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Comments Off on Our Town – August 24, 2017

Our Town – August 24, 2017

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2017

The Soupster encounters and old friend.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

The Soupster panted as he climbed the stairway up the mountain. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. Apart from a squirrel which scampered up a tree, he was alone. Or so he thought. But, as he climbed the last flight of stairs, a person came into view, leaning on the guard rail and gazing into the distance.

“Rusty?? Is that you??” the Soupster asked, suddenly remembering his missed eye doctor appointment.

“‘Fraid so,” the old fisher replied, as she stared at the islands. “Seen a lot in my day,” she sighed. “Wispy clouds in a blue morning sky, a troller plying a glassy sea, a hazy horizon blurring snow-capped mountains, wind chopping up dark water, a cat streaking across the road to take refuge in shadows.”

“Rusty! What on earth??” the Soupster said. “You okay?”

“Sure,” she said, “just contemplating the passing of time. When you gotta turn back at the lookout, you realize you aren’t a spring Bambi anymore,” she admitted, rubbing her knees. “To tell the truth, summer’s taking its toll. Too much daylight and too much to do.”

“Aah, friend,” Rusty continued. “‘How small the boat for each life, how vast the ocean and its storms; May sunlight touch the waves, may strong wind take your sails…’  Know any ‘a those, Soupster?”

“Can’t say I do,” the Soupster mumbled, munching a handful of trail mix.

“Well, probably ‘cause I made ‘em all up,” Rusty laughed. “Anyway, how’s your summer going?”

“Productive,” the Soupster said. “I’m getting through my ‘Indoor To-Do List.’ Last week I sorted my garage cabinets into cutting things, hitting things and measuring things.”

“Wow, impressive!” Rusty said. “I count myself lucky if I can find anything clean on the boat to put on every morning. Anyhow, we have different priorities. Dry and warm is good enough for me.”

“Soupster, what I really want to know is how far we’ve hiked from the trailhead to here,” she said.

Pulling out his phone, the Soupster declared, “Siri! Pythagorean Theorem!”

“The square root of A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared, Soupstah,” she replied.

“Australian accent,” the Soupster whispered to Rusty. “But that’s another story.”

“Impressive, Soupster, but you’re hurting my head – too early for this kind of mathematical genius.”

“That’s okay, Rusty, you’re good at other things. Take these, for example,” the Soupster said, examining her well-worn hiking poles, with glints of shiny metal between the mud. “These babies prove you’re a hardcore Alaska outdoorsperson.”

“Dunno,” Rusty said. “Always thought it was the shorts.”

“Got a point there, Rust,” the Soupster admitted. “Pretty hardcore how you wear shorts year-round. How do we know when the temperature has hit 40? When ol’ Rusty emerges from hibernation with shorts on.” Rusty chuckled.

A freezing gust of wind hit the hikers, bringing the first drops of that distant storm, and sending a shiver up Rusty’s legs. The two friends put on an extra layer, cinched up their backpacks and headed down the mountain.

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 25, 2016

Our Town – August 25, 2016

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | August 24, 2016

The Soupster hears about a woman whose quest to become a real Alaskan involves getting dirty.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan

Hunched over a large garden pot, examining the contents closely, Jo poked at the mixture of soil and peanut shells.

“Looking for something?” a voice called out from the sidewalk. It was the Soupster, out for his evening stroll.

“Hey, Soupster! I’m checking the moisture level,” Jo replied.

“Trying to grow peanuts?” the Soupster asked.

“Nope, the peanut shells were in the compost. Went through a peanut stage about 6 months ago…think I was depressed…sat at home eating peanuts night after night. What I’ve got growing here is lettuce babies and I’m trying to decide if they need to be watered. It’s hard to tell on a drizzly day. I mean, it looks damp, but it could just be surface moisture.  I would hate to be responsible for either starving or drowning these little suckers. Given my track record, I’m probably not qualified to be their mom. No offence, babies,” Jo said, directing her attention to the pots. “I actually wanted kale, but being the end of summer, it was already sold out.”

“Yeah, kale is the way to go in Our Town,” the Soupster agreed, “unless you’ve got some fancy greenhouse thing going on or a guaranteed slug-free garden.”

“So, Soupster, I hope you like lettuce, because in 45-60 days, generous donations will be coming your way,” Jo chuckled, scanning her 6 pots of soil.

“How about making lettuce sauerkraut?” the Soupster suggested.

“Funny you should say that, Soupster. I’ve just done a canning and pickling course and we actually learned to make sauerkraut!” Jo said.  “In fact, there’s a jar of it fermenting in my laundry as we speak, nestled between 4 crock pots, a pair of winter boots and several kayak spray skirts. Fermented cabbage is supposed to be super good for you… something about gut health affecting brain function via the vagus nerve,” she mumbled.

The Soupster raised his eyebrows. “So, you decided to branch out and try something other than hiking and bike riding?” he said, feigning shock.

