“I am Fine, I am Okay”

 FallColorsPainting

 

   The Guide I worked for took 3 of our clients out on horseback while I took one of the clients that was as fond of riding a horse as I am, out to glass another valley on foot.  We spent a pleasant day and had camp to ourselves all evening as the others were doing a spike camp and would be back tomorrow evening.  I listened to his hunting stories a while, then we turned in for the night.

We were up early and returned to the hillside we were using as a base to glass the lovely valley below.  By late afternoon, we spotted a very nice bull with a couple of cows moving into the valley to feed.  It was getting late and too far to stalk before full darkness so we headed back to camp, determined to be waiting for them in the morning at first light.

No one was in camp yet, when we arrived but we prepared a nice evening meal so it would be ready when they arrived.  We were almost finished preparing the meal when we heard the horses coming in.  The client went over to see if he could help them and see if they had any luck.

He soon returned, helping one of the riders to a seat beside the fire.  The man was obviously injured, but trying very hard not to let on that he even felt any pain.  When I looked at him, he said, “I am fine.  Really.  I am okay.”

The smell of dinner did perk him up a bit and soon he had a plate of food in front of him and started eating.

Everyone else straggled over, picking up plates and filling them as they passed the Dutch oven on the edge of the fire pit.  We asked how their trip had gone and they mumbled a bit between mouthfuls.

The Guide was done eating first and started the story of their excursion.  They had covered a lot of ground and saw some nice bulls but nothing that excited them.  It was still early in the hunt and they wanted to see if they could find something larger.  The injured man was only along for the ride as he was a non-resident alien and it would have been very expensive for him to get a license and tags.

As they turned to come back, the horse he was riding must have gotten stung or something because he went completely crazy, bucking and finally falling and rolling on the tundra.  The man riding him was still in the saddle when the horse rolled.

Everyone was stunned by the suddenness of the event and the poor horse was thrashing and screaming in pain.  The Guide threw his reins to one of the other clients and was over, pulling the man out from under the thrashing horse and trying to calm the horse when he saw that the horse had a badly broken leg.  He pulled his handgun and shot the horse.

He turned to the injured man, laying there on the ground, gasping for breath and also in pain.

“Are you okay?”

The man looked up at him, looked at the horse, looked at the gun still in the Guide’s hand and stammered out, “Yes, I am fine.  I’m okay.”

As we sat around the fire, whenever anyone would look over at the man, he would still hold up one hand and say, “I am fine.  Really.  I am okay.”

Making Do

Halya, Me and her Bear

Quick Repairs

When I was guiding down river, one of the Assistants managed to slash his thigh with chainsaw kickback. It looked like a bear slashed his leg with 4 ragged slashes.
The boat was not due back to check on us for another week. We washed out the cuts as best we could with boiled water, then I handed him the bottle of betadine and made him pour it over his leg.
After he quit jumping, cussing and swinging his fists around camp, we super glued his leg back together and butterfly bandaged with some duct tape strips. I checked his leg every evening and swabbed it a bit more with betadine, then covered with bag balm and he recovered very well with no infection.
We were lucky.

