The one good thing about this horrible, stormy winter has been the lack of snow. I congratulated myself on it almost daily. Surely, the sheer power of my dislike of snow was keeping it at bay? And with spring just around the corner it looked like we'd squeeze by without having to deal with all the hassles that snow brings when you're a floathouse dweller.
And then it started snowing. And snowing. And, then, guess what? More snowing.
My dad, who had just turned seventy, had to saw and chop wood in a blizzard. High winds tossed the thick snow over him and coated him even as he swung his sledgehammer to break up particularly stubborn spruce rounds. My mom bundled up and did almost all the stacking and hauling into their house, despite dealing with debilitating osteoarthritis in her knees and hands. (I'd had a bad fall and she valiantly took up the slack.)
Our mail came in days late, the floatplanes unable to fly in the blizzard conditions. When it finally got here, my dad, after shoveling a foot of snow out of the skiff, couldn't get the outboard engine to start--the fuel was frozen in the line and the carburetor.
My brother Jamie stepped in and brought our groceries and mail out in his skiff in snow so thick that he had to hug the shoreline with almost zero visibility in pretty good size seas. Thankfully he knows the area extremely well and didn't wreck, or hit his propellor on anything.
The real problem with snow and floathouses is the weight, which can sink a float. My column this week at www.capitalcityweekly.com, appearing on Wednesday, March 15th, is about how we deal with this issue.
In order to get the column off I had to cross through the woods to get to the beach where there's a stronger signal than I can get at my house. I bundled up and like every other danger-defying columnist out there, braved deep snow in high winds with a brutal wind chill that froze my fingers as soon as I took them out of my gloves to hit send.
Here's hoping spring is just around the corner.
Susan Butcher, the first person to win four out of five Iditarods, is celebrated for her achievements on the first Saturday in March, known in Alaska as Susan Butcher Day. My sister, Megan, included the musher in her series of paintings titled "Women Warriors."
The name Susan Butcher is well-known to Alaskans. She raced in seventeen Iditarods, always placing in the top ten after her first, I'm tempted to say "practice," race. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an endurance testing 1,112-1,131 mile marathon through blizzard conditions across Jack London's Alaskan wilderness. There are many dangers, including one Susan Butcher faced in 1985 when she was forced to withdraw from the race after 13 of her dogs were injured and two of them were killed by a rogue moose, despite her best efforts to drive off the enraged animal.
In the race Butcher had to scratch, Libby Reynolds went on to finish in first place and became the first woman to win the Iditarod. We watched the finish during school on TV, via satellite--one of the first things we saw when TV finally reached us in the bush. Butcher won the next three races after that and a fourth after another year. When my sister and I were growing up, these two women spawned a famous saying throughout our state: "Alaska: where men are men and women win the Iditarod."
Susan Butcher held the Iditarod speed record from 1986 until 1992, breaking her own records in 1987, 1988, and 1990, and was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. She died much too soon at age 51 on August 5, 2006. Her beloved, favorite dog was named Granite and is pictured in Megan's portrait of her.
My latest column for Capital City Weekly, appearing Wednesday, March 1st, describes why Megan is exactly the right person to do a series of portraits on "Women Warriors." Check it out, along with more of Megan's art, at www.capitalcityweekly.com.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)