1966-1967 Fort Collins, Colorado
When Jack announced he was going to Alaska to work in the oil field, my little inner voice said to me, “Someday I’m going to Alaska too!.” So began the journey that planted me and my kids in Alaska for the rest of our lives.
There is fogginess in my memory about how Jack got to the Denver airport because it was not me. The fogginess continues as to when he told my Dad he was not going to be working for him as the John Deere parts man, as he had done for the past eight or nine years. I remember him packing his green Army duffel bag with clothes he thought was warm enough for Alaska and walking out the door. The rest is fog – traumatic, probably is a better word. I had no idea when or if we would ever see him again. I do remember that he said he would call in a couple weeks, which he did do from Ken’s Auto Parts in Kenai.
The NORAD incident happened because I was trying to call Alaska, because after the first phone call I had not heard from him for about three weeks. However I dialed the Colorado area code instead of the Alaska area code, and I got the secret unlisted NORAD commander, as I reported in the article of December 12, 2012.
Seems like there were quite a few incidences of NORAD complications. I have been lucky enough have talked to several delightful people that read my story and conveyed to me that a relative or a friend had such a visit from NORAD. One man was digging a foundation in a field south of Denver and dug up what turned out to be a cable communication line from Colorado Springs NORAD to, I suppose, Denver. The poor old back-hoe operator was totally surrounded by helicopters and Army units. Another reader told me that a relative found a manhole in the middle of his field. He opened it and discovered a lot of copper, of which he started to cut out, meltdown and sell. Same thing happened to him! Helicopters and Army units converged on his manhole site and I am sure lots of questions were asked before the poor unsuspecting men were allowed to go free. There must have been communication cables buried all over the areas between Denver and Colorado Springs!
Afraid to call Alaska, I waited for Jack to call me. He called me four weeks later, about the end of May. He had a job with Pan-American Petroleum, was working on a platform, and had moved to Sleepers Trailer Court in North Kenai. I asked if we could come up and join him and once again he said “No-no not at this time.” The gears in my head started grinding and thus were set forth a formula of how I was going to get to Alaska with three kids!
First I had to tell my Dad I was leaving Colorado and taking his three grandchildren to Alaska. He looked down at his desk looked back up at me and said in his low monotone voice, “Well, let’s talk about this.” He took a long time before he spoke again, and as I reflect back, I am sure it was because he was swallowing the big lump in his throat. He pointed at a chair for me to sit down and he said “I’ve been thinking about this and why don’t you move in with Mom and me. We will take care of the kids while you are working and continuing your career at the hospital. The house is big and it would be nice to have the kids around and someday you’ll probably inherit the house.” I was totally stunned. I told him I was very grateful for his offer, and I would have to think about it. As I walked out the door I was torn between the most generous offer from my Dad (probably without my Moms knowledge) and the gypsy itch in my soul to take the kids and fly off to Alaska.
I stopped to see my Dad the next day at the John Deere Equipment store he had built a few years before and told him thank you for the generous offer but I was going to move to Alaska. He said I wish you the best and opened up a parts book and started reading. I am the one that left with the big lump in my throat at day.
The gears were grinding very slowly and a plan was taking form. The next step was to find the money for airplane tickets, take care of all of our household goods. Take care of all our outstanding bills, tell my boss at the hospital, tell our renter, and tell my MOM! That was not as hard-Dad had already told her. Her response was “You better give this some thought!” My brothers and sisters were helpful and encouraging and my little brother Jim who had a brand-new Pontiac GTO offered to take me to the airport when I got packed. Well that part of the problem was solved as far as getting to the airport in Denver, but first I had a long ways to go to get everything in order for my big trip to Alaska.
Next week – the closing of an era in Colorado and a brand new way of like in Alaska.