PAT NEAL: The quarantine chronicles

IT WAS GOING to be one of those days.

More precisely, day one of the coronavirus self-isolation quarantine. Or maybe it was day two or four or, heck, I don’t know. It’s easy to lose track of time when you don’t go anywhere or do anything.

Personally, I would rather be fishing, but the season is closed.

While this was a necessary decision to control the spread of the coronavirus, it is particularly devastating to those of us who believe that every day spent fishing does not count against the span of our lives.

By day one, a desperate form of boredom had set in, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a global pandemic keep me from reaching my life goals.

Experts tell us that it’s a good idea to use this period of isolation to engage in productive pursuits to improve the quality of our lives. To optimize the effectiveness of our time spent in quarantine, it’s best to prioritize the most important tasks, identify which can be put off and move on to the next project.

I decided to shovel out the house.

It was time to start the vacuum cleaner. First, I looked for the pull cord and discovered vacuum cleaners don’t have one. After some searching, I found the on-off switch.

The vacuum cleaner worked great. For about a minute or so. Then it started smoking.

It turns out the vacuum cleaner was a piece of junk that couldn’t even handle sucking up a little 20-pound test fishing line.

Prioritize, identify and move on.

What better time to start cutting firewood? If only I could have gotten the chain saw started. It must have sat too long and the fuel went bad.

I pulled and pulled on that pull cord until it broke right off. There’s no way to cut firewood without a chainsaw.

Prioritize, identify and move on.

Springtime means one thing to gardeners. It’s time for the spring plowing. Who knows how long this disaster will last, but it’s always a good idea to have some fresh, homegrown vegetables. It’ll keep you out of the grocery store.

The only problem being the garden spot had been taken over by a gnarly patch of blackberries and salmon berry bushes so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut through them.

Time was a wasting, so I attacked the brush pile with a shovel.

That was a bad idea. I’ve never been able to find a shovel that would fit my hands, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got.

Stabbing the shovel into the rocky ground, I pried at a big salmon berry root until the handle broke.

Prioritize, identify and move on.

I have always wanted to make my own bread, and there’s no time like the present to try. I was out of bread. I had all of the ingredients. Sort of. The only jar of yeast I had was 15 years old.

Bread dough is supposed to rise and double in size before you bake it. Mine just lay there like a ball of mud. I ended up with a loaf of bread so heavy I could have used it for a drift boat anchor. The yeast must have gone bad.

That’s life in quarantine. We move through the rhythm of our days alone but together, doing the small things that make our lives better, in hopes of helping others who have no choice but to leave home and work for the good of us all.

Stay safe, stay home.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal