Pioneer Potluck: About Ben's boat wreck

Year 1972 Big Lake, Alaska



Ben and wife, Nadene and son, Robbie, moved to Alaska from Lubbock, Texas in the late 1960’s to cash in the oil pipe line. Ben was an excellent welder. He and Robbie adapted well to the work and fun in Alaska. Poor Nadene tagged along so she would not miss anything. Her job was to scream and scold!! They all had the deep Texas accent. The jovial Ben with his ever and always stories, sent smiles to everyone he talked with.

Ben built flat bottom river boats in his “exter” time. We spent a lot of time at Big Lake in his boat, water skiing (not me!) picnicking and running around the lake visiting with all the other boaters on the lake.

We had spent a long week cruising around the lake and it was time to go home to Eagle River. Robbie, Ben’s youngest 16 year old son, had been bugging Ben to let him load the boat on the trailer.

“Wall, I-uh, guess ya’ ain’t gonna larn no younger.” Ben said, continuing with instruction on how you load a boat on a trailer. “Now, son, ya’ circle round and line yr-self up with this here trailer hitch, give her a little goose, then shut her down and she’ll glide right in thar on that thar trailer. You be careful son.”

Ben climbed on the trailer hitch, hooked up to the old-old “yallar” school bus that was Bens motor home, to get things ready for Robbie to glide the boat onto the trailer. Robbie carefully circled around, lined up the boat, Ben guiding him with one hand, hanging on with the other hand. Robbie glided into position, getting ready to “give her a little goose.” Ben yelled “yar a little crook-it.” Robbie thinks he said “back off” and in his confusion of trying to please his Dad, instead of pulling the throttle back, he pushed the throttle full forward!

The boat jumped out of the water, up onto the boat trailer, slightly sideways to the right, hit the back of Ben’s old yellar bus, glanced off and got wedged “catty-wompus” between the yellar bus and the trailer tire, the boat motor roaring wide open. Robbie finally got the motor shut down. That’s when we heard him screaming at the top of his lungs. “I kilt ma’ Dad! I kilt ma’ Dad! OH! NO! What did I do? I kilt him – I kilt him!”

Then he started sobbing uncontrollably with his head on the steering wheel of the boat.

Nadene was in the bus, getting things locked down and ready to move out. She heard the loud ruckus and the boat slam into the back of the bus, jolting it forward. She came screaming out of the bus, scolding, “Wat ya’ all a-doin? Ya’ jest knocked me off ma’ feet… Robbie! Shut Up! How did ya’ DO that?”

Robbie looked at his Mom and started screaming “I kilt Dad – I just kilt Dad!” Nadene took off screaming around the back of the boat. “Whar is he, whar is he?” We were getting ready to get in our motor home just as all this took place and witnessed the boat flying through the air. We took off running for the back of the bus and trailer. Then I stopped, frozen in place, I did not want to see a dead body, especially Ben’s!

Nadene started screaming “Ben! Ben! Whar’ ya’ at? Ben! Ben!” Nadine was screaming over and over at the top of her lungs, bent over looking for Ben.

A voice came from under the bus, “SHUT UP WOMAN! Get me outta’ here! Shut UP Nadene!” We ran over and dropped down on our knees and looked under the bus at Ben screaming again “Shut up Nadene!” Robbie heard his Dads voice and leaned over the boat and threw up!

All of us on our knees, down between the trailer and the bus, grabbed Ben’s hand and started pulling him out. He was wedged under the bus, next to the exhaust pipe. As we were crawling backwards, I stated that “I think he’s OK.” Ben crawled out, rolled over and sat up. “Hell, Yes, I’m OK! I jest need to kick start ma’ heart, and then I ma’ gonna’ kick that kid so hard he will be a wearin’ his ear on his butt! ROBBIE, what ya trin’ to do… kill off yr’ole Dad?” Robbie turned totally to jelly, blubbering and crying, white as a sheet, trying to climb out of the boat. He was saying over and over, “I’m sorry Dad, I’m sorry Dad. Are ya’ OK?”

Ben looked at the white-faced, rubber legged Robbie, “Wall, ya’ know what? I bet I aint’ as scared as you are – huh?” Robbie grabbed his Dad and gave him a big hug and started crying all over again.

Ben had seen the boat come flying at him, he ducked just at the boat hit the trailer, knocking him to the ground so hard it wedged him under the bus. Everyone was standing around in shock, when Ben said to Nadene, “Dang, woman, I gotta’ lose some weight. I got stuck tighter-n-wedge under there – NADENE! STOP crying – I’m OK!”

The stress level dropped and they proceeded to get the boat unwedged. It was sitting tilted sideways between the bus and the trailer. One of the many bystanders by then, suggested they just unhook the boat from the bus and let if fall. Ben was not too keen on that, because there was already some damage to the boat, but that is what they finally had to do. Then they pulled the boat backwards into position on the trailer and secured it with ropes and tie downs.

Poor Robbie stopped going with his Dad and his boat, and shortly after that, Ben and Nadene split up and she went back to Texas. She said there was too much excitement in Alaska and if she was gonna’ have a fatal heart attack, she wanted to be at home in Texas!


1 cup water chestnuts - the sliced ones

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup diced green or red bell pepper

1 cup sliced onions

1/2 pound of fresh sliced mushrooms - and if you happen to find Morels this time of year - they are excellent in this recipe!

3 pounds of moose sirloin or beef if you prefer, cut in thin strips - partially freeze for easy cutting

1/2 teas ground ginger or prefer 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 tblsp sugar

A splash of Sherry or beef broth

Corn oil or Olive oil

A purchased stir fry sauce or soy sauce

This should be stir fried in a wok - however I do not own one anymore so use my cast iron skillet. Heat a small amount of oil and add ginger and vegetable one at a time and quickly sauté-transfer to owl and keep warm. Add a splash of sherry, although not necessary, reduces the amount of oil you use. I use beef broth.

Sauté the meat last and when brown return the vegetable to the pan and add the stir fry or the soy sauce. Serve over fried or fluffy white rice or soft noodles.


Our friend Judy makes a recipe similar to this

1 pound of smoked salmon, diced

1 each, yellow and red bell pepper diced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup wild rice

1 cup brown rice

Rinse the rice and cook as directed on package. Drain off any liquid left and cool slightly in large bowl. Stir together the following:


2 tblsp red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teas marjoram

1/4 teas black pepper

1 teas soy sauce

1/2 teas grated lemon peel

4 green onions sliced fine

1 large close of garlic minced

Stir together and pour over warm rice. Chill. Before serving add peppers, salmon and walnuts. Serve on individual lettuce lines plates. 4 to 6 servings.


1/2 head of lettuce- tear in large piece’s and place on large salad platter

Cooked assorted seafood-halibut, shrimp, salmon, scallops and crab

3 hard boiled eggs cut in quarters

2 large tomatoes, cut in quarters or eighth’s

1 cucumber sliced

1/2 red onion sliced in rings

2 sliced avocados

Pass the home made Louis Dressing


1/2 Cup mayonnaise

2 tblsp sour cream

2 tblsp milk

2 tblsp chili sauce or ketchup.

2 tblsp each chopped green bell pepper and green onion

1 tblsp each chopped green olives and green olive juice

1/2 teas lemon juice

1/2 teas minced garlic

A sprinkle of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine and chill for several hours. Assemble salad and pour dressing over salad and pass to the eager salad munchers. Hard rolls and real butter go well as does garlic bread. This is an excellent salad for 4 to 6 people.