PAT NEAL: Why I did not go to work today

They say there’s a shortage of folks willing to work in these United States. From what I gathered from talking to numerous European tourists this summer, the same condition persists in Belgium, Holland, England and other EU countries.

Whether it’s quiet quitting or early retirement, you wonder how people can survive without working — asking for a friend.

While I had planned on retiring, you have to get a job first. That’s a deal breaker.

I’m not afraid of hard work. I can lay down and go to sleep right next to it, but I prefer guiding.

It sure beats working. It makes every day a vacation. Unfortunately, we are dependent on the weather to operate.

California stole our jet stream last winter. They got our snow. We got a drought in the rainforest. The rivers are going dry.

I had to quit rafting and endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — get a job.

Having spent years flogging the salmon restoration industry as a fraud that wastes our tax dollars on million dollar make-work projects that do not restore salmon, I had to swallow my pride and go ask for a job with the salmon restoration industry.

They’re building the new bridge over a dry creek bed as part of a salmon restoration project on the upper Hoh River. Being an expert on fisheries, I was able inform the job foreman that fish actually need water. I studied that in college.

I have many other job skills.

I can stand still as a statue for hours on end pointing at a hole in the ground. I know the finer points of leaning on a shovel to avoid unnecessary fatigue. I know my way around a clipboard. It’s all about what you bring to the table.

As an archaeologist and spotted owl surveyor, my consulting agency can practically guarantee there will be no evidence of one of the most significant late-Pleistocene archeological sites in North America or spotted owl feathers found on the job site.

And forget finding bull trout in your settling pond. That kind of stuff can shut down the job for years. Not on my shift.

So, I figured I was hired. I was planning on showing up on the job right at the crack of 10 Monday morning. But that’s my deadline set by the slave-drivers at the newspaper. I can only type 10 words per hour. Writing our nation’s only wilderness gossip column is not something you can rush.

I was all ready to hit the job on Tuesday, but what was I thinking? I’d been to the corn roast the Sunday before and needed some urine cleaner to flush out the elephant tranquilizer so I could pass the drug test.

Wednesday didn’t work for me either. It turned out all of my hickory shirts were at the dry cleaners. There are rules. You don’t show up at a job on the West End of the Olympic Peninsula without a hickory shirt. What are you a socialist or something?

By Thursday, I was ready to hit the ground running — until I checked the calendar. I’d forgotten the second Thursday of the month was my combination mental wellness-personal growth day. Critics might argue that’s just an excuse to chug a half gallon of French vanilla. However, it was also National Banana Split Day. ‘Nuff said.

By Friday, I was worn out from a hard week at work.

First thing in the morning, I suffered a disabling groin injury. Spent the rest of the day filing a Labor and Industry claim. It was good to be alive.


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

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