S: A L A S K A : S t o r i e s Bud & Geneva
FC: A L A S K A | lilililililililil | Stories
1: Preface "I did not start this out to be any kind of book. I found myself alone and bored in Amarillo, Texas while there for one month attempting to sell my son's home. My only thought was an attempt to leave a partial diary for my children to wonder what in the world the old man had in mind in life."
3: CHAPTER 1: GROWING UP Growing up in a small town in Kentucky did not have a lot of problems that were not true of any small town in mid central USA. The normal occurrences such as BB gun fights, burning down a neighbor’s barn with fire crackers, and a few broken limbs, etc., while at the time were exciting, I assumed they were things that occurred to other WASP children. One of my earliest recollections of a positive stand in life occurred in the fifth grade when my good friend Chub, who was a quiet and unassuming young man decided that he had enough of the class bully who chased us around town and the school yard causing "our gang" a lot of embarrassment. At this particular time Chub had a small fracture in his left wrist, and his arm to the elbow was in a cast. It certainly was not an ideal time to get into any kind of fight. Chub had been elected to bring in the softball equipment. He strolled into the restroom, dropped everything but the bat, and without a word strolled up behind the bully who was urinating, and let him have it in the head with the bat. My first thought was the bully must be dead, but his head must have been hard since the first aid teacher finally brought him around. He, of course, had no idea what had happened, but from then on a lot of the fight in him was gone. Chub, Dick and I struggled up the ladder of education and just as things in life were really becoming exciting, in other words, girls, | WWII reared its ugly head and as soon as we got out of high school we could not wait to do our share. Even though it was 1944 and the war was about to start winding down, I passed the test to enter the Naval Aviation program and had to go to St. Louis for the physical. My father found a lady who needed someone to drive with her and she deposited me at a downtown hotel in that city. The next morning about an hour before my appointment I came out of the hotel found a cab at the curb, and as a man of the world, instructed him to take me to the memorized address. He turned around, stared at me and then said "yes sir." With that he did a U turn across the street and pulled to the curb. With a hearty "here you are sir" he turned around and pointed out that he knew why I was there and this one was on him. Thank goodness you didn't have to be a man of the world to fight for your country. I'll never forget the morning I left for the service. My dear father saw me off on the bus at about five in the morning. I was almost 18 years old and had been exposed to the birds and bees for some time. My father must have had bad feelings, which so many fathers have when explaining about sex. In any case, after a lot of stammering he finally blurted out "Watch out for the women." With this excellent advice I did the best I could in “woman watching” for the next few years. My first assigned college was S. E. Missouri State in Cape Girardeau. It was a
4: nice college in a lovely setting. After I had been there about six months I was notified that I had an appointment to Annapolis and to proceed to Maryland immediately for the physical. My father had some pull, although, if you knew him it did not show. Arriving on a Wednesday, the physical was still going on late Friday. My eyes were dilated, but before anything could be done, it evidently was quitting time. I was told to continue using the eye drops for dilation and report back Monday. By then I could not see much of anything. Naturally, I failed the physical because of the eyes. Later on in life an eye Doctor told me that something such as politics must have been the reason for the strange eye testing and I believe this, since the individual that went had a father who was involved in politics. After being in S. E. Missouri State for about 9 months, I was reassigned to Iowa State. I was carrying about 20 credit hours of studies, but still had the old craze for football. With all the practice, skull sessions, etc., it finally occurred to me that I could either pass the Engineering courses or play football, but not both. I did get to play for one quarter against Drake. Outside the usual pranks, (such as filling a number of condoms with gas in the chemistry lab and letting them fly over the stadium while a game was on, and the poor radio announcer getting all screwed up in his language, or maybe the time the police in Des Moines picked up my friend from KY and myself, when we were caught with him pulling | and me riding a stuffed Elk we had taken from the Elks Club down one of the main streets of Des Moines), there wasn’t a lot of action. Sleep, Study and School!! The only excitement that occurred during my service was after about 21 months of the Officer training program. I was advised that unless I signed up for two more years, I would be removed from the program. Since the war was over I elected not to sign and was immediately sent to Great Lakes for boot training. My only experience was life guarding, so I spent my entire "boot training" teaching guys how to swim. Then I was sent to Providence, Rhode Island to a fire fighting school. Not many old timers were there and the chief discovered that I had fooled around with cars a lot and, therefore, put me in charge of maintaining the portable pumps we used at the school. Each day we had a new bunch come to the school where we had various steel buildings plus a mock up of a center section of a destroyer. We pumped in diesel fuel, gave it a shot of gas and torched these structures. The training was showing how to extinguish these fires. As the school went on we would drain the sludge periodically. This went into an underground tank "somewhere" until one day the structures would not drain. The chief asked me if I could fix this problem, and while I admitted I didn't have a clue, I said I would see what could be done. Descending down a manhole into various vaults I discovered a
5: number of large valves and using my best guess cracked one open until I could hear liquid going through. I waited a while and then went up to see if the structures were draining. Lo and Behold! they were, so I decided to wait until the sludge had disappeared. About the time this occurred I looked out in the bay and a large oil slick was forming. Naturally, after turning off the valve only the Chief and I knew what had happened. The Navy, at first, thought a submarine had sunk, but since none were missing they evidently forgot about it. It turned out that I had dumped about 10,000 gallons of oil into the bay. The only time I was ever exposed to a loaded gun in two years of service was one morning about 4:00AM the chief shook me and made me get up. He shoved a loaded .45 caliber pistol into my hands and ordered me to go to one of the bridges that allowed access to our island. In spite of my protests that I had never seen a weapon like he had handed me, he assured me that just the sight of me waving it around would stop the guy that had just knifed a cook. Thank goodness no one tried to cross the bridge during my guard period!! After two years of service, including two universities and the short tour of duty at the fire fighting school, my point total was such that I was due for a discharge. However, my commanding officer decided that since most of my service time was in school that I still owed the Navy something. He managed to get orders cut that would put me aboard the USS | Layette which was about to sail to the Mediterranean for an extended trip. At the time, anyone aboard ship overseas was not allowed a discharge. One of the few times I ever asked my Father for a major favor was this time. He happened to be good friends with an Admiral assigned to the Pentagon. Soon orders came reassigning me to Great Lakes and my discharge. Going home was a thrill and seeing my Grandmother was always amazing. I don’t know her age at that time but she certainly was not young. I was setting with her one day on the back porch, she in her rocking chair, me in a straight back chair. She suddenly reached over to the rail and picked up her over/under shotgun rifle, aimed down the lot about 75 yards to the pigpen and let go. It startled me and I asked what in the world she was doing. She replied that there was a rat in the pigpen eating the pig’s food. I asked, “How did you know you wouldn’t hit the pig?” Her reply was, “I wasn’t aiming at the pig.” At this time, the point of education again reared its ugly head and since I now had the GI Bill, at least I could exist and continue getting smart. Off to the University of Kentucky and the rude awakening that certain courses towards my degree of B.S. in Electrical Engineering would have to be repeated. I felt this to be unfair and protested loudly. However my protests did no good! Even though I almost starved to death, a great time was had. Although the smarts
6: still evaded me, my education in women proceeded on a normal course (I think). Until, some time in my junior year, despite everything I could do, I fell in love. It has been said numerous times that you never forget your first love. However, as usual, I carried this to an extreme. After a tumultuous year and a half, I married this wonderful lady, Geneva. She graduated before I did and went to work teaching at a small Jr. College. Since this enabled me to once again eat I also managed to get my degree. Now, one Home Ec and one E. E. degree had to start thinking of the long term future. Naturally there was no way that I would consider a decent job that was close to where I had spent most of my life. A job application was sent off to Saudi Arabia, where a railroad was about to be constructed, and to Alaska where an ad was asking for a teacher/engineer team for a remote location. No duties were described, but to me this was just what I thought we should do. Remote meaning to me that no one would be around giving orders or telling this new graduate how to carry out his assignments. I never knew if Saudi would have hired us since we almost immediately heard from the Alaska Native Service, a branch under the Department of the Interior, asking if we would accept an assignment at either Tununak or Savoonga. Naturally we would but since we had a choice, decision time had arrived. A canvas of our professors was no help, but we did find Tununak on a map, located on Nelson | Island in the Bearing Sea. As I was to learn in the future either choice would have been good since both villages contained a very fine group of Eskimos. But since we could not find Savoonga on the map and could not afford a call to Alaska, we wired back that we would accept Tununak.
7: CHAPTER 2: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS The first logical step seemed to be that we needed enough money to get to Seattle since the government promised to pay our way from that point. We sold Geneva's old car, and borrowing some money from her father, we embarked on an awful train ride of three days across country. That is a long time to set in a seat and particularly if you do not have much money to even eat with, but we were not too concerned since once we arrived in Seattle the costs would be on them. We arrived in Seattle early in the morning and proceeded to go directly to the ANS representative’s office where a very nice gentleman almost gave us a heart attack when he explained that our new employer would buy our transportation tickets but we had to pay for meals, hotels, cabs, etc. This would be reimbursed after we sent in an expense voucher. Although we were just about broke we did have enough money to pay for a hotel that night and cab fare to the ship the next day. Since ANS paid for the tickets to Juneau and meals were part of this cost we elected to go on. We were also informed that since Tununak had not had a teacher the last year that the USMS North Star would make a special stop for us in the fall of the year to drop off an annual supply of oil, gas and a one year's standard order of food for the two of us. It was explained that this order would come to about $1200 and we could have it taken out of our | pay which for the two of us amounted to about $3000). The trip to Juneau was beautiful and we did not have any rain or fog which we were told was an unusual weather phenomenon for Southeastern Alaska. Naturally we didn't get to party since our money amounted to about ten dollars and by the time we got to the hotel we had exactly two silver dollars left. After some careful thought we proceeded to the famous "Red Dog" Saloon and had two beers. Then no further worry about money since we didn't have any and were only about 5000 miles from home in a very expensive city. Our stop in Juneau was made so that our duties could be explained and the old timers could tell us all about Tununak. This would be the first time anyone could even discuss this station with us, so naturally we were looking forward to these talks. Upon arrival at the head offices of the ANS for all of Alaska, we were first informed that the only person that knew why I was hired was no longer there and no one else had any idea why an Engineer would be needed at our new station. But not to worry, they would make me the Teacher and Geneva would be my Special Assistant. No amount of discussion swayed anyone that I could not teach and finally I had to point out that I would not even attempt it. They understood this but insisted that my title would be Teacher. Talk about early chauvinistic attitudes! They then asked around the offices for anyone that had ever been to Tununak. Out of a total of
8: approximately 300 employees, not one had ever been to this Island, but they did have some old pictures that someone had taken years ago to show us what the building looked like. This type of greeting at the home office that directed all of the activities for the ANS in Alaska should have warned us, but youth has a funny way of ignoring lots of things. We still had not corrected our money problem and since we had not eaten for almost one full day and there was no way to check out of the Hotel, this part of the journey was now becoming a major item. I was leaning against the front of the Hotel racking my brain trying to figure out some honest or dishonest way to come upon a few dollars when the acting director of education for ANS came strolling by. Having just met this gentleman at the office, he pleasantly stopped to chat for a few minutes. In the course of the conversation he casually said, "While I'm sure it is of no interest to you the local bank is happy to loan you money on the basis of being hired by ANS." Naturally I didn't even crack a smile but as soon as he started up the street I almost tore the door down getting inside to Geneva so we could get to the bank. Years later when I mentioned this episode to the gentleman he informed me that most of the young people coming to Alaska were broke and it had occurred to him that he had forgotten to mention this loan capability when talking to us earlier. So he had come looking for us to make sure that we knew that money was available if we needed it. Of | course, I never mentioned how close he came to being kissed right on the main street of Juneau. Our next portion of the trip was air from Juneau to Anchorage, and after overnight in Anchorage, on to Bethel where we were to meet our immediate supervisor. Naturally, we wished to look good for this new boss so the next morning we both put on suits. Mine was an old Glenn Plaid that I bought when I was discharged from the Navy, but it was the best I owned. On the other hand, Gen's suit was one she had made and was beautiful. Admittedly when we arrived at the airport no one seemed to be dressed quite as well as we were, but after all, we were heading for a new job and believed that a good first impression was important. We boarded the DC 3 aircraft which still had the camouflage colors that were used in WWII, and it was now the summer of 1949. After a few stops along the way we arrived at what we assumed was Bethel, although no one said anything to us, everyone got up and left the plane. We deplaned in an awful rain that was helped along by about a 30 mph wind and ran to what looked like 1/2 of a normal Quonset hut. We didn't notice but the few passengers all disappeared except for a very young boy who seemed to be the only one doing anything. By this time it was dark and it was apparent that the young man was about to close the Quonset. With a happy "Say do you guys want to go to Bethel?"
