Discussion 6: 10 comments

MTV Cribs, Fairbanks style…

This is the Alaska I’m a little more familiar with. Not the Alaska of post cards in Fred Meyers, not the Alaska you see in paintings with grand vistas of Denali and a moose standing in the mist, not the Alaska of Northern Exposure, but this one. People have internet and television, but sometimes no running water.   What’s your Alaska like? How does it compare to the Alaska we’ve been reading about?

About Madara Mason

Madara Mason's hats include painter, graphic designer, Instructional Designer, faculty educator, English Instructor, food blogger, and Oxford Comma Aficionado. If she's not in front of an easel, she's in front of a screen, or in front of a classroom. Her motto is "If you're not having fun, you're probably doing it wrong."

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10 thoughts on “Discussion 6:

  • Kari

    Time Creates New Footprints

    I have never traveled from Central Alaska to the Arctic Ocean thru the Yukon Territory with a team of six dogs while they would pull me with supplies on a basket sled. I am not an Alaska dog sled musher that endures negative 60 degree weather, while attending to their dog’s feet, picking clumps of ice and snow from their feet with my fingertips.
    I have never explored Alaska’s high places on foot, for the expedition to climb the summit of Mt. Kinley, while carrying a flagpole at the height of 11,000 feet. I am not an Alaskan mountain climber that would travel with homemade equipment with little experience to establish a sitting ground for an American flag to flap in the wind at the top of Mt. Kinley.
    I have never operated an airplane using nothing but a map and using landmarks of Alaska’s terrain below, as I flew over it to mark what direction I was heading. I am not an Alaskan pilot that faces the dangers of updraft and downdraft winds that come with flying, to be able to see the land map below.
    I have never crossed land-fast ice in search of breathing holes for the hunt of bearded seals, never shot and killed a male moose with an antler rack that measured 62 inches across, never experienced a visual sight of a caribou that staggered for a few moments before it hit the ground with the view of an arrow protruding from its body, also I have never experienced the sight of a mountain goat falling off the side of the mountain, when hit by a bullet. I am not an Alaskan Big Game Hunter that sits on blocks of ice in negative degree temperatures waiting for a seal to arise from their breathing holes to shoot them with a shot gun in order to eat it later, or an Alaskan hunter that crawls in Alaska’s terrain in desperation of attaining a goal mark of taking down a moose with a 62 inch rack, or an Alaskan hunter that searches for a caribou in order to feed their family, and I am not an Alaskan hunter that would teach others on how to kill a mountain goat.
    I have never fished for King Crab around Kodiak Island, or harpooned a whale, or even dried a rack of Salmon hanging on a line. I am not an Alaskan fisherman that scraps the bottom of the seashore for large amounts of King Crab, or an Alaskan fisherman that used a paddle boat to harpoon a whale to bring it to the shoreline, and I am not an Alaskan fisherman that would dry Salmon outside, considering I don’t eat fish.
    I have never looked outside in where I live to see an axe parked in a chopping block. I am not an Alaskan cabin builder that has craftsmen skills to just chop down Alaskan trees to make a cabin home.
    I have never seen the caribou wonder the mountains and the Alaskan Tundra, or the Brown-Grizzly Bears eating berries from blueberry bushes, or even the view of silver-scaled salmon that pour into many coastal streams. I have never experienced the view of the rivers of ice, blueness of slender flow slowly down the mountain glaciers.
    One Alaskan might say, “That I have not lived until I put my footprint in the snow.” Well let me tell you what I have done. I have spanked a moose in his rear end with my vehicle. I am an Alaskan moose spanker that caused severe amount of damage to the front end of my SUV, between a mountain range on highway 3.
    I have plucked Alaskan native plants from their roots here on base, because I killed foreign plants when I planted them in our garden area. You can call me an Alaskan plant killer, because I killed foreign and domestic plants. “I guess, I had lost my gardening touch this summer,” was my un-dying thought.
    I have seen the green northern lights, the ice smog that drapes like a blanket six feet ahead of you, the monstrous moose and their droppings they leave at the children’s park on Eielson Air force Base.
    I have diffidently had a lot more time gazing out my window from the kitchen sink, with wondering thoughts of how quite it is here in this Alaskan state. Until the cause of sudden shock of a guy that scared me half to death, because he was in my backyard heading towards my window. Then the unknown guy held keys in his hand to unlock the maintenance door to our house. “Well, if he has the keys and was able to unlock our maintenance door, he has to be the base maintenance guy checking the filter or something,” was my thought. I just kept watching as if it was entertainment that I have not experienced in all my life, just waiting there, until something happened. This Alaskan guy was an older man with gray hair, wearing blue rustic jeans, light brown heavy duty coat, and was wearing a blue ball cap. Just then…in my astonishment, when he was done in whatever he was doing at our place, he hops over our wooden fence that is roughly 4 1/2 feet high, like it was no problem at all. “What are they feeding these Alaskans?” How could a man of his age just hop a fence, like he was just merely stepping over a stepping stone? One thing is for sure, this Alaskan is probably off to make his foot mark in our neighbor’s yard. Scaring my neighbors from one hop to the next. Old man Alaskan hoper is what I am going to call him.

  • Aaron

    The Great Subjectivity of Our Lives

    It’s true that no moment is experienced exactly the same way from one person to the next because of how our perceptions are uniquely shaped through lives in different time and space. Regardless of support through friends and family, we’re still essentially isolated in our own minds. Sharing thoughts directly through verbal and/or written communication often lacks clarity and can be misinterpreted on its way to the message receiver. That being said, my Alaska is not quite the same as anyone else’s. I tend to value being outdoors at the “top of the list” and avoid commercial centers as much as possible. Many Alaskan residents share my passion for the outdoors and I’m usually accompanied by fellow nature enthusiasts in a variety of activities such as berry picking in late summer and to visiting hot springs (there are many besides Chena!) throughout the Interior.

    Based on their location, the authors writing about this land have reported very different places. An urbanite in downtown Fairbanks doesn’t need to worry about encountering a grizzly bear as part of his/her daily routine like someone living in the back country of Admiralty Island would. This kind of burden was described in this week’s reading in the Wayne Short excerpt “Bear, and More Bear” in which every member of the family had killed at least one of the carnivorous beasts in order to simply avoid being mauled and remain alive. Most of us, thankfully, don’t have to deal with those kind of harrowing experiences very often. Although I do get out and arguably explore more than most people, my Alaska is still heavily influenced by modern comfort and technology such as the Internet which is inevitably a requirement to participate in this course.

  • Patricia

    I live in rural Alaska in a very small community. Though it is a community of no more than one hundred twenty people my family and I are lucky to have water, Internet connection, Dish Network. My house is not a cabin like the video shown on the webpage. The video showed a reality where there are a lot of people that live in remote areas including myself. In the video, the person living in the small cabin had to often go to town to get water because there was no water coming from the sink so he had to use a van and pay two and a half cents per gallon of water. Where I live there are no stores so we have to order food and small planes bring them from Dillingham and Anchorage. There are no paved roads were I live, which means we do not use cars. Many people have snow machines instead as a mean of transportation. The rooms from the cabin were tight and the person from the video had to use a Toyostove. Fortunately, in my case I do not need a Toyostove for heating. My house is very old but has comfortable rooms. It was surprising to me to see that the man from the cabin did not have a bathroom inside the house and that had to go outside in the cold where there was an “outdoor bathroom”. In rural Alaska many people cut trees to heat their houses and not everybody has excellent Internet or cable connection.

    Regarding the Alaska we have been reading about I believe it is similar. One good example is Proenneke’s cabin’ which was built in Twin Hills. I admire this author because he built a cabin in the 60’s and lived without having comfortable space or rooms. I would say that Proenneke’s cabin and the cabin from the video are similar and both lack of water inside, not a lot of space to move inside. The main difference is that in this century houses and cabins can have Internet access as well as television. In addition, it is important to mention that the different authors we have seen express happiness living in rural Alaska regardless of the challenges sometimes that there are like no running water. Living in rural Alaska means having a house where you can see moose, birds etc. and feel very close and connected to wilderness. I love living in rural Alaska, and having old houses or cabins is the Alaska I am familiar with and it is relevant to mention that technology in general has reached Alaska’s houses where now we are all more connected to the world.

