Bill Laughing-Bear stepped into a general store in Fairbanks on Sept. 9, 2002, the first big step in fulfilling his dream of living in the wilderness of Alaska.
From there, Laughing-Bear faced a laundry list of experiences, unique to the landscape and to himself, which he has compiled into his book “An Alaskan Adventure: Tales of a Musher.”
“It was always my dream to come to Alaska and my second day here I pulled into a store to buy groceries and I met the legendary musher Charlie Boulding. … We would talk and he would tell me I needed to get some dogs, so he really inspired me.”
Over the course of the next few months in Fairbanks, Laughing-Bear set the foundation for what has become a lifelong passion. Now, Laughing-Bear lives “off-grid” on the Kenai Peninsula in Kasilof, finding more experiences to detail, typing away at his manual typewriter.
“I’m a poet,” Laughing-Bear said. “I’ve been writing poetry and doing open mics, things of that sort for a while. … When I got up here in 2002, I started journaling experiences that I would have and put them in a letter.”
This letter, a “Dear Everybody Letter” as Laughing-Bear grew to call it, became the basis for his book. Over time, his list of experiences grew as friends of friends asked to receive his monthly detailing of life in the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”
“It was all about the Alaska experience,” Laughing-Bear said. “From encounters with bears, moose problems and monster mosquitos.”
Many of these early stories and more have found their way into “An Alaskan Adventure,” told with his unique perspective on the world — like the time a mother bear kept finding her way into his cabin, a trip out onto a lake that turned south when a storm came through or just experiences in nature, like watching a family of foxes explore the wilderness.
“I’m a first nations person, and I’m also a man of faith,” Laughing-Bear said, which allows the storytelling to travel from exciting to enlightening to inspiring. “I wanted to write a book to inspire the younger generation to get out, get out from in front of the televisions … to go out and enjoy creation and to respect it. I wanted to inspire them to follow there dreams, like I was doing when I came to Alaska.”
Among the pages of “Tales of a Musher,” Laughing-Bear uses his knowledge of different First Nations cultures to enlighten the reader on the different meanings and phases of the moon. Like in his chapter ‘No Cabin Fever for Me,’ which takes place throughout the feverish month of February, or “the Moon of Wind Scattering Leafs Over the Snow Crust.”
The tales Laughing-Bear dictates detail more than the life of a musher, and it’s easy to become immersed in his adventures alongside him, to connect with with his story of finding a new home and exploring a new life, with his dog sled team by his side.
Bill Laughing-Bear will be at the Kenai Wildlife Refuge this Saturday at 2 p.m. to give a dog mushing demonstration and to sign copies of his book “An Alaskan Adventure: Tales of a Musher.” The book will be available at the Kenai Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center.
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.