CaveBoy on Tundra

A random video of an Alaskan hunting trip somehow loaded in my browser last week. Funny how something so random can elicit such profound memories and feelings of regret for times past. From the time I was born I was outdoors, hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, skiing, skating, on and on and on. There was a hunting guide, pilot, game warden and archery business owner all in my immediate family, so my options as a youngster, were plentiful.

The memories that particular video unearthed were quite specific. It was of a fall trip to the North Slope of Alaska in the mid 1980’s with my Dad, my best friend and his Stepdad; who was, coincidentally, my Dads good friend and coworker. The Dalton Highway, or Haul Road as most refer to it, is the only road that far north as it parallels the Alaskan Pipeline to Deadhorse. -Prudhoe Bay- These days the road is well traveled and maintained to a much, much higher standard. In those days only official vehicles could travel north of the Yukon River, -later, Dietrich Camp, about 120 miles further North- which provided for a much more remote, isolated feeling, especially as a 11-12 year old.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had recently been reading some books about Cavemen and hunting Woolly Mammoths, but I just recall this feeling like we had warped back 20,000 years in time? Animals of all sorts were teeming everywhere I seemed to look. Bears, Caribou, Moose, Wolves, Foxes, all sorts of birds including large flocks of Ptarmigan, their foliage mid season, a patchwork of white, red, and brown, Marmots, Parka Squirrels, even Musk Ox, looking ancient indeed, but most of all, lots of Caribou with their half bloody velvet hanging in pieces from their crackling antlers. It was all so surreal. A visual sense of nature in an untamed environment of wonder.

The only hunting that was allowed was archery. Turns out the Dad’s were pretty shitty bow-hunter’s, not that hunting Caribou out in the open is easy, but still, there was no chance of success in this sense. But we did enjoy success on the river. First, my friend and I happened upon a smallish creek that was teeming with Arctic Grayling eager to attack just about any dry fly floated on the surface. A couple days later, camped next to a much larger river, we struck it rich with some Arctic Char, a feisty game fish similar to Steelhead or Dolly Varden. Basically, a 12 year old fisherman’s dream.

After what seemed like the 30th failed stalk on Caribou, my friend and I decided to break off on our own to try to get within bow range of some of these creatures. They watched us on our first try, run across the tundra about a mile to a small creek that allowed us to get out of sight, then pop out about a half a mile in front of 7 nice bull’s. Along this little band of ancient rocks, the remains of some million year old underwater mountaintop, we hid ourselves using our best guess judging the Caribou’s movement. About 30 minutes later, as a fog bank rolled in off the distant Arctic Ocean, these animals approached our little nook in the limestone, two of which bed down not 25 feet away. We couldn’t wait to brag, our Dad’s watching from the truck a mile or so away, as the fog finally became so dense, all sign of humanity washed away, the sounds of clicking Caribou, for about 30 minutes, all that remained.

The peace was disrupted by the growl of some distant trucks Jake Brake, followed almost immediately by a few taps on my father’s horn. Walking back I remember quite well a brief moment of panic come over me for no reason. A fear of being lost in this visual soup, maybe? The sensation passed with the rumbling of another Northbound Rig, reminding my brain that the hidden highway was still actually there, a half mile West, despite our irrational fears otherwise. Although I’ve visited similar environments over the years, none have imprinted my memory with such reverence and peaceful fear. It was like we had experienced a time and place incomparable and indescribable to our friends? It was like we had, for those couple hours, if not several days, walked in the shoes of our tribal ancestors: the Woolly Mammoth and Saber Toothed Tiger hunter’s, living and learning far from the cave.















LIP servicE

The web will find you, anywhere. The modern machine broke free today. My peaceful corner of the planet, no more than a few hundred stones throw’s south of the Arctic Circle, became, if only temporarily, the newest information landfill in the Galaxy, thanks to my closest neighbor half-a-mile away. The industrious gentlemen, a Korean and Vietnam War’s Vet and occasional Poker player, combined renewable and fuel generated energy to power, among other things, a DISH Network system with internet and WiFi Router -no password- for the communities pleasure. The community being him, his wife, two dogs and one neighbor, me. I cannot say that I’m happy for the hook-up, nevertheless, his ingenuity -necessary, he claims, to lure his wife away from the city for a few weeks- and effort makes me smile.

