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BUSH VILLAGE LIFE IN ALASKA'S INTERIOR
The following article describes my life in Alaska from 1993 until August 2002 when we moved from there to a small old home in southwestern Virginia, in the Appalachian coal mining region. I wrote this article in January of 2002, and then surprisingly left Alaska later that summer.
I moved to Eagle, Alaska in June of 1993. Having been injured in a traffic accident, I was disabled from the Civil Engineering I had been doing in Irvine, California. Brain injury resulted from a hard impact against the pavement, and my thought process is impaired. So, the long-term disability insurance check each month permits me and my wife to live in this tiny bush town where there are few job opportunities, and where life is simple. In some ways life here is as though one had time-traveled back a hundred years or so. But in some ways, we are modern.
Lisa and I live in a small log cabin, sixteen foot by sixteen with an upstairs level for the bedroom. I built some kitchen counters and installed a sink, but we have no well or water-pressure system. During summer we use a lot of rainwater. While the water is quite clean, we pour some of it through a ceramic filter, making it better for drinking. During winter we get stream water from American Creek, dipping it from a hole in the ice. I pull up to the hole with a snow-machine which pulls a sled full of five-gallon containers. The water is quite hard, coming from a heavily mineralized region. There is still an active gold-mining operation about ten miles upstream. But this hard-water tastes great, much better than the distilled flavor of rain or melted-snow water. Water is hauled home, where I carry the jugs upstairs and dump them into a plastic 55 gallon barrel. From that barrel a hose carries the water down to the kitchen sink where a lever valve controls the flow. Any hot water for dishwashing or bathing must be heated on the gas range.
Our cabin does not have a bathroom, either. An outhouse is out back, but we use an indoor porta-potty when the temperature is cold. Sure, we sometimes fantasize about having a modern bathroom with a tub or shower, and a flush toilet. But, mostly we have accepted the reality of our situation, and have become so comfortable with it that we don't think about what we are missing. We feel fortunate to live in a warm and cozy cabin which requires little from us for upkeep and maintenance.
Food supplies come mostly from Fairbanks, hauled in by small single-engine airplanes that make the 90 minute trip each day when the weather permits. We bake bread a couple times a week, using flour ground on our grain-mill. Our hard-red wheat is in 50 pound bags; we have several hundred pounds on hand. We can hardly imagine buying small individual containers of items, such as a box of cereal, or canned vegetables in amounts less than a case. Meat is also an item we store up in our freezer. The small general store in Eagle does furnish us an occasional quart of milk and eggs.
I started writing this piece to see if I could describe our way of life to people who live on the fast-track in modern society. I'm not sure I can do this. From comments by relatives, it seems the outside world has changed so much that I may not be able to reach across the divide enough to make this life truly meaningful. But, I'll give it a try. Eagle has a population of about 230 total in the area. There are about 175 whites, about 35 Han Athabascan Indians, about 17 whites who live in the remote bush, and about 10 who only spend summers here. The City of Eagle is separate from the Indian village by about three miles, but we all get along well.
"What do you people do here in Eagle? I mean, what do you do with your time during the long winter when the road is closed?" A tourist can look so puzzled as he asks such a question in front of the well-house in the summertime. Our town has a well-house building that was built about a hundred years ago, where a pressure systems pumps water up from what was a hand-dug hole back then. Sometimes I fill my water jugs at the well house, with a gasoline-type hose and nozzle. Tourists mill around that area during mid-day, waiting for their tourist-bus to carry them south out of Eagle on the 160 mile dirt road, back to civilization. A tourist will sometimes walk over and begin conversation, wanting to learn about this very foreign world where he will only spend a couple hours before traveling on. The puzzled expression on his face jars me to realize how strange this must seem to a visitor from the world. I explain that there isn't much to do here, that most people are retired or on welfare. There are few jobs. It would appear that we do nothing but just "hang out," like idle loafers. That isn't quite accurate, but we certainly do live at an easier pace, having little need for a clock. We get up each morning whenever we wake-up, not caring whether it is eight-o-clock or nine-thirty. Let me see if I can describe it a little better.
