. Upon opening that one, she beheld an unbelievable sight. Her tackle box.

Her heart racing, she opened the tackle box. At first, she thought it was empty, but in the bottom she found the bobber that her grandpa had given her and a note that said, “Merry Christmas, Virginia.” In small print was a telephone number and the initials S.C.

With a sigh, Virginia said, “It’s a wonderful life!”

As if that weren’t enough, on New Year’s Eve, Virginia and a friendly, generous and very handsome man named Stan Coulter went dancing. It was a night filled with fun, laughter and the promise of more to come. Later, after Stan had taken her home and was climbing into his cherry-red stretch limo to leave, she heard him exclaim, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Reach Les Palmer at

More in Life

Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tots to be thankful for

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son.

Minister’s Message: Keep in step

Sometimes it takes going half way around the world to learn how to “keep in step” as I journey.

Shelli and Mike Gordon pose in October 2011 at their Halibut Cove, Alaska, home in an Alaska Gothic version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting. (Photo courtesy of Mike Gordon)
‘Dagnabit’ features tales of ’80s wild Alaska

Gordon’s second book also tells of Ruben Gaines, creator of Chilkoot Charlie.

Before boiling, this handmade pasta is rolled, cut and tossed in flour to keep from sticking. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Pasta by hand

Learning one of the most important task of the Italian kitchen: making the pasta.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
The Great Thanksgiving dessert debate

Our holiday gathering is going to be smaller than it sometimes is, and it was argued that we didn’t need two desserts.

Dianne Spence-Chorman’s “Fig Study” is one of the works showing in the Homer Council on the Arts “Fun wtih 5x7” show through Dec. 22, 2021, at the gallery in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
‘Fun with 5×7’ offers affordable art

HCOA annual art show presents art in a variety of media, all in 5x7 format.

Make pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes for a decadent fall treat. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: In honor of ‘Cupcake Mondays’

Pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon buttercream cupcakes brighten up the dreariest of work.

Nick Varney
Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Back off, Zeus

If this wet-n-warm, freeze, then start again, continues much longer, Kachemak Drive will need a complete redo.

The cover of Tom Kizzia’s book, “Cold Mountain Path,” published by Porphyry Press in October 2021. (Photo provided)
‘Cold Mountain Path’ explores ghost town history of McCarthy

Kizzia’s book looks at McCarthy history from 1938 to the town’s revival as a tourist destination.

Melinda Hershberger works on her installation for the Kenai Art Center’s collaborative mural project on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Wall-to-wall creativity

Artists collaborate on a single mural at the Kenai Art Center this month.

This spectacular and simple marshmallow recipe is an easy way to wow at holiday potlucks. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Power puffs

Don’t dread the dreaded potluck with this five-ingredient marshmallow recipe.

In this 1950s image, Chell Bear (left) and Lawrence McGuire display a stringer of small trout they caught through the ice in front of the homestead cabin of Bob Mackey, for whom the Mackey Lakes were named. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula College Historic Photo Repository)
History with a sense of humor, Part 2

The second in a two-part collection of humorous tales gleaned from old newspapers on the central Kenai Peninsula.