“Yes, Soupster, precisely. I’ve got to be more well rounded if I’m going to be a real Alaskan.  Well, to be fair, I have crossed some things off the list” Jo announced. “I’ve made jam, cut black cod collars, owned three pairs of Xtratufs, done a few off-trail mountain hikes and kayaked to the Lighthouse. So really, all that’s left now is to find a second-hand fish tote to use as a hot tub, learn how to can salmon and wait for my lettuce babies to be born.”

“At this rate, you’ll be a Sourdough in no time,” the Soupster laughed. The sky had darkened and it was starting to rain. “You can probably quit your soil moisture check now, and I’d better get going. And, by the way, congratulations on the babies, hope their birth goes well and see you in six weeks with some salad dressing!” He winked.

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 7, 2016

Our Town – April 7, 2016

| Guest Written, Our Town, Rose Manning, Seasons, Spring | April 6, 2016

The Soupster inspires a flurry of activity before a dinner date.

I was strolling past the post office in Our Town when I heard,“Gosh darn sunbeams!”

I turned and scurrying by in a terrible hurry was my neighbor Linda.

“Excuse me, but what did you say? I thought I heard you say, ‘Gosh darn sunbeams.’”

“Kurt, I did say it. Darn sunbeams. I just can’t stand them; they are everywhere.”

“Now Linda, why do you have a problem with sunbeams? You are usually a pretty laid back, upbeat person and generally everybody in Our Town is happy to see sunshine.”

“Oh Kurt, I’ve invited Soupster to my special pickled herring and borscht dinner tonight and I am so rushed.”

“Why? You have made that wonderful meal dozens of times. I especially like the ground fresh garlic you always sprinkle on top. You have served it so often I should think you could cook it while practicing your Yoga.”

“Well, back during Our Town’s usual darkness I thought I was all caught up on my work around the house, but now the sunbeams have shown me that my windows are filthy. I just thought it was dark out like always, but all that bright light is showing dirt that I didn’t even know I had. There’s kitty hair all over the sofa, cobwebs decorating the corners, dust everywhere and little motes floating willy nilly about the room. I can’t entertain in those conditions.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, don’t worry about the Soupster. His glasses are always so dirty he won’t notice a thing.”

“Kurt, it is not only inside my house that’s a problem but outside too. I noticed the paint on the porch has faded and there is a streak of mold on the front door.”

“Now Linda, don’t despair. Lots of us have the same damp weather problem.”

“And look at my clothes! When did my best sweater get little balls all over it? And there are spots on my Levis I never noticed before. And the very worst part – I cleaned my glasses and my husband actually has grey hair and wrinkles. I’m sure they were not there last fall. The poor old soul. I can’t wait for a return to the nice dark rainy days of November.”

“Oh Linda, please, please be careful what you wish for.”

“I have to be on my way now, Kurt. I am going to clean until dinner time.”

“Or, Linda, my friend, you could just pull the curtains closed.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 30, 2015

Our Town – July 30, 2015

| Animals, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | July 30, 2015

The Soupster okays an unusual pet.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

“Did you know Our Town has bearded drag­ons?” asked the Soupster’s friend Tina.

“It does?” said the Soupster, eyebrows raised.

“Check this out.” Tina showed him her phone. “For Sale on Facebook,” it said.

“Just look at those babies! They are soooo cute! ‘Two Males – one gray and one cream. Born and raised locally and ready for their for­ever homes.’”

“Hmm, won’t be long and these spiky little dinosaurs will be extinct in Our Town,” the Soupster predicted. “After all, they’re both males, right?”

“Soupster! You’re hilarious. If one was a female, it would be his sister. Even you know what’s wrong with that picture”.

The Soupster laughed.

“Says they hatched May 20, 2015. You know what that means, Soupster? You can celebrate their 3-month birthday! Bet you’ve never been to a bearded dragon birthday party.”

“Nope, can’t say I have,” the Soupster admitted.

“And look at this,” Tina continued. “They ‘make great companions, are safe, docile and like to be handled.’

C’mon, Soupster, they sound like the perfect pet.”

“Hmm…” the Soupster mused. “Most dogs I know fit that description. These critters are a bit of an unknown quantity. What’s more, this sounds like a lifelong commitment. Don’t forget, they’re ready for their ‘forever homes.’

“Oh, Soupster, since when were you afraid of commitment?” Tina asked. “Check this out: ‘Bearded dragons are cold-blooded reptiles in the lizard family,’” she read.

“Therein lies the first problem,” the Soupster noted. “Cold-blooded animals are meant to live in warm places and clearly, this is not one of them.”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Tina. “You guys have so much in common! Like you, bearded dragons need a source of heat. ‘Some people use a heat pad; however, beardies like to bask in the sun and a lamp provides a good replica of the sun.’”

“Ok, food” she said. ‘Crickets and dark leafy greens should be two of the main choices. The live food consists of commercially bred crickets, meal worms, wax worms and juvenile Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which you should get at a pet store.’ It is ‘not recommended that you catch the live food for your bearded dragons because outdoor bugs may have been exposed to pesticides.’”