Since there is no schedule to direct anyone's activities, we awaken whenever we've had enough sleep and feel like getting up. I partially dress and come downstairs to sit in my recliner, where I contentedly wait for consciousness to drift in. Lisa puts water in the tea-kettle on the gas range, and soon I have a nice cup of tea. It takes a while to sip that first cup, and then she makes a second. During this time, she sits in her recliner alongside me and we speak of whatever comes to mind. Sometimes there is an event to anticipate for the day, perhaps our trapper-friends from down-river will come to town today and spend a couple hours visiting with us. About ten-thirty our silence is slightly disturbed by the scanner radio as a pilot announces he will be landing in Eagle in a few minutes. Ah yes, sometime early afternoon one of us can go to the Post Office to check the mail!
"Do you want anything for breakfast?" Lisa asks.
"Oh, I don't know yet. Maybe just some cereal or a piece of toast."
"We need to bake bread again," she says.
"Good, I think I'll start on that right now." Bread making is a simple routine, something I really enjoy. Dump a couple cups of wheat grains into the mill and let the smell of grinding flour carry my imagination to an old-time water-wheel millhouse. How nice! I warm a little water and add some honey to it, and then some yeast. We have a bread machine, so this job is really easy! I measure the flour into a pan, along with a little salt, gluten, and malt powder, then dumping it all into the machine's cup where it will be mixed and kneaded. Meanwhile, I turn on the oven to nearly 500E; I bake in a covered ceramic cloche in order to retain the humidity and make a thicker and crunchier crust. Dumping the dough ball out onto a floured table, I butter the surface and set it into a round cake pan to rise. I like to put that under a large domed pan with a cup of steaming hot water to keep the surface humid. This only takes about 15 minutes, and the round loaf is placed into the hot oven, inside the pre-heated cloche. About thirty minutes and a hot loaf of bread invites us to slice off a heel and butter it. Now, that makes a good breakfast! Life is good.
During the summer the dirt road to Eagle is open, and we usually get one or two trips to Fairbanks (400 miles one way) for shopping. Most of us in Eagle dread the Fairbanks trip, not so much because of the travel, but the traffic and hectic pace of the city is unpleasant. Everyone tries to hurry the trip so only one night must be spent there. An eight-hour drive one way, then an eight-hour return trip the next day. "Whew. Am sure glad that's over. I'd like to think that I'll never have to do it again." And we settle back into the contented peacefulness of Eagle; it feels good, like a pair of real comfortable shoes.
Late afternoon, Lisa fixes some supper. We usually eat at 5pm, and then watch the news on the one TV station that the State makes available to bush villages. I relax in my recliner with a glass of cherry wine or mead that I have made. I order the cherry concentrate from Michigan; it makes the best wine! Evenings are spent reading, or surfing the web, or writing. Lisa plays her harp whenever there is time.
August arrives and we start thinking of the road-closure, coming about mid-October. We'll be glad when tourists can't drive here, and the streets are quiet again. By September, everyone is preparing for winter. Food supplies are stocked. A moose-hunt might be in order. Check the snow-machine so it is ready for another winter. Those who have dog-teams have been fishing for salmon in the Yukon, either with gill-nets or fish-wheels. Each dog needs about a hundred salmon to get it through the winter. A couple of our friends, who live downriver a few miles, have about thirty dogs, so fishing becomes their primary summer chore. As I edit this in January of 2002, he is preparing to run the Yukon Quest, a 1200 mile dog sled race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon, the toughest race in the world. The Iditarod, famous with the media, uses well groomed trails with many rest stops. The Yukon Quest has no groomed trails and very few rest stops, and goes over mountain passes that have stopped teams cold with whiteout blizzards. Those of us without dogs usually beg a fish or two from someone, but not many since salmon is not a preferred food for us.
In fall, do we need to replace any boots or snow-suits? What about a winter hat? My lynx fur hat is about seven years old and I'd sure hate to see it come apart; it is the warmest for the extreme cold. The lynx hat was made by a wilderness wife, who lives several miles from Eagle, out a walking trail to the northwest from town. They live in a simple two-by-four structure that is covered not with plywood but with construction plastic. It's warm and comfortable with their wood-burning stove made from a 55 gallon oil drum. They have lived there for about ten years, I think. They're getting older, and the walk to town is not undertaken quite so enthusiastically as it was a few years ago. She makes a few fur items, along with some birch-bark crafts. They raise a garden in the summer, and even keep some garden plants growing through the winter inside their cabin. When they do come into Eagle, they usually visit us and show us what they have to sell or trade. Their only income is from the few little things they carry into town on their backs. The hat she made from a lynx fur is my favorite. They don't accept the State's PFD check; last year it was nearly two thousand dollars per person for every resident of Alaska. There are several people around Eagle who don't apply for the PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend - from oil-revenues). A few such people give real definition to the word "austere;" maybe "primitive" is a more appropriate word. But, some of those rebels are the most happy and upbeat characters, content with a kind of peacefulness that remains when there are no other belongings in one's life.