  • Imaginary Chaos

    Living on campus here in Fairbanks, “my Alaska” is obviously nothing like anything we’ve read so far. The only thing that is similar is the cold. There’s running water, electricity and all that. Back home is a little different than here in Fairbanks but not much. The only difference is that it is a rural area only accessible by plane or boat and there are not many people, so everyone knows everyone. There aren’t any malls or anything like that and the prices are much higher than here in Fairbanks. Another difference is that back home is a “wet” cold instead of a “dry” cold, meaning it often will rain during winter and then freeze the next day; it is also very windy most of the year. We have one grocery store and three restaurants. Pretty much all of our roads are paved and kept fairly nice. We have a Fire Department and Police Department in the same building. We have a fairly good internet and wireless usage (it’s not quite as fast as city internet but it’s getting there), along with working cell phones. During the winter people like to hunt buffalo and ptarmigan and in the summers people go fishing. But these aren’t our main supplies of food because we do have a store. So it is different from what we’ve read so far. We are considered a “city” but everyone still calls it a town or a village because it doesn’t seem like a city at all, in my opinion we are still too rural to be a “city”.
    “My Alaska” is nothing like the Alaska that is in the book. The only Alaska that has been shown in this book so far is the cold winter, very rural, middle-of-nowhere kind of Alaska that you would only think of being from the older days.

  • Misty

    My Alaska varies. I grew up on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. I walked to school in sixty below, I was in kindergarten. I remember one time the wind was blowing so hard at recess that we could pretend to sit down and we would not fall down. A tree fell down by the house. When I was younger I went on the trapline up the Kuskokwim River. Once the sled hitch broke and I was left behind. My Nana didn’t notice. She kept going. Finally she turned to tell me something, but I was already far behind. She found me pulling the wooden sled along the snowmachine trail. She told me next time to just sit in the sled, and I had to sit on the back on the Elan for the rest of the way.

    In the summer I went back to my home roots. I am a Deg Hit’an Athabaskan, and my mother comes from Anvik. My Nana has a house there, she used to be an English teacher, she actually taught my mother. Anvik is a beautiful place, it is very green in the summer. The downside is the mosquitos, they are everywhere just waiting to suck your blood. I also lived in Holy Cross for a year, it is built on a hill. Also pretty in the summer. I was living with my mom and then we moved to North Pole, which has really out done itself trying to look christmasy all year long, and then outside of Fairbanks.

    Fairbanks and North Pole are two different places. North Pole is always about 10 degrees colder in the winter. When I used to live on a hill in Fairbanks it used to be hotter at our place then all of Fairbanks. We had fun sledding down our driveway. Living on campus it could get cold though. I never wanted to walk to school in minus thirty. When I complained about this on Facebook my father popped up out of nowhere and put his two sense in, “You are native alaskan and alaskan native, deal with it.” or something along those lines. I tried to suck it up.

    I’m back in McGrath at the moment though. It dipped down to fifty-two below and I walked to the school in this parka my Nana had neglected to remind me that she’d found in the dump. I was so warm! I had put on the inner part of the coat I head, but I felt like I did not need it. I felt like I cold shed the coat. My feet were fine in two pairs of socks, banana socks, and my Nana’s moose hide moccasins that I always try to claim. It isn’t that cold anymore. We have people at the house today. They are from the lower 48, they think it’s cold, I just laugh. Oh Alaska! It is such a beautiful place. The people running the Iditorod trail are going to see a great portion of this big land, they will see the many faces she shows her people, and hopefully they’ll see me. Standing on the sidelines watching them as they pass through this small town on the way to Nome.

  • Nikki

    Growing up we had hunny buckets, no running water, and shower day was on Sunday at my dad’s work. My favorite thing to do as a kid was to dump the hunny buckets at the sewer lagoon, and going to do a dump run because that meant riding in the truck. I loved going to do a dump run because I would also find neat things that people would throw away. Their trash was my treasure. We didn’t have cable I had an Atari with one game. No backyards, but our house was near the pipes so those were our playgrounds. And on days when my dad was busy on Sundays we would take a sponge bath in the living room. That was my life until I was 7 and we moved into a bigger house with running water, cable, and flushing toilets! Although for some reason we still didn’t have a shower I think because my dad built the house he didn’t quite finish that part.