9: were summoned by Northern Consolidated Airlines and told to get down to the river and Elmer would attempt to get us to Tununak. The small plane was on floats and Elmer turned out to be a fine gentleman, a good bush pilot, and a cigar chewer who hardly ever spoke except in monosyllables. In we piled with our luggage and off we flew. After about an hour of eyes and mouth open flight at about 150 ft. of altitude, we came around a small mountain and I asked Elmer if we were getting close. He just turned his head and aimed the cigar off into the distance. After looking very closely and not being able to see anything I assumed Elmer didn't want to be bothered. But about that time he dropped the manual flaps and trimmed the plane for a landing into a very narrow slough with about 15 very small houses lined up on one side. After climbing out, for the first time I felt that I had made a great mistake in bringing my young wife here. Every Eskimo and loose dog in the village was lined up along the bank staring down at us as we started to walk to the school. All I could think was we had no wagons to circle and the attack would start any second. Please remember that we were from Kentucky and these were the first Eskimos we had ever seen in their own setting. They, of course, turned out to be the most wonderful group of fun loving, family caring, and sharing people it has ever been my fortune to meet. The grapevine had of course notified these people that their new | from him, it finally dawned on us that we still had not arrived. Out into the rain and wind we go with Sonny, the young man, who helped us into an 18 ft. open boat. He took us across the Kuskokwim River and ran the bow of the boat into the bank. I rook a mighty leap and was in mud about to my knees, and poor Geneva (wearing heels and stockings) had no choice but to follow. By now we both look like drowned rats that have wallowed in a pigpen, but still following Sonny who took us to what he termed the Roadhouse. He pointed out it is the only place in town to stay. We entered the lobby to a group of men playing poker and who had various types of seizures upon seeing what was stumbling in. The manager told us that our new boss had informed him of our arrival and that he did have a room available. Dinner had already been served but we were so happy to dry out that it was hardly missed. The next morning we gave up any idea of impressing anyone and dressed more or less to fit the occasion, had an excellent breakfast, and met our new boss who was an old timer. His big concern, which was the government policy, was that no Eskimo was to be spoken in the classroom. While my wife did not agree with this she did not voice her opinion until she could get me alone. This gentleman again had no idea what an Engineer had been hired for. We were informed that we would stay in Bethel until the weather on the coast improved, which, of course, could take some time. We were lucky and it was only about four days before we
11: teachers, "scholacktos" in their language, were going to arrive on this plane. But they were taken aback by our youth since all the former teachers had been much older. After getting over their shock they grabbed our luggage and proudly escorted us to their school. We had been advised that the council would have the keys to let us in, but it turns out that no one knew anything about any keys and they did not understand why any were needed. We were later forced to modify, (at least as far as we were involved), their custom of walking into any house without ever considering to knock. This school and quarters were combined into one building, and even though no one had been there in a year, the building was no doubt just as it was left. It had been built in 1926 and was a prefabricated structure with no insulation and no plumbing. The wiring was rather primitive with a drop cord hanging from the center of most of the rooms and there were only about 3 wall outlets in all of the quarters. However it was our new home and we proceeded to move in. The first priority seemed to be getting electrical power. The power supply turned out to be a 1.5 kilowatt Kohler which of course had been setting for over a year. With the help of Bob, who turned out to be my best friend, and a little over twenty four hours of continuous work, we finally got it running. We could then proceed to crank up a small transmitter to let our boss know how good we were doing. He would come on each afternoon, about five, for any questions that any | of the outlying villages had, and the PHS Doctor would follow him. Each evening for about a week we could hear them calling us but our little transmitter was only broadcasting about as far as the village! A plane did come in and we let him know we were still alive. One of the first things I did was to stroll through the village saying hello to anyone I ran into and to stop to talk, even though in most cases we could not understand each other. One was a lady who was squatted beside the one path going through the village. She wore the outer summer garment that was a pullover covering her from her neck to her ankles. We had quite a conversation with a lot of laughing and giggles. Also a large number of adults and children joined in the hilarity. It was not until many months later in a store session that the men, in screaming fits, pointed out that the poor lady was trying to go to the bathroom when I strolled up and started talking. Gen had been checking out the food supply since it was the first of August and the North Star with our food order was not due until the last of September. This was a shock since all she had found was surplus USDA supplies that were to be used in a school lunch program. There were rooms full of barreled butter, maybe two tons of pinto beans, sacks and sacks of flour, dry milk by the hundreds of pounds, but nothing that seemed to be the foods that I hoped to be eating, now that I had
12: a Home Ec wife and a job. No fear, after all we had a local store and the annual supply ship had called only a few months ago. I quickly checked what was available and found that naturally the only things in quantity were staples such as salt, pepper, flour, some rice and a few cans of vegetables. Luckily, yeast was available and about a case of canned tomatoes as well as a few spices. Now, it is amazing what my wife did with these few items of groceries. Naturally it helps if you like beans, which I did, and it no doubt helps if you had just gotten out of college and had not had much to eat in the last year or so. But even so, with a menu of beans for breakfast, modified chili for lunch and baked beans for dinner, it doesn't take long before monotony as well as horrible odors set in. On the other hand it wasn't all bad. After Gen stopped burning the bread in the old oil range, (after being on for awhile it would catch on fire in the back of the oven), wonderful cooking odors attempted to overcome other smells. And….I had never been able to afford all the butter I wanted. At about this time the village council asked me to attend a meeting. They discussed the large shipment of lumber that had arrived and asked that I make the final determination as to just how it was to be divided among the villagers. Of course, I had no idea what they were talking about but they did find a crude list of some of the villagers that had signed up with some government agency about housing and assumed that this lumber could be tied to that | list. After conferring with my supervisor by letter, it seems he did not have any idea either but suggested that it might be better not to become involved. This was passed along to the council with the suggestion that if they elected to distribute this lumber, it should be done by the council and not let individuals just pick and choose. About one year later a float plane landed in the bay and taxied up to the beach. The door opened and a fellow asked if this is Hooper Bay and when advised that he had missed it by about 140 miles he discovered where he was and who I am and immediately asked what I had done with all his lumber. My pleas of total ignorance seemed to satisfy him because he indicated he was in a hurry to get to Hooper Bay and with that he slammed the door and took off before I could warn him that there was hardly any water in the bay. It of course was good slick mud and he did manage to take off. This turns out to be the reason they wanted an engineer. The Alaska Native Service and the Territorial Government in the form of two individuals had gotten together and decided a housing program was needed for the remote villages and Tununak was the start. The only problem, naturally, was they never discussed these grand plans with anyone who was to carry them out, and as far as I know, the program never returned to Tununak. This could well be a case of middle managers not passing information either up or down in the belief that doing so would decrease their power.
13: Gen could not find any lesson plans or any material that would tell her just where teaching had been left off in the past. But the children wanted to be around all day, (which at this time of year was about nineteen hours). So by talking to them she got a good idea as to just what their studies had been and she then made her lesson plans from that. It seemed strange that while the home office did order the books, no definitive direction had been given her for teaching grades one through eight, with the exception of "there will be no native language spoken in the classroom." Since our transmitter would not get anyone, except when some atmospheric phenomenon would let us maybe raise Nunivak Island, some 40 miles away, and since I had discovered a brand new uncrated transmitter in the attic, this seemed like the next problem to overcome, even though my knowledge of radios was next to nothing. Starting with the antenna seemed like a good idea. Finding some short pieces of copper wire and using a formula found with the new transmitter, I twisted together the wires until I had 148 ft. of wiring. I suspended it from the school to an old abandoned refrigerator barge down by the slough. Now, getting the transmitter down from the attic was a chore. It weighed about 150 pounds and by rigging ropes from the attic trusses I managed to land it in the living room and then manhandled it into the small office. After uncrating it, I lifted it onto an existing shelf. Now it was time to extensively study the | manual that explained just how this monster was set up and put into operation. This turned out to be an intricate maneuver and with the top open and the manual on the floor I was trying to fine tune it when I looked up just as the top fell on my hand. It fell so hard that it, not only trapped my little finger, but locked itself with my finger inside and I could not turn my body enough to release the lock. Screams to Gen who was in the school portion of the building did not help. As she explained latter she had been listening to bellows and oaths for days, coming out of the office. Remembering a book I had recently read, (We Took to the Woods by Louise Rich) and also read to Gen, because at the time it seemed funny, I screamed "Geneva, damn it, I need you!” This did get her attention. She came in and released the lock allowing me to remove my mangled hand. After washing the blood off I was relieved to find my finger still attached to my hand. One of the first contacts made with the new transmitter was the PHS Dr. in Bethel. It turned out that this was my first realization that we were to administer any medicines and drugs to the poor people of all Nelson Island. My first patient showed up about three days later with an interpreter. He unrolled a seal oil soaked rag from his hand that was cut a cross his whole palm, with streaks of discoloration and what I assumed to be tendons showing. At this point we both needed a doctor. Using my trusty transmitter,
14: and since it was time for the evening schedule I suggested to the Dr. that this man should be flown to Bethel for proper medical care. Since evidently funds were rather low at this time she disagreed with me and advised that I was to use an ace bandage and tape and attempt to pull the tendons as close as I could. Then, he was to receive 300,000 units of penicillin - to be repeated for a week. I was, and still am afraid of needles and believe I got this fear from the time of my induction into the Navy. The method then of giving shots was that you followed a line of naked men past curtains on each side, and just as you passed someone on each side hit your arms with a paint brush of alcohol and almost simultaneously hit your arms with the required shots. For some reason I stumbled back into this line after getting my shots and just as I passed the sheets, recognized what was about to happen. My screams came too late and again I was attacked from both sides. Not only was I sick, but for a few days could not move either arm. Naturally I was not about to cause this poor man any more pain then necessary. Getting everything prepared, I attempted to gently insert the needle into his buttock. His shot was finally administered since it was easy to outrun him with his pants around his knees. You must remember that not only did I have needle fright but I had never given a shot in my life. I am sorry to say that while the patient recovered, he did not get back the use of three fingers. | CHAPTER 3: ANNUAL SUPPLIES Getting ready for a winter that you knew was near, but could not exactly tell when it would arrive (even with the advice of the villagers who were evidently trying to explain that it could arrive anytime), took up all my time. Oil drums up on racks were used to provide gravity flow to the ranges and heating stoves that had to be drained and cleaned. Another small light plant had been found still in its crate. This was set up in a storage room in back of the school in case something happened to the other one located by the living quarters. It wasn't long before the melodious voice of Roger, the radio operator of the North Star, could be heard from as far north as Barrow, pointing out to various shore stations that they were starting south. Naturally since our annual stores were aboard, it was exciting to us as we tracked them to where we could even talk to Roger. When the bow of the ship finally cleared Cape Vancouver and sailed into the bay, I must admit it looked like a piece of fresh food to me instead of a 5000 ton WWII freighter. Having borrowed the church's boat and using a 9 HP outboard motor that evidently belonged to the school, I wasted no time in going out the 3 or 4 miles to where the ship was anchored. I was invited aboard by a giant of a man leaning from the bridge who informed me there would be no discharge of freight for awhile since it was almost dinner
15: Gen could not find any lesson plans or any material that would tell her just where teaching had been left off in the past. But the children wanted to be around all day, (which at this time of year was about nineteen hours). So by talking to them she got a good idea as to just what their studies had been and she then made her lesson plans from that. It seemed strange that while the home office did order the books, no definitive direction had been given her for teaching grades one through eight, with the exception of "there will be no native language spoken in the classroom." Since our transmitter would not get anyone, except when some atmospheric phenomenon would let us maybe raise Nunivak Island, some 40 miles away, and since I had discovered a brand new uncrated transmitter in the attic, this seemed like the next problem to overcome, even though my knowledge of radios was next to nothing. Starting with the antenna seemed like a good idea. Finding some short pieces of copper wire and using a formula found with the new transmitter, I twisted together the wires until I had 148 ft. of wiring. I suspended it from the school to an old abandoned refrigerator barge down by the slough. Now, getting the transmitter down from the attic was a chore. It weighed about 150 pounds and by rigging ropes from the attic trusses I managed to land it in the living room and then manhandled it into the small office. After uncrating it, I lifted it onto an existing shelf. Now it was time to extensively study the | manual that explained just how this monster was set up and put into operation. This turned out to be an intricate maneuver and with the top open and the manual on the floor I was trying to fine tune it when I looked up just as the top fell on my hand. It fell so hard that it, not only trapped my little finger, but locked itself with my finger inside and I could not turn my body enough to release the lock. Screams to Gen who was in the school portion of the building did not help. As she explained latter she had been listening to bellows and oaths for days, coming out of the office. Remembering a book I had recently read, (We took to the Woods by Louise Rich) and also read to Gen, because at the time it seemed funny, I screamed "Geneva, damn it, I need you!” This did get her attention. She came in and released the lock allowing me to remove my mangled hand. After washing the blood off I was relieved to find my finger still attached to my hand. One of the first contacts made with the new transmitter was the PHS Dr. in Bethel. It turned out that this was my first realization that we were to administer any medicines and drugs to the poor people of all Nelson Island. My first patient showed up about three days later with an interpreter. He unrolled a seal oil soaked rag from his hand that was cut a cross his whole palm, with streaks of discoloration and what I assumed to be tendons showing. At this point we both needed a doctor. Using my trusty transmitter, | time and did I wish to join them? Naturally I accepted! He threw down a line to tie up the boat and hollered for someone down on the deck to toss down a Jacobs’s ladder. The ladder came down and I immediately jumped for it and climbed up the side of the ship until my eyes cleared the rail. I was so startled that I stopped and stared at a small seaman who had the rope ladder in his hands with his feet braced against the side of the ship holding me from a fall of some 30 feet into my boat. He finally blurted out “Jesus buddy! Come on aboard, you're heavy!" The big guy turned out to be Cecil Cole, better known as Moe, who was then the third Mate, but later on would become skipper of a new and bigger North Star. Moe introduced me to all the officers who all seemed to be very wonderful gentlemen. The Chief Steward informed me that dinner was steak but that as their guest any thing I wanted was no doubt available. After about my third steak he must have decided that I liked that kind of meal. This was a fun loving group of guys and knowing of our food problem, and the prodigious amounts I had just inhaled, they insisted that we talk to Geneva on the radio. I told her of the fabulous meal and asked what she was having…just another indication of my sense of humor showing bad timing. Since it was daylight so long and I was having such a good time, everything seemed fine until the engine started. Running out on deck it was apparent we were underway and | my boat had been hoisted aboard. Finding the Captain I inquired as to what was happening. I was informed that a storm was brewing and they could no longer stay in this unsheltered anchorage. And that they were proceeding to Nome and may or may not return to Tununak. My pleas to just stop and put my boat and me in the water fell on deaf ears. There was my wife alone and I headed for Nome, probably not to return for at least two or three weeks since without money, convincing an airline to fly me to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bethel and then Tununak before being paid, might turn out to be a real impossibility. After about 4 hours running, we stopped, anchored, and Moe advised that we were behind Nunivak Island to ride out the storm. We laid there for one full day, and even though I was desperate to get back to my wife, I did eat well. The engine started up and my inquiry revealed that the storm was over and we were Nome bound. A member of the crew advised me that they had started a pot that might raise enough money for me to get back to my wife, someday. Going out on deck it looked to me like we were headed back to Nelson Island. Lo and Behold! We had sailed into the bay at Tununak. It turned out that I am not the only one with a warped sense of humor. Everyone on board the ship, including the Captain, knew of the joke but one. This was my first indication that a "Cheechoco" was fair game for any trick, lie
16: or story that could be thought of. We anchored and it was decided that even though the storm had not completely abated they would make a try to discharge some freight. Their equipment consisted of tugs and wooden barges that could be hoisted on deck. One of each of these was off loaded. Moe was to try it and I informed him I was going with him even if they had to leave with the boat and motor, neither of which belonged to me. As we approached the beach it was apparent that the shallow bay was kicking up some waves that were breaking on the beach at about seven feet. Moe informed me that he could not put the wooden barge into this without destroying it. I picked up my gunnysack which contained a quarter of reindeer that the Chief Steward had given me, thanked Moe and headed for the front of the barge which was now about 100 yards from shore. He screamed, “What are you doing?” When he was told I was going on the beach whether he was or not, he couldn't believe it. He finally agreed to get me as close to shore as he could without tearing up the barge. This I readily agreed to, since swimming ashore with that quarter of reindeer did not appeal to me. In a superb maneuver he placed the front of that barge into the large beach waves, and I stepped ashore, hardly getting wet, while he had the tugs engine in full reverse, and with a wave and a laugh I could hear above the wind and surf he headed back to the ship. The North Star did stay around long | enough to discharge our groceries and a supply of heating oil, gasoline and kerosene, used for lamps. During this discharge I witnessed the Eskimo's love for Moe. He had started years ago in passing out candy to the children at each of the Alaska discharge points. It had become such a big endeavor, that half of his cabin was taken up with these goodies when they sailed from Seattle. Some of these children had now grown into adults and everyone looked forward to Moe's annual arrival on the beach along with his joking and rather crude sense of humor. No one at the time had explained to us that we could hire help to move these annual supplies. While the villagers did help with our groceries, there still remained some 200 barrels of fuel scattered around where the discharge operation had placed them along the beach and about 100 yards, across soft Tundra, from the school. So I moved these barrels, weighing about 400 pounds each, myself, and stacked them horizontally next to the reservoir barrels. That way all I had to do was stand one up, remove the bung and pump the oil into the reservoir barrels without moving anything. The best laid plans!! Two things that bugged me were the water system and bathing. There was a hand pump in the kitchen that had good water, to a limited degree, but the kitchen sink drained to a container under the sink which you had to empty often. Bathing was in a galvanized wash tub, and my bottom just did not fit right.
