The Wright Choice

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We departed Fort Yukon on Saturday at 3:30 pm on Wright Air, headed for Fairbanks. There are 3 carriers out of the Fort and Wright’s is the only one we will fly. Their Grand Caravans are reliable even in extreme cold and so are their pilots.

Saturday’s pilot warned us that by the time we passed Birch Creek, about 30 miles south, we wouldn’t be seeing much. That was an understatement! Thirty seconds beyond the Yukon it was a white out, so I leaned against the window and fell asleep. At some point I awoke and saw this unknown creek cutting across the landscape below me, so I snapped a quick picture of it just as the snow clouds closed in again.

That was the last thing we saw until the runway lights guided us onto the East Ramp in Fairbanks. The flight normally takes 55 minutes; strong headwinds and zero visibility added another 25 to ours and you should have heard the moaning about that!

Our flight may have been slow, but one of the other planes carrying teachers to Fairbanks lost engine power briefly and began descending over the mountains. I heard there were some screams on that one! The problem apparently had to do with a vapor lock or something as the pilot switched fuel tanks. They landed okay. By the way, that wasn’t one of Wright Air’s planes.

And now you know which airline is the Wright Choice!

It’s An Ephemeral Thing

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Frost. It’s quite beautiful, and that’s too bad.

Maybe if it wasn’t so beautiful it would last longer, but you know the old saying, “beauty is fleeting.”

The high school students are skiing for PE. I can see them set off outside my window and I get a big kick out of watching them. I’ve done this in flat country before, so I know they are learning something very valuable – exactly where each of their 640 muscles are located. I’m so glad I am not in PE!

Because youth, like beauty, is fleeting, and mine has certainly fled! 🙂

Shopping For Valentine

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Just a week ago we were still in the embrace of a long & bitter cold spell. We had experienced 40 to 50 below for thirteen days out of sixteen when the forecaster called for -2˚F the next day. It turned out to be -3˚. Pretty good guess – good enough to save the weatherman the one way trip to Siberia that some of us were planning for him.

It is Valentine’s Day today. What do you do for your girl in a place with one general store and the only other form of entertainment is checking your mailbox at the post office? I opted to shop at the store.

The extension cords for keeping your car warm look nice, but we don’t have a car anymore – gave it away to a friend who needed it more. Wait, maybe a paperback romance! No, their space on the little revolving wire rack has been filled with chips. Surely there’s something here that will make Lindsay feel special…

They have needles and thread. Come on Dave, you can do better than this.

Canning jars? Momma said never give work disguised as a gift.

Hey, what’s this? N-e-t-i P-o-t. What the #@&* is that?

Isn’t there some perfume here somewhere, or some bath powder? Girls love bath powder, don’t they? Haha – here??? Not within 150 miles! There’s bar soap. Yeah, Valentine will implode if I give her a bar of Ivory.

Look at all those little Valentine heart candies on the shelf! Too bad we already ate a trillion of those at school yesterday.

Hey, ice cream, they have ice cream! Oh, but all of it melted (I mean it totally liquified) earlier this week when the store freezer went kaput. That’ll taste like disappointment.

Look, there’s still some chocolate on the shelf! Oh, thank heaven for chocolate! One Almond Snickers, one single serving package of Oreos, one Fig Newton bar.

One very grateful and contented girlfriend! I am so lucky!

11 of 15

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Forty nine below. Again! That makes 11 of 15 days that we have been in the forty’s or fifty’s. Most of the planes have stopped. Morning church services are cancelled. Haven’t heard a snow-go all morning, or a car for that matter.

It’s so cold, even the ravens are off shivering somewhere. At thirty below, their fly-bys outside our living room window are so frequent that I sometimes think of naming my backyard “Raven Alley”. Maybe I’ll post a sign out there and make it official. But I haven’t seen them lately.

I think we are ready to run our weather forecaster out of the country. I hear Siberia is nice this time of year. He says it is supposed to warm up this week, though, so I’m giving him one last chance. It’s 10 below by Friday or else!

Shaking Hands At Forty Below

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Today is a really cold day, as most have been recently. It began at -50˚F.

The temperature has fallen below the -40˚ mark ten days out of the past fourteen, all the way down to -50˚F on six of those.

We’ve weathered colder temperatures for two or three days at a time but I don’t remember such a prolonged period of cold during our lifetime here.

No long walks right now. Breathing comes hard and stabs like needles. Super-chilled air shrinks the skin on contact. One of my students came to school with frostbite on his face last week.

Forty below is the magic mark when Gabriel Fahrenheit and Anders Celsius finally shake hands and agree upon something. But only for a moment. By the time Gabriel is declaring the temperature to be -50˚, Anders is arguing that it is only -45˚.

