Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, by Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter
Why do I love Alaska and Alaskans? Let me count the ways:
1. We love our wildlife and wilderness. Moose, caribou, whales, squirrels, sunsets, snowflakes and wildflowers often make the front page of our papers.
2. We are an intelligent bunch, and we possess an extensive vocabulary. Both indigenous and naturalized Alaskans have a vast array of terms to describe rain and snow (a few of which cannot be printed). It’s a true testimony to our interest in the natural world, our sense of humor and our ability to creatively express ourselves.
3. We can read the fishing regulations and consider ice fishing an intellectual activity.
4. Our colleges include courses like fly-tying and fishing, skin-sewing and log cabin construction.
5. Our kids know more about the life cycle of a salmon than many college graduates.
6. We measure distance in terms of time, not miles. For example: “Well, it will take you about 11 hours from Soldotna to Fairbanks, depending on weather and road construction.” “It takes about three, maybe four days from Haines to Seattle, depending on tides and wind.”
7. We make good tourists and take the opportunity to see our own state, and we really get around by train, plane, car, truck, travel trailer or motor home (a.k.a. land yachts), motorcycle, snowmachine, four-wheeler, kayak, boat, canoe, marine highway, dogsled, kick sled, snowshoes or hiking boot tread.
8. We can kiss with snowmachine helmets on.
9. We only have three seasons, winter, summer and road construction.
10. Alaskans are a friendly bunch. We talk to checkout clerks at the store and generally know the neighbors’ names even if they are a plane ride away. When we ask, “How are you?” we actually want to know. We also are happy to call friends at 3 a.m. to tell them the northern lights are out.
11. While driving, many of us employ a variety of hand signals to communicate with tourists as they meander along our scenic routes.
12. We are independent, proud and strong, and when we are not …
13. we fundraise and pitch in when a fellow Alaskan is in need. We stop when we see someone who needs help, even if that someone is the tourist we just signaled to a few miles ago.
14. Most of us carry jumper cables, flares and a spare tire in our vehicles and we know how to use them.
15. Our flag is easy to draw.
16. Some of the biggest, prize-winning, world-record produce in the world is grown here. We also have world-class fishing and hunting, the best sightseeing attractions around, breathtaking national parks, interesting historical buildings, fine museums and incredible fjords.
17. We are modest. We have no need to brag.
18. When we talk to folks from “down under,” we tell them how great our state is.
19. We don’t have to make up stories. Our stories get better with time.
20. We always have something to talk about — weather, modesty and neighbors.
21. We are not impressed by the rich and famous, but one can achieve an almost celebritylike status based on the quality of their secret smoked salmon recipe and a few well-seasoned sourdough stories. We are happy when one of our own makes it big.
22. We are a frugal. We recycle. We eat our road kill. We bought our state for 2 cents an acre.
23. We do not succumb to fashion trends. We have a strong sense of accessorizing and understand that Sorels, rubber boots and a fishing vest will go well with most any outfit. Carhartts and Levis are both fashionable and functional standard attire and are considered acceptable 99 percent of the time. We don’t attend the other 1 percent occasions if we don’t feel like it.
24. We go to town looking scruffy if we feel like it. Heck, that’s just proof that we’ve been working.
25. We really appreciate warm mittens or socks at Christmas time.
26. We can do more with duct tape and blue tarps than Martha Stewart can do with white sheets and a bottle of Rit dye.
27. We have good taste. Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than any other state in the union, proof that we know how to enjoy life! I’m not sure about the statistics for beer.
28. We know how to decorate with antlers, beach-combed treasures and bear bread.
29. We think barrel stoves and cabins are romantic, and we don’t throw paint on fur-wearing people.
30. There are no ghettos in Alaska, just “rustic” and “quaint.”
31. We know how to celebrate! We attend concerts and festivals; we have winter games; and we relish watching a good round of “frozen fish toss.”
32. Barbecues and sprinklers nourish our souls.
33. We enjoy vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh avocados and needing to use sunscreen more than any other group of individuals on the planet.
34. We have our own state magazine and airline. We cherish our frequent flier miles.
35. We own less paved roads than Rhode Island, and we don’t have snakes, poisonous bugs or skunks, tornadoes, skyscrapers or hurricanes.
36. Many of the “weeds” in Alaska are actually wildflowers and interesting plants, and many of us know their names and uses.
37. We have glaciers, volcanoes, oilfields, gold, timber, ivory, jade and moose nuggets.
38. We run the Last Great Race.
39. We have more lakes than Minnesota and our mosquitoes are bigger!
40. We are larger than Texas.
41. We are the Last Frontier.
42. We have no state income tax (for now).
43. We get a yearly dividend (we hope).
44. We honestly feel bad when a small business closes (we should).
45. We come in many shapes, sizes and colors. We are Americans, we are Alaskans and we are proud of it.
46. Our men are plentiful, our women win the Iditarod (sometimes), our grass really is greener, our rivers longer, our glaciers bluer and our children are our most precious resource.
47. We cherish our past (and even capitalize on it) and we look forward to our future.
48. We think up great bumper stickers.
49. Alaska means home to me.
Why do I love Alaska?
It wasn’t hard to count the ways,
But one last item I want to add
One last thing I wanted to say
50. Please, God, give us another boom; we promise we won’t piss it away!
Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives (and loves) in Soldotna.