Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bush rules: break one and pay a price

It's the Equinox at the East Pole.
Despite the freedom it affords, there's a set of rules for living in the Alaska Bush. Well, actually, there are several sets of rules. Everyone has a personal set, based on experience, advice and common sense and no two sets are exactly alike.

Probably the first rule on everyone's list, or should be is: You are on your own. If something goes wrong there is no one around to help and no way to call. Keep this in mind every time you approach a new task.

The weather is here,
I wish you were beautiful.
Down around No. 812 or so on my list is this one: At least in March you break trail with the snowmachine in the morning after the snow has set up in freezing temperatures overnight; in the afternoon when the snow is softer you break trail on snowshoes.

The one photo is the result of ignoring rule No. 812 and attempting to break trail on a heavy snowmachine in late afternoon.

There should be some kind of corollary to that rule but I can't seem to find the right words. The thing is I could have drop-kicked my little Tundra over that knob. Instead I brought this big lunker for its  power and it took a couple of hours of shoveling, a lever and fulcrum and at least two hookups with a come-along and a good 50 feet of rope before it came free. Then once it did break loose it rolled over on its side on this hill. You break a rule, you pay, sometimes double. My Tundra has never rolled over. 

Rule No. 812 violated and the payment.
Now, that mistake was made trying to pack a loop up and down the hill to bring up a bunch of firewood. Forgive me lord, but I took down a giant sort of healthy birch tree. Mind you that tree has been partially blocking my view of Mount McKinley for the past 28 years, so it has been approached with some patience and consideration. Rationalization? Once cut open it exposed the beginnings of rot in the lower trunk. That is the way of a climax forest.

Over the course of the week between digging out the snowmachine several times and lifting heavy sections of birch, some so heavy I had to split them first, my body took a pretty good beating. Another one of those rules. Stay in shape. But there's this about staying in shape. It seems no matter how hard you gain, you are still just as beaten at the end of any chore. The understanding came one day after hiking the trail. At the beginning of the first winter out there that hike had been exhausting. Still, toward the end of the season, it still wore me out. The thing was, when I started out it was taking me about three and a half hours and by the end of winter I was doing it in less than two and a half. So, using just as much energy but doing it in only about two-thirds the time. I tried to explain it to my son one time when he complained about always being tired after basketball practice. Shouldn't it get easier as you get better? he asked. And I said, no, because you are expanding the horizon.  When a sprinter breaks 10 seconds in the hundred does he quit? No, he goes for a 9:98 and then a 9:96 and will always be just as tired if he gives his all, like I told my son and so many others have said, you leave it all on the field.

So as the week went on I felt myself dealing with it much better and lasting longer and best of all, that lack of firewood mentioned after the previous week is over. I was able to split all the wood from a year-old blow-down I cut up last summer and get it stacked under the house to dry. That will be ready next winter. So now I have birch. Plus, under the porch is the remains of the 50-foot birch I cut this week drying for me to split this summer or fall and the way I use firewood out there any more, worth at least a couple of years. 

The remains of the huge birch, still to be split.
Firewood from the blow-down, drying away.
You think of things while splitting wood and one of those this time was all things considered, I should be able to keep coming out there for at least the next 10 years. That would make me 81. If over that time while I am still in good shape, I could put in 10 years worth of firewood, I might be able to stretch it out a few more years. So, now the goal is to cut one big tree over each of the next five or so years and thus take firewood out of the chore cycle for the next five or more after that. We'll just have to see how far I can extend it. Of course that means staying in shape too.

All in all spending the better part of two weeks at the East Pole was marvelous. The weather could not have been better. Clear, cold nights and warm sunny days, day after day and still going on into the future. Almost every day I spent an hour or two on the porch just soaking up rays. Only one major disaster. And this rule should be well above No. 812: I ran out of Jell-O.  This was serious. I don't know why but working hard in the cold almost demands a helping of Jell-O afterward and I thought I had enough but I ran out mid week. A friend on Facebook and who has lived on boats and in the Bush offered to order an air drop. We do have our inside humor.

Does he look regal or what?
Walter had the time of his life running free. I was a little  concerned about him tangling with a moose but there was very little sign around so I let him go. Of course he's still a puppy and took advantage of every chance to try to knock me down the hill again. The baying of  a hound in the deep woods, even if it is objecting to a passing snowmachine is still music to the ears.

It was tough to leave this morning and I found myself thinking of excuses to stay. I had no real reason to leave except maybe running out of Jell-O, but I always could have bought a few more supplies and gone right back. Once committed, though we came back. Next year it might be worth thinking about spending a month.

Now about those rules. With the snowmachine I broke two and then there was the Jell-O. That is one of the interesting parts of those rules, you keep adding to them as you blunder from one chore to another. I have always liked to say let's move on to bigger and better mistakes. As long as you don't make the big one it's all character building. But, too, I like to say I am 71 years old, this  IS my character. There is also some satisfaction in overcoming difficulties without having to call the guy, even when those difficulties are of our own making. Overcoming a shortage of Jell-O however isn't done easily

So there should at least be a corollary to that rule No. 1. It would go something like this. If you are alone and make a mistake, there is no one around to laugh at you, no one to ridicule you, in fact what happens in the woods, stays in the woods if you want it to. Of course if you choose to expose yourself on a blog that's your choice but you do so at your own risk.


So laugh all you want; I have more than a year's worth of birch firewood under the house now despite my rule-breaking and my beaten-up body and that feels good. 



1 comment:

  1. Tim, you are my dearest friend in the world. I wish I could be in Paradise just to know that you are okay. How I would love to hear Walter bay. I actually buy a 12-pack of sugar-free Jello to keep in the frig...only pennies. Keeps my hair & nails nice. Remember the conversations about my nails & BMW when I moved to Paradise? You said, "don't you dare move your BMW to the Alascom parking lot." I still remember my fingernails, my car & moving from Hillside to Talkeetna.

    ReplyDelete

Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

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