Many of us who have fled the world for this wilderness look at such social outcasts with some envy. Their sense of peaceful satisfaction draws us in their direction, but we don't quite have the courage to release our grasp of world enough to claim it for ourselves. Each of us has good excuses for keeping one hand tightly gripped to the modern world. I have a large library, my studies are important. Word-processing software permits me to write and write; and after all, isn't that what I was born for? I'm just now realizing, while trying to illustrate my wilderness life to modern city-dwellers, that I feel like a modern yuppie compared to the wilderness ascetics I was just describing. Lisa and I are envied by many for the luxurious life we have, and for this really plush cabin.
A date is set each fall to be the last day that Paul and Dana maintain the Taylor Highway, from Tok to Eagle. We anxiously want the snow to cover it, as we park our wheeled vehicles for winter, and turn to snow-machines. Fall is wonderful here; the summer mosquitoes are gone and yellow birch and aspen leaves blanket the ground. A fall breeze can fill the air with leaves as it pulls them free from the trees. Soon, the bears will go to sleep, and we won't have to carry guns in the woods. Get the snow-shovels out and stand them near the door, hoping this might stimulate the new white blanket that makes this a winter-wonderland. Oh, fall is truly a wonderful time of year!
The snow comes! I can't take the snow-machine on the first fresh snow-fall because the skags on the front skis go right through the soft snow, scraping on bare ground. But, it sits there, gassed up and ready to go, just as soon as the snow firms up a little. This is the eighth winter on my Arctic Cat Bearcat, 550cc, liquid cooled; it's a big working machine, different from the small ones that trappers use on their wooded trapline trails. But my need is different from theirs, as I don't run a trapline. I haul supplies back and forth from my cabin on American Summit, about seventeen miles south of Eagle, along the Taylor Highway. While the town of Eagle is along the Yukon, in the river valley, at about 840 feet above sea level, my cabin at American Summit is about 3,400 feet above sea level. From Eagle the road to it becomes a snow-machine trail in winter, with American Creek along its right side for about eleven miles, winding through American Creek Canyon. The Bearcat engine is kind of loud, but that's a small complaint compared to the joy of riding this powerful machine again. We cruise about 40 to 50mph, and lean into the turns on the winding road. It is rare to see anyone else on the road; one feels a sense of wilderness solitude. Daylight only lasts a couple hours midday, so most winter activities are done in twilight or darkness. A clear skyfull of stars and the moon reflecting off the snow make most nightime into a twilight. The grandeur of the white landscape and canyon walls is awesome, and I feel thrilled to be alone with it all. The trip is usually a time of contemplation, as I reflect on the lives of my family members, brothers and sisters, and sometimes review the past years - the paths I've taken, and what I'm doing here. Somewhat like a starry night, this kind of wilderness solitude makes one ponder God, and life, and values. It takes about thirty minutes from Eagle to the cabin. About eleven miles out, we leave the canyon and the stream, starting up a long four mile grade which winds along steep mountain sides, until arriving above timberline in the high-country where caribou spend the winter. Up on top, there is a vista in all directions, glorious, majestic, regal; one is on top of the world. Off to the northeast are the Canadian Ogilvie mountains with high, pointed peaks, white with snow and brilliant in the midday sun. Beyond description, one feels uplifted and thrilled and grateful to stand here like a King gazing at his kingdom. My cabin sits on the very top of a barren hill, with an incredible view in all directions. How can I describe something that must be seen to be believed?