17: By using some old pipe, saw dust and lumber from an old abandoned refrigerator barge, we extended the kitchen drain out of the building to a drop off some forty feet away. For the bathing problem we built a rack on one side of the kitchen range, at about the same elevation; and then took a 55 gallon drum and split it in half, horizontally; rolled over the sharp edges; and installed a drain to go under the building. It was kind of fun on Saturday evening to heat some water on the stove, pour it into the drum and soak while Gen was cooking dinner. | CHAPTER 4: WINTER By October, the first signs of winter had started, and it wasn't just the snow and cold. One day before freeze up I noticed one of the men loading a boat with traps, his dog team and sled, and a small amount of provisions, which I found out later consisted primarily of salt. I inquired about this at my "training" session at the village store, where the men would gather each day and talk. When I would join them, as long as they were not discussing something that wasn't any of my business, they would be courteous and those that could would talk in broken English, and interpret for those that couldn't. It seems that this man leaving in the boat was going out to his trap line and would be gone for months. When I commented that he did not seem to have enough provisions to last more then a few days, the group laughed and pointed out, “That is the reason he is such a good hunter." I was spellbound by some of the stories that I was exposed to in these sessions once I found out they were not just teasing me because I was a newcomer to Alaska. Not only would they tell me stories, once they saw I was interested, but they would act them out. They would also arrange excursions to show me some of the things we discussed. Just after the first snow they suggested that I accompany one of the villagers on a fishing trip. Naturally this sounded good since anything fresh was mighty tasty. We went
18: down the valley by dog team and sled. This was my first realization that you don't ride behind the dogs nearly as much as you run. In just a few stops at small streams we had about 8 Dolly Varden trout from small traps. While these are considered junk fish by a lot of Alaskans they sure tasted good to us. My young guide then asked if I wanted any Needle fish. Naturally we didn't have them where I came from, so the answer was yes. Using a small dip net he netted about 10 of them at the first try. They look a lot like a common minnow with one awful exception. Running down their spine is a row of sharp protrusions that lie down unless the fish is frightened, then they jump up and angle to the rear. This defense mechanism was no doubt very effective since if anything attempted to eat the small fish from the rear, which is the way almost all fish eat, the spines would inflict severe damage, but of course did not come into play if eaten from the front. This was illustrated to me when the young man picked one up and, then to my amazement, tossed it into his mouth head first. After eating a few of these fish raw, naturally he invited me to partake. Since this was the era of college youths eating raw goldfish, and I had eaten a few, I tried one and it wasn't half bad. So we polished off the rest of them in the net. This, of course, was kicked around, and generated a lot of laughs in the next store session. About this time and without our prior knowledge we received an official letter from the Postal Department in San Francisco | appointing Geneva as the Postmaster for Tununak. We had already lost the argument as to who would be indicated as the teacher, so without further ado, as she took on my duties, I took over as Postmaster. The only thing we had to be cautious of was the way we addressed supervisors. It is easy to be a little abrupt in a written document when you know someone else has to sign it and take the responsibility for it. By December the winter storms had started and were something we found hard to believe. My diary shows week after week of wind and blowing snow and when this stopped there would be low clouds and wind. It did make the clear and calm days beautiful. I found a pair of old skis that someone had left. They were about 5 feet long and one had two splits that ran up the back about 12 inches. On inquiry I discovered that my friend Bob had been a reindeer herder and used skis to follow the reindeer. He still had a pair of skis so we made some lashings for mine and he taught me what he knew about skiing. It came to a point that he would not go with me up the 1200 ft. high hill behind the school, and with reason, since the small snowfall and "Chinooks" that came out of the south periodically turned the hill into a sheet of glare ice. It could sometimes take me two or three hundred feet to make a turn but since my balance was good it was a lot of fun. One day I decided to impress my wife by coming down the hill and then jumping off the 35 ft. hill just
19: behind the school, landing right by the school windows. I have no doubt that this was impressive, but thank goodness neither the 30 children nor my wife saw this since I landed upside down and broke my shoulder. This was very painful, but what to do. No way could I go to Bethel to the doctor because it might take a month to get back and of course my supervisor would have to know. So, biting the bullet, no one, including my wife knew of this until some eight months later. As the winter progressed, the blowing snow did also. The snow that sometimes blew from the South blew over the 35 ft. hill and then swirled and dropped snow around the school, until in February the only thing showing of the school and quarters were the tops of chimneys. This helped as far as insulating the buildings but of course all of our supply of oil was buried and frozen into this mess. If I started early in the morning and didn't pause very often I could dig out one barrel of oil and this was just about the consumption for one day. Of course there were a few good days that the wind did not blow and the hole I had dug the day before would not fill in and it didn't take but a couple of hours for this chore. I do believe that we must have broken the record for wind that winter because it sure seemed like I did a lot of digging. One day after digging most of the day with pick and shovel, I almost had a barrel free when the pick bounced off the frozen side of where I was digging and went through the end | of the barrel. This of course meant that after a day’s work I could only stand and watch the whole container of oil gurgle into the snow bank. Along with my crying there was great deal of cussing going on. I looked up and saw my friend Bob standing there. In a bellow I screamed "Damn it, Bob, you watched me last summer putting these barrels here and didn't say one word about what winter would do.” His laconic reply was, "You didn't ask." It was amazing to watch these children coming to school every day no matter what the weather was. This building was constructed before the government decided that all Federal buildings in Alaska must have exit doors opening out, (because of their mistaken belief that entry doors opening inward created a fire hazard), we could at least get out. Each day when it was blowing, my first chore was to go to the storm entry, open the door inward, pull enough snow into where I could get out and shovel down to the entry. Then, of course, all the snow I had pulled in had to be shoveled out. While I would do this the children would be laughing, playing and waiting to get into the school. As I partially wised up I would leave a shovel in the snow on top of the roof and the kids would shovel their way down. Because of this limited access, fire was definitely on my mind. In spite of Geneva's screams of protest, I would turn off all the fires in the oil stoves each evening, even during the coldest part of winter. That old building would pop, crack and
20: sometimes sound like a small explosion as it cooled down for the night. One evening, we were setting in the living room reading when we both heard a slight noise that was different from "normal" noises. We commented but both returned to our reading. After a few minutes a black blob started running down the living room wall as if it were alive. The next day we found a case of black ink that someone had stored in the attic. There was no telling how long it had been there, but we assumed that in past winters it had frozen in the fall and remained frozen all winter. Or else if the quarters were occupied the heat escaping through the ceiling with no insulation was enough to keep it thawed. My turning the heat off and on and causing cycles of freeze and thaw had been too much. Whenever the weather cleared I would always try to either work or play outdoors. One of my favorite exercises was to take my rifle and binoculars and climb the small mountain behind the school. You could see forever in the clear winter air. One day while lying on the ground looking to the south, down the valley, I noticed a red fox trotting along in an area where I had spotted one last summer. Watching closely, he proceeded to walk along, stop, and then suddenly jump into the air and land on all four feet. After doing this for some time he proceeded to dig a hole in the drifted snow, then came out of the hole and trotted off in the same direction he had come. Although I had observed dogs doing this type of exercise | on a small layer of snow when it made the field mice move around, this seemed to be different. Even though it was out of my way, down into the valley I went. When I got to where he had worked, I found a hole about 10 inches in diameter and downward at a 45 degree angle (without any curves) about four feet in depth. Since the sun was just right I could see the bottom of the hole. There was an egg with the top broken off and the contents eaten! Naturally I could not wait for the next bull session at the store to amaze the locals with my nature story. About halfway through it they took over and completed the story and pointed out that foxes did this often. Evidently during the summer months they would take eggs from the goose nests and move them to the tundra, nesting them in the grass. In the winter they would return to the area and the jumps would return an echo to them, indicating where to dig. Even though everyone in the village knew of this but me, I still to this day consider it an amazing nature story. Ever since we had been on the island we had known of Father Deschout, the catholic priest who was originally from Belgium, but had been on Nelson Island since the late 20's. He had departed for Cherfornak, which was on the other side of the Island about 25 miles away. He used this village as his winter headquarters. I naturally wanted to meet someone who had devoted his entire
21: adult life to these people. Bob agreed to take me to visit by dog team. It is not too noticeable, but a working dog's gait is just a little faster then a man walks, but a little slower then a man runs. This becomes apparent after just a few miles. As has been pointed out earlier, there is not much riding when dog teaming with any load at all. Bob dropped me at the church while he went on down to the village to visit friends. I was looking forward to something hot. I must admit that the church and quarters did not look very imposing. Not knowing where to find the Priest, I went into the church and walked toward the pulpit but still did not find anyone. I shouted to see if anyone was about and the reply from a small door was about what I would imagine a wounded bull might sound like. Out of the small door comes Father Deschout. Spotting me he stops and just stares. He is dressed in a beautiful winter parka. After going into his quarters, this was understandable since it was about as cold inside as out. He explained that he did this to save fuel. His quarters may have totaled 200 square feet of space and the headroom was about five feet. In honor of my visit he started a fire, put some coffee on, and rummaged around until he found a can of raw bacon, some jelly and hard tack bread. I had no doubt that he was offering me some of his best food although the raw bacon sort of startled me. But since he was eating it with gusto I followed suit. The few hours were most enjoyable, and when Bob came for the trip back | I hated to leave. In the next year many enjoyable hours were spent with the good Father. Religion aside, here was a well educated man, a scholar who spoke five languages, who left his home in Europe to dedicate his entire adult life in most primitive conditions, to the Eskimo on Nelson Island. If just a small minority would serve to help others as he did, certainly we would be living in a better world. At about this time a minor crisis arose in our life. In order to get to the "honey bucket" you had to go thru the kitchen and thru the light plant room to an unheated area that had a single hole with the dreaded bucket underneath. The plus of this arrangement was that the waste would freeze and therefore no odors. Naturally you could understand that there were various minuses, like freezing while attempting to do any bodily function and the fact that when it became time to empty the bucket it would not come out due to the frozen state. One sure thing, you did not overlook a full bucket very long since it froze into a point. The only way that I could think of to thaw the honey bucket was to bring it in on the kitchen range. With a squall like a baby, Geneva would run to some other part of the building when I would do this. Since we were of the "new breed" we sat down and discussed the next part in great detail. The emptying part: we had a small sled built and since we were both contributing to filling the bucket we should both help empty it. So the routine was
22: established that I would thaw the bucket and we would both get in our parkas, load it on the sled and push it about 1/2 mile out into the tundra before emptying it. This method worked fine until one night in a snowstorm after dumping the mess, I just climbed on the runners of the sled and the 30 MPH wind from the south gave me an exhilarating ride back to the school. It was not until I had started to enjoy the warmth of the quarters that I noticed my wife had not followed me. Back into the parka and into the snowstorm I go. I finally found her wandering around on the tundra unable to see the lights from the schoolhouse because of the snowstorm. After getting home and out of our warm clothes she very softly announced to me, "It does not matter how much I contribute to filling that damn thing, never again will I be a party to emptying it.” So much for women's lib in the Lusby house! We received a letter and instructions from Juneau as to how to prepare our annual school order and a reminder that we should also send our personal order to Seattle for processing. The school order was not too difficult but a year’s supply for your home is a little more complicated. Just imagine the quandary of how many rolls of toilet tissue, cans of corn, salt, pepper, canned goods etc. (don't forget the matches, spices and on and on) that is required to maintain a variety, as well as to sustain your family for one year. It’s kind of mind boggling. As March started, it was easy to see why this was the time that | remoteness got to some of us. You could listen to people talk on the radio that you had heard all winter and some of them started sounding different. But it was so subtle that you weren't sure. When they finally went over the "hill", it was easy to tell. A manifestation of this occurred in me. Each night I would have to stay up and listen to the radio and tune in a radio station that, because of some atmospheric condition, would always come in from Fresno, California. The program consisted of hit songs, but the part I had to hear was the advertisement for a Drive-In. While the songs weren't much, the advertisement where they pushed a "double burger and a super shake" would literally make my mouth water. During the cold winter nights, it was fun to listen to the radio and tune in people from Europe, Australia and places all over the U.S. talking on the amateur bands. Naturally, your first interest was eavesdropping on your fellow Alaskans. Almost everyone in the remote areas had their own radios and it was a real form of recreation to tune in. At this time our first guest arrived. He was a Professor from Copenhagen who had a theory that the Eskimo had migrated from Greenland instead of from Russia, as is accepted by most students. He was tracing this belief on language spoken by the Eskimo. It's strange but this language is composed of thousands of dialects and a village just 100 miles away may have a dialect that cannot be
23: understood at all. The two villages on Nelson Island intermingled therefore their dialect was the same. Forty miles away at Nunivak Island our villagers could understand them with difficulty and always with a smile because they sounded so strange. In any case this Professor insisted he could detect close enough similarities that indicated the migration was from East to West. His last stop before Tununak had been Barrow, and there must be 30 dialects separating these villages. Therefore it was hard for me to give much credence to his theory. He hired two different persons to come to the school and talk to him while all he did was listen. After two days he started talking in their language and was so good at it that it actually startled them. The professor was a hearty eater and would devour everything placed before him, which were mostly canned goods. One night he asked what one dish was and Geneva replied it was made from corn. He sat the dish down and said "we only feed corn to animals." He definitely did not mean this as an insult, nor did we take it that way. He was a pleasant gentleman and at his departure he offered to give us payment for his room and board, but he had hinted that he had to stand most of his own costs. Therefore we declined and asked to receive a copy of his book if he was published (evidently not, since we never received a book). We did run into him again. The transformation that occurs at breakup is so amazing that you find yourself | just staring with your mouth open. You go from winter, with nothing moving, to summer with almost everything moving. The streams clear themselves of ice in just days and the snow just disappears. Suddenly birds arrive, fish are active and it almost feels as if a heavy weight is lifted.
