Alaska Weirdness

I still consider Alaska to be home, as I lived there longer than any where else I have lived.  I didn’t move to Alaska to try and live like I had, on a ranch in rural Oklahoma.   I wanted to experience all that Alaska had to offer, especially the experiences that were different.  Suspect many other do the same whether moving there or just visiting in the summer for a few weeks.  Probably why so many visitors are so fascinated by bears, moose, eagles, salmon, glaciers, lakes, etc.  Just plain different than what they see everyday at home.  Some of this changes when you live there for some time.  Some of it just becomes work/common, to some extent, catching salmon for the approaching winter, that black bears and moose are very good, next to the mashed potatoes, eagles are just the vultures/buzzards of the north, etc.  You learn that mother nature has both a light and a dark side, very evident in Alaska, just like the Force or duct tape. LOL

Those tall beautiful mountains are so scenic, but as a pilot, you quickly learn (hopefully in time) that they will also try to kill you, the lakes and rivers, the same.  At times, Alaska can be very unforgiving to intruders (humans) and at times only gives a person, one oops.  Alaska offers the average person many more opportunities to challenge themselves, in general, than does most populated areas of the earth.

Visiting Alaska for a few weeks in the summer time (no matter how many times you do it) and living there year around are two different things.  

Rugged individualism is just an Alaska term for weirdness, IMHO.  The ability to tolerate/accept, (being flexible) seems to be a factor in the success or failure of a person moving to Alaska.  It is a personal trait that, in most of Alaska, is very well tolerated and almost encouraged by society.  If a person moving there can't accept the differences of others and probably the changes in themselves, they more than likely won't be too happy living in Alaska. As  has been said in the past, living in Anchorage isn't that much different than many other cities in the country.  The standard joke in Alaska is, the best thing about Anchorage is that it is only a 30 minute flight to Alaska from there. LOL But to live in the state, takes a real degree of being able to "mind one's own business" while staying friendly and helpful.  Not all ways easy, once spring fever starts to set in, after a long dark winter. People that are highly judgmental of others and are not flexible, by nature, don't in general do well. Just like some summer visitors don't care much for Alaska, a person moving to the state to live and work, will only find out if it is for them after giving it a try.  Not to sound gender biased but women seem to have more problems adapting to the "Alaska Lifestyle" than do men.  Especially those women, that lead a more traditional married lifestyle.  Being a mother, housewife or combo wage worker, home caretaker has to be the hardest job in existence, IMHO.  Add in the complications of doing all those things in cold weather, the darkness of winter time Alaska, having few long time friends/family nearby and it will challenge the strongest not to do bodily harm to the dear spouse as he jumps on the snow machine/ATV or gets in the airplane to go play.  Yes, my wife is a very strong and tolerant woman, otherwise I wouldn't probably be here today writing this. LOL

Many of the 25 + years I lived in rural Alaska, I worked at a position that was involved in hiring many new employees, many from the lower 48.  While over the years I got better at hiring “keepers”, on occasion I would miss my guess and they would be gone in a few months or less.

As an example of flexibility:  The year I moved to Nome, 1964, one evening in early winter, I walked into the Board of Trade bar, whereas I noticed a woman visitor to town, setting up on top of the juke box, she was completely nude. At the time it stuck me as very odd, that I seemed to be the only person in the bar that had noticed the situation. Everyone else was minding their own business but this 22 year old Okie ranch boy was having trouble ignoring the rugged individualism being shown. LOL But I worked at it and became more accepting of others and their behaviors.

Another time in the bar in Manley Hot Springs, when the owner called "closing time" the crowd refused to leave. The owner, Bob, casually reached under the back bar, took out a can of military surplus tear gas, pulled the pin, dropped it on the floor and stepped out the back door. The crowd changed their minds and decided to leave after all. Don't remember anyone getting too mad over the incident though.

Hard to believe, but both times I went in a bar, something like this happened.


Alaska Weirdness #2

  I hope folks don’t mind too much if I get somewhat verbose on this subject of living in Alaska. Not much life changing comments, to most of my musings.


  There are a number of ways a person ends up living in Alaska, some few are born there,   some move there with their parents, as young children, some go there to work and a few of those make it their home, others are transferred there by their employers, (military, park service, FAA, private companies, etc.), others move there trying to escape from something or someone.

  However much of the time, IMHO, the move to Alaska is determined by one or the other, of the spouses needs/wants, but not necessarily both.  The wishes or the job of the male spouse, in my experience, is often the determining factor in a move to Alaska. This one factor probably accounts for Alaska having the highest divorce rate in the country.  Also it has some the highest rates of alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, etc. of anywhere.

Many of the young men that move to Alaska, go there with the idea they are “mountain men” and are there to hunt, fish, and do all sorts of macho type activities.  Many proceed on that path, leaving their wives at home to care for the kids, the house, and expect them to be waiting at the front door with open arms for them when they return with what they have caught or shot. (if anything)

  The women living single, that I have known and worked with in Alaska do just as well as their male counterparts, enjoying the outdoors, etc. It is the un-equal relationship some women have in their marriages, that places them on overload and causes them to dislike their life in Alaska.  I have also seen the reverse of this by the woman having a good job that she loves and her spouse can’t really find anything equally fulfilling.

So both members of a “couple” have to want to be in Alaska to make it work,  IMHO.  I have known too many situations where one of the spouses insists that they move outside to the lower 48 and they do.  Often in a few years/months, one of them is back in Alaska with fresh divorce papers in their hip pocket.

  When my wife and I, jointly decided to leave Alaska, it wasn’t because we wanted to do so, but felt it was by far the best decision to do for our young daughters.  To give them the opportunity to grow up in a culture much the same as we had been raised.  In hind sight, I could have taken a job offer from the U of Alaska but it would have required moving to one of the larger towns, something I had successfully fought off for 25 years. (Nome, a town of 3,000 ± souls, was the largest town I ever called home, in Alaska)

  I worked with a number of people in Alaska that were married, but after one year/part of a year, the other spouse chose to live outside in the Lower 48.  One guy had been working in Alaska for almost 20 years and his wife operated their cross roads general store in Tennessee for that time.  He would fly down for a couple of weeks in the summer and some holidays and that was the time they spent together.  It worked for them.

  Another friend did much the same, for approximately 15 years, with his wife and kids in the Seattle area.  He would visit them, a few times a year and sent most of his paycheck to them each month.  I asked him why”  He said because of religious reasons he and his wife didn’t believe in divorce, so this was the best, mutually agreed upon, solution for them.