The Beginning – chapter 25

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 25
I am so glad I have kept it harvested all summer as things ripened. Just a couple of days ago, I transplanted some lettuce I started late, kale and mint. It was now protected on my sun porch. I set it up with some LED grow lights I was checking out that a friend had sent me. My little solar panels were also on the porch in the windows and charging the batteries on any clear day.
I gear up and go out to care for the goats. They are enjoying the snow, at the present. I think after a while they may get tired of it just like most humans do. At present, I am thinking it may be saving us from some unpleasant encounters with town folks. Maybe by the time they decide to head this way, they won’t have fuel for the trip. Right now, the only way they could reach us is by snow machine and they would have to be hauling extra gas for the trip.
Late afternoon, the guy on the snow machine stops back by to let us know the latest news from the other direction. He found everyone warm and cozy and at Kara and Rose’s they were even happier.
Their family in town had rounded up some motorcycles and trailers right after the earthquake, loaded up all they could find and came home. They got to the place just before the snow hit too hard. They said the bridge was out just north of town and they came through the river. The next bridge was cracked and they went over it one at a time, being very careful, the lightest loads first. Then at the last large bridge, they again crossed in the river as the bridge looked like it was not safe.
Town had been hit harder than the reports stated. The underground
utility tunnels under the Bases and under downtown Fairbanks had all collapsed and no utilities were working. The runways were all buckled and broken. No flights could enter or leave, except helicopters and only if they had enough fuel in the tanks as the tank farm was on fire. The roads going south from Fairbanks were clogged with traffic thinking they could drive somewhere and get away from the disaster. No one was headed north but them.
Both of Rose’s great-grandchildren made it out with their parent. Their community had increased, but Rose and Kara both planned on them being there in emergencies, anyway. Some of the little extra cabins were just for each adult to have their own place. The “adopted” ones were also welcome and also had been planned for. They hadn’t exactly planned on the one grandson bringing both of his girlfriends out, though. That could get interesting in the days ahead.
We shared our meal with the man and he accepted another bag of rolls and some bread to take on his ride home. He left soon after and we were glad he had stopped by. That was the best load of firewood we ever delivered.
Noah and I sat and tried to figure out exactly what was going to happen next and how to deal with it. We know we could survive out here, if we are left alone. It sounds like Wasilla may now be ocean front property. So the coastline has changed drastically.
I am wondering how Interior is going to change if the ocean levels are rising or have risen. Most of the Yukon and Tanana valleys are not very much above sea level. What if we now could catch ocean fish just down in our valley? We will probably have to wait until the coming summer to find out about that.
The next morning, I awaken to the sound of the goats in a panic and loud barking from Pal. I jump out of bed, grab a gun and head for a window toward the barn. I look out and see a very large grizzly trying to tear into the barn. I am so glad it has rock lower walls. I open the window and sight carefully. I gently squeeze the trigger and the bear slumps down. He starts to rise, then slumps over again. I will wait a bit before going to check. Noah comes racing around the corner of the house pulling on his coat and hat. I unlock the front door and he comes on in. “What on earth…?” he starts. I just say “Grizzly.”
After a few minutes, we put on some wet weather boots and heavy mitts and coats and go check to see if it is really dead. As we wade through the snow, Noah asks if this is a usual occurrence. “No, actually I have never shot a grizzly before,” I answer.
We walk up on the bear from behind with guns at the ready. If the bear even twitched, it was going to get shot a whole lot more. It didn’t twitch. I poked it’s eye with the rifle barrel, no response. I think it is dead. We drag the bear over away from the barn a ways, and spread it on it’s back with legs out. I pull out a quick change utility knife to start skinning. Noah asks why I use that. I tell him they stay sharp, only have to twist the handle to change blades if they get dull and they work very well.
I make the first cuts to make a nice shaped hide when finished and then start skinning. Noah starts on
the other side and it does not take us long to skin the bear. It is an adult male in very good condition. There are no bad odors, only the usual butchering odors, so it must have fattened up on blueberries. I will cure and smoke the hams and maybe try making bacon if there is enough meat over the ribs.
I bring out some large clean totes and we start trimming fat off the body to render for lard. I cut down through the fat over the ribs to the ribs and find it is over 2 inches thick. I will try making it into bacon. I cut both sides off, peeling it down to the ribs. And place it in the tote with the picnic shoulders, hocks and hams to be cured. The ribs and back and brisket will be used as roasts, BBQ ribs and maybe corn the brisket.
