I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unsuspecting Family

My brothers, Jon and Mike, decided to come visit us one fall, only they wanted to surprise us. It seems they found a map somewhere that showed a road coming out here. I don't know where that map was, but believe me there is no road out here and won't be one any time soon. The closest thing that qualifies as a road is about 3 miles long from one end to the other and is located 15 miles up river from here. The end of car civilization, or even 4x4 truck-ability is over 60 miles down river from here.

I'm not sure how they managed it, but they got a hold of our neighbors. Our neighbors are only 3 miles away. Not far, you say. No it isn't, but it is through totally undomesticated wilderness. Now, this is nothing new to Jon; he's trekked through a lot of uncharted wilderness around the world, but still, Alaska wilderness is not some place you just hair off into. At any rate, our neighbors talked them out of the surprise and we picked them up from the plane.

I think for them I was still 'little sister', and all I could do was ride a horse bareback. When they brought home a bunch of trout and I set those golden brown, fresh caught fish in front of them for supper, they were surprised. Wow, little sister can cook! I cooked up every fish they brought home that day, cause trout doesn't freeze well. Two trout per plate - those guys went to bed soundly stuffed.

I get ahead of myself a little. Picture this: my house is very small, but then it was even smaller - we've added a bedroom since they were here. At the time our house was 12'X20' with a short loft on each end - one for each boy. The boys bunked together in Christopher's room and Jon and Mike took the other. With two extra, full-grown men in the house, there wasn't much room to move around any more. Fortunately, my brothers were interested in learning about our life which meant going outside.

Don gave them the tour of the yard and they talked saw mill and lumber, snowmachines, boat motors and ATVs.

At the time, I had a bear head plus the hide in the freezer. I don't remember why I had left the head in the hide but I decided that since my brothers were here, I'd get the thing out and finish skinning out the skull. Yeah, I wanted to show off for my brothers. I could do more than cook trout. Since it was frozen, I hung it from the rafters to thaw and unroll. When they came home from fishing, it was mostly unrolled but still too frozen to do anything with. I think they were stunned but I can't say for sure. I mean, how many of you can say your little sister can skin a bear? Ultimately the claws were set in silver and gifted to family members. My mom had certificates made up to go with each claw saying I shot the bear. It wasn't true, and she knew it, but it sounded good. I still have that skull.

One day, shortly before they left, we decided to take them on the walk they had been planning to take when they came. It would have been easy. There's a size-line between us and our neighbor's place - a cut in the trees, straight as an arrow. Getting lost wasn't what our neighbors were worried about.

Not far from our place was the first obstacle - a shallow ravine, not impossible to cross, but there's an easier way. This is the way the boys take with a snowmachine so, even though it's the height of summer, somewhat of a trail remains, plus, much of the way is a game trail anyway. Outside of that, grass, fireweed and assorted berry bushes and brush is all six foot plus tall and of course the trees are close together and towering. Almost all of us were armed. Don, myself and Donnie all had pistols on our hips, and a 30.06 was passed around to whoever wanted to carry it at the time. I think Jon and Mike were expecting a bear to jump out of the underbrush at any moment. I wasn't too concerned. We were making enough racket to drive any self respecting bear far away, but there was no point in pressing luck.

At one point along the trail, the boys succeeded in getting their uncles hunkered down close over one of the many freshly dug mouse holes. I couldn't hear what was being said, but whatever it was, Jon and Mike had been sucked in and they were all looking at this mouse hole. Then suddenly both Jon and Mike jumped back as if a giant something had just exploded out of this little hole and Donnie and Christopher were suddenly splitting a gut. They had pulled a fooly on their uncles with complete success. Watching from a short distance away, never in my life have I seen two men jump so far so fast. It was hilarious. I've been told what all was said but to this day, it's the vision that has stuck. I think we all laughed about that for at least the next mile if not longer.

By now we had to leave the size-line and go around a big swamp. Now we were dependent on the remains of the snowmachine trail. Course, even in the summer, we'd all driven it enough, we could recognize the different trees and obstacles along the way, plus there was a path along the ground.

Not much longer after coming back to the size-line was our next big obstacle, crossing a small creek with dry feet. All in all, it was a small problem since the water wasn't very high. It just called for a small detour.

Not very long after crossing the creek, the trail got interesting once again. Trees became further apart and the size-line wasn't so easy to spot any more. Long about then, the path we needed to take diverged from the size-line anyway since that line ended in the river that had come into view through the trees off to the right.

The next, and last, ravine we had to cross had been carved by our neighbor to make a snowmachine trail through it, so it had somewhat of a road winding down it and then back up the other side, but since it was a winter use thing, it didn't really look like much of a road. One machine wide and you didn't want to get in any kind of trouble on that part of the trail. It made for a rather easy crossing on foot though. That place was really quite steep and deep. Without that little trail, crossing it would have been very difficult if not impossible, at least at that point.

From there, it was a matter of knowing where to go cause finding the house that wasn't visible through the trees was interesting. Patty and Mike, and their two girls were expecting us and there was no little laughter shared over the plan to surprise us. Jon and Mike were very glad they had been talked out of it. We were all very tired when we got back.

On another day, Don took the guys fishing and then he came home less than an hour after leaving and he came alone. He came for dry clothes for Jon. Apparently my brother can walk on water.

They had stopped at a river-neighbor's place - at the time they were a small store - to buy some tackle. Jon pushed the boat off and was standing on the bow when Don put the boat into reverse. Jon wasn't as ready as he thought and the boat simply moved out from under him. Jon landed in the water (of course) - glacier water is VERY cold - less than a heartbeat later, Jon was on the bank, shedding clothes and heading for the store. He didn't even get his hair wet. The next day, Don poked an oar down where Jon went in, and even with a long oar, he didn't touch anything down there. Yeah, my brother can walk on water.

We took them to the plane a couple days later and saw them on their way back to civilization. The very next morning, the water had dropped enough that if they had not left when they did, they would have been forced to stay here through freeze-up. The boat was going nowhere. It was time to get the come-along out and pull the boat.