1967 To 1972
Now North Nikiski, Alaska
I cannot help but to think back on the year I came to Alaska with my 3 little kids and how I learned so much in such a short time in summer and fall of 1967. Especially fishing. I had only fished with my Dad for trout or Brookies and once in awhile cat fish.
If we went to Black Hollow Lake, not to far from the farm place, we caught carp for fun. Dad loved to catch them as they put up a little bit of a fight, just so he could let them go. They are not good to eat as my Dad tells it, they taste just like mud. But if you are hungry enough, find a wooden plank, oil it, place the carp on the plank. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for one hour - take out of oven, throw away the carp and eat the plank. That was my limited experience of fishing.
So my first experience at fishing for salmon in Alaska was with the my new friend Leatha Earl. We were instructed to go to a certain spot with a dent in the road. The pickups would be parked there. Go down a well tramped grass trail. The grass about 8 foot tall. We were told by the guys to follow the trail to the fishing hole where they were. They warned about bears and to make lots of noise.
We drove to the parking spot. Finding the dent in the side of the road, I parked the old green Willy’s Jeep, unloaded 5 or 6 kids and a fishing pole. I was in the lead with everyone following the trail in the middle of the meadow of tall grass, being careful to watch out for bears.
All of the sudden I heard a noise coming at me down the trail from the fishing hole. I stopped, so did my heart! I listened, I watched and down the trail came this big black thing bounding and leaping, headed right for all of us. I screamed RUN! Some kids ran past me - some turned and ran the other way - and this big kid, the momma of three kids, let out a bellow that sounded like BEAR! I grabbed kids hands and flew back down the trail, passing up some kids and Leatha, uttering BBBeeeaarr!!
Then I heard Leatha voice yelling me to “STOP, SHUT UP! It’s a big dog, its Ken Rice’s big dog! “
I ran another ten feet before it registered - DOG. I turned and for sure, there was a big oversized fuzzy dog leaping and jumping around in the middle of the path so happy to see us. Guess his name? Bear!
Swallowing hard to get my heart back where it belonged, my knees weak and shaky, we proceeded on to the fishing hole just a few feet from us. I saw four large grown men in total hysteria bent over slapping each other and pointing at me.
They had set me up and deliberately had the dog along to prove to them that I indeed was a dirt farmers daughter from Colorado and scared out of my mind at bears. I still am! They got lots of mileage out of this story at every campfire!
Anyway, fishing in those days, were families trying to replenish the pantry for the long winter. Because it was light almost all night, the guys would go to the “fishin” hole” and catch as many as they knew the families could use and NO MORE. Those were canned or frozen or smoked and then we would go back for more for other families who needed a supply for the winter.
The fish were gutted and cleaned by the guys. Leatha and I and other wives, would cut up and pressure can them. We worked all day, ended up in the middle of the night before we were through. Next year Jo Anne Adams (Wahlstrom) joined us in our journey to keep our families fed in the winter time. We were proud mommas that had canned, frozen and smoke fish stocked on the shelves for the winter.
In the fall, moose hunting used to be in November NOT in the heat of August. Everyone in our circle of friends pitched in and helped each other get a moose a-piece. They waited until dark, went down the same area we fished in and acquired a moose. Gutted and quartered it right on the spot and hauled it to a waiting pickup. That was taken to a place that was set up for cooling the moose and the butchering. This one moose was divided between 5 families and sometime for older people who needed a little boost in the winter pantry. Next week when the guys got off the platforms, they would go back a get another moose until we had enough for the winter.
The word “poaching” was not a word to any of us in those days. Survival was the key to getting through the long, cold, dark, snowing months in Alaska.
Never, ever was fish or moose wasted. We knew how vital it was the very existence of the long winter months to feed the pile of kids each family had. Nothing in this world makes me madder and see red, even to this day, is to have some fisherman tell me they do not like fish AND they do not eat the fish they catch! I cannot keep my mouth shut!!
Unfortunately the abuse of hunting and fishing has caused the long list of regulation we have today. And someone tell me why we hunt moose in August?
YUP! I learned a lot in my first year of living in Alaska!
The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.