The obvious downside to this temporary connection with the sick world below is the fact I learned of Donald Trump’s newest -as of 11am Wednesday- mouth fart. WTF, really?Is it hyperbole to posit anyone else making that statement in public would bring a heavy hand from the law? Maybe not arrested, but certainly put under watch? There’s no question he meant 2nd Amendment folks might be able to get what they want through the use of gun violence, that’s almost certain. Now, we can parse whether he meant Clinton directly, or Justices, or a coup de’tat for fucks sake. The comment was beyond the pale, even for The Donald. And like my last post made clear, the media must stop with the mealy mouth coverage. But they wont. In fact, the most ridiculous parsing came from the supposed Liberal MSNBC. It leaves me to wonder: might they be trying to help Donald to keep him afloat long enough to get HRC elected? Doubt it. Not that smart…or, rather, not as smart as those operating the levers of power over at FOX news!

The sun just broke through the grey of last nights storm. Spending precious time attempting to unravel the tangled mess that is modern politics feels perverse, if not my own wicked corruption? Would it sound crazy admitting my interest in such ethereal, distant helms, actually blunts my otherwise, painful, aching loneliness? I know my opinion is of zero consequence beyond the games stretching out within my own mind. The spaces between these crowded arenas are so dark, there have been times I could have laid down in the opaqueness, and check out of the next game. It’s a journey of feet, on the razors edge between grey and black. I never would have believed the anguish this despair controls in here? I was a happy child, a young man of contentment. Now, after the blasts and regret, that other life is lost.








Today I have this feeling of contentment, of peace in a way. It occurs to me that my exercise in LiveJournal these past couple weeks may have contributed? Or not, who knows? All I can say for sure is that I don’t feel pathologically suicidal tonight which is significant in a sort of way in-explainable on paper…or online, as it were. So, as tradition now justifies, I must complain; on the course of modernity, or, of the pain of our past.

My property is located in an area of the North Country quite susceptible to the beauties of autumn. The death of summer foliage set against the lateral sunsets of late nights is as striking to the natural eye as any earthly scenes I’ve had the pleasure to witness. There is no justice in the casual photos captured by smartphone lenses or Handy-cam digital composites. That is to say; people might tend to miss out on the actual beauty as they fumble with devices, with careless driving manners, and/or the hope children present might relieve themselves from any of the countless distractions present in our modern, hyper-technological, Virtual Reality exposed field of vision’s? 

What I’m trying to say is: put the phones down, stop the RV in a safe place out of traffic and just enjoy the moment. It’s what you came for is it not? Did you travel the thousands of miles only to attempt to prove you did by dropping a “pin” or exposing your Facebook family and friends to a shitty pic of the horizon, or shaky video of a moose? Buy a postcard or some professionally done video for the purpose of sharing. Relax, slow down, be safe(r) and go in peace. I don’t want to seem like the crotchety old man who finds fault in everything, everyone else might enjoy. I only speak from experience as a fellow wanderer and novice photographer that wishes he would have found more time to relax and spent less time looking for the next stop. That’s all. I just mean, do you really need to record the concert one the phone when professional recordings are available? Or recording Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton at every opportunity -not to mention any other pseudo celebrity- with 50 other media organizations doing the same, but much, much  better? Or selfies? Maybe it’s because I have never looked worse than in close up pics of my mug, but really? Okay, you get my point. Is it a passing fad, this hyper recording of ourselves, or is it only the beginning, God help us?

After the fire last winter that destroyed my first cabin I was left with precious few photographs or videos. Other than some low quality pics I had online and a thumb drive that escaped unharmed, my digital and physical past was 90% extinguished. There’s nothing like the unexpected to reveal the importance, or unimportance, as it was, of physical property, treasure or trinkets and tokens from the past. So I understand the desire to capture everything and anything. I understand the parents at baseball games not actually watching, but rather, recording. Those flicks could be treasured 30 or 40 years from now.

So why not get several Go Pro’s and set them up to record games for all the parents? Privacy. Or could the Little League’s themselves do it as a part of the field? Who knows? But either something is done soon or we might lose the present altogether, living only for a possible future? Just thinking.

Okay, have a beautiful day anyone who might read this, in the present…or the future.









On a snowy Christmas morning, in what feels like a lifetime ago, Santa had left my present leaning up against our families fake, tinsel and star crowned tree: my first rifle; I was 10 years old. I consider myself an open minded, liberal leaning American. In today’s political climate however, my belief that allows me to accept this gift as rational, within the context of our lives in the early 1980’s, paints me a cultural lunatic. I can understand the concern of parents who’ve lived outside of our then rural life, nevertheless, black and white idealism, in my opinion, precludes one being an authentic idealist.

I am not one of these 2nd Amendment absolutists. In fact, I am opposed to the sale of weapons of war throughout society. The only practical use for a assault weapon combined with armor piercing ammunition and high volume magazines is that of warfare between similarly armed men on the battlefield. I even seriously question the use of these weapons by most law enforcement agencies in but the most serious of conditions.