I turn the snow-machine off the Taylor Highway to follow my trail up to the hilltop where my cabin sits. I set 4' reflector stakes along this trail because the situation could get dangerous. When the snow has covered the ground, and all the short scrubby spruce trees become white stalagmites, there is no contrast of any object at all, but only pure whiteness. It is amazingly easy to get lost. I plant stakes about fifty or so feet apart. Even at that, in whiteout conditions I cannot see the next stake ahead. The wind blows snowdrifts over my previous path so there is no sign of trail, and one can get completely disoriented, not knowing which direction to go. But, I love it. Then I sit in the warm cabin watching the snow fall and the wind blow, confident that nobody will come to visit on days like that.
The cabin interior is just 12' by 16' but feels quite roomy. There is a gas range and kitchen counter with sink and cabinets. The ceiling is not flat, but rises from each side toward the roof ridge. It really feels quite spacious. A single cot sits in one corner, with a cranberry Satin comforter. The three windows have cranberry curtains and window shades, and a cranberry tablecloth covers the table. The carpet is light blue, just like the sloping ceilings, while the walls are off-white. One propane light is on the wall over the kitchen counter, and another hangs above the table where I sit to read or eat. The wind-generator outside, new last year, changes my attitude toward the wind which I used to dislike after a couple days without letup. Now, I watch the needle which indicates the battery-bank storage, and I like to see them getting more fully charged. A small fuel-oil heater keeps the place toasty warm; I like it about 78 degrees. With six inch insulated walls, the cabin heats easily and I usually have to crack a window or two to keep the heat down to a comfortable level. I bought a Bose CD player, their Acoustic Wave System, which runs off 12v DC, so I can enjoy my collection of old-time gospel albums. A marine radio, with a sixteen foot whip antenna, gives me contact with Lisa in Eagle and with a few other people in the area. What more could I ask; it's my kind of paradise. I can get so wonderfully lost in studies and with writing, without any interruptions. To keep up on the news, I turn to BBC on the shortwave, and, depending on atmospheric conditions, can sometimes get an Alaska AM station. Sitting around in T-shirt and stocking feet while toasty warm, ecstasy.
Just as one cannot stare into the sun for too long, a little break is in order every two or three days. So, I go down to Woody's to get grounded. Woody is a friend who has a liquor store along the Taylor Highway, about a thousand feet from my cabin. He and I are the only people out here in this remote wilderness area. He lives there year around, sleeping in the back room of the log-cabin which serves as the store. In the summer time customers use a front door to get to the retail counter. But, the winter winds drift that door closed, so locals know to go to the side door. People from town ride their snow-machines the seventeen mile trip, partly for the thrill of the trip, partly for a little quality time in conversation, and partly to take a bottle or case of beer back home.
Sometimes the road trip from Eagle to Woody's can get frightening. Being up high on the barren hills of American Summit, the wind can blow without obstruction. The snow fills the air in the gray light of an overcast sky, making a whiteout situation that is even worse for the snow-crystals which sting the eyes. If the temperature is twenty or thirty below and the snow is blowing, one cannot see any sign of road or trail. Where the wind can get through the scarf or facemask, the freezing skin feels pain. One feels a sense of panic or fear that if the snow-machine gets off the hardpacked trail it will be stuck in the deep soft snow. I must go very slow, trying to peer around the sides of the plastic windshield, but the trail just isn't there! The cold wind gets ever more painful, and I worry about frostbite. The snow stings my eyes, and I must hold off a feeling of panic, for that would make things worse. There were times that I passed by Woody's two driveways because I couldn't see them. Many others have done that. One tries to make the trip during daylight hours, but those hours are precious few in the middle of winter. So, the return trip is usually in the dark. The Yukon Quest dog-sled race (from Whitehorse, Canada to Fairbanks - 1,000 miles) passes the front of Woody's store. Two years ago, whiteout conditions forced several teams to stop and spend the night in front of Woody's, never knowing they were close to his place. Even their experienced dogs could not find the road-trail! You might wonder why I describe this with affection; well, I'll tell you. One reason is that this experience isn't available in the city. Another is that these conditions make an effective wall between a few of us and that society out there which has not the courage to join us. But, perhaps the greatest satisfaction is to know that I can live in such a hostile condition, and make friends with it, and even love it. I know that nature is uncompromising, and unlike bureaucrats she doesn't change rules without warning. It is here that I can play with her on her own terms and walk away victorious. And she cheers me when I win! There is no politician or liberal do-gooder or welfare pimp to rescue me from life, or to prevent me from a REAL relationship with it.