    As for the wild animals there’s no moose walking through our yard, or a black bear digging through our trash those animals are hundreds of miles from us. We had the small animals like birds, fox, and rabbits. My community has 10 miles of road in a big circle. The closest thing to society is Subway. There are no movie theaters, swimming pools, fitness centers, arcades, or fancy restaurants. We live on the river. Our food comes from the tundra, and river. My Alaska is similar but also different to the readings. Our summers consist of blood sucking mosquitoes, and chilly evenings. The story by Tom Walker “Moose: Season of the Painted Leaves,” reminds of the moose and caribou hunts that I have gone on in the fall, and winter seasons. On page 422, “Solitude. I crave it. I love to be out like this, the wind tussling the braches, the squirrels chittering in the trees, the fresh air sharp in my lungs. Air so new it tastes like mountain water.” That excerpt reminds me of all the reasons of why I love to hunt. Brings me back to those hunting spots where the sun was shining on my face, and the cool crisp wind nipping at my hands. That is my fall Alaska that I love and travel to every season.

    When I tell individuals who are not from Bethel the prices of items they gasp. The price of gas is $7.06, a gallon of milk is $11, and a 12 pack of coke is $13. Regardless of the prices of people and the location are what keep individuals in place. In the fall I like to return to our homestead in Takotna because I enjoy the simple living with a hunny bucket, no running water, and no television or internet. Those simple moments bring back fresh happy memories as a young kid running on the pipes.

  • Caroline Streeter

    The disparity between the Alaskan lifestyle portrayed in the pages of National Geographic and the lives of UAF students is an engaging topic, one I am fond of discussing over pints at the Pub. While the majority of people in Alaska live in cities, I would pin myself halfway between city and country. I love to endulge in the Alaskan wild, but to do so I have to travel, often great distances.
    My Alaskan life has revolved around going to school for several years, but in between I like to escape to remote places. I have traveled to a destination by boating, driving, then hiking several miles, and this was already in a remote part of Alaska!
    These kinds of trips are not cheap. It is expensive to travel within Alaska, as well as to buy provisions. To me, living an “off-the-grid” Alaskan lifestyle is a commitment. It means willingly separating yourself from conveniences like plumbing or Internet. Even separating from the economy, relying on cash income when available.
    The camaraderie and understanding of that is something I can partake in a few weeks a year. No cell, no ‘net, just the mountains, rivers and peace.

  • LaVon Marie

    After reading a good part of these stories, the Alaska they write about, is quite often the Alaska I can identify with…but it is one that is fading as well. I am not sure if it is because of how long I have lived here, or that my parents choose such an eclectic paths in their discovery and living in Alaska, but after thinking about this question for a little while, I have come to the conclusion that it is a strange mix of the Alaska that I know. I almost wish this was a blog more than just a discussion question, because I had to laugh when I thought of the pictures, video clips, stereotypes and truths that Alaska is and how I would tie it in with the Alaska I know. I moved here in the ‘70’s and my parents came up the AlCan with a “65 rebuilt semi-truck packed full of every necessity my mom thought would be necessary for Alaska and heirloom she could not leave behind(strangely not a single one of my dolls or toys were included in those necessities…to this day, I tease my mother about that).
    My dad did not really have a job lined up, he only knew there was work for electricians. When we first arrived in Alaska, we stayed on a farm in Palmer, Alaska. The farm was located in Wolverine Valley. I do not lie or joke here when I say, we lived in the upstairs of a massive barn. The entire upstairs and front of this barn had been converted to living quarters. Down below was housed over 200 cows. To this day, the smell of manure is something I shall never, ever forget. At that time, we were one of the farms that contributed milk to Matanuska Maid. I have memories of going through the fall woods that ran along Wolverine River to gather the young cows. We had to be careful of bears as they loved to occasionally take down a cow or two. Summers spent in the gardens planting food in order to can, salmon wheel in order to can or freeze enough to last all winter. Our autumns were spent harvesting hundreds of pounds of root vegetables. I still cannot stand turnips…even in “turnip apple pie”. After a couple years of this, my dad found a job through the state and we moved to Eagle River into a modern home (Thank God!! Our clothes no longer had the strange hint of manure). However we spent months on our church groups farm that was and still is located in Copper Center, Delta Junction and just a little north of Fairbanks. This where my memories of what some may consider the “traditional” Alaskan iconic images come into play.