“Well, that’s a relief,” the Soupster chucked. “Have to say I prefer spending my weekends garage sale-ing or fishing. Anyway, been a while since I saw anything on that list around here. How much do you feed them?”

“Good question. Soupster. Finally I detect some interest.” Tina winked. “’As many crickets as they can eat in a 10-minute period.’”

“Interesting. We do have a lot in common. That’s my mealtime philosophy, too.”

“If you need any more convincing, this will do it, Soupster. Bearded dragons ‘have one of the best temperaments of all lizards and can be quite per­sonable and intelligent.’”

“Man, they sound nicer than a lot of humans I know,” the Soupster chuckled. “What did you say that contact number was?” he asked.

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Comments Off on Our Town – June 18, 2015

Our Town – June 18, 2015

| Eddy Rau, Fishing, Guest Written, Marriage, Our Town, Relationships | June 18, 2015

The Soupster ponders alone time.

Guest Written by Eddy Rau

The Soupster cozied into his first class seat. Using his upgrade from Seattle was a great idea. The reunion of his writing class had been interesting, and now his eyes drooped as he thumbed through the magazine, waiting for take-off. Apologies for the hold-up came from the loudspeaker, as two guys walked in and took the seats behind the Soupster.

“Hmmn…looks like they’re out of a Patagonia catalog,” was his thought as take-off commenced.

“You must have clout somewhere to get a 737 to wait for you!” said a deep voice from behind.

‘Well, this trip is costing me a bundle.  Seems my wife equates ten days fishing in Alaska with ten days in Paris. Say, Jake, how do you get away with it? You’ve been going fishing every year.”

The Soupster’s ears perked up. This sounded like a story – it already had politics and economics with overtones of women’s lib.

There was a pause and finally the deep voice replied. “Leland, you were smart to deal with your fishing right up front. Remember that trip around the world Susan and I took a few years ago?”

“Ha-ha, don’t I just? I still get, ‘How come Jake and Susan can afford it and not us?’”

“Well,” said Jake, “my story started when I had to go up to Prudhoe Bay with that spill settlement. It was thought a little fishing stopover might be in order. Then, Susan got all excited about meeting up with me. Instead of saying it was an all-guy fishing trip, I dropped the subject. So, she thought it was just work.”

Jake mused, “I had so much fun with those guys – fishing and drinking and being out on the water. I kept going every year – Susan thought it was all business. That worked for about five years. Then, one weekend, at a barbecue, that damned Al Krankins started in about the fish.”

“Where’d you get this fish? Tastes like real wild salmon!” Blah, blah. “You have friends in Alaska?”

Jake’s voice got wistful. “Susan gave me ‘the look.’  I felt the old bank account shrinking. But, I like a peaceful life, so three months tripping around the world was a small price to pay.  Now we negotiate in advance. Susan’s on a New York shopping trip with our daughters.”

The Soupster marveled – was this calculated negotiation a feature of all marriages? It sounded exhausting – not for the first time, the Soupster thanked his stars that he had only himself to answer to. He drifted off, thinking of the nice, quiet evening he would soon be enjoying.

Finally, home! The Soupster walked into the terminal. There was his buddy Sheila, come to give him a ride. He gave her a big hug. And then, the shouts started.

“Hey, Uncle Soupster!!”

“Hi, you old dog!,” said Sheila. “Guess what – my family came up for a surprise visit, and the best part is, they get to stay for a whole week! Will you barbecue fish for us all tonight?”

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Comments Off on Our Town – July 17, 2014

Our Town – July 17, 2014

| Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Our Town, Tom Jacobsen | July 17, 2014

The Soupster ponders the fate of aquatic plants.

“Nice view from up here,” opined the Soupster.

“Yeah, it’s not too bad,” I replied modestly, high above the lake in the dental clinic break room.

The clear cutting of the lily pads was underway; the Soupster and I were like a couple of kids, watching the big boys at work, operating the big boy machinery.

“You know,” I said, sipping my French dark roast, “I really didn’t mind those lily pads so much. They added a certain `je ne sais quoi’ to the lake. And they always sank to the bottom in time for ice skating.”

“I know what you mean,” agreed the Soupster. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have found some use for them.”

“Yeah, like maybe fish food for the aquarium trade? Fixing potholes?”

“No, let’s think bigger, doc. We’d have to appeal to the overseas market — that’s where the money is.”

“I know, we could plant a story on the internet that lily pads grow hair and increase virility. I can see it now,” I said, giddily warming to the subject. “We’ll start in our garage, like Jobs and Woz, processing the pads into pills, attractively bottled and packaged, of course. Once it really takes off, we’ll build a plant out at Silver Bay employing dozens of Sitkans.”

“Whoa, cool your jets there, Mac!” interjected the Soupster. “How are we going to harvest all those lily pads, assuming we can con anyone into buying this worthless product in the first place?”

“Well, let me think,” I mused, popping a sugar free xylitol candy into my mouth. “OK, first we’ll have to figure the allowable cut, so we won’t deplete our resource. We’ll get the Forest Service to do those calculations for us.”