Here I am trying to explain something in my own words and doing it so weakly compared to that poetry of Robert Service. It wouldn't be fair to you who read this if I don't share with you a few verses which describe this so much better than I can. Listen to Robert Service in these few lines from his THE LAW OF THE YUKON:
This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain:
"Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane;
Strong for the red rage of battle; sane, for I harry them sore;
Send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core;
Swift as the panther in triumph, fierce as the bear in defeat,
Sired of a bulldog parent, steeled in the furnace heat.
Send me the best of your breeding, lend me your chosen ones;
Them will I take to my bosom, them will I call my sons;
Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat;
But the others - the misfits, the failures - I trample under my feet.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
Ye would send me the spawn of your gutters?
Go, take back your spawn again."
"Wild and wide are my borders, stern as death is my sway;
From my ruthless throne I have ruled alone for a million years and a day;
Hugging my mighty treasure, waiting for Man to come,
Till he swept like a turbid torrent, and after him swept - the scum.
The pallid pimp of the dead-line, the enervate of the pen,
One by one I weeded them out, for all that I sought was - Men."
(and there's more to that poem, it's wonderful, and it's in every bookstore)
And then there is his THE SPELL OF THE YUKON. It is my favorite. I'll quote part of it:
I've stood in some mighty mouthed hollow
That's plumb full of hush to the brim;
I've watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I've thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o' the world piled on top.
The summer - no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness -
O God! how I'm stuck on it all.
The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I've bade 'em good-by - but I can't.
There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land - oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back - and I will.
Winter in Eagle is the best time, in many ways. Certainly, the extreme temperatures can get tiring if they last too many days. Usually, a cold-snap of minus 45 to minus 60 degrees will only last a few days, perhaps a week, and then we get back to the minus twenty range when we can all go out and enjoy activities again. The long dark days take their toll, and "cabin-fever" is no joke. The late months of winter find locals doing strange things. A few years ago, I got into ordering spices during late winter, and ordered nearly a thousand dollars worth. We'll have spices aplenty for the rest of our lives! A couple years ago I ordered bee-hives, about eight of them! I insulated them and ordered bees for them before the snow had left the ground. It was a terribly rainy summer and we got no honey, so I sold all the hives to a friend, dirt cheap. Every February, Lisa is driven by a powerful compulsion to start planting seeds for vegetables and flowers. The problem is that they can't be put outdoors safely until the first of June! This spring of 2001 I am brewing beer and wines. It began with Mead, a honey wine. It's not yet done fermenting as I write this (Feb. 12, 2001), and I also have five gallons of grape wine working, along with seven gallons of beer. And I'm waiting for an order of more five-gallon carboys so I can get some more things going. You see, we wilderness people have some kind of obsession with "living," never content with monotony. You might think this is contradictory to my description of life at the beginning of this paper, but it isn't. The contentment and freedom of getting up whenever we want to, eating, and doing everything just as we wish - well, that's all part of being radical, I guess. Within the framework of such contentment, we exercise life, just as freely and radically. Not a single person up here, no matter how eccentric, fails to be thankful that he/she doesn't have to live in the structured manner of city-dwellers. We know what we've got, and we wouldn't trade back for the most modern and plush bathrooms, kitchens, thermostats, and water-systems!
The Yukon Quest dog-sled race left Whitehorse yesterday (Feb. 2001). We watched the start on television. Thirty-one teams headed out. Their first hundred miles will be on excellent trail this year, but as they near Dawson open water on the Yukon could make things a little dangerous. The Yukon froze up exceptionally BAD this year; the jumbled ice is in larger pieces than usual, and there hasn't been enough snow to fill in the hollows. Downriver from Eagle a large ice-dam was impassable by snow-machines or dogs, so trailbreakers spent a couple days with chainsaws cutting a path through that stretch. This year has been unusually warm. We had one cold-snap in early winter, but otherwise it hasn't dropped below zero very much. We've all been loving it. It's a winter wonderland without the extremes. What a blessing! Wouldn't want this to become a habit, though. Outsiders might be more attracted to moving up here!
