The highlight of December was a trip into Old Faithful at Yellowstone Park. Such trips began for tourists in the late 60’s and were rudimentary compared to current trips. Back then, folks had to ride in old time snowcats that looked like this
but today’s visitors use snow coaches with giant all terrain tires like this rig.
From personal experience the current method is a lot more comfortable than being trapped in the back of a loud, smokey, cold snowcat. Yellowstone is always a treat but sharing it with a mob of people can be challenging in the summer. By contrast, one evening Old Faithful provided its show to an assembled throng of 8 people, including the Alaskans present. This daylight event attracted a few more folks.
One event from the trip stands out. During the ride in a radio report to the coach driver suggested there were wolves near the trail. He asked if it was OK with his passengers if he turned around to look for the wolves. He did turn around and after a mile or two through heavy trees, the driver stopped at an open meadow with an open creek running though it. Just as he stopped a wolf came out of the woods broadside to the coach at about 200 yards, following the edge of the creek. The lead wolf was followed by 13 others spaced about 10 yards apart and moving at a pace not unlike a long distance dog team, about 10 miles per hour and indifferent to the amazed spectators. It took a few minutes for the wolves to travel through the meadow and enter the trees again, during which time binoculars provided outstanding views of the pack. The pack was very orderly, except for a 15th wolf who pranced around the edge of the meadow sniffing and cavorting about 100 yards beyond the main pack. It was decided that wolf must have been an unruly youngster. The pack was identified as the Wapiti pack, well known in the Park.
The sight was unforgettable. Prior brief encounters with wolves in Minnesota and Alaska, mainly by airplane, were no comparison. Here was a pack on a hunt in wild country where they have managed to survive for eons until wiped out by humans in the 20th century. Now re-introduced, they are thriving despite strong resistance from some, including many who would like to see them eliminated again. That dispute involves on one side folks who promote the idea that human activities should take priority over natural events. Those same people also favor reduction of buffalo numbers to reduce interference with cattle ranching. That idea brings to mind the recent Ken Burns documentary The American Buffalo, a painful look at a piece of American history that needs to be known and remembered by every citizen. Burns recounts events of the last half of the 19th century when Americans accomplished the largest mass destruction of both a wildlife population and a resident human population in the history of the world. An estimated 50,000,000 buffalo provided food, shelter and clothing for millions of Indians before Americans decided neither were needed. By 1900 those numbers were reduced to less than 1,000 buffalo and less than 250,000 Indians. A society that operated quite well for thousands of years was wiped out because white Americans needed a place to live, and the original residents of that space were removed to out of the way places where they were expected to remain. It is important to remember that the mass destruction of the buffalo was done for economic gain, and also for the reason that the government recognized that Indian society was organized around the harvest of buffalo and eliminating the buffalo would be the surest way to diminish the Indians' ability to resist American expansionism. The Native Americans, uneducated and without economic skills, were expected to assimilate into American society overnight, and of course in many cases still have not done so. Starting from where they did and facing rampant prejudice, is it any wonder? Indians were not made American citizens until 1924, despite the fact that millions of immigrants had become citizens before that date. Many would say that white folks won the war against the Indians, and rightfully claimed their land. Unfortunately American history doesn’t support that theory. Americans have won many wars, but have usually treated the defeated society fairly in the aftermath. Germany, Italy and Japan come immediately to mind. No one can say the Indians were treated fairly. The well-developed survival skills they had when defeated were of no use to them without land and wildlife and freedom to roam. It’s a shameful heritage that most Americans rarely consider any more.
These same issues still exist. Native American tribes are seeking to establish buffalo herds in many places around the country on tribal land. These efforts are often met with resistance from farmers and ranchers who see a threat to their cattle herds from the buffalo. Never mind that the cattle are grazing on the same land that was forcibly taken from the Indians, or in some cases stolen a second time by government sanctioned violations of treaty rights. And government efforts to reintroduce wolves are also met with howls of resistance from livestock growers. Here’s the scoop-you have livestock growing where wild animals should be free to roam. If you can’t protect your animals, try raising buffalo. They survived with predators for a long time. This meme sort of sums up the situation regarding Native Americans and their land.
Mandatory Moose & Other Characters
Speaking of living with wild animals, downtown Anchorage has an abundance of moose this winter, maybe more than ever. This month’s Mandatory Moose blocked a narrow sidewalk in front of Jack recently.
He has shown up several times since and is apparently liking his winter neighborhood. Here are some Bighorn sheep that showed up along the road near Sarah Angstman’s new home in Dillon, Montana.
Jack the dog spent a few days at Jessica Klejka’s kennel in Knik, and was subjected to a herd of puppies who chased him relentlessly.
In Other News
KYUK has begun posting old time videos for folks to learn a bit about long ago times in Bethel. This clip features Bev Hoffman and John McDonald and you might find it entertaining. The full length version above is from the 1980s and is worth watching.
Speaking of long ago times, a recent trip to an Anchorage movie theater brought back memories of Swanson’s theater in Bethel. Back in the 70’s it was the only ticket in town, and they actually had some decent films. It was a large place for Bethel, and there was only one unwritten rule that everyone followed. Bethel at the time had extremely limited housing and very few cars. There were many people crowded into small houses with limited privacy. Therefore, while the theater was general admission, the back row was reserved exclusively for sexual activity. Sort of like a drive-in theater without a car.
As noted cars were in short supply back in the day, but they were occasionally imported from Anchorage or Seattle. One night at dinner in Bethel at a neighbor's house, their teen age daughter showed up rather giddy. She burst into the house and approached the table where folks were eating. She announced to all that she had a wonderful evening with her friends. Her Mom asked where she had been that was so much fun. Her response caused quite a stir. “Sally’s mom just bought a new vulva and she let Sally drive it all over town tonight.”
With that the girl’s Dad excused himself from the table and guided her into the back room, where she likely learned a bit more about Swedish cars.
God Made What?!
In an effort to be fair and balanced, this campaign video appears here courtesy of Donald Trump's social media page, where he posted it. You really shouldn't cast your vote for President without watching.