Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Week of Joshua and Christopher

"You're walking into those woods (tundra)?! You don't know what's out there."
"I have a gun."
"They don't know that. They see us walking around out there, they think we're with the Sierra Club and THAT's a stick."
"Who's they?"
"I don't know. Wild animals, white supremists, attack bugs."

- Joel and Maggie, Northern Exposure
The boys (my brother Joshua Mac aka Gus, and our friend Christopher Lewis aka Columbo) had been up here in Quinhagak since last week! They quickly became my personal/village mechanics, seasoned river fisherman, expert tundra travelers, boat and truck driver's ed instructors and Josh even dabbled in a bit of flying. I know I haven't written and I hope I can do this last week the justice it deserves... I've made an effort to chronicle their travels below.
So I've been very busy cooking. Yep, go ahead reread it, it's true I was cooking! All week and having a ball, I might add. It must have had something to do with the company. I'm going through withdrawals right now, maybe not so much from the lack of cooking as the lack of Josh and Chris trotting around fishing reel in one hand, rifle in the other, wheels turning just hard about how they might get up river or across the tundra. Scheming between each other about trekking to the mountains, collecting enough pieces of old four wheeler parts to make a new one or dreaming up the perfect future float trip from the lake.
Here they are arriving fresh off the plane. The Bobsy Twins

Meet Twin 1: my brother Joshua Mac (whom the kids are certain is much older than me;) I'll take that!

Twin 2: His friend and mine (that's if he'll still acknowledge it in spite of his strong disapproval of my washing and reusing plastic Ziploc bags, which I thought was rather in genius-Gramma's idea from up at the cabin), Christopher Lewis aka Christopher Columbo as deemed by Fannie:)

Friday-Saturday, September 4th Day 1
On a whim last Friday I flew into Bethel to meet them at Alaska Air. They barreled off the plane with 600 trillion pounds of gear, which I have know idea how they loaded on the plane without enough excess baggage fees to require them both to get 2nd jobs and with pure precious naivete cossack optimism. Together they were adventuring to western Alaska as "We're here for fish and game!" Dorky matching outfits and all, these, they giddily explained were on sale at Costco. We started the week with 24 hours in Bethel, what a beginning, eh? Of course we hit all the important landmarks AC, Swansons, VIP, Brothers and Saturday Market. Thankfully we were invited to crash at friends Carey and Erin's House. Then another friend Bret was kind enough to drive us all over town and let us stuff his KIA to busting at the seams with their outdoor gear worthy of a barge sized transportation and certainly sufficient to spend a minimum of 3 years hunting and fishing without need to return to civilization. Above Josh reminiscing of his days flying with Francis Einerson.

Sunday, September 6th Day 2! We flew into lovely Quinhagak, Alaska. Doug was our pilot and fog was in the air kaboshing their many plans to take the scenic route around the Kuskokwim. They had high hopes and I was fearful that very soon I, like the fog, would be dashing them. The problem lies in the issue of accessibility you see, I do not own a four wheeler to get us anywhere beyond the village nor do I have a boat to take them to the fish upriver. I am generally confined to my 5 mile safe foot travel radius here in Quin with the exception of an occasional invite to join friends. In my defense I did warn them prior to arrival that I would do what I could but they would be on their own and very possibly spending quality time with the T.V. However, in standard Skime fashion the tundra grass didn't grow under our feet and after dumping off their portable Cabela's store in the spare bedroom, we hit the gravel road walking to the beach. They were briefed on berry picking 101 along the way sampling black berries, a few fermented salmon berries and some unripe cranberries. As the Bering Sea opened up before us with welcoming shores I let them decide we should walk to the mouth of the Kanetok, why I agreed to this??? Knowing full well that nobody 'walks' to the mouth of the Kanetok as it is better described as 'slogging through sinking quick sandish ground and tundra grass' blocked by smaller channels that cut off any attempt to actually reach the mouth of the river on foot. I'm not sure, guess their rookie enthusiasm was contagious. I was just thrilled they were here, any idea they came up with was fair game as far as I was concerned...except Chris' bear trail trek but I'll get into that one later. So we nearly lost our boots as they suctioned into the sinking sand. But we discovered many treasures. One of which held their attention and conversation for the rest of their stay... the boat. A specimen that surely could be fixed up to be the vessel that would carry them up river and down. With just a little elbow grease they conjured...they could have it water worthy. Meanwhile I had other honey do lists in mind...within the first day they fixed my new broken bike and John Teddy's boat motor. John took us for a test drive up the river so the boys had their maiden voyage on ye ole Kanektok. We attended church Sunday night. It was so cute, Joshua one of the kids, planted himself on the pew smack dab between Josh and Chris. He was happy as a clam through the whole service. We stopped by Fannie's so the boys could meet my family here! She gave them a good initiating... Quin style, with a teaspoon of seal oil each! As you can see, the response was a little hesitant but down the hatch it slid while they shuttered and tried to shrug off the oily seal fat with a smile, "mmmm" they both forced through contorted faces. Not to worry it was quickly washed down with several yummy strips of Fannie's dried salmon. Meanwhile the rest of us had a really good laugh at their expense. Fanny sniffing out their keen sense of fish acquiring recruited them to chauffeur her up river for some subsistence assistance later in the week. It worked out beautifully, she had the boat and they had the skills to drive it. They were all the perfect match! Fannie kept saying "Those men were like angels." Yeah, okay maybe loosely but I'm biased;) So I chuckled to myself as I drifted to sleep that night....How wrong was I thinking they would have nothing to do. I underestimate God.