The Yukon Quest will arrive in Eagle in about five or six days; we are about halfway in the race, 500 miles from each end. Our old schoolhouse, built about 1900, serves as a rest-station for the Quest, and many locals volunteer to help with the many duties. The mushers get fed and the dogs get rested, lying on straw spread on top of the snow. Some stay briefly, some stay long enough to get some good sleep. It's a good activity for us, which sort of jump-starts spring. The negative side of the Quest is that the reporters and vets and outside people always bring some kind of flu which then goes through the town after the mushers leave.
What else do we do in the winter? Well, Lisa has a beautiful maple harp, a real floor-standing harp (nylon strung Celtic). It must be the most beautiful instrument of all. She squeezes in as many hours of practice each day as possible. The harp resides in a large cabinet with a full glass front. She keeps the humidity in there at about 50% so the wood won't dry out. When I am here in Eagle, she doesn't get as much practice time as she'd like, so she appreciates it when I spend a few days at the cabin on the Summit.
One very pronounced phenomenon that happens to bush-people who stay holed-up in their cabins too much in winter, or who live remote from here, is that we tend to "go bush." The term "go bush" refers to one's propensity to talk excessively when one gets around other people. When a remote-cabin person comes to town, the conversation is quite one-sided; he is like a bursting dam, flooding forth with words. Many times I've realized that I have become that way. One release that I have is putting my words into writing, which is what I'm doing right now. "Bush" people also loose the ability to see the greater world in its complexities. I think that has happened to me.
Spring is coming soon. The daylight is getting longer, and the sun has returned to shine on our cabin for a few minutes each day. On March 19th the road crew, Paul and Dana, will start clearing the road so it can be open about April 1st. We will park our snow-machines and use cars again. The Yukon will still be frozen until late April. The ice-breakup is a big event at that time; it breaks and moves out differently each year. Sometimes it is spectacular! Wayne and Scarlett and their son, Garf (10 yrs old) live about six miles downriver on the other side of the Yukon. Right now they can cross the river ice at will with snow-machines or dog teams. During spring breakup, they get stranded on the other side as the ice gets soft and rotten, then breaks up, and then a river of ice pads floats by for a couple weeks. As the ice pads become less frequent, they can put their boat in the water and come to town again. The river flows about 7 miles per hour, too fast to be considered a lazy-river, that's for sure. It requires an engine a little larger than normal to push upriver against the current.
Summer has then arrived. July Fourth is always a festival in Eagle. We have the littlest and hokiest parade in the country, but everyone turns out for it. We say the Pledge of Allegiance and someone sings the national anthem. Then the parade starts. Our fire truck leads it, followed by a couple antique cars and some floats made by kids with their bicycles or wagons. It runs for about two blocks distance. The big event of the day is a Rifle-Shoot. We gather at the end of the grass airstrip, on top of the high bank (maybe 60 feet above river level) of the Yukon. A target is set up on the opposite bank, about 350 yards distance. It is a piece of 5/8ths steel, about 6 inches by 7 inches, hardly visible with the naked eye. Watchers use spotting scopes to see if it gets hit. For a two-dollar fee, a shooter gets three shots with his own rifle of any type or caliber. There is a scoped-rifle class and an open-sight class. The winner of each class gets whatever fees were paid. I managed the Rifle-Shoot for a couple years, but I didn't want to do it last year.
June through September are the busy months of summer. Any construction projects have to get lumber hauled in while the road is open. Life is sure different then. Tourists flood the town and we feel like we are part of the world again. I like to stay at my remote cabin as much as possible. Our town of Eagle is downriver from Dawson, BC about one hundred miles distant. The Holland America Company, or "Westours" runs a boat, the Yukon Queen, round trip between Dawson and Eagle daily. They leave Dawson each morning with about a hundred passengers who are on special tours, and bring them to Eagle where they board two large busses to travel the 160 mile dirt road (Taylor Highway) to Tok. Meanwhile, other busses had brought a hundred passengers from Tok in the morning, who take the Yukon Queen to Dawson in the afternoon. So, midday in Eagle, we have lots of tour people milling around in the streets. The busses quit running about labor day, so that is a special time for us, when we get our town back.