The Soupster shot me a quizzical look.

“OK, maybe rethink that,” I allowed. “But once we set the harvest numbers, we’ll work out the harvest method.”

“Helicopter?” queried the Soupster, smiling.

“No, too noisy,” I said, ignoring his sarcasm. “I’m thinking more along the lines of an underwater Roomba, programmed to creep through the muck, severing the stalks as it goes. Then, when the product floats to the surface, we can just scoop it up like free money. What could go wrong?”

I could see a concerned look forming on the Soupster’s face as he eased my second cup of coffee out of reach.

“Okaaaay, and how about obtaining ownership of this priceless vegetable?” asked the Soupster.

“Possession is nine tenths, Soup. And once the city finally notices, we’ll be too powerful to stop.”

I could see the Soupster had heard just about enough of this fantasy. He rose to his feet, still admiring the view of the lake.

“That’s a delightful pipe dream, doc, but I’m just looking forward to reclaiming the lake. If what Our Town head honchos say is true, we’ll have a healthier lake, safer residents and a lily pad-free view.”

“You think a little dredging will exterminate them, Soupster? You’re the dreamer. I’m betting on the lily pads.”

Submitted by Tom Jacobsen

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Comments Off on Our Town – May 22, 2014

Our Town – May 22, 2014

| Gardening, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Seasons, Spring | May 21, 2014

The Soupster is Inspired by Spring.

Jan’s cell phone beeped. A message from the Soupster. “Just got home. Was that your out there would have been a beach on a table?” it said.

“What the heck?” Jan frowned and picked up her garden hose. Immediately, the phone rang – the Soupster again.

“Sorry – my phone makes up its own thing sometimes. I meant: ‘Is that you out there watering a bedside table?’”

“Sure is,” Jan replied, reaching under the shelf to peel off a soggy Bangkok city map.

“I know it’s been unusually sunny weather an’ all but aren’t you taking spring fever a little far?” the Soupster asked.

“Ha ha” Jan replied. “Doing some spring cleaning…decided to sand my bedside table and give it a new ‘shabby chic’ look. Figured spraying it was the best way to get the sawdust off.”

“What? You took a piece of furniture with a perfectly good paint job and wrecked it?”

“Get with the times, Soupster. It’s not wrecked, it’s ‘fashionably weathered.’ Not everyone likes furniture made out of wooden palettes and ammo crates. By the way, what were you doing sweeping your face over the seedlings in your garden planter yesterday? Nearly crashed my bike trying to figure out what was going on.”

“Aaahh… Yes. Singing chromatic scales to my seedlings. Exhaling carbon dioxide on them is like feeding them a Thanksgiving meal; the vibrations of my voice energize them at a cellular level. Should help them grow faster.”

“O-kaaaay….oh, and hey, I read on Facebook last night that microwaved water has been proven not to kill plants.”

“Interesting. Must remember that. Need all the help I can get when it comes to gardening” the Soupster admitted.

“For one thing,” he said, “I’ve given up trying to start my own seeds. Last year, I tried to give my flower seeds a head start by sprouting them in a moist paper towel on the windowsill. They did sprout but I couldn’t get them off the paper towel so I ripped it apart and planted the bits. Unfortunately, only a few plants made it out of the soil and they spent the rest of the summer struggling to become anything more than two small leaves at the end of a stalk. These days I go for seedlings. I say let someone else get them through the Neonatal ICU stage.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Soupster. This is Alaska. I figure if we manage to grow anything at all, that’s a bonus, given the challenging weather conditions.

“True,” the Soupster agreed.

“Sorry, gotta go. Need to get this bedside table into the sun so it can dry. Bye…”

Right away her phone beeped a message. “Sudden dry in the same sentence music Tim I hears,” it said.

The Soupster called again. “Sorry, that was supposed to be; ‘Sun and dry in the same sentence – music to my ears.’ Yeah, I gotta go too. Time to sing a few octaves.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – April 10, 2014

Our Town – April 10, 2014

| Abigail FitzGibbon, Children, Guest Written, Our Town, Rain, Relationships, Relatives, Weather | April 10, 2014

The Soupster discovers the secret to aging gracefully.

Living in Our Town as he did, the Soupster had experienced many, many rains in his lifetime. Nevertheless, he hadn’t seen a rain quite as intense as the one that had been showering Our Town for three long days now.

The Soupster stared morosely out of his car as he rolled down his street, fat raindrops hurling themselves onto his windows. Even before the rain, he’d been having a miserable week. He kept finding gray hairs in his hairbrush, he could see more wrinkles on his face every time he looked in the mirror and he’d forgotten the names of three people that he’d talked to today alone. He’d never thought of himself as the type to be paranoid about aging, but he couldn’t stop worrying.

As he turned into his driveway, a small figure – wearing a hot pink raincoat and dancing vigorously – caught his eye. Stepping hard on the brakes, the Soupster unbuckled his seatbelt and leaped out of the car.

