Saturday, October 15, 2016


Recently during an email correspondence with an online friend who lives in a warmer clime, I mentioned I was planning an extended stay in the Bush. She wrote back to wonder if I were worried that I could get trapped there by heavy snow for long periods of time.

It’s interesting how perspectives  are different in different places. What worried her was about the least of any that concerned me about the adventure. But for someone who doesn't live with snow, it becomes a bigger deal.

When I taught writing I always tried to explain why words had to be specific. The example was a woman I worked with used "really" as an adjective all the time, as in it was really cold. My message was what does "really cold" mean? If you are in Miami Florida maybe it means 40 degrees above zero, but if you are in interior Alaska it means 60 below, so how do you tell the woman in Miami how cold it is in Alaska? One time in Delta, which is in the center of the state, I asked the kids to give examples of really cold that people everywhere would understand. One girl raised her hand and said one morning her boots had frozen to the floor of the school bus. Now, that’s something everyone can understand is “really” cold.

What brought that on was my friend's worry that I might get stranded at the cabin by an extreme snowstorm. From the perspective out in the woods, that will never happen. For the most part snow means you can move around easier with snowmachines and snowshoes and all the creeks and rivers have frozen over. Sure you get deep snow sometimes which does makes it more difficult until you can pack down a trail, but it never stops you for any length of time. For the most part snow is your friend.

I would be more likely to be stranded by a big thaw than a big snow. But even then you can move around. Even so you always have to keep it in mind. What usually creates the danger is a series of events building into a major problem. Put heavy snow on top of an injury and then dwindling supplies on top of that or the machine breaks and one thing after another goes wrong until you are in trouble. Only in that sense would a heavy snowfall be much of a danger.

It’s like the Zulu words in Leon Russell’s "Out in the Woods." He asked a Zulu for the words for a man lost in the woods and the man said Zulus don’t get lost in the woods, they don’t have any words for that. Same with big snow, it doesn’t even enter into the consideration of whether to live out there or not. There aren't any words for that. For the most part lack of snow is the bigger worry.

Such a way of life is understandably alien to someone unfamiliar with it, so her concern is certainly understandable. To assure her it would be all right I mentioned I also would have my SPOT locater with me at all times and could call in the cavalry if the need arose. But, to my mind that is cheating.

I think cellular phones are one of the most dangerous items carried by people who venture off the pavement these days. The feeling that they can always call for help gives people a false sense of security and perhaps slightly deadens the kind of alertness a traveler needs to remain aware of any dangers to his environment. I even saw people driving snowmachines into mountain avalanche country with very little safety equipment saying they had cell phones for that,

To my mind a person who ventures out should accept the responsibility to be prepared to take care of himself rather than depend on being able to call for help.  At the cabin I keep an extensive first aid kit that even includes surgical scalpels and needles, silk, inflatable splints and a friendly doctor used to supply me with prescriptions for serious pain medications against the time they might be needed.

On top of that I probably have enough parts to rebuild my snowmachine or repair any other vital machinery. But all of that is no substitute for common awareness. No matter how relaxed it becomes out there, you have to remain on the alert for signs around you. I remember a few years back I heard a serious-sounding crack off in the woods. I noted it and watched in that direction but didn't pick up another clue until more than half an hour later when a grizzly with three yearling cubs walked out into the open. Always aware of the surroundings. And the preparation? A handful of bottle rockets and a big-ass rifle. The bottle rockets carried the day.

The point is, be prepared to take care of whatever arises yourself rather than relax and expect to call for help. The SPOT is available but only as the total last resort.

Among all the things that can get you, a big snow is probably among the least of the worries. One thing about Bush life is you seldom HAVE to be anywhere at a specific time. If you do, give yourself a day or two leeway. And when nature snarls at you the best bet is to wait it out. Zulus don't get lost in the woods and a little snow doesn't stop Alaskans, at least not for long. So, bring on the snow. I still have this brand new machine and itching to use it.



Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

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

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

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

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."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve