Scotty Reed, who as a deckhand on a fishing boat knows something about hard work, faced a task Tuesday too tough to deal with.
So as Tuesday turned to Wednesday in the Cordova Bar a real bar where men still drop shot glasses full of whiskey into their beer Reed put off going home.
"I just don't know what I'll say," Reed said. "My son knows what's going on and he said, "Daddy, does this mean I won't get to go fishing with you like you did with your dad?' "
"God that hurts."
Reed, 29, like most people in this town of 3,000 or so, makes his money from fish. And since the Exxon Valdez ran aground last week, everyone from fishermen to bookstore owners are afraid their way of life and livelihood may be over.
Cordova sits on Orca Inlet, on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound, 45 air miles southeast of Valdez.
When the town awoke Wednesday it was greeted by beautiful clear skies, sunshine and flags at halfmast, "due to the death of our resource," read a sign at the Reluctant Fishermen motel, bar and restaurant.
It's too early to tell how much damage has been done to Prince William Sound fish. But Cordovans say a bad year could put an end to four generations of Cordova fishing.
"If our fishery is annihilated, forget Cordova," Reed said. "There would no one in this bar. There would be no one in this town."
Some residents think their little town has been overlooked in all the hubbub of the oil spill.
"Cordova's hardly been mentioned and we're the town that is going to die here," said Vern Kuder. "Valdez, Whittier, Seward and them, they have tourism and the terminal and so forth but we don't have anything else."
Cordova has more canneries than bars and more bars than anything else. This is a tough little town where people's hands tell stories. The leathery tanned ones, some missing fingers, are the fishermen; the black hands of the diesel mechanics serve as a calling card; and anyone without heavy callouses is probably a visiting newspaperman, spillchasing lawyer or oil company guy come to town to make promises.
Many men wear their hair long and sport earrings. There are a lot of heavy handmadelooking sweaters and people talk a lot of "our planet."
But don't mistake these people for mellow '60s dropouts.
"Concerns about birds and that sort of thing, that's something that you certainly have to protect, but that's not what people want to hear about," said Kuder, an 18year Cordova resident. "They want to find out whether they are going to fish anymore."
Cordova fishermen have had struggles before.
"We tried to unionize and they broke us," said Reed. "We tried to strike and they waited us out. Now we are going to stick together and they won't be able to buy us off piece by piece.
But Barbara Jenson, the wife of a fourthgeneration fisherman, said that even sticking together may not be enough this time. "We survived botulism. We survived El Nino. I don't think we are going to survive this one," she said. "It's devastating. It's hard to even talk about it."
The town's depth of concern for the Prince William Sound fish was dramatically shown Tuesday night when half the town packed the Cordova High School gymnasium.
The entire Cordova police force was on hand all six of them. It was bigger than a basketball crowd and more people than watched Cordova Wolverine wrestler Jim Dundas pin his latest opponent. He leads the school with six pins.
"One oldtimer told me the last time this many people were in one place was in the '70s when we were fighting the pipeline," said City Manager Don Moore.
Said second generation fishermen Russ Shaw, "Remember, we never wanted that thing. We fought it all the way."
Perhaps it was city councilwoman Meera Kohler's request "to quell as much negativity as possible."
The crowd wore black arm bands. Some people carried signs: "Don't believe everything you hear. Especially at Alyeska and Exxon press conferences." "Earth 1st, Profit 2nd."
The tough questions were for the Coast Guard, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and Exxon.
Fishermen wanted to know if Exxon would reimburse them if fish die. Exxon's Don Cornett said the fishermen should trust the company's good intentions.
"Shouting and yelling won't get us there. Show us what you're talking about. Bring it to me. You have my word. I said it, Don Cornett. We will do whatever it takes to keep you whole."
The crowd wasn't buying it, though. "We trusted you once and look what happened," someone shouted from the crowd.
By Wednesday afternoon, the locals had written off the herring season that was set to begin next week. The biologists said it was too soon, but the fishermen say they can tell.
"I'm really bummed," Brown said. "I worked hard to get a seine job for herring. You know, this is my first year. I worked hard for it and now I'm going to miss it. I would have done good, see. I could have made a lot of money."
But there's more than money at stake in Cordova.
"Our lives will be changed forever by this," said Charlotte Legg. "We moved here to get away from all the crap in the Lower 48.
"I remember when Kennedy was shot when I was a kid and it was on TV. My mom came in and said, "life as we know it will never be the same again. You won't realize it until you're grown up, but everything has changed.'
"I feel the very same way about this."