As he got out, he could hear the figure’s high, clear voice joyfully yodeling, “-rious feeling, I’m hap-hap-happy ag- Oh, hi, Uncle Soupster!” The freckled face of Winter, his nine-year-old niece, grinned at him, brown curls poking out from under her raincoat’s hood.

“Winter, what are you doing here?” the Soupster asked.

“I’m staying with you while my parents are on vacation, remember, Uncle Soupster?” Winter told him, speaking slowly and carefully.

“I know that!” the Soupster exclaimed, exasperated. He wasn’t that far gone yet. “I mean, why are you dancing in the driveway?”

Winter shrugged. “I was inside, and I was bored, and I’ve heard about dancing in the rain, so I decided to try it, and it’s really fun! Do you wanna do it with me?”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” the Soupster replied, heading for his front door, eager to get out of the rain. “I’m a bit too old for that.”

“Aw, c’mon, Uncle Soupster!” Winter blocked his way, her big eyes staring at him pleadingly. “Mom says you’re never too old to have fun!”

Her words struck a chord in the Soupster. Out of the mouths of babes, he thought. Lately, he’d been wallowing in self-pity about getting older, but there was really nothing he could do about the aging process. All he could do was try to age gracefully – and enjoyably.

Submitted by Abigail FitzGibbon, Age 12

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Comments Off on Our Town – March 13, 2014

Our Town – March 13, 2014

| Crazy Theories, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | March 13, 2014

The Soupster hears about the powers of the mind.

“Not everyone in Our Town had fun last Saturday,” Ashley told the Soupster sadly. “In fact, you were probably out hiking as I lay glued to a dental chair, plastic retractors stretching my lips to oblivion. Put it this way, childbirth is probably not for me.”

The Soupster laughed, choking slightly on his coffee. “Yep, the myth of the ‘one size fits all’ retractor,” he said. “We aren’t all related to the largemouth bass, that’s for sure.”

“Trapped there and unable to speak, I had time to think,” said Ashley. “Oh, the other things I could have done with that money! The causes I could have supported, the places I could have gone – they all taunted me. But then, I began to panic as saliva welled up in my mouth and I realized my trapped tongue wasn’t going to be much help.”

“Ah, karma..,” the Soupster chuckled. “Maybe you shoulda donated the money to a worthy cause after all, like the Save-the-Soupster’s-Boat Fund.”

Ashley rolled her eyes.

“Anyway, I was still trying to figure out how I was going to swallow or whether it would be a slow death by drowning, when I remembered a documentary I saw about Navy SEALs. Inspired by the SEALs’ amazing mind control, I set out to follow suit. Presently, I was trudging across the desert in full combat gear. A sore mouth was the least of my worries in this OPSEC.

“I was gazing at the late afternoon sun hovering lazily above the dunes when it morphed into a huge pineapple. I blinked and the diamond-patterned light over the dental chair came into focus, but I willed myself back to tropical delights. Soon, the dentist’s spiky gelled hair became palm fronds swaying in the breeze.”

“Starting to feel like I’m in Hawaii,” mused the Soupster.

“Exactly!” said Ashley. “Then, suddenly, I heard a voice. ‘Your wisdom teeth – they totally threw me,’ said the dental assistant.

“A barrage of questions flooded my mind, headed towards my mouth and stopped abruptly at the retractors. What? Why? Aren’t wisdom teeth sightings in a dentist’s office as common as whale sightings in Our Town’s waters? Realizing the futility of my questions, I zoned out again, my mind drifting to alternative uses for the common lip and cheek retractor.”

“What did you come up with?”

“Well, as I lay there, it came to me, Soupster – I had no options – no responsibilities at all but to shut up, listen and croak an occasional, agreeable ‘aah’. That’s right – no questions, no opinions and no lip!

Ladies and gentlemen, rejoice all ye with opinionated friends, argumentative partners and whining kids, for today is the day of the lip retractor!”

“Hmmm, that’s very… creative?” the Soupster ventured. “Well, good luck with the braces!” he said, zipping up his jacket and pulling on his gloves.

“Thanks,” Ashley said, flashing a metallic smile and gulping one last big, tongue-rolling swallow of coffee.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – September 26, 2013

Our Town – September 26, 2013

| Dreams, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town | September 26, 2013

The Soupster hears about a “super weird” night.

“I think there’s a full moon,” Kathryn announced. “Things have been super weird lately.”

“Weird?” the Soupster said, glancing up at dark gray clouds scurrying nervously across the sky. “Got anything to do with fall setting in?”

“Maybe,” Kathryn replied. “Another theory involves my eyesight. Been a while since I could clearly tell deer from bushes, and bears from rocks,” she admitted. “Once, on the ferry, I even thought that a beach covered in driftwood was a village,” she chuckled.

The Soupster laughed. “Makes life interesting, I guess. So, how was last night?” he asked. “Went to that ergonomics lecture, didn’t you?”

“Huh,” Kathryn grunted. “Again, weird. I’m sitting there, listening to the instructor, and he morphs into the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. ‘Anyone know what this muscle is?’ the instructor asks, pointing to a picture of a cadaver. ‘Anyone? Anyone?’ Suddenly a student belts out ‘BACKSTRAP!’ and another adds, “Now, I’m getting hungry.”

