I realized that a week ago today marked my 20th year in Alaska! I'm beyond my Cheechako years, for sure, but not quite a Sourdough yet, as I am pretty sure that means 15 additional years here. I thought I would take the blog opportunity to reflect on the happenings of 1989.
I was seven years old and had just relocated with my family from Dover AFB, DE to Eielson AFB, Alaska. Dad had just returned State-side from a year's tour to Korea without us. He was withdrawn and our adventure to Alaska seemed like the only thing we had going for us. There was no room on Base, so the Air Force put my family of six and our dog up in a Fairbanks hotel. That was so much fun, especially because the maid was afraid of Russie, our fat, old Brittany! Soon, my dad moved us into a nasty, run-down cabin in Moose Creek, Alaska. In May, it snowed! My brother, Jamie, and I built 6 snowman, one for each family member, and a snow-dog, of course! :)
That summer was a blast: we had very few toys, as they were all in storage. Instead, we played in the dirt, made friends with a girl down the street, and walked alongside the railroad tracks to the Moose Creek General Store for over-priced candy-bars that are way under the price of cheap candy bars today. Dad broke his nose when he rolled a 3-wheeler on top of himself on those same railroad tracks sometime that summer. Mom worked part time at the BX and struggled to keep up with cabin cleaning and home-schooling.
In September, it snowed again! It was the 20th of September, actually. I remember this because my dad had taken all of us fishing on the bank of the Tanana River. Our senile, old dog had locked point on some bushes nearby. We scolded her for taking an interest in squirrels. A closer investigation, however, revealed a shivering, malnourished black Labrador. She was pregnant, abandoned, with fishing line cutting up her feet. Though a year in Korea without us had made him somewhat emotionless toward his family, my dad could not resist our cries to help the poor dog. Dad cleaned her up, named her Lucky, and built her a cardboard box to birth her babies. Seven perfectly plump Black Lab mixes, and one Chocolate Lab mix, of the same stature emerged from Lucky's skin and bones the very next day. Though we found a great new home for Lucky, we did keep her brown pup. We named him Sasquatch and he was the most well-behaved dog I have ever known.
We learned that winter pretty much starts around then, and soon, Christmas was upon us. It's the only year in my memory where our tree wasn't topped with a golden star my parents had made before I was born. Our tree of 1989 wore construction-paper strings, and popcorn strings at the top where Russie and Sasquatch couldn't reach them. Cut-outs from magazines also hung from the branches. It was perfectly Alaskan!
I'm not exactly sure when we moved out of the cabin, but I know we spent a significant amount of our first winter there, if not all of it. We learned that the hole we'd discovered in the summer when mosquitoes swarmed into my and my sister's room would turn that room into a frozen isolation chamber in the winter months. After that, we slept in the small living room. We also learned that squirrels could make a huge mess inside of a cabin and were very vigorous at finding a way in during the hard-to-forage winter months. We learned that if you feed a moose a potato, she will ask you for another, and another, and another, and so on. Sasquatch became friends with Molly the moose, whom my mom was the first to offer a handout to. Dad fed her from his hand, but soon made an executive decision to stop the handouts and force Molly to move on. Probably a wise decision, as I am sure we couldn't afford such an expensive pet!
Still, I think the most important thing we learned was that, together, we could make a great life here. We could endure any trial. We could overcome our past conflicts. We could love each other and be a family again. Those were the life lessons we should have all held on to as the years passed. God really used Alaska to bring us together back then. And together, we were a great team.