Everyone has a perspective about living in Alaska. Not everyone has the same experience, but one thing is for sure: it is definitely an experience!
Besides my immaculate igloo and my pet polar bear Gummi (that I just fed an entire seal to), there are some miniscule things that make me realize Alaska is a unique place.
When I moved down south for college, the biggest thing that labeled me an Alaskan was saying the word “snowmachine.” To me it has been and always will be a snowmachine. However, my peers said “snowmobile.” Like, to my face. As if it was normal.
I made the mistake of saying, “Oh you mean a snowmachine!” It instantly got quiet and my street cred plummeted by at least 75 percent immediately. There was no taking it back. When I said snowmachine, I was like the only person at a packed concert yelling, “Wee!” in the audience.
Growing up here in Alaska, I’ve never heard anybody say snowmobile. When Dad with Lower 48 roots said snowmobile the other day, I teased, “How proper of you, Father Terry. Are you about to leave in thy automobile for an excursion? I say good day.”
There is no way to explain it, snowmachine is just a common word we use.
I believe in the Lower 48, four-wheelers are called ATVs. Admittedly, I understand saying ATVs. I’m just like, “What are you talking about.”
Maybe we are just more specific since around here all brands, shapes, and sizes are commonly used. I tried explaining what a Yamaha Rhino was to a visitor and they called it a dune buggy. Dune buggy. That’s a silly name I’d call my son. Maybe if we had dunes it was OK to drive on, it wouldn’t be so funny. But, we don’t have dunes to drive on. So it’s funny.
OK, so ... up in Alaska we are cut off from everyone, growing our beards out on fishing boats, yet somehow our technology has gone beyond mobiles and buggies? Apparently we need to revert back to the 1800s. Let’s start calling snowmachines mountain sleighs and four-wheelers caboose wagons.
Every state is different for their own ways, but it’s enjoyable how different our state is. I’m glad we don’t have big bugs or scary snakes, but we do have big moose. Thank God they are herbivores. Moose are like the hippies of the animal kingdom — they eat a lot of greens and bathe in the river. They give birth in the forest, then jog around the neighborhood in the same day and somehow look good doing it.
Then we have bears. No matter how cute they are, realistically you can’t romanticize about them. They do not eat honey and hang out with depressed donkeys and cute little pigs. That piggy is not going to the market. That piggy is a pork chop from nature’s market.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like, “Here’s your teddy bear, son. But remember, a real bear could hypothetically kill you. Even if you play dead and cover your skull, it’s still risky. How tragic. Or you can run! Run for your life, little man! Night night. Sweet dreams.”
My personal favorite part about Alaska is the midnight sun. When I was a kid we were strict church-goers and if we missed a Sunday it was due to bubonic plague. I would pray to God to take me “home” so I could sleep in. For an eternity.
That might seem extreme for a 10-year-old, but my people really build up how great the afterlife is. Why wouldn’t I want to go? At that age having a pizza party in heaven with Grandma sounded legit.
Anyways, I woke up in a panic one Sunday morning and ran outside thinking my whole family must’ve been hit by the plague. My dad was talking to my brother in their greasy coveralls and I knew I must be dreaming. My dad is a quiet, classy fellow. He goes to church in Dockers and has serious Cary Grant swagger. They looked up at my panic an explained it was just really late at night and I must’ve woken up from a nap.
“It’s still Saturday!? But ... but the daylight ... the daylight ...”
So, here’s the thing: growing up snowmachining and four-wheeling was fantastic. Dodging moose on the roads while driving is just peachy, in the winter time on the ice it’s even better. Seeing bears makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. And having severe insomnia in the summer time makes me a happier person. There is nothing more beautiful then waking up to tin foil over your windows, like you’re trying to contact the aliens.
Growing up in Alaska is exactly what I want for my kids and I am proud to say I’ve done it.
Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.