Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2007


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  Joe and Lillian McGaughey homesteaded near Island Lake in North Kenai in the 1950s. Submitted photo

Joe and Lillian McGaughey homesteaded near Island Lake in North Kenai in the 1950s.

Submitted photo

In the 1950s, the McGaughey homestead bordered another lake called Island Lake, which had an island in the middle of it. By the shore of that lake lived a man younger than my parents, whose name was Calvin Daniels. Calvin had staked a small claim consisting of a few acres on the edge of Island Lake, where he had a cabin and a husky dog. He had to be away from his home for a short while, and asked my mother and father to look after his dog.

When Calvin went away, he left a double-bitted ax in a chopping block. His husky was tied up behind it. Mama and Daddy went to check on the dog, and found that a moose had comeinto the area and charged the dog. The moose had somehow contacted the dog's chain and had fallen against the axe, which cut off one of its front legs. They had to shoot the moose, as any good homesteader would have done in those days.


Joe and Lillian McGaughey homesteaded near Island Lake in North Kenai in the 1950s.

Submitted photo

Throughout the day, however, fish and wildlife planes had been circling over the homestead. It was off-season for hunting, and, not wanting to attract any attention, they went back later that night and skinned the moose, dressed it out, and buried the remains. (Mama and Daddy never liked to kill anything they wouldn't eat). They then hauledthe carcasshome, where they hung it in the cool light plant shed, to be used as meat for the family.

Us kids were all very excited about this catch and asked Daddy what it was that was hanging in the light plant shed. Knowing how word gets around through children's conversations, he told us it was a jackrabbit. He didn't want word to get around that he had gotten his moose already, and he wanted to be somewhat modest about the whole thing.

Imagine people's surprise when we told them excitedly that our father had captured a jackrabbit! Some of them asked, "Are you sure it wasn't a moose?" Still very proud of my father, I insisted that he had indeed caught a jackrabbit. I understood that jackrabbits were someof the fastest critters on the face of the earth and my admiration of my father certainly grew.

When I began writing a book, I telephoned my mother and said, "I'm writing the chapter about the jackrabbit. Can you tell me anything more about it?"

"That was no jack rabbit dear," she answered with the usual lilting laughter in her voice. " It was a moose." Then she told me the real story, more than 50 years after it happened.

This story was submitted to the Kenai Historical Society by Lydia McGaughey Sherman and is included in a book she wrote called "Just Breathing the Air." Coauthors are her parents Joe and Lillian McGaughey, who have since retired to Australia.

After reviewing the "Jackrabbit" chapter, Joe telephoned Lydia and said, "If anyone wants to know where I am, Just tell them I am on an island in the Pacific."

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