24: CHAPTER 5: ANOTHER SEASON Summer arrives and so do all of the new things to do and places to explore. With the outboard all kinds of new places could be examined, and were. From a hint from Bob I discovered an old graveyard about 20 miles away, in a beautiful setting on the side of a hill looking out over Vancouver Strait. This was the old type where the remains and any prized possessions were placed above ground. There were kayaks, bows and arrows, pots and pans, spears with removable points and numerous items which I was not familiar with. I never disturbed anything, but it was fun to be there and try to picture what had gone on hundreds of years ago. Fortunately I did get to take Geneva there one time, before the village council called me to a meeting and very politely requested that I no longer go there. I never went again nor did I ever explain to any white men where this was located. The herring spawn took place in June in a very small area just North of Nelson Island. This was a great source of food and all parts of the small fish were utilized. The roe was a delicacy, and the fish were dried, salted, or just eaten fresh. Even the viscera and heads were put into a hole in the ground and allowed to ferment all winter. The process created so much heat that you could spot the locations because the snow would melt. In the spring these locations were dug up and the green, bubbly, fish eyed and stinking stew was eaten as a delicacy. This was called tipnuk and was | eaten in various forms throughout Eskimo land. The one thing that never changed was the odor. When I refused to eat some one day an Eskimo pointed out that he understood since our canned carrots made him puke. It’s just what you are accustomed to. Early that summer we were asked to come into Bethel for a short training session. I believe it was really to observe us to see if we had made it through the winter without going a little crazy. The request was very agreeable with us, in that we could do a little shopping, visit and compare notes with our fellow teachers, see the Doctor and in general just kick our heals up a little. The village store manager handed me an envelope with a little over $10,000 in cash so that it could be deposited in their bank in Bethel. It was amazing but the plane actually arrived on the scheduled day. It was flown by the famous bush pilot Orville Tosh and was a Widgeon, which is a twin engine amphibian. The slough was too short and the tide was out so Tosh landed on our short muddy strip. We were ferried across the slough and loaded the plane including ten small barrels of salted herring going to various inland friends of the villagers. Tosh had already picked up one passenger at a previous stop. The pilot and I climbed in the cockpit and Gen and the other passenger got in the rear with the herring and a large amount of assorted freight. After starting both engines Tosh laboriously taxied to the end of the strip. I say laboriously since the tires on this plane
25: were only about 12 inches in diameter and were sinking into the strip. Turning the plane, he applied full throttle and very slowly we started rolling. At about 3/4 of the way down the strip he pulled back on the wheel and it isn't about to fly. Then as we went to the end of the strip he tried again, and even I knew we were not going to fly. With an oath he pulls the wheel retract lever but they had not started up as we hit the water. Upon impact, with the wheels down, the plane flipped upside-down and when I came to, my head was in the water. Evidently Tosh came to at about the same time and we let our seat belts loose simultaneously. At the time neither of us knew whether we were upside down or not and being in the water and out of breath we got into a minor skirmish. Luckily the front of the plane had been sheared off just at our feet and our little fight brought us out of the water and back on our feet. I was still groggy and climbed up on the first thing I came to, which was the underside of the wing. Attempting to stand, my foot missed a spar and I went through the canvas up to my hip. At that point Tosh, who was treading water, hollered, "Damn it, Lusby, get off my wing, I just had it covered!” As my head cleared and looking around not finding my wife, I climbed down and tearing the door open there was Geneva and the passenger, both in good shape. Some way I got my hands on a camera and started taking pictures. Gen in a scream suggested that it might be a good idea to start | picking up the stores money that was floating all around the plane. By that time a number of the villagers were in the water and started gathering the money. Remember that this was a poor time of the year and I knew that there was no way we could come close to retrieving all this cash. To my amazement they would not quit until every last dollar was accounted for and turned over to us. As we trudged back up to the school, I turned back for a view of the wreck. The upside down plane had both engines torn off and were laying about 100 feet out in the tundra across the slough. Both wings were gone and stubs of about four feet stuck out. Only the belly was showing, with the wheels still extended. The front just in front of the dash was gone. I doctored the contusions and it seemed that no one was seriously hurt except the passenger, who complained of his back. We radioed Bethel and in about an hour Jimmy Hoffman arrived in a Norseman to take us to Bethel. Believe me it took a lot for me to get in that plane. All the way to Bethel, Tosh sat by me and repeated, “You heard that right engine quit, didn't you?” Not only had I not heard the engine quit but just before the crash, I happened to glance at the right engine manifold pressure and that poor engine was doing all it could. I never told Tosh or anyone else about my observations. Both Gen and I signed papers that Gen had to type, assuring the company and the FAA that the right engine lost power on take
26: off. We were sent to the PHS hospital where we were introduced to a lovely lady who we had talked to by radio numerous times. She was the Medical Officer in Charge and proceeded to give us a thorough examination. While doing mine she pointed out that I had recently broken my right shoulder, (remember the ski jump?) and of course I agreed and admitted that I had not realized the wreck had hurt me that badly. She just laughed and pointed out that by recent she meant in the last year. I never could lie. With that the Airline Company bought us a new set of luggage, assured the native that they would handle his medical expenses, and kissed us goodbye. I always wondered if they charged the Government for that trip, but if I was a betting man, I would bet they did. We had spells of beautiful weather and I longed to go across Vancouver Strait to Nunivak Island and meet the people I had been talking to all winter. Also, the annual reindeer slaughter was underway over there. This was across about 40 miles of open Bearing Sea which was notorious for quick and dangerous storms any time of the year. All I had was an 18 ft. boat with a 9.8 HP Johnson outboard. None of the locals would consider this trip with me, including my friend Bob. Therefore my only out was my wonderful wife, who in her younger days would go along with most things I came up with. I carefully calculated the amount of gasoline needed and, thank goodness, added a little for an emergency. | On a beautiful day, without notifying anyone, we set out. I had no compass and from the surface of the sea you could not see Nunivak. From the times I had climbed Cape Vancouver, Nunivak looked as if it was very close. Someone must have been watching over us that day since it remained clear, calm and the sea was like a millpond. After a couple of hours of cruising we could see Nunivak. We had no idea just where Mekoryuk, the only village on the island, was located from our present position. As we got closer I elected to turn north and luckily chose the right direction. Rounding a point, there was a fisherman who didn't pay much attention until we got close. I hollered across the water and asked him where Mekoryuk was located. He looked up, saw two young whites, said something like “you American" and without another word started his outboard and headed north. That seemed strange since everyone was always so friendly. I was about to run out of gas. Assuming that he was headed for Mekoryuk we followed him and in about 20 minutes rounded another point opening into a bay and there was the village. It was almost like arriving at Tununak since everyone including the teachers and the Swedish Professor were lined up along the beach. After landing and meeting everyone the teacher gave us the explanation of the strange greeting we had received. This was the time of uneasiness, particularly in Alaska,
27: concerning the Russians. When the young man had spotted these two people in the Bearing Sea where no whites were supposed to be in a small boat, all he could think of was that we were an advance party of Russians who were invading the island. It caused a little panic when he arrived at the village and announced this. As we were eating dinner that evening with the Teachers, reindeer operation Personnel, and our friend the Professor from Copenhagen, the incident initiated quite a discussion concerning a "Russians" invasion. Someone asked the Professor if he could speak Russian. He advised, very little and spouted something none of us understood. When asked what he had said his straight faced reply was, "Are you Russian?" and "We love you." The beautiful weather turned sour and there we sat day after day waiting for a break. We very anxious to get back home since no one knew we were not at our station. After about five days, while the sea was still rough, the weather was such that Northern Consolidated announced on the radio that they were going to try to bring the mail to Mekoryuk. In about two hours we could hear the plane. Looking out over the bay we see a Norseman about 30 feet above the water with the lower engine’s cowling hanging down and flapping in the breeze. He landed and taxied to the beach. The pilot was our friend and unflappable bush pilot, Orville Tosh. Upon being informed of the cowling he said that he wondered why that old | turkey wouldn't climb at all. Then he got out and finding some wire pulled the cowling partially back into place. He advised that we could go with him and he would do his best to get us into Tununak. I made a deal with one of the men who would be making a trip into Bethel in his large boat, to tow ours back to Nelson Island. We climbed in and were greeted by a man and women who were tourists from Chicago. This was unusual and during our two years at Tununak were the only ones we saw. They of course had no idea how dangerous it had been coming cross the straits at about 40 feet of altitude. Tosh explained to them that he was going to make an unscheduled stop at Tununak and the landing would no doubt be rough, but not to worry. Sure enough without the load and with the cowling tied up we got up to about 2000 feet and started across to Nelson Island. We no longer considered ourselves cheechokos. Therefore, I took great pleasure in telling the lady tourist some great yarns, particularly as we flew over the wreck at Tununak. I pointed out that Tosh had been the pilot of the wrecked plane below. The gentleman was in the copilot’s seat and I do believe Tosh was also spinning a few. As we let down it was apparent that the bay was rough and although Tosh had a lot of guts, he elected not to land at Tununak. He pointed out that he would have to take us to Bethel. I countered by explaining this would
28: get me in hot water and how about landing in another bay across the island that should be sheltered from the winds. He pointed out that he had never been in there but since I felt there was plenty of water he would try it. I certainly did not wish to bother him by pointing out that I had never been there either. Sure enough the waves were not large and after circling a few times Tosh hollered back he was going to set down just to the right of a big rock sticking out of the bay. I agreed with this so he trims out and lands. As he starts to slow he starts dodging and screams back that submerged rocks were all around and I had assured him it was a good landing area. My reply of "how could I have known that since I had never been here before" brought dead silence from the front. I did think the lady tourist was going to faint. Now the hard part of this adventure started! Most of Nelson Island is on permafrost. Since a lot of the Island is gravel and the footing is firm and you don't realize this. This is not true of the low lying areas and valleys. This permafrost consists of vegetation that thaws in the summer and causes soft footing and rounded knobs, about the size of a human head, that are so close together that when you attempt to walk on them you continually slide off. This was the type of 20 miles we had to walk to cross the Island and get to Tununak. I was in pretty good shape but Gen, having been confined mostly to the classroom was not and the going was rough. | After five hours of this, with darkness falling, she was ready to give up. With the tundra as it was, no way could I be able to carry her very far. By insults and prods, along with often stops, we finally got to the point were a few lights could be seen at Tununak. That was incentive enough for her to make it home. That little trip was one of the most stupid things I had ever done and easily could have ended, numerous times, in tragedy. Any time the weather was nice I continued to explore Nelson Island. One of these trips took me to the top and far western part of Cape Vancouver. There, to my amazement, was a great deal of petrified wood. The largest piece was about three inches in diameter and the smallest was about two inches. Cape Vancouver was about 1600 feet above the ocean and the nearest elevation comparable to it was about ten miles away. I was so astonished and in awe of my discovery that I did not take any but left everything as it was found. I did take a number of photos using my rifle to give the shots some perspective. Upon returning to the village, by using an interpreter, I described all this to "Ma" Hopper. She listened intently to my excited explanation of what I had found. I asked if she was aware of any historical connection. Her reply was," haven't you ever read the part of the Bible telling of God flooding the Earth?” Not a bad answer, I guess! The sick part of this was that my excitement was so great that I told everyone I
29: ran into about this wonderful find, and all over the Kuskokwim Delta it became known as Genesis One, One. While it seemed no one believed me, yet years later I had the opportunity to fly over Cape Vancouver and after the pilot circled numerous times we discovered that all of the wood had disappeared. The district advisor for the Alaska National Guard flew in and talked me into signing up as well as about 20 of the villagers. This launched me into about 7 years of experiences that aged me rapidly. The real excitement was that he discovered that I enjoyed a drink but had not had one in a year. He sent out two bottles of gin and two of vermouth for martinis. The gin disappeared rapidly but the vermouth hung around until I decided that it would taste good alone. I drank a whole bottle one evening and almost died. What a hangover! The North Star arrived and set up two 4000 gallon bulk oil tanks and filled them instead of bringing all those barrels. This was about as nice a present as I could have wished for. They also brought some lumber and I built two outhouses for the school. This seemed to be an excellent idea until early in the winter I noticed the children going outside again. Enquiring why they were not using the outhouses, I was informed that it was “because they stink.” | CHAPTER 6: COLD AGAIN As winter descended the second year we felt that we were in better shape. For one thing our annual food order contained items we wanted instead of the standard order. We also knew by now that all we had to do to get fresh foods was to tell the Northern Consolidated radio man what we wanted and he would relay it to the local store that would fill the order, hopefully on the same day the plane came to our station, and charge it to us. Also there was the fantastic Sears Roebuck catalog to dream through and order from. While this system sounds good, naturally there were "glitches" in the procedure. In October, we ordered a Thanksgiving turkey, to make sure we had one on time. It finally arrived on January 6, which was the first plane that arrived since we ordered the turkey. The plane landed on the tundra in a howling windstorm. We ran out and held on to the plane to keep it from flying while on the ground with the engine off. The door opens and there stands Jimmy Hoffman holding a horrible looking package. His comment was "this old bird has more time in the air then I do." Evidently every time that they had attempted to come to Nelson Island the store would take it out of the freezer and deliver it to the plane which was warm and which thawed the bird. When they could not land it was taken back to the store and placed in the freezer. Even my wife who knew better
30: thought nothing about cooking this turkey as soon as possible and it was delicious. Another thing that occurred from this long delay between planes was a series of notices that turned into blistering call downs because I had not submitted the proper reports on time to the Postal Department in San Francisco. Naturally I pointed out that they were all date stamped on time and that we had no mail service for 3 months. Their reply was that my date stamping them on time even though they were late was a cheap trick and that their records indicated that the mail had been delivered each week during the time I indicated no service. After calming down and retrieving the horrible letter I had written and mailed, (one good thing about being Postmaster) it seemed best not to stir things up, since after all I was dependant upon the airline to bring any mail. I also received a large order from Sears totaling about $60 along with a series of letters pointing out that I owed them 14 cents. Each of these notices also became stronger until one letter from their lawyer indicated that they were turning the matter over to the sheriff in Nome who would no doubt arrive to serve a warrant for my arrest. That upset me so my reply to them was to have at it. Don't forget that to get from Nome to Nelson Island required, at that time that you fly to Fairbanks, then to Anchorage, to Bethel and then either charter or wait for the mail plane. I never heard from them again, but will admit that about six months later sent them their money. | About the middle of winter on awakening, in the middle of the night, and finding Gen not in bed, I started looking for her and became quite concerned when I could not locate her. Going through the back of the school I noticed the trap door open to an earthen cellar we used to store eggs, onions and potatoes. There she sat cutting sprouts from six month old potatoes and eating them raw. She pointed out that she just had a craving for something fresh. As she soon started having morning sickness even we had a good idea what was wrong. In any case we thought it best to check with the doctor by radio. My radio was such that you had to change antennas, dial a number, etc. in order to change from transmit to receive. After telling the Doctor of Gen’s symptoms, her reply was "Bud, she is pregnant." In doing the change over I screwed up the procedure and not knowing I was on the air, screamed "ah shit." This was met with dead silence until the Doctor came on the air and said "that may be but she is still pregnant." So with that we announced the forthcoming birth of our first child to anyone listening in that part of the world. From the radio calls received everyone must have been listening. We received a document, about the size of a book, indicating we were to study it and then present to the people of the Island the possibility of forming a reservation. While I had mixed feelings regarding this, I did not have to take sides so I proceeded to address
31: groups on this matter. By dog team again I went across the Island and after we all crowded into the local earthen igloo and for the first time I met an Eskimo who was a well educated and articulate man who spoke beautiful English. It only took a few minutes to discover that he did not like me and was of the opinion that all whites were against the Eskimo. My explanation that there was no intent on my part to sway them either way was to no avail, and I immediately lost in the game of one “upsmanship". One point I refused to lose in was when this gentleman offered to the leaders a wooden box of what looked like pre chewed tobacco. Then he offered it to me and implied it would be an insult not to take some. With the incident of tuberculosis this of course was ridiculous but being young and dumb I took a wad and proceeded to chew. In any case, when the vote was taken across the Island it was turned down by a wide margin, and considering what eventually occurred as to Indian Land Claims, it no doubt would have made no difference anyway. My friend Bob would take me out on the ice hunting seal. One bitter cold day we were along the beach at Cape Vancouver where the ice was moving and grinding when we spotted a large bearded seal. We both shot at the same time and killed it, but retrieval would be difficult because of the movement of the ice. He, of course was hungry, and decided to disconnect the dogs and push the sled onto the ice to load the kill. He indicated that I was to | stay on the shore, but of course I would not do this. As we went on to the ice it was an eerie feeling as it ground and crushed. We loaded the seal which I guarantee was extremely heavy. Bob was pulling and I was pushing the sled when the ice opened beneath me and down I went. My hands were jerked off the handles but I managed to catch the runners. I felt my feet going into the water. We got the sled to the beach and Bob made me start running for the village, about 4 miles away, while he hooked up the sled and followed. He made me run all the way to the village. As I sat down and cut off the brand new reindeer leg mukluks that were hard from the frozen water, there was no question in my mind that my feet were also frozen. My feet were nice and pink and magically, feeling immediately returned. Not one drop of water had penetrated the beautiful boots Ma Hooper had made for me. I had teased Bob about Eskimos being afraid of various sea animals, including walrus. One day we were hunting and spotted a herd of walrus sleeping on the beach. As we got into position to kill some of them Bob stopped me and laid his rifle down. He then started crawling towards the largest bull in the herd, which was snoring and evidently enjoying his snooze. He crawled up to his face and suddenly reached out, grabbing the bull by both tusks and shook him. With a mighty roar the walrus came alive and took off after Bob who elected to run directly at the
32: place I was hiding. It must have been a hilarious sight to see two mighty hunters running down the beach with a ton of mad walrus chasing them. To say the least we did not get any walrus that day but never again did I tease Bob about his fears. At nights we started having our garbage cans raided and knew it had to be a large animal to turn over the heavy cans. Staying up with the lights off one night we discovered our thief to be a good looking underfed dog. This was unusual since the villagers always tied their sled dogs. Inquiring, I found one family who had a dog break his chain and escape, but since he did not make a good sled dog they didn't want him back and suggested I kill him. That was not about to happen! By enticing him with various foods, over a period of a month we got him to finally come into the kitchen. I then made a bad mistake in that I got between him and the open back door. He turned into a vicious, snarling animal until I got out of the way, and opened his escape path. Over another period of time we discovered that he was not that frightened of Geneva and she could get him in the house, slowly shut the door and pet him. It turns out that the wife of the former owner had been the one to feed this animal. We named him Taliak, meaning wild dog, and decided we would keep him if we could tame him. Slowly he became useful to me and turned into a beautiful husky. We had a small sled made and over a period of time he caught on that he | was to do the pulling, not me. It was amazing to see this dog get down on his stomach attempting to pull the sled when I had it heavily loaded with garbage to take out into the tundra. We have a picture of this dog standing up with his paws on my shoulder and he was so tall his head was even with mine. When we left this station we gave Taliak to my friend Bob who later reported that he was one of his best team dogs, but never turned into a leader. We would sometimes go for months with windy or clouds low to the ground. Remember, the school and quarters would be under a snow bank that would cover the whole building, except for the chimneys that I kept dug out. One day we heard over the radio that last night there was a tremendous storm in our area and the closest weather station, some 40 miles away had their anemometer carried away at 114 miles per hour. Since we slept through it this shows one good point about living under a snow bank.