That photo captured in Ferguson Missouri, showing an unarmed protester directly down the barrel of a turret mounted machine gun left a powerful impression on me as a combat veteran. It was symbolic and profound. The destruction of our 1st Amendment through an overly broad interpretation of our 2nd. Those who are unwilling or ignorant of the irony should take stock in the lessons of history where free speech and the right to protest the government have been squelched.

My first gun was a Ruger model 77, .22 long rifle. My family owned several guns, from shotguns to pistols. However, we did not own any assault weapons. We lived the majority of our life in an extremely remote region of Alaska where hunting and fishing were beyond sport and closer to subsistence. At the age of 8 I was wearing a .44 magnum while out of the home, in the woods, hiking, fishing or camping, as protection from aggressive bears. I was responsible and well schooled in firearm safety. I still vividly recall my grandfather shooting an apple with my little .22 perched upon a signpost. The apple basically exploded, followed by his words, “that could be someones head. Even this little .22 needs to be always respected.” Not every 10 year old will absorb such wisdom, I know. I suspect the same amount of adults suffer from this same flaw? If my parents suspected or had reason to believe this of me, I would have never been allowed the responsibility.

I said all that to say this: the more ubiquitous these weapons become, the more paranoid our society seems to become? That America will be invaded by some ragtag army of terrorists, or that our government will swing tyrannical, both grow from that same seed of paranoia. We have a government to protect us from that so-called army. And if the government goes all martial law, assault weapons owners will find themselves in one of two unfortunate camps: 1. a part of that twisted tyrannical government without realizing it, or 2. so fucking scared and impotent up against a machine so much heavily armed and sophisticated, they’ll be unable to fight back, let alone defend themselves.

Machine guns can be quite fun to shoot, as long as the target cannot return fire. So my compromise is this: armories and target ranges could provide security and safety over these weapons when not in use. Americans could still go hog wild at the range, -fuck, let ’em have some RP-G’s, Mortars and LAW’s to fire off at these facilities even- but that’s where these arms will stay, locked up until our military is being overrun at the Mexican border, or President Bush IV declares martial law. You want a few 12 gauges, a 30.06, some handguns, no problem. You want a weapon of war? Sign up and head downrange.








Setting aside the immutable horrors of war experienced by downrange infantry soldiers for a moment, I would like to share an equally traumatic event from early adulthood. I was only 17 at the time, having never even seen a dead human being, let alone being present as one died. So much about this event was fucked from the start. Even today, as I delve back into those memories, I instantly feel anxiety and fear rising up within, some 25 years later.

It was a typically beautiful July afternoon in South Central Alaska; a perfect day to view the majestic Western Alaska Range on the drive North to Fairbanks, 300 miles ahead. At the Talkeetna cutoff, roughly 100 miles North of Anchorage, I stopped to refuel my little Volkswagen Golf -diesel was 90 cents a gallon, that’s how long ago it was- and purchase a few snacks. My vehicle was temperamental and by chance, I ran into a long haul trucker at the truck stop who I knew, asking him if I could trail him in case of any further car trouble? It was a plan and we left. It was about 3pm.

I was coming from the Kenai Peninsula, where I had graduated High School 2 years earlier, hauling a couple coolers of fresh caught Homer Halibut and Kenai River Sockeye Salmon for my parents in Fairbanks. Up to that point it had been just about perfect. Hanging out with friends, playing epic outdoor paintball, fishing and clam digging. After a week though, I had to return to work. I’d be home by 8pm. In bed by 10pm, barring any lengthy delays. Turns out, I wouldn’t make it home until 1pm the following day.

After rounding a sweeping corner 11 miles past Talkeetna, a column of black smoke could be seen rising from the highway at the end of a long straight stretch ahead. The closer we got, the worse it all looked. As we stopped, 60 feet short of the scene, the best I could tell, a large tour coach had caught fire, halfway off the embankment on our side of the road, the opposite side of his being a South bound bus. We were the first two on scene, quickly approaching the bus to assess what we could do to help. It was already a hot afternoon for Alaska, -around 85f I suspect- but the growing fire increased the ambient heat considerably.

I still couldn’t understand what happened, however, it was clear everyone needed to be removed from the bus as soon as possible. The passengers, about 40 in all, were in the process of disembarking from an emergency exit near the rear windows, but the driver, still conscience, was pinned within the driver’s area due to the incredible front end damage which ruined any use of the front door. Why was there so much damage, I thought? What did it hit? The fire grew, melting plastic, and increasing the driver’s panic.