We soon have the bear cut into nice cuts of meat and take the totes to the sun porch to keep them cooler than in the main house. The hide will be worked on in the evenings. I did skin the head and feet out before they were cut from the body. That is easier to do at that time. But I will still have to flesh it out better and salt the hide. I cut the head from the body and consider trying brain tanning the hide. The neck has a lot of meat on it so maybe make mincemeat from that. I sort through the gut pile and remove the heavy fat deposits through it all and around the kidneys. This adds a lot more fat to the pile to render for lard.
After the bear is butchered up. The gut pile is dragged over as far as we could get it from the house, with all the snow. We took care of the goats and let Pal know what a good dog he was for barking at the bear. He showed no interest in going after the bear, so he is a smart dog.
When we get back in the house, I check the meat and it is cooling nicely. I mix up the cure to put on the meat and start by putting a layer in a tote, then a layer of meat, and another layer of cure. The heavy hams go on the bottom and the thin bacon slabs go on top all covered in a thick layer of dry cure. The first totes used are rinsed out and set to dry. I put a towel over the meat in the other tote so nothing gets into it. The extra cure mix is left beside it to be added the next day when the meat is turned and checked. The hams are very nice shaped and should be good.
While I was doing that, Noah filled my woodbox and started breakfast. We worked together all through the day, clearing snow off roofs where we could and shoveling trails around the yard. I finished harvesting the greenhouse and the garden. The large tomato plants I brought in last week, are doing fine on the sun porch. It isn’t warm enough for them to grow, but all the green tomatoes on them would slowly ripen and we would still have fresh tomatoes into at least January.
The late zucchini would be great fried and as soup or as bread. I placed them out on a shelf on the sun porch, also. It is more of a walk-in fridge in winter than a sun porch, but it is nice to have the fresh veggies most of the winter.
The extra fat we had cut off the bear, I coarse ground and set on the back of the wood heater to slowly render into lard. It would be a welcome addition to the food stores and make excellent pastries and doughnuts. I only had a small fire going in the wood stove, to keep the chill off the house, so didn’t have to worry
about the lard burning as it rendered. I set the leftover stew pot on the stove to reheat while we worked, also. When we came in at lunchtime, it sure was nice to have it ready and the water hot for a drink. I keep a large pot of water on the wood stove all the time for wash water and to do dishes or bathe. When I am working outdoors, I also put the teakettle on the wood stove to have it ready for a hot drink.
Noah was used to having running water and electricity, so this was going to be a learning experience for him. The good thing is, he seems willing to learn and go along with it.
The rest of the day, we work at making sure everything is as ready for winter as we can make it. In some ways, I hope this doesn’t last and that we get our usual Indian Summer but knowing the possibility of hungry people heading out from town if the roads clear, makes me selfishly wish this was the actual start of winter. There is nothing I can do to help all the thousands in town. I can help the folks in my immediate area
The next day, we build in the room and hay ricks in the barn. All I can hope is that I cut enough hay to last the winter, for the goats. I have never raised goats so am not sure how long it takes to gestate or how long until the young are weaned. I don’t know how much to feed them a day, even. I better start reading my books and see if I have the information there. This will be a learning experience that I will have to learn and fast, no room for mistakes. It starts snowing again, late in the afternoon and continues into the evening. Maybe winter has set in early.
We settle into a routine, of shoveling snow, packing firewood and caring for the animals. The meat is curing nicely and soon we have to go find some alder bushes for wood to smoke the meat. I hope it isn’t too cold to take a smoke well. The bacon sides are cured first, so I hang them to dry. The lard rendered out very well and I use the leftover cracklings as flavoring in a batch of cornbread. I heat the lard to boiling and pour it into hot jars and seal. After they are cold, I will store them in the pantry in a cool dark area. After the hams are smoked, I will try sharing with Rose and Kara and also with Will and Shari. Best if we all keep helping out, I am thinking.
The hams are finally cured and I have found a nice stand of Alder brush near the roadway to cut and peel for the smoke. Noah and I finally have enough peeled that it should do the whole batch. I sewed some cheesecloth bags to hold the hams in and we will place the bacon sides flat on screen, so they hold their shapes. It seems to be warm enough during the day to smoke and I bring them to the sun porch at night. It only takes a few days to have them with enough smoke to consider done.
We decide to try our hand at snowshoeing over to see Rose and Kara. By the time we are about halfway there, we realize neither of us are in shape for this. So we turn around and go home. At the rate we are going, it would have taken us all day just to go a couple of miles. If this were a needed trip, yes, but not just to visit and share some hams.
Will and Shari show up a couple of days later. They have a plow on the front of their little 6 wheel ATV and have made a small road to each property. They said they realize gas is a premium item now, but if we can keep some sort of trail open it will be better for us all. Will shares the latest news from his radio. None of it is good.