33: CHAPTER 7: VACATION AND A NEW STATION As summer began we looked forward to a summer school session in Utah and had been informed that we were to move to a new station on the Kuskokwim about thirty miles above Bethel upon our return from the States in the fall. Our departure date was set and after giving away our food supply we patiently waited for the plane. The wait was made much easier by Father Deschout who each evening would bring us a bottle of sacramental wine. Gen had saved enough food to have one last dinner and of course we shared it with the good Father. We drank his wine and enjoyed the good stories he could tell until Gen complained of an extreme headache and then fainted. I started to get up and with that my face dropped into my dinner plate and I also passed out. Father Deschout was not even bothered but jumped up and opened the doors. On coming to I immediately checked the generator and found where a snow bank had collapsed onto the exhaust system of the generator and the fumes were being diverted back into the building. Without Father Deschout's presence and good thinking we no doubt would have died from the fumes. As it was, we thought that death was near for the next few days because of the horrible headaches we had. In order to get off the Island it was of course necessary to fly and since last summers crash
34: it wasn't easy to fly into Bethel and then into Anchorage. There we boarded a large Boeing Stratocruser for the flight to Seattle. Gen was frightened of the large aircraft but after a couple of drinks we boarded. As soon as we took off, down to the lower cocktail lounge we go. About 4 1/2 hours later and quite a number of drinks she looks out the window and asks what the lights are just out of Anchorage. That was a quick trip! We had an extensive vacation, back to Kentucky and then to Brigham City, Utah where we met some nice people from Alaska. In particular we met Paul and Charlotte Winsor, teachers at Hooper Bay, which was a large school north of us. We later talked to them numerous times on the radio and they would become dear friends. Geneva was very pregnant and suffered from the heat and traveling but put up with it. Finally, broke again and traveled out, back we go to Alaska looking forward to our new station. The facilities at Kwethluk were much better then Tununak, and was only about 30 river miles from the Hospital at Bethel. It was a two classroom school and we would both be teaching even though I knew my teaching abilities were nothing to brag about. It was located on the Kuskokwak River just off of the Kuskokwim. This hospital was now a series of Quonset huts since the regular hospital had burned completely during the last winter. Kwethluk had a light plant building, two storage buildings and a hot house. The interior had two | bedrooms, living room, kitchen and a bath room that had the honey bucket a sink and a bath tub. It was really down town, except that no water went to any of the fixtures and a bucket had to be used when any fixture drained. Still, quite an improvement from Tununak! The main reason we got this station was that we assured our supervisor that we could grow anything. This was because we knew he was attempting to get the people of the Kuskokwim to use a garden to improve their diet. Since we did not know anything about gardening we immediately started correspondence with the University of Alaska on what would grow and how to grow it. We bought an 18 ft. boat with outboard from the former teachers and started fishing. After inquiring it seemed that most of the sport fisherman in the area agreed that King salmon would not strike a lure this far up into fresh water (about 150 miles). Using my brand new Sears rig I was casting for anything when something about the size of an alligator decided it wanted my lure and all the line. It turns out that Kings would hit a lure, no doubt from hunger since their stomach would be empty. In various locations you could catch salmon, cut throat trout, pike, whitefish, grayling, Dolly Varden and during a short run you could seine Smelt. An awful illustration of the voracious appetite of the pike was illustrated to me by a local who stepped out into the tundra and caught a field mouse. He then pushed the boat out into the slough and wrapping the line and hook around the mouse, placed it on a lily pad. The surface exploded with fish after this mouse. | it wasn't easy to fly into Bethel and then into Anchorage. There we boarded a large Boeing Stratocruser for the flight to Seattle. Gen was frightened of the large aircraft but after a couple of drinks we boarded. As soon as we took off, down to the lower cocktail lounge we went. About 4 1/2 hours later and quite a number of drinks she looked out the window and asked what the lights were just out of Anchorage. That was a quick trip! We had an extensive vacation, back to Kentucky and then to Brigham City, Utah where we met some nice people from Alaska. In particular we met Paul and Charlotte Winsor, teachers at Hooper Bay, which was a large school north of us. We later talked to them numerous times on the radio and they would become dear friends. Geneva was very pregnant and suffered from the heat and traveling but put up with it. Finally, broke again and traveled out, back we went to Alaska looking forward to our new station. The facilities at Kwethluk were much better then Tununak. It was a two classroom school and we would both be teaching even though I knew my teaching abilities were nothing to brag about. We were only about 30 river miles from the Hospital at Bethel. It was located on the Kuskokwak River just off of the Kuskokwim. This hospital was a series of Quonset huts since the regular hospital had burned completely during the last winter. Kwethluk had a light plant building, two storage buildings and a hot house. The interior had two
35: into the tundra and caught a field mouse. He then pushed the boat out into the slough and wrapping the line and hook around the mouse, placed it on a lily pad. The surface exploded with fish after this mouse. With Bethel an easy access we had a number of visitors that would fly or boat in and had regular mail service. My buddy Jimmy Hoffman was flying the river mail service during this period so I would take numerous trips and special charters with him. As school started and I was now teaching, these extra curricular activities came to a halt and it was all I could do trying to teach the fifth through eight grade. Since we were both teaching we had a special assistant who pumped the oil, brought in the water and various other chores. In September our first son, Stuart, was born in the Quonset hut of the hospital at Bethel. Being a "macho" I elected to be with Geneva doing delivery. This turned out to be a horrible mistake since the closer it came and the more she screamed the further I managed to get away. After staying out on the tundra most of the night, Gen informs me that the boy weighs 8 1/2 pounds by the scales that the hospital used to weigh fish for their dog team. At about the same time we got another baby in the form of a dog. King was a registered Labrador retriever and in his short life became a big part of the family. His entire lineage had been outdoor dogs so we were not about to modify that. It was heart rendering to hear that pup under the building at forty below, | whining, but it wasn't long before his fur became long and very thick, and even though he wanted to be in the house with us he could only stand the heat for a short period of time. During the latter part of this winter Jimmy Hoffman, who was on the regular mail run from Bethel to all the river stations up to Aniak, asked me to go along on a run just for company, assuring me I would be back in only a few hours. I decided to go even though it was the middle of the week and we were not to leave our station without advising our supervisor. After all, no one would miss me for just a few hours. The trip was uneventful up to Aniak where an emergency message awaited Jimmy indicating that the winter watchman at the Eagles Nest gold mine was almost out of oil and some 35 barrels would have to be flown in to the mine immediately. Jimmy called watchman on the radio and confirmed the emergency as well as the assurance that the landing strip was in excellent shape. With that we loaded in 7 barrels of oil in the Norseman. The airworthiness certificate indicated that with an empty belly tank it could carry 1500 lbs. The oil weighed about 2300 lbs., I was about 180 and Jim was about the same making a total of about 1100 lbs. over the allowable weight. My concern, expressed to Jimmy, was waved away with his assurance that the Norseman engine could get anything off the ground that we could get in the plane. Down the Kuskokwim River we went | into the tundra and caught a field mouse. He then pushed the boat out into the slough and wrapping the line and hook around the mouse, placed it on a lily pad. The surface exploded with fish after this mouse. With Bethel an easy access we had a number of visitors that would fly or boat in and had regular mail service. My buddy Jimmy Hoffman was flying the river mail service during this period so I would take numerous trips and special charters with him. As school started and I was now teaching, these extra curricular activities came to a halt and it was all I could do trying to teach the fifth through eight grade. Since we were both teaching we had a special assistant who pumped the oil, brought in the water and various other chores. In September our first son, Stuart, was born in the Quonset hut of the hospital at Bethel. Being a "macho" I elected to be with Geneva doing delivery. This turned out to be a horrible mistake since the closer it came and the more she screamed the further I managed to get away. After staying out on the tundra most of the night, Gen informs me that the boy weighs 8 1/2 pounds by the scales that the hospital used to weigh fish for their dog team. At about the same time we got another baby in the form of a dog. King was a registered Labrador retriever and in his short life became a big part of the family. His entire lineage had been outdoor dogs so we were not about to modify that. It was heart rendering to hear that pup under the building at forty below,
36: with full throttle and we must have gone at least two miles before he could get the plane in the air. Then another mile or so before he could gain enough altitude to even turn the aircraft. We could barely clear the small hills which surround the Kuskokwim, but slowly the plane was climbing. Looking out the front window Jimmy spots a grizzly bear on the summit of a hill and points out that he was going to scare him as that was the direction we were headed. The bear had another idea, since as we barely cleared the hill the bear stood on his back legs and took a mighty swipe at us. For a second I thought he had a big bird for dinner. As we went higher there was not much left to see except snow and some willows now and then. It turned out that Jim had never landed at this location, (naturally bush pilots being what they are, Jim would never have considered talking to someone that had), but he had flown over the mine numerous times. He pointed out it was in a box canyon and we had to get in on the first pass since we could not climb out the other end nor was the canyon wide enough for us to complete a turn with the load we were carrying. To say the least, my enthusiasm for this trip was about gone. Spotting what he "thinks" is the right canyon, down it we went on the left side hugging the wall of the canyon because it turned out the strip is at ninety degrees to the canyon. All I could see was snow and willows, when suddenly Jim screams "there it is." I still saw nothing, but with a hard right turn, and pulling | back the throttle we came down through some willows that hit the bottom of the plane. The next thing was a complete white out as we came to a quick and abrupt halt in a deep snow with the barrels rattling around just in back of us. We were completely buried because of our weight even though we were on skis. Since the doors all opened out we could not do anything except open a window and stare at the snow. Eventually we heard a noise from above and finally the Swede watchman digs down to Jimmy's window. As the Swede looks down at us Jim hollers at him "damn it Olef you told me on the radio this strip was in good shape." Olef's reply in very broken English was, "I don't understand it since I walked all over it in snow shoes this morning and didn't sink." With that we spent a few hours digging the plane out and unloading the oil. Since we had used only a small portion of the strip when we made our abrupt landing and since we could not taxi in the deep, deep snow and since most of the strip was still in front of us we only cleared a few feet in front of the propeller and did not attempt to turn the plane. Thank goodness! Jim assured me that with the light plane, and the mighty engine, it would jump right up on top of the deep snow. Since he was the only "expert" there I had no choice but to believe him. We got in, started the engine, and warmed it up. As the throttle was advanced the snow was blinding for a long two or three seconds, but sure enough the
37: plane jumped up on top of the snow and as our forward vision cleared all I could see was willows on the other side of the canyon and the canyon wall. We made it, but on the return to Aniak Jimmy announced that now that the hard part was done he would take in nine barrels next trip. It's hardly worth saying that he made the remaining trips without me. So some three days after leaving on a few hours' trip, I got back to Kwethluk. In January we had ordered seed for our garden enterprise and the first thing we planted was celery seed in a coffee can. It became quite a job transplanting these into more and more containers. We were afraid to let any of them go since we had no idea of the attrition rate. By the time we could plant this celery in outdoor covered planters the house was about full. In the hothouse we planted tomatos and cucumbers and the main garden was composed of potatoes, rhubarb, cabbage and lettuce. Everything grew well except the lettuce. Naturally a number of odd things did occur. The tomatoes and cucumbers, in the hothouse, were beautiful plants that had a number of blooms that would drop off and never produce anything. One day a neighbor dropped by and after explaining my problem she asked if I had ever heard of the birds and bees. A little paint brush to pollinate with cured this problem. The celery and cabbage turned into a real fiasco since we had so much of both and the Eskimos did not like either. This did not seem like any real problem since all fresh | things had to be flown into Bethel and the price was naturally high. By the boat load I would take celery to Bethel until finally I started noticing even my friends would not be home and in some cases the blinds would be drawn as I approached with an arm load of celery or cabbage. Everything else grew rather well and sure tasted good, but the only thing the Eskimos really liked were the potatoes, which because of the cold ground only grew to the size of a half dollar. So much for an Eskimo garden culture! In the fall, my sister Evelyn arrived to help me take care of Stuart while Geneva was giving birth to our second child. Geneva stayed in Bethel with the Winsors who had been transferred to Bethel where he had been promoted to the area supervisor. Knowing better than to be very close while birth was going on, Evelyn and I stayed at Kwethluk with Stuart and boated into Bethel periodically. One of the villagers came over and advised that his wife was "sick" and would I please go to their house and see if I could help her. I noticed that no one wanted to go in the house with me. This was understandable since when I entered the one room cabin there was an awful scream and this lady, who was normally very nice, threw a table made from 2x4's across the room at me. After questioning her friends it was apparent that the lady had mental problems and had had them for a long time. Her husband had attempted to get her into a mental institution for some time to no
38: avail. He pleaded with me to do something about the problem. That is when I found out that (at that time in Alaska) charges would have to be filed against her in a court in order to have her committed. Her neighbors and friends, including the men, were badly frightened of anyone who was mentally unstable and since I didn't know any better and the bush pilots would not fly her, even tied up, I agreed to take her to Bethel and testify in the local court as to her instability. No one would accompany me, so tying her up, with help, and loading her into my boat we head for Bethel. About halfway there her extra strength helped her to almost get untied, so I wrapped her up with more line and by the time we reached Bethel she looked like a mummy. Also, upon arriving Bethel, our second child, Laura, had been born. Now that made it a full day. I had one other frightening experience with a mentally unstable person. Again I was asked to go look at a man who was sick. Since this term was used for anything, it did not occur to me that anything strange was about to happen. The young man was in bed under covers and as I talked to him I noticed that sometimes he gave me strange answers, also that it appeared he had something about three feet long under the covers with him. It never occurred to me that there was any danger involved, until I got up to get something and noticed what ever it was, under the covers, followed me around the room. Just a little later while talking I heard a double click and I was | then convinced that he had a rifle under the covers aimed at me. I sat there talking to him for about three hours. Some of this time was frightening since he would become incoherent. I finally talked him into letting me have the rifle. It was a 30 caliber carbine, fully loaded and cocked and had been aimed at me all afternoon. The annual encampment of the National Guard was held in Anchorage that year. While there, the company grade officers were sent to Elmendorf Air Force Base to be briefed by the Army as to our mission should the Russians invade Alaska. There was quite a scare at this time as to this possibility. My briefing was carried out by a Colonel who advised that my mission was to take the Scouts out of the villages and into the mountains about 150 miles away. I honestly thought that I did not understand what he was saying and told him so, but it became clear that I was to abandon my family and convince 84 Eskimos to do the same. The Army would supply us in the mountains. Of course it seemed to me that if the US could find us so could the Russians, and particularly if they held our families. This was my first real falling out with the National Guard because I proceeded to tell this Colonel what I thought of this stupid plan. In checking with my fellow officers they unanimously agreed with me, with one exception who said nothing. This of course was the start of a lot of disagreements I had with the Army/Guard.
39: I returned home with a live King Crab that was six feet across and it was a sight when Gen opened the box and this crab started unfolding. She announced that our dog had tried to be friendly with a dog team and had been slashed up badly and was barely surviving. He did make it and from then on, even as a pup, he started turning into a real fighter. By the time he was a year old, any team that came down the river was challenged by King. He would run in front of the team and stop them. He would then parade up and down the line of dogs until one tried him on. Then all would jump into the fight. Naturally King had the advantage since the team would get tangled up in the traces and he would have at them until they all cowered from him. By this time he had whipped every dog in the village except one and would try him at least once a day. After the encampment, as you might imagine, I was not well thought of by the National Guard and the Juneau headquarters had pointed out to us in the field that we were not being serious enough nor were we leaders using imagination in training exercises. After kicking this around with my Sergeants in the three villages and then receiving a unanimous vote by all the enlisted men for an undertaking where they would only be paid for one two hour session, I planned a real exercise. At the last week in January when it was running about 35 degrees below zero, my Company assembled at Kwethluk and we departed for Bethel, by dog | team, just as it was getting dark. Having assigned each squad and group a mission we captured Bethel at 12:30 AM. This included closing down the FAA, the Alaska Communications System, jailing of the mayor and other officials including the entire National Guard 2nd Scout Battalion Headquarters group. At this point nothing but emergency communications or air traffic could get in or go out of Bethel. We maintained this status for four hours and departed at 4:30 AM. I guess I should not have closed the FAA down. This exercise made the front page of the Anchorage paper and, of course, I was called on the carpet by every agency in Alaska, but I assure you no one in the Guard ever again accused me of not having an imagination. The men really enjoyed this maneuver and we laughed over it many times. Seeing the millions of geese coming north for the summer was too much for someone who had been able to eat only a small amount of fresh meat all winter. One day I shot a snow goose and since the ice was moving out, Gen was down on the river bank, plucking, and watching the action when I heard a plane go over. Looking out of the window the plane came back and Gen waved and tossed a bunch of the white feathers into the air. I almost fainted when I spotted the insignia of the Fish and Wildlife on the side of the plane. While he was making another turn to come back I ran out and grabbed Gen, bringing her into the school. Since ice was
40: still in the river they could not land, but in about three days sure enough they could land and did. Coming up to the school we gave them coffee and cookies and they inquired about the goose episode. Since Gen cannot lie about anything I had to, and of course denied any knowledge of the affair. They naturally were not stupid and asked that I warn everyone that goose season did not start until Fall and anyone killing them now was breaking the law. They departed with a big grin on their faces. King, who had only seen water as a small pup, was extremely excited by breakup. As the ice started its first cracking and slight movement, he would stand on it staring down trying to figure out what was going on. As the movement became greater and the massive slabs of ice would rear up and turn over he would jump from one slab to another and when water appeared, in he would go. The only way to keep him from doing this was to tie him. After breakup a friend flew in and wanted to go goose hunting, and in so doing caused what would eventually cause King's death. We loaded into the plane, on floats, with the dog standing between the two seats. The roar of the plane and sensation of flying pleased King and as the pilot would push forward or pull back on the stick, the dogs big ears would fly up or down. We landed on the river and went inland a few hundred feet to natural blinds on a lake. As we waited, the dog, who had never seen a goose, sat in my blind quivering in anticipation. On the first flight | I missed my shot and received a bad look from my dog. On the second flight I did down one and asked King to stay. He was sitting in a pool of ice water and shaking badly, not from the cold but waiting for the retrieve command. Upon giving the command he exploded into the water and very gently returned the goose to me. Remember this dog had only practiced retrieving on a sock and had never experienced any thing like a goose hunt. The children loved King and this was reciprocated, but there is something about a good dog that is beyond my comprehension. As a case in point, Geneva wanted Stuart to have some sun but since the Eskimo villagers, particularly the children, loved to be around and touch him we were worried about TB which was throughout this area. Not to worry! Gen put him out in front of the school in a play pen on the wooden board walk. In spite of Kings love for everyone, he would not allow anyone to get close to Stuart. It was not just a threat since he would bare his teeth and let out a growl to even the children who could normally pull his ears or ride him like a pony. This type of action by King brought about a delegation from the villagers requesting I tie up my viscous dog. Nothing I said would convince them that King was not mean but only following an instinct. That took care of the baby being outside and in a few days everyone loved the dog again. It was a good summer in that we could,
41: and did, get to Bethel often and made and enjoyed some good friends. Most of these people were extremely individualistic. One story that was attested to might illustrate this point. One of the funniest men I ever had the experience to meet was Squeak Elliot. He had never had a flying lesson. But since all his friends flew and it was a way of life, if you wished to get anywhere, he had acquired a plane. Squeak would take the written test each time he could when the CAA man came to Bethel. Since he never studied, he always failed. After a long time this CAA man felt so sorry for him that he gave Squeak a passing grade. Now it was time for the flying test. As Squeak related the story, "My plane was down on the ice on skies, so I walked around it kicking the tires and shaking the wings because I knew it would impress him. We got into the plane. I fired it up and we took off. As I completed an excellent take off, the engine caught on fire, and I landed straight ahead, got out and started throwing snow on the fire. We, of course, were a couple of miles from Bethel and looking around I saw the tester trudging towards town. Having nothing to lose, I also strolled back to town. I found the shook up tester having a cup of coffee while shaking and trying to explain what had just happened to him. I thought what the heck? When I asked him for my license he just mumbled something about never flying with me again and wrote out my temporary license while pointing out that the permanent one would be mailed to me." | The garden project had mixed results. We had cucumbers, tomatoes, little potatoes, cabbage and celery all over the area. We didn’t know secrets like sacking the celery to make it the light green color. Ours was yellow. Since anything fresh in Bethel had to be flown in at considerable expense, I would periodically completely load my boat with celery and cabbage to take to Bethel for what I thought was a wonderful treat. After a while I noticed the blinds being drawn and no one answering the door when I rang with arm loads of vegetables. One day while in Bethel one of my pilot friends stopped me and pointed out that a group of them had gotten together and bought an old Quonset hut and had formed a club, called The Pilots Club. First he asked if I had ever gotten my pilots license, and of course my answer had to be no. The second question was if I was taking lessons. Again… no. The third was "have you ever flown in a plane?" The only way to get to Bethel was by plane so I immediately qualified for membership. Boy, we did have some parties there. Another time my buddy, Jimmy Hoffman, and I were talking and he pointed out that he had finally found a way to stop a party in Bethel. Now that was not an easy thing to do. Jimmy came in late one day after a lot of flying and was tired. Upon opening the door his wife announced that he should hurry since she had invited some friends over for drinks. They started arriving and putting their
42: coats in the bedroom. He pointed out the first thing the women do is use your “honey bucket.” It wasn't long before his wife whispers that the honey bucket was full and should be emptied. Jim was more interested in getting and enjoying a few drinks. A little later his wife announced that panic was now present since the full honey bucket was overflowing onto the floor. He decided he had better empty it. Now keep in mind that some criteria in Alaska make the floor plan so that the honey bucket must be carried through the kitchen or the living room. In Jim's case it was the living room. He is half way across the room when the bail of the bucket lets go, and the bucket hit flat with the contents going over and on a number of people. They started brushing the waste off and running for their coats at the same time. As per Jim, "That's the only way I know to stop a party in Bethel." Another story Squeak told me had to do with a J-3 Cub, a small airplane that had crashed just above Mt. Village on the Yukon. This plane had been surveyed by the insurance company and written off. Recovery of the plane, or even parts, seemed remote since it had crashed a couple of miles from the river into trees. Squeak made a very small offer for the wreck and it was accepted. He enlisted the help of his younger brother, Sampy, who was just as wild as Squeak, to undertake the recovery of the plane. At this time neither had any kind of a pilot license. Packing some clothes, portable welding equipment, food and | various needed items, they were landed on the Yukon and packed in. The plane's major structural damage was that the wings were torn off and the skin was ripped off all over the plane from coming down through the trees. They cut down the small trees to make a short landing strip, welded the wings on, covered the wings and tail and were ready to retrieve their plane. As Squeak explained, "We drew straws to see who would be the takeoff man. Sampy lost, and tying the tail to a tree he got the engine going full throttle. I cut the rope and he had just lifted off when he went into the trees. But outside of shearing the wings off and the fact that Sampy was not hurt it was no big deal." Now, at this point most men would have stopped, not the Elliots. They pulled the plane out of the trees, put it together, cut a few more trees and tried again. Squeak says, "I thought for a minute that he might make it." As far as I know the plane still rests where it went down.
43: CHAPTER 8: TO CIVILIZATION In February our Boss Paul Winsor made a combined personal and official visit to our station. We put on a show for him in that we had a fire break out in one of the store rooms and barely caught it in time to prevent a serious loss. In putting it out I got a dose of carbon tetrachloride. He asked if we felt like transferring if he found us a better job. Since Gen had had problems with the last pregnancy with our second child, we knew that eventually we were going to have more health problems, even if they were only minor. In a few weeks Paul returned and said that if I wanted it there was a job opening in Juneau with the construction and maintenance group of BIA for an Electrical Engineer. We jumped at this although we had many fond feelings of Kwethluk. It seemed that I had to leave immediately, so leaving Gen at the station I departed for Juneau. She, with the two kids and the responsibility of the station, had more than she wanted but did agree to stay while they located another teacher couple to take our place. This evidently was not so easy so they eventually hired a single man to take over the station with the help of a local teacher aid who spoke pretty good English. He arrived and after an inventory of our annual groceries they agreed on a price. Gen with the help of Frieda, an eight grade student of mine who was a very nice young lady that had never experienced the "outside world", departed for Juneau. We, of | course, never received all our money for the groceries since the new teacher departed after only a month. Gen had a reservation in the largest and best hotel in Anchorage, at that time. It never occurred to her that they did not want Frieda to stay there, and it took a great deal of talking, and the assurance that they would be out in the early AM, before most people were up before she was allowed to stay. My how the wheel turns! This hotel is now owned by an Alaska Native group. I had found a small house close to the waterfront in Juneau. It wasn't a very nice house or location. For one thing the rats were about the size of bunnies. A frightening experience occurred one day when Frieda turned her back and our 3 year old son, Stuart, disappeared. She and Gen looked in a panic over several blocks and was about to call the police when a motorist stopped and asked if Geneva had lost a small boy and if so she should look on the Juneau-Douglas bridge which was about 3 blocks away. Running to the bridge she found Stu happily strolling along and making pretty good time. This bridge, at the middle, is about 150 feet above the water. One episode with Frieda will illustrate, that although very bright, it was difficult for her to comprehend the civilization as we knew it. Gen, thinking that since she needed a new pair of shoes, had me drop her off at the shoe store. Gen had explained that the salesman
44: would show her anything she wished to see. Leaving her with some money, I went about my business and then went back for Frieda at the appointed time. She had some new shoes but didn't seem to be too happy. When we got home Gen knew something was wrong and assumed it must have been the salesmen that had somehow upset her but Frieda insisted this was not the case. After talking to her for awhile Gen asked Frieda to model her new shoes, and was startled to see how hard it was for the young lady to get the shoes on. Once on it was apparent that they were not comfortable. On comparing the size with Frieda's old shoes it became apparent the new shoes were way too small. It turns out that these were the first pair that the salesman showed Frieda and she was not aware she could try them on there. She thought that he would know the size and style she needed. Another trip to town and after a little explanation the owner-salesman gave her a lot of good service and a pair of shoes that fit. I enjoyed my work in Juneau, which at first had to do with a rewire program for about 150 locations of older schools throughout Alaska for which the Bureau was responsible. I was to do the design and take off of materials and direct one electrician as to when and how to do the work. No one told me that the electrician was alcoholic, but of course it didn't take long for me to discover this. If I kept him in the field and away from any city where booze was allowed, there was no problem, and in fact he was an excellent professional who could | improvise in the "bush". In addition our small group was responsible for all the new Bureau construction in Alaska. This included the design, take off of materials and supervising the crafts in the field. It kept us more then busy. At this time we were responsible for contract management of a new Public health Service in Anchorage. This was a large undertaking for such a few people, but it finally was completed and the contractor called for a final inspection. The major problem was that all during the construction process, the problem of plaster cracking was never solved and as part of the final we had to record the measured length of the cracks in each room. We had worked for a week on this inspection. Late Friday we gathered up our tools but our boss was missing. He was not young, so we were concerned and looked all over the Hospital numerous times. We had just about given up, thinking that he might have gone back to the motel to rest and had fallen asleep. One of the guys went back up to the fifth floor to the psychiatric wing, which had the self-locking door. Not having the key, he pounded on the door and sure enough our boss showed up. He had been locked in just after lunch and after trying for hours to get out had laid down on one of the beds and gone to sleep. No telling when he would have been found if the one guy had not taken a final look. One of our other duties was to do an annual maintenance order for each of the
45: some 160 schools throughout Alaska. Using requests from Teachers and orders from Plant Managers at 4 locations, we would assign priorities and then order materials to accomplish the work. These orders were assembled, and sent to GSA in Seattle, using various catalogs from suppliers in Seattle. One of our favorites, for plumbing, was the Sexauer Catalog. We worked a lot of late hours and after the secretaries were gone we would resort to Dictaphones so that the following day the orders could be typed. On my next trip to Seattle one of the buyers grabbed me and drug me to the bulletin board at the main entrance to the large GSA complex. On it was one of our orders which had been typed exactly as put in the Dictaphone. After a number of plumbing items it said "end of Sexhauer". This was circled in red with a note saying "This is what they do in the Juneau office and we have a hard time getting a coffee break!" Gen’s father and stepmother decided to visit us, so we suggested it be during the time of the King Salmon Derby. While they were from Kentucky, her father was an avid fisherman. On the flight from Seattle, Harry was in a conversation with a fellow traveler, and when Harry asked the purpose of his trip, was advised that he was headed north for the Derby. Harry in a serious note replied that he had no idea that they had horse races in Juneau. After telling me the story I asked what the man had said and Harry replied that the man just stared at him. | By this time I had another boat and Harry and I went fishing. It was the first time fishing in salt water, for me. After trolling all day for salmon, with no luck, we elected to bottom fish. This did give us some startling results. We started bringing in a type of flat fish of about 15 pounds each time we tried. Neither of us had any idea of what we were catching, so we released all but one fish. Were we surprised when we arrived back at the dock! We were advised that they were excellent eating halibut! You can take the boy out of the country but, etc. Gen and I did do a lot of out door things in Southeast Alaska, but the most frightening one, was a weekend trip to Admiralty Island by six of us, three guys and three ladies. As you have probably have heard, Admiralty Island is the home of an outrageous number of brown bear. They have a variable disposition from fear to downright mean. I had brought along a 30-06 rifle but no one else was armed. We planned to hike about five miles inland to a lake that had a Forest Service cabin. The trail was narrow and for the only time in my life I had this bad feeling and the hairs on the back of my neck really seemed to rise. When we came to a glade where it was apparent bear had been feeding and the tracks, about a foot in diameter, had grass slowly rising to the vertical with water seeping into the tracks, I finally convinced the group to leave. The return trip back to the boats was much more rapid then when we came in.