“Hilarious,” the Soupster said. “Huntin’ fever. Does weird things to people.”

“Apparently,” Kathryn said, rolling her eyes. “So afterwards, I’m walking home, trying to get cannibalism out of my mind, when our dog decides to poop in the middle of an intersection as we’re crossing the road. The middle? Seriously? Before you could say ‘full moon’ I’d gloved my hand with a doggie bag and scooped up the package. It felt surprisingly warm and I kept massaging it gently to keep releasing its heat.”

“Great idea,” the Soupster smiled. “Never heard Bear Grylls suggest that one,” he said with a wink.

“So I’m focusing on warming my hand, when a shadow jumps out at me,” Kathryn continues. “I turn around, check that I’m not being followed, and then look up to see a one-eyed street pole hunched over the road, peering down at me ominously.  Averting my eyes, I catch sight of a cluster of unkempt, flowerless fireweed – Dr. Seuss characters waving tall, feathery hairdos and mocking me in rhyme.  Beside them, a lonesome dandelion teases me, bobbing its seemingly innocent, fluffy white head. But I know better than to stop, pick it and blow it away. The path curves and a crowd of Indian celery plants ambush me, trying to claw at me with their dry, bony fingers.”

“I quicken my step in the direction of home and soon, I’m approaching the illuminated church billboard with its inspiring message. ‘When you’ve been barbecued, you’ll want to barbecue others,’ I read in horror. Getting closer, the word ‘barbecued’ turns into ‘rescued’ and I breathe a sigh of relief.”

“You had a big night,” the Soupster said. “Go home and have a mug of chamomile tea and try to get some rest,” he suggested.

“Great idea,” Kathryn sighed. “I’m beginning to realize why bears hibernate all winter. Starting to appeal to me, actually,” she said as she turned to leave, veering around a black cat crouching on the road, which turned out to be a pothole.

Submittied by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Comments Off on Our Town – August 29, 2013

Our Town – August 29, 2013

| Guest Written, Mary Ann Jones, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships | August 29, 2013

The Soupster is called on by the teacher.

Our Town retired school teacher Elsbeth Newhauser picked up her walking stick and dog leash and called her bulldog Gerta to her side. The two always left the house for their walk at the same time every morning and followed a route that took them down their residential street to an intersection with a four way stop. It was there that they would cross the main road before continuing on their journey.

This day, however, when they got to the intersection, Gerta abruptly sat down and refused to move. “Now, come on,” Elsbeth encouraged, motioning forward. She had barely finished her sentence when she noticed a large dog charging across the street towards them. Elsbeth gasped and pulled Gerta out of the way, then watched in horror as a bicyclist raced down the hill and flew through the intersection, swerving from side to side. A speeding car followed close behind and slammed on its brakes, but failed to stop before careening into a utility pole.

When the action came to a halt, the bicyclist was laying on his side in the street. The woman in the car struggled to open her door, then emerged, waving her arms in the air. “Why did you stop in the middle of the street?” she yelled at the bicyclist, as he scooted out from under his twisted bike.

“I had to!” he shouted back. “It was all I could do to miss hitting that dog in front of me!”

As they argued, a frantic-looking young man ran up to the intersection, looked at the other two and asked, “Have you seen my dog? He’s a large Lab.” That was enough to spark an even bigger argument between the three about whose fault the accident was.

Finally, Elsbeth’s teacher’s instincts kicked in. She tapped her walking stick on the sidewalk and shouted, “People! Listen!” The bicyclist, motorist and dog owner immediately stopped talking and looked at her. “I don’t know whose fault this was, but we’re not leaving here until we figure it out!”

At that moment, the Soupster rushed out of a friend’s house nearby, approached the group, and politely raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Soupster,” Elsbeth said, as if calling on one of her former students.

“Mrs. Newhauser, allow me to describe what I observed just now from the front window. The dog, which was off-leash and clearly in violation of city leash laws, came running down the sidewalk and dashed across the road in front of the bicyclist. The bicyclist had, just seconds before, failed to stop at the four-way stop as he sped down the hill. The motorist, who slowed down, but didn’t fully stop at the intersection, was looking down at her cell phone as she passed me.”

“Thank you, Mr. Soupster,“ Elsbeth said. “Well then, I hope you’ve all learned an important lesson about following the rules and being considerate of your fellow students….I mean…fellow citizens.”

“Yes, Mrs. Newhauser,“ they responded all together.

Submitted by Mary Ann Jones

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Our Town – July 4, 2013

| Airplanes, Flying, Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Travel | July 4, 2013

The Soupster looks at blue skies without rose-colored glasses.

The Soupster stared out the airplane window. The scene reminded him of a still life: blue sky suspended above a thick blanket of clouds. Only an occasional shudder of the wing and its subtle tilt away from the horizon hinted at the 36,000 ft altitude and 300 mph speed he was traveling at.