The entire world has been affected by the quakes and no cities are left standing, anywhere. Ones along oceans have slid into the seas, civilization has just stepped back in time a few hundred years and not a lot of the current population have any idea how to live in those times. The only hope is that there are people with the knowledge to make and operate old fashioned tools and equipment.
Even a lot of the Amish folk now hire or rent modern tools and equipment, just as long as they don’t do it themselves. So not even as much knowledge with them on old farming practices. Much of Southeast Alaska is apparently bare hillsides since the giant tsunamis washed through. Most of the Pacific Northwest is the same.
The after shocks are so bad in some areas that what buildings did survive are unsafe to go into. More people have died from cave-ins in apartment buildings and underground facilities. The huge volcano expected to erupt somewhere near Yellowstone seems to have dissipated by flowing into large unknown faults running along the east side of the Rockies and passing through near the former site of Denver. All the government underground facilities there are now full of lava. Washington DC is under water, so is New York City as far as anyone can tell. Florida is a few small islands. The new inland sea that used to be the Mississippi Valley now has dolphins and whales. South America and North America no longer join. Europe, Asia and Africa are the same, now separate continents, separated by oceans. No one has heard from Australia or New Zealand.
The early snows of the Alaskan Interior have reached far down into Canada. People that survived the earthquakes are succumbing to the cold. The fear of outbreak of diseases has escalated because of the inability to bury the dead. Rodents, the usual carriers of disease, run rampant in the ruins. Looters are being shot on sight. So far, there does not appear to be any organized raiding.
After all this unhopeful news, we visit a bit and Shari is nervous now about the birth of her child soon. I offer to help but tell her to ask Rose as she is closer. I will be happy to help, though. She thinks she has enough clothes for the baby and did buy a lot of disposable diapers for the first few months and then will switch when she runs out to the cloth ones she already purchased. I will make a small Arctic hare fur bunting for the baby.
When they leave, they take their ham and one each for Kara and Rose. I divide the bacon up and share it for each household, also. I smoked the hocks, so they would be good seasoning for beans and shared those, also. I don’t volunteer what type of meat it is, and they didn’t ask.
The bacon is a little different but acceptable when we try it for breakfast the next day. I will have to practice cutting it thinner.
As we are eating breakfast, Pal starts growling at the door. We look at each other and head to the window to see what is out there. I see a large black bear out in the trees heading to the gut pile and Noah sees 2 guys, also sneaking through the trees, unaware of the gut pile or conflict of interest about to happen. The guys are only watching the house and have guns drawn and pointing toward us. This is something I consider offensive, so I grab the rifle leaning against the wall near the window.
As I start to open the window, the bear decides these hairless bipeds are after his meal and steps in. He takes a swipe at one and practically takes his head off, at the sound, the other one turns and pulls the trigger at the same time. His 1st round goes high and wide and then he fires again, directly into the bears belly. The bear already thinks the guy is a thief, now he is enraged with a belly ache, too. The bear takes another swipe with his paw and tears out the man’s throat. Then I shoot the bear.
Even though he has saved us a lot of problems in the future, I really don’t want him as a neighbor and once a bear finds food anywhere, they always come back checking just in case there may be more. At this rate, we are only going to have my least favorite meat for the winter. But I can’t pass up free meat, so we once again spend part of the day skinning and butchering. There is nothing to be done for the 2 men and I recognize them as the 2 that came out with Royal to harass Shari. I’m pretty sure with all this snow before freeze-up, that we can still dig graves for them.
We drag them and as many parts as we can find up out of the woods and straighten them out so they don’t stiffen in bad positions. I don’t want them in my yard, so we walk out to the roadway. There is a small gully over on one side of the road, with a nice dirt bank above it and we decide to just cover them there. I really do not feel too sorry that they are gone. I just wish I knew what happened to their leader. I would have preferred the bear took care of him.
We drag the men out to the gully, push them in and start knocking the bank down over them. We try to at least make it deep enough with dirt and a lot of rocks, to deter scavengers from digging them out. It should freeze solid soon and that will help over the winter, anyway.
In the snow, the yard now looks like a bloodbath has taken place here. The grizzly at least had a bit more snow after we finished with him. It is cloudy, so I will pray for snow tonight to cover this mess up also.
I think we enjoy the bear meat more after it is cured and smoked, so I start this curing again. This was a large very fat old male, so he has enough fat over his ribs to again make some bacon. It is very fatty bacon, but will be all we will ever see again, unless someone out here has hogs. I have not heard of any, that does not mean there aren’t. I doubt if any of the folks on up the road know I have chickens and goats.
As long as the weather stays near freezing but not too cold, I can still smoke the hams and bacon after they cure.