46: My friend Jerry, although a wonderful person, was what we termed "left footed". It didn't matter what we got into, he seemed gifted with the ability to create a problem. One morning he called and wanted me to go up to the silver creek dam to fish. I, of course, jumped at the chance. This lake is about a 5 mile hike up the mountain, and in parts is very steep. After a normal day of no fish we started down, and in climbing a steep hill came upon a forest service outhouse. These, at that time were open two “holers” that cantilevered out over the cliff and had no doors. As my eyes came in view of the outhouse it was apparent a lady was using it. My best thought was to keep my eyes straight ahead and just keep walking. After going down the other side, and out of sight of the lady, I waited for Jerry, to get his reaction, which I was sure would be unique. He pops over the hill, sees the women on the seat, stops, lifts his hat and said "Waiting for a bus Ma’am?" I had not been in Juneau long before the boss began using me to troubleshoot the new construction that we had each year. In one case he caught me in the field with a wire to proceed out on the chain to a project that was having problems. No hint of what the problems were. So after proceeding to Anchorage and flying with Reeve Aleutian Airlines for half a day, I found myself alone at an abandoned airfield with still about 40 miles to go to get to our job. The Reeve employee pointed out that he could call a charter group that operated out | of King Salmon and they would no doubt pick me up in a few days. In the meantime he would do his best to share his meager supplies if I would promise to send him a replacement supply from Anchorage when I returned. In the meantime, help myself to the numerous abandoned buildings waiting to be roofed. Strolling down to the beach I found a fisherman who had stopped to see if he had any mail. In the conversation it seemed he lived within about 20 miles of our project. For $25 he agreed to take me to the site. Upon arrival, one problem was immediately apparent. The general foreman and the plumber foreman, both the size of bears, looked like they had been through a meat grinder. They both swore that they had been having a friendly wrestling match and received a few cuts and bruises. None of the crew would tell me what happened, and if I had fired both of them the job would have come to a complete stop, for a long period. After all it was not easy to find qualified craftsmen to serve in these remote sites, and just getting them in was no easy chore. I left with them showing how much they cared for each other, with arms on the others shoulders. It worked and the job was completed without them getting into it again. Another time the boss called me in and showed me a letter from a lay-minister at a site almost on the Arctic Circle. The letter pointed out that our Eskimo foreman was | My friend Jerry, although a wonderful person, was what we termed "left footed". It didn't matter what we got into, he seemed gifted with the ability to create a problem. One morning he called and wanted me to go up to the silver creek dam to fish. I, of course, jumped at the chance. This lake is about a 5 mile hike up the mountain, and in parts is very steep. After a normal day of no fish we started down, and in climbing a steep hill came upon a forest service outhouse. These, at that time were open two “holers” that cantilevered out over the cliff and had no doors. As my eyes came in view of the outhouse it was apparent a lady was using it. My best thought was to keep my eyes straight ahead and just keep walking. After going down the other side, and out of sight of the lady, I waited for Jerry, to get his reaction, which I was sure would be unique. He pops over the hill, sees the women on the seat, stops, lifts his hat and said "Waiting for a bus Ma’am?" I had not been in Juneau long before the boss began using me to troubleshoot the new construction that we had each year. In one case he caught me in the field with a wire to proceed out on the chain to a project that was having problems. No hint of what the problems were. So after proceeding to Anchorage and flying with Reeve Aleutian Airlines for half a day, I found myself alone at an abandoned airfield with still about 40 miles to go to get to our job. The Reeve employee pointed out that he could call a charter group that operated out
47: making passes at his wife and he wanted it stopped. Naturally, I was appointed to correct the problem. On arrival the foreman wouldn't admit anything, but the minister assured me that it was still happening. We agreed that it would be best if I talked to his wife alone. Keep in mind that I was a young man and had been reluctantly drug into a problem I wanted no part of. At the appointed time I showed up at her house and she, a nice looking Eskimo lady, opened the door. She knew who I was and why I was there. After she served me a cup of coffee and before I could say any thing, she said "Let’s not drag this out. I am sleeping with your foreman and we both enjoy it and there is nothing you can do to stop it." I finished my cup of coffee and left, knowing by now I was in over my head. After sleeping on it, the only solution I had was to transfer the foreman to another job, which I did. It seemed that I had a great many more problems with personnel than I did with construction. About 3 months later I was dispatched from Juneau to King Cove, an Aleutian village where there was a cannery and where the male teacher from the above village was working. He had left his wife at home and been receiving reports that our Plumber Foreman was sleeping with his wife. When I enquired at the cannery, it seemed that I would have to wait for his shift to end. (Salmon wait for no man.) He seemed a little strange, but invited me to his room, where he had some beer. We were just starting to discuss the | problem when there was a lot of noise outside. He jumped up and ran outside. I went to the window and looked out. I was astonished to see the teacher running hard at a very large Brown bear. This bear was also dumbfounded and he stood on his back legs to get a better look at this idiot charging at him. It was no doubt something the bear had never seen, since it just shook its head, came back down on four legs and shuffled away with the teacher in pursuit. I waited for about an hour. Since I had a chartered plane waiting, I left and never heard another word from him. The Plumber foreman pointed out later that he and the wife had enjoyed each other. We moved to a nice two story apartment on Douglas Island, which served as bedroom housing for Juneau. The winds that blew so strong in the winter were called "Taku winds", from Taku Glacier which was in the mountains directly behind Juneau. One week end when it was blowing I peeked out the front window to see a 2"x4" board being blown horizontally by the apartment and stuck into a tree. Later a power line was run across this mountain, which was designed for +100MPH. At the first “Taku” the power went out and the next day an over flight showed a long string of steel towers lying on the ground. Gen had gotten a job at a local bank and I had received a promotion, so we decided to attempt to purchase our first home. We found one that wasn't much but we did | making passes at his wife and he wanted it stopped. Naturally, I was appointed to correct the problem. On arrival the foreman wouldn't admit anything, but the minister assured me that it was still happening. We agreed that it would be best if I talked to his wife alone. Keep in mind that I was a young man and had been reluctantly drug into a problem I wanted no part of. At the appointed time I showed up at her house and she, a nice looking Eskimo lady, opened the door. She knew who I was and why I was there. After she served me a cup of coffee and before I could say any thing, she said "Let’s not drag this out. I am sleeping with your foreman and we both enjoy it and there is nothing you can do to stop it." I finished my cup of coffee and left, knowing by now I was in over my head. After sleeping on it, the only solution I had was to transfer the foreman to another job, which I did. It seemed that I had a great many more problems with personnel than I did with construction. About 3 months later I was dispatched from Juneau to King Cove, an Aleutian village where there was a cannery and where the male teacher from the above village was working. He had left his wife at home and been receiving reports that our Plumber Foreman was sleeping with his wife. When I enquired at the cannery, it seemed that I would have to wait for his shift to end. (Salmon wait for no man.) He seemed a little strange, but invited me to his room, where he had some beer. We were just starting to discuss the
48: feel we could handle it with no problem. Since Gen was employed at a bank it seemed normal for her to discuss it with the President, who in no uncertain terms pointed out that we could not afford such a home, even though our combined salary exceeded the $13,000 purchase price. It didn't take long to find out that this bank was ultra conservative. The other bank was happy to lend us money. One of the most frustrating things about Juneau was the annual precipitation. One year we had a total of 120 inches of snow. Now any way you look at it that is a lot. Our new home had an unheated garage, so almost every morning I had to shovel out. In the winter I had to take a blowtorch or hot water and thaw out the push button latch on the car door. One bad morning I lost my head and just beat the handle off with a hammer. I was embarrassed by this, but after driving for a few days holding the door closed. I took it to my German mechanic. I had traded with this good mechanic for years. While writing up the ticket, he asked how it happened. I told him and he became furious, demanding that I take my car out of his garage. The only way I could get it fixed was to take it to the other garage. Alaska was, and I assume still is, a land of independent people. One summer Gen and I decided to fish the Salmon Derby. I still had the 14 foot boat and outboard. Since, of course, it almost always rained one of my friends loaned Gen his construction hard hat to go with her other rain gear. Arriving at the inlet where we had the | boat, we ran into a co-worker of Gen’s who wanted to fish but had no boat. We naturally invited him along in our small boat. While heading out to where we planned to troll and being some distance from shore, a sudden gust of wind blew Gen’s hard hat off and back toward me in the stern. I reached across the motor to catch it and in so doing pushed the tiller way over, causing the boat to turn in a hard left direction. This caused me to lean further until the boat slowly rolled over. When I surfaced, my immediate concern was Gen who did not come up. In desperation I reached under the overturned boat and there she was. Knowing she was a good swimmer my attention was drawn to the young Indian boy who was now illustrating that he could not swim. The bow was still up and he was trying to get on top of it. Each time he tried the boat would roll and throw him off. Thank goodness it was Derby time since it wasn't long before a 30 foot cruiser picked us up. The Good Samaritan handed us a bottle of bourbon to warm us up. That of course was a mistake, since by the time we reached the dock it was gone and we three felt pretty good. I even got my boat and motor back. During this period of time our third child, Greg, was born. The big difference was he was actually born in a real hospital. Gen could not stand staying in the hospital over a day because she knew what the house would look like. Thank goodness my boss's wife came over and did the dishes.
49: CHAPTER 9: THE LOWER 48 After about five years the main construction and design office of the Bureau, located in Albuquerque, NM, decided that all new construction would be handled by them, leaving us with only about one half our work load and too many employees. Although my boss did his best to keep me in Juneau we decided it was time to leave. The Albuquerque office offered me a job and I accepted. We sold the house, moved into a rental house until time for us to leave, and got rid of the rest of our furniture. About two days before our planned departure, with all kinds of reservations, tickets and plans for an extended vacation, a wire was received saying I was to stay in Juneau until they could reorganize their office. Since this could take months, I inquired of the Washington chief of Maintenance if he had a job available. He sent a wire stating I was to proceed to Phoenix after my vacation and requested that I take a break in my vacation and come to Washington. So, I advised Albuquerque that I had refused their job offer. With our three kids we drove down the Alcan Highway on our way to the "lower 48." We enjoyed our trip, but it was a long one, and we as well as the kids were worn out by the time we got to Gen’s father’s home in Falmouth, KY. Leaving the kids there, we proceeded to drive to Washington. After registering in a hotel just across from the Pentagon, we called the head of Plant | Management to set up a meeting for the following day. He advised that the person in charge of contracts wanted to see me, also but insisted that we join he and his wife for cocktails at his home and dinner at a famous seafood restaurant. On arrival at his home he greeted us with a large martini. With that the four of us proceeded to drink at least a gallon of them. We were stoned, but someway we got to the restaurant, sat down and started to order. He was leaning back in his chair and tipped it just a little too far. He fell over backwards with the menu still in front of his face. Looking up at the waiter, who was standing above him with open mouth, he shouted, “Don’t you ever do that to me again!” It didn't fool anyone. The next day I was offered a position in the contract branch, but elected to turn it down for the Plant Management job in Phoenix. We arrived in Phoenix the latter part of July. The daytime temperature was in the 100's and would stay there for months. This of course was quite a blow to me after being in Alaska for 9 and one half years, but as it turned out it was not the biggest problem I had. My new boss, Roy, an old timer, had not been a party to my selection as his assistant and was the type that didn't hesitate showing his displeasure at anything. After about two weeks of dead silence, he suddenly hollered at me to go to the San Carlos reservation. He didn't tell me what to do, just go. Being about as stubborn as he was, I got up, strolled down
50: the hall and stopping the first friendly face, asked how to get a government car, which I had never done before. On getting the car and a map I headed out in the 116 degree temperature for the reservation. It wasn't that far from Phoenix but in a car that was not air-conditioned it felt like forever. On arrival I was soaking wet where my back contacted the seat, and in getting out I ripped the back end out of my new trousers. I then put my head on my arm and leaned down on the car top. This, of course, blistered my arm. That cut it! So without seeing anyone I drove back to Phoenix, left the government car, picked mine up and drove to our apartment. As I approached the car quit running and I coasted to a parking spot. Running into the air conditioned comfortable apartment, I screamed at Geneva to get packed because we were leaving. Since she loved the heat, she practiced her wiles on me by making me a martini, then talked me into going swimming, while she mixed a whole jug. The next thing I know it seems that Phoenix wasn't too bad after all. The weather was something you could get used to, but Roy was awfully hard to understand. After another two weeks of silence, he suddenly started giving me hell about a subject that I had no idea what he was talking about. This was in front of the employees, who were supposedly, in his absence, my responsibility. I stopped him, and asked that he step outside with me. He, who weighed about 160 pounds and was 60 years | old, thought I was asking him to fight, and he was ready to go. All the employees were lined up at the window thinking we were going to fight, but all I did was tell him to give me the devil anytime he thought I had done something to displease him, but never, never to do it again in front of the people who worked for us. Believe it or not he accepted this request. In fact after that did he never again got mad at me. You never know! Something strange was always happening in this new job like the time Roy and I along with our mechanical engineer, Jack, who had been around longer then Roy, went to Keams Canyon. All the way to Holbrook they both bragged about how they did not drink anymore. Of course, this turns out that they didn't drink any less. As we came through Holbrook, one of them said, "Who is going to get the bottle?” On to Keams where we were put up in the Nurses quarters. The next thing I know is one is chasing a Nurse down the corridor and the other is out somewhere doing something! The BIA supervisor of this district knocks on my door and proceeds to tell me how it is my responsibility to keep these two corralled. That was not an easy job! Not long after this Jack retired and Roy decided to do the selection on our new Mechanical Engineer without any help from anyone. A nice looking young man shows up and Roy decided to rearrange the office and
51: have the new man next to him so he could "break him in." I was elected to show him the four States we covered, since Roy didn't like to travel, and he didn't trust anyone else. After about three long trips, I knew that this new man did not have most of the engineering courses I had taken, but he certainly had a gift of gab. Driving in one day from a trip he talks about his experiences with a space agency. It was impressive until he tried to convince me that a rocket could have no thrust in space since there was no air to push against. He became quit upset when I insisted he was wrong. During a slow period in the next few days, I pulled his personnel file. It showed that he had graduated from a University in Alabama that I had never heard of. Upon calling, the registrar was nice but insisted she had no record of this individual. Naturally Roy would not even listen to this information, because at that time this was his fair haired boy. My new seating arrangement put me directly across from the secretary, Evelyn, who incidentally was a nice person and an excellent employee. As we talked it didn't take long to find out that Roy was disliked by everyone in the office. I tried to stop this type of discussion but before long they were all approaching me on the same subject. Evelyn finally told me that she could not take it any more and had to get out of our office. She wanted to stay with BIA so I told her I could get her a transfer if that was what she wanted. Discreetly I inquired and found an empty slot. Since Evelyn was such a | good employee the supervisor jumped at the chance to get her. I proudly brought back the information, pointing out she would not lose any of her rights, time in service, etc. After thinking about this overnight she pointed out that she did not wish to work for this supervisor because of personal reasons but still would like to make a transfer out of our office. Again it did not take me long to find her a job as personnel secretary to the Assistant Area Director, which was considered a prestigious and sought after job. Again this was communicated to Evelyn. Upon her return the next morning she advised me that she did not want this job but still wanted to transfer. This was too much for me, so in no uncertain terms I pointed out to her to get back to work and find someone else to be her champion. She stared at me for about 20 seconds and then started to scream at the top of her lungs, running out of our office and down a long hall with the screams slowly getting weaker because of distance. Now dead silence fell, not only on our office, but in all offices of which we were a part. Finally the younger men started sticking their head around the door with comments like, "great going Bud", or "what in the world did you say to her?" Then of course "she must not have liked your proposition." Even in the days before the sexual revolution I knew that I had a real problem since the details of the incident was known by only a few. The next thing that happened was
52: that the Area Director was standing in front of my desk and asked if I had made any sexist remarks or touched her, and naturally my answer was no. He, of course was not aware of my efforts to get Evelyn a job. Bless her heart though, she did explain to him exactly what had happened and assured him that I was only trying to help. I must admit that dealing with women never seemed to be my long suit. By this time Roy’s feelings for the new mechanical Engineer had definitely cooled. As a case in point Roy was out of town at some meeting, leaving me in charge, and the ME goes to the Phoenix Indian School. Without a word to me he red tags the main boilers due to the age of the safety relief valves. This would in essence close the School with no where to put the students. The Plant Manager called me and said he was shutting down the plant. I advised him in no uncertain terms that he was not to do so, and to relieve him of any responsibility I composed a letter to him explaining that I would assume all responsibilities. But I did suggest that he submit a requisition immediately for new pressure relief valves. After a few episodes of things like this, Roy finally came "unglued". Returning from a trip, I was getting out of the car when two ladies that worked for us came screaming out of the office for me to go in quick because Roy and the ME were in a fight. Naturally I didn't think it would be a very severe one since they were not ever close to being evenly matched. Wrong again, since on | entering the office I find Roy chasing the ME with a chair. I do believe if I hadn't stopped him that he may have conflicted severe damage on the ME. Each time the head of Plant Design and Construction, (PD&C, the outfit I turned down when I left Alaska), came through Phoenix he stopped by and asked if I was ready to come to Albuquerque yet. It was beginning to look better to me since the Area Director and the head of Plant Management in Washington, even when I had first arrived, planned to get rid of Roy and for me to take his place. They now took me into their plans and periodically when Roy was not around we would all talk on the phone. I didn't particularly like this method of moving into Roy’s job, so the next time the head of PD&C asked the question, my answer was yes. He turned to his personnel officer, who was always with him, and said "get him transferred." When this got back to Washington I suddenly lost my benefactor, the person in charge of Plant Management, and in fact he refused to even speak to me anymore. Since we had a new house we enjoyed and Gen in particular enjoyed the heat, it was not easy for her to leave Phoenix. But since everyone we talked to indicated that “yeah, there was a little snow but it was always gone by noon,” she reluctantly agreed to the move. I left in October, while Gen remained behind to sell the house. I commuted for the next three months and we finally decided to rent the house so that Gen and the kids could join me.