“See anything?” asked the woman next to him, craning her neck for a better view.

The Soupster turned to face her, unsure whether to focus on her penciled eyebrows, glossy lips or hoop earrings large enough to be bracelets.

“Blue sky” he replied, turning back to the view. “Blue – sky,” he repeated silently to himself. It had a pleasant ring to it. “Been a while since I said the words ‘blue’ and ‘sky’ in the same sentence,” he said out loud. The woman raised her eyebrows quizzically. “It’s not that there isn’t’t blue sky in Our Town, it’s just that it’s often on the wrong side of the clouds,” he explained.

The woman continued thumbing through her airline magazine. Every other page seemed to show a luxury resort or condominium, edged by beaches and drenched in sunlight.

As the plane dipped, the blue-sky-and-cloud-canopy gave way to snow-capped mountains, which then morphed into dry brown hills. Finally they were circling over a sprawling metropolis: their destination. The grid of buildings and roads, with traffic winding through, reminded the Soupster of a circuit board buzzing with electrical activity.

A few hours earlier the Soupster had been glad to be getting off the rock, but now he realized he was also glad for his return ticket. Closing his eyes, he was back in Our Town, sitting beside the sea, throwing a stick for his neighbor’s dog. She would bound over rocks into the water to retrieve the stick, then flop down in sandy seaweed to gnaw on it. A seiner plied the black, glassy surface of the sound, with a backdrop of forested hills rising into the mist. The Soupster sighed. The fresh, salty air was cool on his skin and a breeze rustled his hair.

“Thank you!” boomed the overhead announcement, shaking the Soupster out of his trance; “We appreciate your choosing our airline…have a great day!”

The Soupster smiled. “A good choice indeed,” he said, turning to the woman to congratulate them both. A mystified look washed over her face again. The Soupster felt obliged to clarify. “Well, considering there’s no other airlines to choose from… I guess we could have taken the ferry… But we’d still be three days away from our destination and probably wandering around looking for the best lounge to unroll our sleeping bag in. Anyway, as they say, the sooner you get there, the sooner you can get back.”

The plane landed and the Soupster strolled down the jet way, into the sea of humanity. “Doesn’t’t take long to know which side of the clouds you belong on,” he thought, taking a deep breath and making his way forward.

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Our Town – May 9, 2013

| Crazy Theories, Gardening, Guest Written, Mary Ann Jones, Our Town | May 9, 2013

The Soupster discovers sometimes you already have just what you need.

It seemed to Chauncey that almost everyone in Our Town had an opinion about The Giant Greenhouse Project. He thought local officials had provided more than enough information over the last few years to make sure the community was well-informed. After all, this was the largest construction project in the town’s history and, while the greenhouse had its detractors, most folks agreed that it was necessary. So, why were a few still not convinced that it was worth whatever it would take? Chauncey shook his head.

The problem was that there simply wasn’t an adequate supply of coffee in town. Storage levels were constantly running low, even with weekly shipments flown in from the lower 48, and the cost and environmental impact were enormous. Didn’t people understand the difficulties of maintaining a sustainable drink like that on a remote island that was too cold and wet to grow beans?

Chauncey was the first to admit that The Giant Greenhouse was an ambitious undertaking. Decades earlier, the town’s leaders had established a small coffee plantation in the mountains. They had hoped to capitalize on the “mountain-grown” slogan and export beans around the world, but, unfortunately, a large corporation used that marketing strategy first. Try as the town did to make a go of it, the poor coffee trees failed to produce more than a meager crop.

Chauncey recalled the excitement when a volunteer community work group came up with the idea of building a giant greenhouse to protect the coffee trees from inclement weather. The group met tirelessly for a year to design the concept and then put together a presentation that received unanimous support from elected officials. Town engineers sprang into action and hired a consulting firm that submitted a report confirming the feasibility of the project. By that time, the shortage had become more critical and local coffee drinkers were experiencing soaring prices and periodic shortages – or rolling blackouts, as they were called.

Now, three years later, after even more studies, designs and contract awards, construction had finally begun on the greenhouse. The excitement in town was contagious – Chauncey decided to go see for himself how the greenhouse was coming. On his bike ride out there, he spotted the Soupster who was sitting on a bench at Whale Park, drinking from a coffee cup. Chauncey pulled into the parking lot and paused. “I see you’re having your morning coffee.”

“Oh, this isn’t coffee”, the Soupster said. “It’s alder tea. Would you like a cup?”

“Alder tea…I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Chauncey said, as he took the drink from the Soupster and sipped it slowly.

“Good lord!” he shouted. It’s delicious! It tastes just like coffee!”

“I know,” the Soupster said with a broad grin, “and all you have to do to make it is boil seawater and alder tree shavings together. Guess we’re not going to run out of those two ingredients any time soon!”

Submitted by Mary Ann Jones

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Our Town – April 25, 2013

| Guest Written, Lois Verbaan DenHerder, Our Town, Travel | April 25, 2013

The Soupster and a friend get philosophical about travel.