A Late Night in Alaska

Bears2

From my Journal
May 29, 2011
Last night, my daughter and I went out to see my grandson at the mining claims and try to help them figure out what they are doing. On the way home, we saw a beautiful blond grizzly, toklat coloring, and were ooOoing and ahhhing over it running across the road, when a humungous grizzly came booking out of the brush and across in front of us, if we hadn’t of stopped he would have possibly bowled over the little toyota pickup, he was huge.
All I could think is, the hunting season is still open and if someone had stopped and shot the lovely blond griz, and started walking up to it, and that huge dark griz came tearing out of the brush, that certainly would have been an “Oh sh*t” moment.
We didn’t want to deter him on his way and don’t think if he was determined, that the truck would have been much protection, crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy, other than all that screaming, on the inside.

Chapter 1 – Alaskan Alibi

MeBearsSepia

Chapter 1
“So, are you having fun yet?” asked a man’s voice from behind me, as I knelt beside my old truck, fixing the flat.
Well, I was trying to fix the flat but whoever tightened the lug nuts had used an air wrench and enjoyed his work.
I’m not a little girl, so I stood on the star wrench and rocked back and forth, then jumped from side to side and eventually, it came loose. Only 5 more to go. Damn. At least I have them loosened.
I turned around to see who thought he was a comedian and decided he probably could be whatever he wanted, he was just that good looking.
“Okay, so are you offering to help or just stand there and watch?” I sorta snarled back. It is hot and I am already tired. This has not been one of my better days and it doesn’t appear to be going to get much better as it goes along.
The client I was supposed to pick up at the airport didn’t show and when I called the contact number for him, a lady answered saying he was unavailable. If I got my hands on him, he certainly wouldn’t be. Not getting a refund, either.
Did he think I would enjoy a little trip to town from hunt camp during my busiest season? Who wouldn’t enjoy taking a 150 mile road trip on a gravel road in hot weather with all the dust and rocks? Probably a good thing he didn’t show, if this was an example of his common sense and thoughtfulness for others.
Back at the flat tire, my audience decided he would lend a hand and the rest of the lug nuts just gave up and practically fell off. Yeah, not my day.
My spare is low on air, so I will have to head directly to a tire shop. Then the guy introduces himself and says my no-show sent him in his place. Okaaaay. I ask if he has the rest of the payment for the hunt and where is his gear? He says his friend was supposed to send the rest of the payment. When and how? He doesn’t know.
“Uh, you do know there is no hunt with no payment, right?”
“You can just let me come on out now and the money will be here when we come back in, can‘t you?”
“No, it don’t work that way, sorry.” I start to climb back into my pickup and he grabs my shoulder. Big mistake.
He looks up at me from under my foot and asks politely for his arm back, please?
Oops, first rule in camp, don’t touch me. Second rule is, don’t touch me.
I let go of his arm and he slowly gets up and brushes himself off.
“How did you do that? That first lug nut must have been on there a lot harder than the rest.”
“Of course, did you think I hadn’t already loosened all of them before taking one completely off? Do you have a vehicle or are you hiking?”
He grabs his backpack and throws it and a duffle bag into the back of my truck and I head for the nearest tire shop.
While waiting for service, I check my laptop to see if No-Show has sent anything. Nope, nothing. I turn the screen so the Flat Changer can see his buddy has ignored sending any notice about him or cash for the rest of the hunt.
“If you are planning on going hunting, you better contact him and get it settled or you are not riding on out with me.” I tell him.
He looks all hurt that I don’t trust him for the money and pulls out his cell phone. Soon it sounds like he is getting the same answers I got from the guy’s Secretary, Personal Assistant or whoever she is.