    These farms were built from scratch, and the labor that went into just building a place in the wilderness are the same stories we are reading about some of these Alaskan pioneers. In fact, my parents and their group considered themselves pioneers. My idea of what an Alaskan cabin looks like comes from spending my time in cozy cabins on these farms. There was no electricity, no running water and every cabin including the main “tabernacle” had outhouses. We hauled our water from a main water station located on each farm and hauled our laundry to the laundry house where we plunged and hand cranked our clothes to wring them out. There was a long work shop set up…sort of like a laundry mat except everything was done by hand. There were no dryers so line drying even happened in the winter. The lines hung inside this massive laundry room which had a wood stove that kept it nice and hot so that clothes would dry. We had honey buckets in the cabins and often the duty of emptying those were the older children. Heating was done by wood stoves and so it was the boys jobs to keep the wood boxes full and chop wood. Due to the size of the farm, this was often an all day, seven a day chore for the boys. Summers in the Copper Center and Delta were spent gathering food in order to support subsistence living. Growing crops, harvesting, greenhouses that grew tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, drying houses, fish wheels, canning, freezing, gathering berries and all the hundred other things that it takes to keep a community farm running. In the winter nights were spent around kerosene lamps reading stories, playing board games and summer nights were spent running free until mothers called us in to rinse the dust and dirt from our thoroughly dirty but yet happy contented selves. Today these same farms although they still do not have modern plumbing, have electricity to all the cabins, internet connection and many other modern appliances like working washers and dryers.

    As much as it sounds like my parents were prepared for Alaska’s wilderness, I can also tell you of ridiculous adventures my mother took us on, in which we were so lucky to even come back alive which is why I can relate to some of the stories in the book we are reading. I am sometimes amazed we made it through our first ten years here in Alaska, but we did and as I look around at how much this state has already changed in 30 years, I am not sure I could even give my children the same childhood I had growing up in Alaska and there is a part of me that mourns that part of Alaska that I no longer experience.

    Often the stories in The New Land, talks about a freedom to do as you wanted, needed or pleased to and I remember a time when it seemed you could do much of that. For examply, at one time you could throw your tent where ever you wanted. We even traveled down along the Inside Passage and used our tent on the deck of the state ferry (Matanuska) since my parents did not have enough money to buy a room. I remember the days when our family would pack the suburban for a couple weeks of camping and just head north and throw our tent where ever we felt like it. Today, one cannot do something like that. Starting in the late 90’s, it became this gradual shift where you are required to camp in designated areas only or risk a ticket. To me, the Alaska I knew as a child was a lot freer, not so restrictive by regulations and increasing do and don’ts, where living in the wild does not take as much effort as it once did, and most certainly not as modern with all its TGIF’s, Walmarts and Starbucks. I compare the iconic Alaska I knew to the Alaska (and that Alaska did exist and in some remote parts, still does) and the Alaska I see today is very different. I recognize this iconic Alaska from the past because I did live through it. I also recognize the Alaska that is partially modern and yet one may still have an outhouse and no running water. But most of all, I am very familiar with this updated Alaska, where most do not even remember what it may have been like to not have more than one mall to visit in all of Alaska.