By then, a minute or two after arriving, a few others began to show up. My only thoughts at that point centered on getting this man out, or somehow, knocking down the fire. My trucker friend was calling for anyone with fire suppressants to bring them ASAP while jumping back into his rig. Before I knew it I was standing on what was left of the front dash and steering wheel trying to pull the operator out. I was getting burnt wearing only a tank-top and shorts and I could feel my lashes and body hair singeing. There was no way to get him out like that. I was yelling for help, but only one other man would even get close, let alone climb up above the man. Later on, I realized I couldn’t blame them. There was a fear the whole thing was going to blow up, even though a diesel fuel tank probably wouldn’t, few wanted to chance it.

I jumped off, falling into the gravel below just as my friend asked me to help him. He had jack knifed his 18 wheeler behind the bus with chains hooked to it. I needed to crawl under and wrap them around an axle. Fuck! I managed to get one around a strut and another under some hinge. I recall it being cool under the devastated rig. It was then that I put it together in my head. The bus had collided head on with another vehicle with such force, that car had literally collapsed and disappeared beneath the front half of it. I came to this conclusion while crawling from underneath the rear. The fire was coming from underneath and my buddy hoped to pull the bus back onto the highway and clear of the feeder fire.

It was maddening! The bus wouldn’t budge, despite the tremendous power of the truck. After several yanks, the chains snapped, ending that plan. Walking back to the front, I heard a scream and saw several people running away in distress. The man was about to burn alive and I could do nothing. Nobody could.

What haunts me to this day is his eyes. He kept eye contact with me as he begged for help in between the most horrific screams I’ve ever heard. Help me! Please! I told him I tried. Did I say it out loud? I’m not sure. He held on much longer than I would have ever suspected, screaming as he disappeared into the black smoke. Turning around, I realized I was standing much closer than the group of 30 or so people gathered on the road. I was to shocked to do nothing. I began walking around, checking on one elderly couple after another. Broken bones, sprains, some cuts and bruises, but as I asked what I could do, most would say something like, “find someone who is worse, we’ll make it.” It was dramatic, surreal and much more than any 17 year old kid can, or should, handle.

After 45 minutes or so, a couple Troopers began arriving, followed by ambulances, helicopters and fire trucks. The fire was just about out as the main group of emergency vehicles arrived, leaving a blackened, warped shell of a once first class motor coach. I waited it all out laying on the hood of my little car, 50 feet from the bus’ front bumper. My buddy had briefly stopped to ask me if I’d be okay, but nobody else said a word until I was approached by a rescue worker who had just landed. “Are you okay,” she asked? “Yeah, just some minor burns, scrapes and bleeding,” I replied. She looked at me, then around, assessing my proximity to the damage and my too calm demeanor. “Uh huh,” she scoffed, “I’ll be back as soon as I can to talk.”

The smell is what triggered me, 10 years later, while in combat. Like the smell of cheap tequila after getting plastered on the shit as a teen, or that of raspberry iced tea after mistaking your Dad’s spit can for the actual tea, that smell of burnt guts, melted plastic, blood, shit and brains is a treacherous mental assault. To this day I have dreams where the violence is absent, the scene is placid, the breeze cool, but the smell is present and wont go away. Awake I hear those screams, from then and now, but that smell, I’m sure there are some out there that can relate?

On a side note, as an example of how much of a scumbag some folks can be, about 3 months following the whole ordeal, I caught a newspaper article relating to the tragedy. The Governor had given some sort of citizen medal to 5 people at the scene of the crash. It wasn’t the fact that neither I or the truck driver were involved that chapped my ass. It was the fact that these 5 individuals did little to nothing to help at the time as far as I could recall. Two of them were in the group that wouldn’t even get near the bus and one woman might not have been there at all. After returning home I only received one call regarding the incident and it was from an insurance company. Nothing else. Like I wasn’t even there despite it all.

My eyelashes grew back. The scars on my arms and neck faded over the years. My body healed. My brain did not. Who am I to complain though? I later learned the details of the incident. As the bus came out of the corner, headed south, a small Bronco swerved into its lane. Maybe the driver was changing a CD or adjusting a vent? Who knows? At the last moment the bus driver tried to move into the wrong lane to avoid the impact. The Bronco driver reacted the same and it was a direct hit, right in the middle of the highway, both vehicles moving at speeds in excess of 60mph. The Bronco was devastated along with all on board…4 brothers from the same family, aged 11 to 17. A devastation that family couldn’t have comprehended. These boys, along with the bus driver and on board female attendant were killed that day.

I never talked with anyone about it other than to mention it in passing like; “no big deal, I wasn’t involved but it looked bad.” I mentioned it to my mom on the way home from a payphone. She never brought it up. Maybe thought I was exaggerating? That sums up that relationship in 2 sentences I’m afraid. I have considered looking these people up and writing a real story but don’t have the energy or will needed. And that sums me up in 2 more.