Finally he says something to her that gets her attention and soon he is talking to someone else, but still not the man he wanted to talk to.
While he is talking on the cell, someone changes the channel on the TV in the tire shop waiting room and we hear the name of the man he is trying to get in touch with, mentioned on the News.
Well, it seems we won’t be getting the balance due on the hunt from him, he is dead. Then another picture flashes on the screen as someone they would like to talk to and my Tire Changing guy is shown, big as life and twice as handsome, right there, on the screen.
His plane ticket is sticking out of his jacket pocket, so I sorta just ease it out to see when he got here and where he came in, from.
According to this ticket stub, he came in last night and left from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, sometime during the day, yesterday. So he isn’t guilty of his friend’s death. The news report is saying it happened sometime during the night and he was found in his office this morning.
I suggest this guy go directly to the State police here in Fairbanks with his ticket and get the police in Texas looking for someone else besides him. He agrees and then gives me a hard look for having his ticket in my hand.
He didn’t have to leave the tire shop, having given his name to the person in Texas, they evidently called our police and they were already here to talk to him. Whoever the man in Texas had been, he must have been important to someone.
I still have his ticket when the police grab onto him and cuff him. They read him his Rights immediately. I recognize one of the police officers and ask to speak to him.
We step outside and I ask why they cuffed and read him his Rights, thought they only wanted to talk to him from the report on the news.
Officer Reed tells me he can’t talk about the case. I ask if he knows when this guy got here, when he left Texas and when the victim was killed. He says he has only the last part of that information, so I hand over the ticket I have. He looks at me and asks how I got it, so I tell him. He hands it back after looking at it. He did write down the information on it to check and make sure that really is when this guy got here. I would imagine there is a hotel listing him as an overnight guest somewhere here in town, also.
When we walk back in, Officer Reed tells the others to let him go. He has a pretty good alibi for the time involved. One of the men snickers and makes a rather crude remark about me and the guy’s alibi, I take a step toward him. His eyes widen and Officer Reed tells him he WILL apologize and immediately or he will let me teach him some manners. He apologizes.
Tire Dude tells him to just pat me on the shoulder and snickers. Officer Reed gives him a hard look, too.
Okay, Tire Dude has a name. He is Cary Lowny. His deceased friend is none other than William Garrison The Third. Everyone always spoke of him in capitols. Didn’t help, he is still dead. When he made the reservation for our hunt, he just said Will Garrison, so I didn’t even think The William Garrison The Third would be booking a hunt with me.
I don’t advertise full service hunting trips, I just advertise primitive hunt camps and the chance to see a bear. No promises on getting one. Usually folks like The Third want better facilities and practically someone to pull the trigger for them, which I don’t do, either. Okay, that isn’t fair. I never met the man and have preconceived notions. Not nice, even, he can’t defend himself.
After the police leave, Cary pulls out his wallet and asks how much is still owed for the hunt. He doesn’t even blink and just starts signing over travelers checks. The shop guy comes in and says my pickup is ready to go, so we head on out to it.
I pull in at my bank and deposit the travelers checks. They won’t do me much good out in the Bush.
I pull out the standard guide client form and waiver for Cary to sign and also take him in to buy his license and tags. He signs the hunt contract I have to turn in to the State, also.
He is laughing as he reads the waiver I have included at the bottom of the client form. I tell him it isn’t so funny when some snooty client wants to sue me for getting his butt bit by bugs while using the outhouse. So I try to cover all bases in the waiver.