Monday, September 6th Day 3! It has been raining in Quinhagak since last May. We have had virtually next to no sunshine. So the boys found out quickly that rain gear was standard issue much like the matching outfits they had purchased. "Point us to the river" they gleefully chirped while skipping up the steps to my newly adjusted house. Despite the constant showers Principal Eric graciously offered to take us that direction, upriver! We jumped at the chance and splashed along (I'm talking about the rain there not the river;) As we rounded one bend all 4 of us gasped and pointed at the same time! Bears!!!! Right outa national geographic two cubs and a sow standing on her hind feet trying to get a look at the boatful of yay-whoos headed her way! She made a b line for the bushes with Jrs. in tow. Those would be the same bushes we would later go diving thru in an effort to follow Columbo to 'the slough just around this bend'! Eventually the rain washed me back to the house after I caught a couple silvers and decided I had successfully out fished them first. Die hards that they are they remained on the river bank trying their luck the rest of the morning. And as luck would have it, the sun came out that afternoon. Gathering up my now dry gear I headed back to the sand bar to see how they fared. This is the point at which Columbo came up with the brilliant idea to go tangling through the brush trying to find this nonexistent slough where 'fish' are... ignore the fact that he had a gun strapped to the front of his chest and I, Murphy's Law like didn't have mine (which the Bobsy Twins informed me was worthless anyway since I didn't have it full of bear loads). Nope instead I was toting two fishing rods that conveniently jutted out in every direction so that I couldn't even walk 5 feet without them getting all snagged up in the trees, trapping me there in the alders for any bear who needed an easy snack. So as I found myself hostage to these two overly enthusiastic, bushwacking, cossacks professing to be trying to find 'fish' on a bear trail, I had no choice but to put my foot down! If no else in this fishing party gone mad was going to think logically then I would have to! Plus my paranoia was taking over! "That's it! I'm not going any farther! This is not safe!" I adamantly declared. They both turned and glanced over their shoulders at me, "Humph, okay, but you're the one standing next to the fresh bear poop," one mentioned as they again disappeared into the thicket. "What!!!???" I looked down at what I prayed was a pile of mud. Welp, that effort didn't quite have the effect I was hoping for, I yanked on the oppositional fishing rods in an attempt to free them from tree they were tangled in and well.... Needless to say I didn't stand my ground much longer. I surrendered and fell in line willing the bears to stay on a different trail. Obviously we survived the expedition, though I'm confident it was just 'bearly'. Later that night we stopped over at John Teddy's at his invitation, so he could play his banjo for the boys. It was a regular fiddle band concert at the Robert's residence that evening. Complete with John plucking the lead banjo, Josh pantomiming vocals and Chris air band strumming the guitar (looking like he might have even known what he was doing if he had any clue whatsoever how to play a guitar). Now that was straight up good old fashion entertainment.

