Cooper Landing

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2004

My husband, Larry, was reminiscing about Christmases past the other day and was telling me about Butch, the pet moose, at Sportsman's Lodge when Larry was living there in the late 1960s.

Larry remembers Butch was brought to the lodge by some people from North Kenai. They were bottle feeding the calf and he had gotten too big for them to keep.

They knew the Olsen family at Sportsman's Lodge, the area where you now get on the Russian River ferry during the summer months.

Ken and Mattie Olsen made arrangements to have the moose brought to the lodge and the calf was transported by private vehicle.

Butch wasn't penned or tied; he had the run of the place.

"There were times when people came to the lodge from Anchorage or down the peninsula and Butch would be laying on the front porch and the customers had to walk around him to get in the door," Larry said.

No one seemed afraid of him, even though he would walk right up to strangers for a hand out. Butch came to Larry's trailer early in the mornings and would bump his head against the door.

"I'd reach out and give him a pat on the nose and an apple or a slice of bread, or whatever I had handy," Larry remembers. The Olsens got some kind of pellets to feed Butch and he had a big bowl outside.

If Butch wasn't in the yard, they often would see him across Kenai River near the Russian River confluence. The river was frozen that winter. "We'd call him - 'Hey Butch, hey Butch,'" Larry said, "and he'd come running across the river sliding on the ice. He never fell down." The ice on the river was 2 feet or better.

Lynett and Diana Olsen were around 7 and 6 years old, and Butch followed them around like a pet dog. Larry and Larry Olsen brought Butch into the bar one night. Butch looked around and walked back out.

In the spring of 1969, Butch was hit on the highway near the lodge. "A nice pet like that," Larry explained, "we couldn't let the meat go to waste, so we ate him."

He was almost a year old when he died and had little nubbins of antlers. Larry has several pictures of Butch.

In one, Larry is cutting an apple for Butch, who is looking over his shoulder near the front porch of the lodge.

In my collection of local history, I found a note about Butch written by the Olsen's. "Jerry and Loretta Moore of Kenai raised 'Butch' from a few hours old until he was about 8 months old, and then he came to Sportsman's Lodge.

"Butch loved all sorts of leafy vegetables, sweet rolls, hot cakes and especially candy bars. He was just beginning to grow some horns. Butch was a personality - more 'people' than moose. We were sad when he was hit by a vehicle on March 4, 1969."

Herb and Loretta Campbell owned Sportsman's Lodge in 1962 and their ad in that year's Milepost reads: Sportsman's Lodge, formerly Henton's, on a bend of the Kenai River shore at the confluence of the Russian River.

Open all year, summer season from 6 a.m. to midnight. Overnight cabins, dining room, cocktail lounge. Chevron Products and gas and oil for outboards. Sportsman's tackle shop. Ferry service for crossing to fabulous fishing for rainbow, dolly varden, also sockeye and silver salmon during 'run.' A pleasant resort for a day, for a month of recreation."

Three years later, the Olsens bought the lodge from the Campbells.

The Olsen family was the third owners of the lodge, and it passed through several additional owners before being purchased by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 1992 and becoming the Kenai-Russian River recreation area.

On Friday at 8 p.m., the New Year's Eve party begins at the community hall. Party-goers are asked to bring music, drinks and appetizers. The party is for all ages.

From Helen Rhode's "News From Cooper's Landing" column in the Seward paper in January 1953: "The lower end of Kenai Lake finally froze over on January 10th.

"At present there is still open water above Quartz Creek but below that point the ice is steadily thickening. Even though a slight skiff of snow appeared on the first day, the skaters were out testing the new ice. ..."

Guess there's still hope for winter.

Mona Painter can be reached by phone at 595-1248 or by email at painter@arctic.net



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