“How was your trip to Southeast Asia?” asked the Soupster between sips of a creamy latte.

“Amazing!” Kate replied. “I’m still dreaming of Thai curries – green beans so fresh they squeak when you chew them, in coconut milk with ginger and basil. I could have a bowl right now,” she confessed, chomping on her bagel. “And a drink of cold juice straight from a coconut – top chopped off and a straw sticking out,” she added.

“Make that two!” the Soupster said.

Kate gazed at the shiny glass jar of cookies on the counter, deep in thought. “Travelling’s fun,” she mused, but there’s something about being able to walk into a café back in Our Town, see familiar folks, get a big mug of freshly ground coffee with real milk, and spend time visiting with people you know well.”

“It’s true – there’s no place like home,” the Soupster agreed.

“And,” said Kate with sudden inspiration, “there’s no toilet like the one you’re used to – one that’s clean, dry and comes with a seat and toilet paper. It can be hard to figure out bathroom etiquette when your only clues are a plastic scoop and a barrel of water next to a hole in the floor. Actually, I think I knew what to do, but was in denial,” she said.

The Soupster laughed. “I feel quite lost when my mountain of Costco toilet paper runs out,” he admitted. “Desperate times calls for desperate measures – paper towel maybe, but water? Never!” the Soupster vowed.

“Toileting aside, I do have incredible memories” Kate said. “Like, in Myanmar – thousands of ancient Buddhist temples littering the plains of Bagan, a sea of young monks chanting scriptures in a monastery, and a 15-hour trip down the Ayeyarwady River on a steamer.

“In Laos,” she continued, “waking at dawn in a tree house overlooking a misty forest canopy, to the sound of gibbon calls. And crazy bus trips, hurtling down mountain passes with incredible views beyond sheer cliffs.”

“A bit scary?” the Soupster asked.

“Huh!” Kate grunted, eyebrows raised. “It’s nice to know that a bus trip in Our Town isn’t a matter of survival of the fittest, and that drivers use gears instead of stopping every few miles to hose down their breaks with cold water.”

“Also, over there, the women may seem exotic, but it’s nice to know that our daily beauty routine doesn’t involve grinding down tree bark to make a stinging paste to rub in beige circles on each cheek. I’m glad our jewelry doesn’t include a permanent stack of heavy brass rings around our necks, and that a pedicure doesn’t mean dangling our feet into a tub full of hungry little fish.

“Well, Soupster”, Kate concluded, “it’s good to get off The Rock and it’s good to come back.”

“Gotta agree with you there,” the Soupster replied – “like Dorothy said, there is no place like home.”

Submitted by Lois Verbaan Denherder

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Our Town – March 28, 2013

| Guest Written, Neighbors, Our Town, Relationships, Rose Manning, Small Town Stuff | March 27, 2013

Is there such a thing as too much help?

“Hey, Buddy. Good to see you.”

“How’s life, Soupster?”

“How is life? How can you ask such a question?”

“I am fixin’ to leave this dang town.”

“Oh no, Buddy. Why do you want to leave Our Town?”

“I just have to, Soupster. It seems that nobody can mind their own beeswax. They are always sticking their nose into my business.”

“Whoa, there! It is a small town and it is spring and it is foggy and you know we just use each other for entertainment this time of year. Just what is this business you are talking about, Buddy?”

“Soupster. Everybody is just too dang nice.”

“Did I hear that right? TOO NICE? What is wrong with that?”

“Do you remember when the doc told me to walk at least twenty minutes every day?”

“Yes, I do and I do see you out there sometimes.”

“You got it, Soupster. Sometimes is right. It seems every time I get my shoes on and start out I can’t get more than a half block from home and somebody stops to give me a ride back home. I explain what I’m doing and turn them down but there is always another do-gooder neighborly sort right behind them. Finally, I give up and get all my exercise crawling in and out of cars. As soon as they drop me off and pull away I start out again. I haven’t made it a full block all week.”

“They are such good and kind people, Buddy.”

“Well. That is not my only problem Soupster.”

“Do tell me more.”

“Well you know how my Taurus is always leaking. The trunk is real swampy so on nice days I leave the trunk lid standing open so it will dry out.”

“Does it work?”

“Not hardly. Some do-goody has to walk by and close the lid. I even took it to the airport, thinking it would work out better there with all the strangers coming and going but I hadn’t even finished one cup of coffee before it was shut tight. And there’s more, Soupster.”

“More?”

“All the young ‘uns are now helping me up the curb and stairs even when I don’t want to go. They also stop and wait to help me cross the road when I don’t want to. I just want to stand in the yard and watch the birds. We caused quite the back-up at the round-a-bout yesterday.”

“Buddy, please don’t leave Our Town. Wait until the weather turns for the better and all the tourists come back. The nice people will get over it and barely have time to bother with you.”

Submitted by Rose Manning

942 total views, 0 today

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What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

Want to submit a piece for Our Town?

Contact us with your idea or completed piece. Our Town’s must be 450-500 words long, take place in or near Sitka and the Soupster must make an appearance, however brief.

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