Tuesday, September 7th Day 4! Was spent wandering around up river and resting. They holed up in the honey bucket haven recovering from their first few days in the tundra. It wore them out, just look at them. They also met the kids, "Can we visit?"

Wednesday, September 8th Day 5!
The call of the tundra...drip drip drip. The rain was relentless but the boys were eager for adventure. They were up at 6:30 am so I could drop them off at the Arolik River. From there they spent 10 hours tromping through the marshy tundra in search of the river and anything else that may have peaked their interest. Sadly they didn't find much. They did report back that Jon (Ali's husband) nearly drowned in a sink hole. The guy is nearly 7 feet tall and he pretty much dropped out of sight. Josh said as quickly as he sunk he leaped back out. It shot them all a pretty good adrenaline boost to make the push back home. We had arranged for me to pick them up as I dropped off the kids for cross country but they beat us back, hiking a total of 15 miles or so.

Thursday, September 9th Day 6! Fannie and the boys head north up the Kanektok. Below: Teri, Josh and Chris run around picking up odds and ends before they head up the river. I stayed in school and wished I was fishing too. Thankfully as they were out frolicking in the river playground my friend Gabe from Bethel and a couple of his buddies came ashore in Quin after an 8 day float trip from the mountains! What a fun surprise! They joined us for supper
feasting on King Salmon thanks to Pauline (John Teddy's daughter) who gave me a king that she caught this summer! Just the fillets were bigger than her:) She's a tough little cookie and loves her fishing. So the evening was spent sharing their stories of the successful caribou and bear hunt Gabe and company had during their 8 day trip. Pictures and all...that got the boys planning. I'm pretty sure it is already in the works for next year.
Friday, September 10th Day 7! When school got out Friday I figured I'd be waiting for the boys and Fannie to get home late that evening. Much to my delight Josh came back to get me! Fannie let us take the boat up river to do some more fishing and driver's ed. So Columbo had the honors of showing me the ropes (jets) and trying to teach me how to 'read the river'. This is me getting my Kanetok River learner's permit. Just another Friday night in Quinhagak. I'm actually driving the boat even though it appears that Columbo is. Josh and Diya were riding 'shot gun'. I didn't catch one fish that night but who cared:) That's why it's called fishing and not catching. Thankfully everyone else did!

Saturday, September 11th Day 8! Unfortunately the great work maintenance did on the flattening my foundation had proven to be detrimental to my arctic entry door, wedging it shut (they fixed it). It also threw off my satellite but only for a few days. They fixed that too...Thanks to Tim, the boys and God, or I'd be bawling my head off right now if not for the distraction of my television. Having my brother and friend here in Quin eager to experience-even jump right into the life his crazy sister has been living the last year was far beyond encouraging to my soul. Until...they left me... I'd been crying all around. Well I confess was crying around when they started packing their bags this morning, wondering out loud to them multiple times why they couldn't just pack later instead of forcing me to face the obvious fact all day long that they would be flying away back to Bethel this evening and I wouldn't be on the plane with them??? But enough of my drama thanks for letting me introduce you and brag a bit;) They fixed Fannie's truck too as you can see and made Chris (her grandson) take us on a spin. He was learning to drive as we went:) He did a superb job in the driver's seat and Josh was a very cool, calm instructor. I won't speak for the rest of us. We all just held on. Josh, Teri, Me, Columbo at the Arolik River

So that about covers it. They came, they visited, they left.
They both agreed it was the best vacation they've ever had.
Maybe they said it just to make me feel better.
Either way...
I'm happy.

Pirrua, Good Bye.

Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe, in wonder. Psalm 65:3-7


  1. Hi Rachel! Just wanted you to know how I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs, very entertaining and enlightening! So glad you had a nice visit with the bobsy twins. Give us a call when you are in town.

    Hugs, Janet (Connie's FAVORITE sister)

  2. Hi Janet!

    I'm so glad you are enjoying it! I'm having a terrible time keeping up with it this year. It's been so busy it seems. Connie said you were thinking about coming down to watch the meet! Please do! Races will start at 10:30 and finish around 12! Hopefully we'll get to see ya! I will call next time I actually am in Bethel and don't have 15 kids with me:) lol Take Care, Rach