Late summer is for berry-picking. Wild raspberries grow in some places, but they are not plentiful. Then, the blueberries get ripe. The high country around American Summit is covered with wild blueberry bushes, endless, for hundreds of square miles. One year we picked thirteen gallons of them. About the time of the first frost the wild cranberries get ripe. These are lowbush cranberries, and everybody has a favorite berry picking site that is kept secret. We like cranberries the best, making cranberry-sauce or cranberry-pineapple sauce. Blueberries go into jam. Raspberries make a syrup which is unmatched in this world - in our opinion. Unfortunately, we don't get enough raspberries to last us through the winter. As we pick berries on the Summit, we watch more vehicles leaving Eagle than arriving, for soon the road will close and we go into winter-mode again. But, I must tell you, late summer can be absolutely glorious. The mosquitoes are gone, the sun is warm enough that we can enjoy berry-picking in T-shirts. The soft mossy tundra feels like a deep-plush carpet, although it is quite uneven and covered with scattered bushes. Sometimes one can sit in one soft spot and fill a whole coffee can without moving. What can one say but "life is good."
It's nearly five-o-clock this Monday afternoon in February, as I write this. The light is fading outdoors under a gray sky and light snow. We have about 18 inches of snow sitting on the ground. The temps are still above zero, very pleasant. At five-o-clock we get the evening news on TV. Rural Alaska doesn't have TV stations, so a company called ARCS (Alaska Rural Communication Service) broadcasts a selection of non-news programming from all networks. One evening is ABC, another is NBC, etc. Mostly they carry the cheapest, poorest trash available on any of the networks, primarily FOX sit-coms. We get no national news from ABC or anyone else, but we do get local and state news from Anchorage stations. As for radio, we are too far from any AM or FM stations to get them. Just a few years ago locals contributed for a small relay transmitter which carries NPR. With a local relay apparatus and antenna, we can get NPR on FM, but we rarely ever tune in. Now that we have a local access number for internet, I get my news from news-services there. A couple months ago, internet became available for us, so this is my first experience with it. Of course there is no newspaper here. Some people subscribe to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner by mail. Since very little of our attention goes to TV shows or radio, we do have more time available for constructive activities like reading or research. Internet capability promises to change the lives of many, I suppose. I did spend a lot of time with it for the first couple months, but now I'd rather have the quiet contentment of my cabin on the Summit, which, by the way, I named "Olympus." Of course, there is no electric utility or phone up there - just peace.
The above was written last February, 2001, in late winter. Now October has come, and we are at war against Iraq. My remote location looks better than ever. No terrorist will come here, and the only war we will see is that on TV. But, our nation will suffer terribly if the Old Testament prophecies are valid. It looks like the beginning of Armageddon. Revelation describes the fall of both the Beast and the False Prophet in this end-time event. The Beast of Jewish materialism and usury banking took the first hit when airplanes struck the World Trade Center twin towers. Now, we are warring against the False Prophet of Islam. The Dragon of China will probably get involved, for it too gets destroyed in the end.
I've known these end-time events were coming for many years, hoping and praying that God would bring them about years ago, to deliver His children of true Israel (white race European/Americans) from the oppression of the fraudulent "Jews" who claim to be Israel in propaganda but privately write books about their Khazarian ancestry. They completely control the western economies and they milk us like goyim (cattle). Many of the Old Testament prophets speak of the end-time demise of Edomites, which are the modern "Jews" of the world. Anyway, the end is near, and soon our supplies will be cut-off, making Eagle residents dependent on our own survival skills. Many residents will head for outside States where they would hope to find food and shelter more easily available.
As for me, I'm preparing to stay here. My rabbits will provide some meat, and I can get a moose or caribou once in a while. Fuel supplies will run out, and we will cook and heat our home with a wood-burning stove. Hauling wood and water will be a chore, but not impossible, and it will certainly be a better option than living in the war zone of Armageddon!
I pray that God will bless all those who turn to Him, and who yield to His will. Psalm 91 should be the ever-present companion with each one of us. Memorizing it and reciting it will give us something to do and will provide great comfort when things get really terrible. Then it may be that reading this piece can remind one of that time when the world looked different through our eyes. Meanwhile, we feel very blessed with our life here.
Written between February, 2001, and January 2002, by Roger Hathaway
Postscript: Summer of 2002 Lisa and I left Alaska, moved to southwestern Virginia, deep in the coal mining region of the Appalachian mountains. I still think Armageddon is in the making, and look forward to the Great Battle of God.
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