    I live in a modern home, in cookie cutter subdivision in Eagle River, with every modern necessity and plenty that are not which you could find in any typical urban subdivision across the United States. Perhaps the only difference is that a wilderness can stretch for miles behind my house, versus miles of subdivisions and supermarkets in the Lower 48’s. Today, I can go to a Starbucks in 3 different places in just Eagle River versus 20 years ago when it was just the North Slope Restaurant. If I feel the need to buy shoes for my boys, I have plethora of stores to choose from: Kohl’s, Burlington, Sears, JC Pennies, Target and Wal-Mart for just a start. I remember when we were young, my mother only had Buster Brown and Sears to choose from for children’s clothing and if you did not find it there, she would call a relative and ask them to find a pair and mail it to us…weeks later they would finally arrive. The Alaska I now know is not as wild, but you can still find it, it is the Alaska I recognize in a great number of these stories, which is why you rarely find any of us at home on a summer weekend and that is still the Alaska I remember and know.

  • Chad Hinders

    Every year I have my students in Alaska Studies design new state seals, symbols, and slogans. The depth of insight and creativity displayed in these projects always amazes me. One slogan that has always stayed with me was, “Alaska: Nothing Like the Postcard”. I think that truly has exemplified my experience as an Alaskan for the last 14 years, and is a reflection on how this state is so often misunderstood and misrepresented to the Outside. Although we do have sweeping vistas and abundant wildlife, Alaska is so vast and varied that only a small part of it is represented in the literature and media seen by most of the Outside. Alaska to me has been a land of contrasts and unexpected realities that have continued to surprise me on a regular basis.

    Although Alaska is vast, it often feels like a small town where you know almost everyone and their business. This is one of the truly unique aspects of Alaskan life that may surprise many Outsiders. Although our state is more than twice the size of Texas, our entire population (710,231) is equal to a many small cities across the lower-48 (uscensus.gov). Our limited road system, single major airport, and one large city (Anchorage) funnel people in need of transportation and services into one place. It is almost impossible to walk through the airport terminal or go shopping at Costco without bumping into someone you know. This unique dichotomy is perhaps my favorite part of living in Alaska. There is a lot of room to roam, but a sense of community as well.

    Alaska is also home to people who also perhaps defy the typical definitions of lower-48 society. A colleague and I were discussing several unique subgroups within our community and focused in on a group that were intellectually and societally high up in Seward’s hierarchy, but did not possess any of the physical trappings one usually associates with those positions. These are people with advanced degrees and professional jobs that chose to live off the grid without running water, internet service, new cars, etc. Although they certainly have the money to access these amenities, they chose not to. Their Alaska is one that comes alive through the absence of conveniences and a closer living to the land. Wealthy people choosing to poop in an outhouse in winter rather than having running water is indeed an Alaskan anomaly.

    The reason why so much of what truly is Alaskan is not portrayed in television, movies, and other popular media is simple. Any place this big and complex can’t be easily defined and marketed effectively to the Outside without cutting some corners. So, it is the simplistic stereotypes of rough fishermen, dogsledding, and vast untrammeled wilderness that are distilled out and sold to an eager public. However, my Alaska is much more complex than that. It is filled with Eskimo engineering students, millionaires in Xtra-Tuffs, and topped off with Sailor Boy Pilot Bread for all. Those are the things you won’t find on TV. Although I do like watching “Alaska State Troopers” to spot former students and friends…

  • Cherie Lindquist

    My Alaska is much more comfortable now than it was when I first moved up to Fairbanks four years ago. My mom was building her house in Chatanika when I first moved here. For four months (from July to mid November) we lived in a small mezzanine apartment in my mom’s garage. The space was 8 feet by 24 feet. We didn’t have a sink, kitchen or bathroom. My mom, two cats and I lived in this small space with just a microwave and an electric skillet to use for cooking. It was an adventure that I’ll never forget. I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and I definitely felt like I was living in the 1800s. I have to admit that I did enjoy the peace and quiet of Chatanika. Wildlife was all around us and I loved it. My entire family loves animals and wildlife. My mom and brothers are all avid hunters. It was very fun for me to get up early during moose hunting season and road hunt with my mom. It wasn’t so much about the hunting part as it was just being up and spending time together. I love the book that we are reading for this class because I can relate to it on so many levels. The way the stories in the book are written makes it easy for me to relate to them. I can identify with the people in the stories and what they are doing, even if I have never done the exact same thing they are doing in the stories. I think that is because to me Alaska is adventure. It is wild. It is free. Alaska is what you make of it. I have made it my home.