So how do we combat the bitter cold? We curl up with popcorn and a good movie. Today’s feature? Charade, starring the impeccable Cary Grant and the adorable Audrey Hepburn.

Stay warm!

Catkins & Chilly Fingers

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“Can we go out to take pictures today?”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that! I’ve five rookie photographers in my class, so yesterday we did it. We bundled up, grabbed our Canons and went out stalking the elusive photograph.

“Hey, Dave, come see my picture!”

“Hey, Dave, check out this one!”

“Hey, Dave, how come my pictures look weird?”

There they go, scampering through the snow and it’s -20 ˚F. Some of us are wearing summer weight tennis shoes (yes, me too). We all left the school with gloves on, but in the excitement the young Ansels have torn them off and stuffed them into pockets. After all, who can take pictures with gloves on?

And besides, when you are on the hunt, little things like chilly fingers hardly seem to matter…

Two Old Men

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There he goes, rolling along the horizon, studiously reluctant to climb the heavens. Old Sol’s a bit shy this time of year, probably embarrassed to have been bested by Old Man Winter. A pale blue light, sometimes faintly dusted in rose, is about all Sol can muster. But everyday he peers a little higher over the willow banks and holds his wink a little longer, and someday he will send his “forever foe” packing.

Yesterday afternoon the temperature hovered around -10 ˚F; pretty nice, so I layered up and headed down to the river in search of something to photograph. Where are all the wildlife this year? I saw no rabbits, no ptarmigans, no tracks of any kind, apart from those of a few ravens and stray dogs.

People have been out on the Yukon – I could see where they had cut trail with their snow-gos. But I could see open stretches of water, too – some dark & forboding (“I’m deep and swift and can swallow you whole!”), others catching feeble rays from the sun – daring me to risk the ice. No thanks! I followed the shoreline and finally turned homeward.

A pleasant outing, but my efforts earned me more chilly toes and fingers than good photographs. It seemed colder on my return. Sure enough! Within hours the temperature plummeted to -44 ˚F. It’s still in the 40’s, in fact. Finally, it feels like winter around here!

My Arkansas Hills

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Resident of the Old Folk’s Home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, owned & operated by my two spinster aunts. That was a long, long time ago. The home was a marvelous place with transomed doorways, sculpted carpet and ceilings so high they might have touched the clouds some days. How Ruth and Iva managed to acquire a nursing home I will never know, but own it they did. For me it was a place of happiness – strange, old and full of people with stories to tell.

Ruth and Iva lived in a home in the country outside Hot Springs. There was nothing out that way except them and the hills. We visited often. On the far outskirts of town, right where a  narrow country lane split off the main road and veered up into the hills, stood a little candy shop, quaint and all alone. Of course, mom and dad, being good parents, understood the value of traditions. And that little candy shop was one we always observed. Then, onward the eight short miles between sweet tradition and final destination. Eight infinite miles that seemed never to end in the mind of a little boy.

Deeply wooded granite hills crept down toward the tiny, worn lane, hiding what lay ahead. But suddenly the hills would fall away and a clearing would appear on the left. There stood an old two story mansion, plain and pragmatic but fronted by a grand porch, deep and wide and high above the ground.

The porch looked out upon a much larger clearing across the road. I didn’t explore it much – it was full of brambles and chiggers. But in the fall we would hazard those dangers to gather bucketfuls of dewberries that later would become the most heavenly of pies. Bite. Squish. Intense flavor exploding sweet and tart all at once from our hard earned bounty. Heaven!

But the hills were my cherished domain. They might have been towering mountains, once, but if they ever were, time certainly had reduced them to child’s play, blunting their crags and mythologizing the majesties that might have been.

And play on them I did! Those were safe times and I roamed the hills unfettered and without fear under the oaks. I never saw another soul up there. Sometimes my aunts and my mom and dad would join me, but most times I ruled the hills alone with Tippy.

Tippy was a shaggy, black and white mutt who belonged to Ruth and Iva. She was my best friend and we were champion trailblazers. We knew every stone and tree.

Of course, even explorers have chores. So after breakfast I would exit the back door of the kitchen and visit the stone cellar dug into the hill immediately behind the house. Hens roosted in there and laid eggs in boxes – big brown eggs that I would gather in a basket for my aunts. Breakfast for tomorrow! Then back to feed the chickens.

All my chores done, Tippy and I would head across the lawn to the back corner of the clearing, leap the rill and follow the gully up into our kingdom. And when we were done, thoughts of dewberry pie would carry us home…