53: I found an old house in a good area of Albuquerque and we moved in. After being there just a few weeks our old friend Jerry from Alaska let us know he was going through Albuquerque enroute to a new job in Washington, DC. He arrived in a Volkswagen Bug that was packed so that there was just a small opening to see out of. We naturally mixed up a gallon of martinis so we could properly talk about all the good times we had in Alaska. Jerry slept on the couch and awoke us to a high moan that his car was gone! Naturally we ran into the living room to check this out and discovered that the snow was so deep that the Volkswagen was just a little hump in our drive. Jerry was with us for the next two days since the roads out of town were closed because of the snow. So much for "it's always gone by noon." Now I was starting with a new group that I would remain with for the rest of my government career. This group called Plant Design and Construction, (PD&C), was responsible for all new construction for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and at that time also had the responsibility for Indian Public Health Construction. I had been told that I was to take over the Chief Inspectors position since the person now in it was due to retire. He did but the old click could not bear to see a new employee go into such a good slot. The word went out that I needed more experience before taking over this job. Naturally the person that was strongest in my lack of experience | managed to get the unit combined with the one he headed. I was assigned to this combined unit, not in the inspection side, but as a construction manager. Naturally, he gave me the smallest jobs, such as well drilling. My second job was a well drilling project that included a pump house. The successful bidder was a young man from Farmington who admitted to me that he had never bid a government job before but had heard how easy they were and wanted to break into this lucrative market. In the course of drilling the well he admitted he had never built even a small building before. He put forth such a plea that I did his takeoff and advised him to get a small sub contract with an electrician and a plumber. He got to the water table, but the inspector told us that he could hear air coming into the casing. Our sanitary group said that at least one of his welds was bad and that was the sound. They had me make the contractor pull all the casing and cut each joint of pipe then reweld each joint as it was inserted back into the well. He was furious but I finally convinced him that he had to do it if he wanted any more money. He pulled all the casing then called me to advise that he was ready to start reinstalling but demanded an inspector for each weld. I didn't blame him, but this request was refused. He was furious and insisted that the same thing could happen again even though he insisted his first welds were good. When advised of the decision, he
54: slammed down the phone after telling me in no uncertain terms what he planned to do as soon as he could get to Albuquerque. When I warned the engineers that this young man was mad and was headed for the office and them, they just laughed. Sure enough, in about 45 minutes there was a lot of shouting going on in the main hall. The next thing I know is that people were hollering for me. Naturally the contractor was not mad at me but the people that were making him pull the casing, and he was demanding to see them so that he could proceed to do some horrible things. It took some time to calm him down and out of the office for over a cup of coffee. I did get assigned to larger projects as time went by, but the one I now wanted was the Alaskan jobs where the Branch hired all the construction personnel and bought all the material for remote jobs. The assistant to the chief (who later became chief} had never gotten over being upset with me because he was the one who tried to get me to come to Albuquerque from Juneau when I went to Phoenix with Plant Management. This gentleman had spent quite a few years in Alaska and probably knew it as good as anyone in our office. He tried various people and methods for getting these difficult jobs completed. But more and more of them were being held over for completion each year. My former boss in Juneau was using these incomplete and poorly done jobs as a lever in Washington to take over this work. After about | five years of trying everyone he could think of, and each one as the first step in their new job, insisted on a promotion, the Chief was almost our of steam. But he was still mad enough at me so that I would not be considered. Now, my boss had a favorite who was a fellow retired army officer. He was recommended to the chief highly and with a former Architect who had worked for me in Alaska, they were appointed into a new unit. Abe, the new Unit chief, was moved into an office next to the chief, given a secretary and told to straighten out the mess. Abe was riding with me to work every now and then, so a few days later as we were getting into the car he handed me about a five page letter telling the chief how he planned to organize the new Unit. Of course the first thing was a promotion for him and his assistant, 3 new superintendents for the Albuquerque office, and the shipping solution for a difficult project on the Yukon River. This solution was to make a raft of the building material and float the two bedroom school, quarters, utility bldg. and Nurses quarters down the river. He asked me proudly to read his letter and see if he should add anything to it. After a quick perusal I told him that in my opinion if he presented Ralph (the Chief) with this solution he would be fired from his new job. He laughed at my concern. I knew by the next day at noon he had given the Chief his plan, because he was removed from his new office back into the one we Project Managers occupied.
55: By this time I assumed I would never get a shot at this job, so I called an old friend who was head of maintenance of the Public Health Facilities in Phoenix asking if he had a job I could fit into. He assured me he did and that he planned to retire within a year and his job would go to me. The wire arrived offering me the job and I thought my reply accepting had gone out through our Personnel Office. I was called into Ralph’s office for what I assumed was the false, sorry to see you leave routine. He shut the door, and asked if I had ever had any interest in taking over the Force Account Unit, which included the Alaskan work. I was really surprised because I assumed he was still angry that I had gone to Phoenix instead of Albuquerque. I could hardly get out that that was the job I had always wanted. He then asked if I would stay if he gave me the job and I assured him I would. He was by now, because of the others he had tried, a little spooky of the next guy he would put into the slot. So he showed me the wire, that had not gone out, accepting the PHS job and asked me to come back in the morning with some kind of outline on how I would set up the job. This job had by now become a joke because anyone that was partially qualified had been tried in the position, except me. Each of them immediately had gone for a promotion and a large Albuquerque staff. The next AM I advised him that all I wanted was a professional take off man, and the final say on who I would assign to the | Anchorage office, as well as anyone working for me in Albuquerque. It was apparent he was a little flabbergasted and questioned me at length on my plans. Finally he pointed out that he wanted the man who now was doing a little force account work assigned to my unit. Since I wasn't about to give away everything before he gave me the job, I reminded him that I would appreciate the last word on anyone coming to work for me and this man was not the type I wanted. He thought about that for a minute, gave in, and with that gave me my new job. Since it didn't entail a promotion no one really cared. (Little did they realize!) I was moved into a small conference room with a temporary secretary. The most important thing, and actually the only work this unit had, at that time, was in Alaska, so with that I took my first extended trip to all the 17 projects scattered over the "bush". It didn't take but a few of the project visits to find I had really taken over a total mess. The Foreman at each location seemed to be designing as they built, and most were not even Foreman material. One location that people were bragging about was in a man’s charge who had worked for us when I was in Juneau. I assumed that all this time building in the bush had increased this man’s knowledge. His job almost caused me to have a fit, and did cause me to make an ass of myself, with everyone going around shaking their head because this newcomer didn't understand how you built in
56: the bush. It was apparent to me at least that all these projects would have to be carried over to next year. It was also apparent that the old timer running the Anchorage office would have to go, even though it seemed everyone thought he was a good man for the job. My report to my boss shook him up, particularly since no one had told him of the carry over of all the projects. I had by this time located and hired a good take off man and decided what was needed for Anchorage was a mean and tough person with a lot of guts and ego. I had through the years become associated with just the man. This man, Ralph, was not that well thought of by construction managers because of his rough way of handling men and problems, which was exactly what I was after. Now all I needed to do was convince him to transfer from his inspector’s job in the lower 48 and move his family to Anchorage. His wife was a pharmacist who owned a partial interest in a pharmacy and they had three daughters, one of which had just partially recovered from a brain tumor. Even though we saw eye to eye on most construction problems, I really doubted that I could talk him into the move. I approached him and made a tentative offer which included a promotion for the move. To my surprise he was delighted with the offer, but naturally had to discuss it with his wife. She turned out to be as adventurous as he was and only had to have time to sell her business interest. I had not mentioned this to anyone, and upon doing so, most people in Plant | Design and Construction thought I was crazy. The thought was that only Alaskans could understand problems there. My thought, which was proven over time, was that construction was construction no matter where it occurred. The one important difference was shipping to remote sites which I planned to handle. My boss discussed this with some of his top people and with a man that advised my decision would be disastrous. Ralph advised me of what they thought, but did bring up our agreement and said if I had given it enough study, he would go along, since at least it was a new approach. The next step would be to get the plans completed for the 3 new projects for the following summer. I had a lot of help from an old friend who had worked with me in Juneau. He was now heading the Architectural group and in overall charge of Alaskan drawings. Of course it didn't hurt that the head of PD&C was watching me very closely and could move people I couldn't. As the plans were completed around Christmas, my takeoff man would prepare material orders for the general construction, to include materials for the temporary camp and basic food orders for the craftsmen required to do the construction. He also assembled the electrical and mechanical orders done by other units. It must be kept in mind that these orders were not close to a regular take off of a construction project. Some items were mandatory that they be purchased from GSA stocks and had to be written in a special way. Others would go out for bid in the open market and would be handled by purchasers who normally handled office products, so these orders had to be
57: written in a special way. Others would go out for bid in the open market and would be handled by purchasers who normally handled office products, so these orders had to be spelled out in detail. This ordering process was so laborious it took months to assemble, always working with a deadline which was mandated by the annual and, in most cases, a one time per year shipment. This was the start of a travel routine that seemed to be continuous, and in some cases was. One year I spent one half of the time in Alaska. This particular time was spent in a referee situation between the old timer and Ralph who I had sent to Anchorage to straighten out the mess we were in. Nothing he did satisfied the old timer or the special assistant. I would get calls and letters at home telling me of the horrible mistakes Ralph was making and hinting at unlawful practices now going on. Finally biting the bullet, in a meeting, I pointed out that Ralph was the person in charge and any decisions he made were backed up by me. I tried to recognize the effort these two had made by offering them a transfer to Albuquerque, almost certain they would not accept. The old timer decided to retire, but the Administrative Assistant stayed for another year before leaving. To illustrate the type of petty nonsense going on in this multimillion dollar operation, I started getting letters from airline operators plus various government organizations complaining about how my office | had been putting information on Government Travel Requests (GTR's) that were causing problems. On investigating this I found that the Administrative Assistant had been putting on all TR's that first class air was requested, but under protest. In checking this I found that due to extra expense in Alaska all air travel was first class, so my next trip to Alaska I informed Ralph of this and told him to stop this. He advised that he had tried to keep this off the TR's but to no avail. That's when I learned that this rough and tough guy was sort of threatened by our little old lady who was the Administrative Assistant. I called her in and informed her of the reason and that this was to stop. Since she didn't argue I assumed the problem was settled. Back in Albuquerque when I monitored the new TR's coming in, the same protest was still being put on the TR's. My next trip to Anchorage, and after our private meeting where I pointed out that if I ever saw this on another TR she would be given an official written reprimand that would be in her record forever, she finally stopped. She also stopped speaking to me for a long time. A number of trips and stop overs were made to Seattle where I met with an old timer who was running the USMS North Star. This was the BIA vessel whose primary mission was to serve the remote BIA schools throughout Alaska and as a by-product hauled other freight as space permitted. This old timer had spent his adult life in Alaska or
58: serving as the head of the North Star operation. This was very important since he knew how to get freight to anywhere in Alaska. The other group in Seattle that I spent a lot of time with was GSA located in Auburn, WA. All orders to Alaska had to go through this office, but imagine my surprise to find that no one in the past had ever called on them. The head of the procurement operation, after hearing what I was attempting to do, called in all his buyers who would be purchasing materials and had me go through my spiel again. This along with a few lunches for these buyers, created an excellent repore and some real effort on the part of GSA to hold up their end of our Alaskan construction program. The material orders were coming along, the purchase of materials was proceeding, and the shipping seemed to be in good shape. All that remained was to some way get the projects built. It must be realized that all almost all of our projects were remote, and by remote I mean really remote. Because of this we had to establish a temporary camp, as well as three good meals a day for hearty eaters. The basic foods were ordered to come in with the building materials. Any fresh foods were shipped from the closest major city, and either flown, boated, dog teamed or whatever method was available. In one case the only way to get men and food supplies to the site was to fly about 5 hours and then once a month a charted tug would make a 10 hour trip to the site. To illustrate another | case of remoteness, we built one project consisting of a Nurses Quarters, two classroom schools, two bedroom teachers’ quarters, utilities and utility building which among other things contained the generators for construction and for permanent power at completion. We had the North Star off load everything, had a contract with an individual to haul the project over a small mountain on a very rough road to the east end of Lake Illiamna. From there to the west end of the lake we had another contract to barge the material down the lake. Everything went fine and all the material was laying at the East end of the lake when the barge contractor went bankrupt. We sent one of the Superintendents down by chartered plane to scout the lake for some one that might be interested and have the equipment to move the freight. There was no one that had the equipment, except the one we had a contract with, and now all his equipment was tied up. On one of my trips to Alaska and in the depth of frustration I suggested to the Superintendent that he get back to the lake and if necessary hire every outboard on the lake. In any case don't come back until the freight had been moved. Naturally I should not have said that. My trip to visit all the sites took almost a month, and upon my return to Anchorage found a beaming Superintendent with a fistful of pictures, pointing out that the freight was at the site and construction had started. When
59: he showed me the pictures, I almost fainted. He had hired a crew and made a raft of all the material. First was the piling, then the construction lumber, with the furniture and generators sitting on top and the raft pulled by two outboards. This long lake was known to have fearful storms without warning, but as he explained it was like a millpond for the two days they were towing the "raft". ... | In loving memory of E. S. Lusby