Moose and a one legged man named Radar

Guess what we were doing at 4:30 this morning. Go on. Guess. Yup, the moose was back in the dogyard. Once again the barking woke me up and I trudged to the kitchen window to see what the fuss was about. And of course I couldn’t see anything amiss – I really need to remember to put my glasses on before I begin the trudge.

Then he moved.

This time he was in the space between Demon (8 month old Malamute pup) and Jake. I woke Darrel up – yes, if I am up so is he. I checked the yard again and saw the moose was now swaying his head back and forth. Uh oh – that is a definite sign of a bad temper about to be unleashed.

We grabbed the slingshot and the gun. On the way to the yard Darrel picked up a piece of plywood about two feet square – a remnant of a project I was working on. When we got to the front of the yard he banged it on a house. Bullwinkle didn’t even look up. So Darrel hurled it at the beast and what a great throw! Hit him on the butt with a resounding smack. That got his attention.

Darrel followed it up with a couple of hits with the slingshot and the moose ran off into the woods. Of course he came back. Just as we had settled back in bed. This time he was in our backyard but ran off when we went outside. Ah, maybe this teenage moose is finally learning something.

So how does the one legged man fit into this story? Well he really doesn’t. I thought I’d get back to Homeless in Alaska today.

We made a trip to Willow, Alaska about an hour or so north of Anchorage depending on how fast you drive. It’s where thye have the official start of the Iditarod, which is a 1,000ish mile race from there to Nome. I like Willow. It’s home to many mushers. We looked around for a bit but in the end decided to head north to Fairbanks. Willow seems to be getting less snow every year and I want to be on a sled by December.

So on January 1, 2006 we had all of our stuff packed and we hit the highway north. The Alaska version of the Beverley Hillbillies came to mind. I was driving the dog truck which had 40 dogs on board plus one in the cab with me. Every nook and cranny had stuff jammed into it. On the top of the truck was sleds and Darrel’s ham radio tower. To say the truck was exceeding the gross vehicle weight is an understatement.

Darrel was behind me driving his ancient pick-up and towing a U-hail trailer. The sideboards were on the truck and bowed outwards. Of course it was covered by the mandatory blue tarp. The U-hail was packed full. So much for traveling lightly.

I really didn’t have much in the way of personal belongings. When I came to Alaska I fully expected to return to Canada so I had about 6 Rubbermaid totes with me, dog stuff and the dogs. Darrel on the other hand had years of stuff. He had all of his tools plus most of his dad’s. I mean really, how many wrenches does a man need?

We communicated that day by handheld radio. We figured it would take 2 days to get to Fairbanks if nothing broke down, blew up or fell off. Towards dinner time on the first day Darrel said he felt like the truck didn’t have good traction and wondered how I was doing. I told him I was just fine and cruising at a whopping 45 mph. He wanted to stop and check his outfit so I pulled over and he eased in behind me. He got out of his rig and promptly lost his footing. The road was ice. Hmmm, I didn’t notice it because I weighed a million pounds.

We slowed down a bit and finally decided to call it a night in Cantwell where we checked into the local lodge. Now before you start picturing a cozy log building just stop right there. This was a framed main building with store, restaurant and bar. The rooms were in an old ATCO building. Picture smelly single wide trailer with a narrow hallway and rooms, with two twin beds, miraculously jammed into them.

We dropped and fed dogs. Gave them a nice long stretch. It was pretty chilly so most were happy to get back into the dog boxes for the night. Darrel suggested a drink and maybe a bite to eat. Since we had been surviving on candy bars, chips and water all day I was starved. My stomach grumbled as I thought about a nice juicy burger and a cold beer.

The beer was no problem. It never is in Alaska. The burger however was a no go. The restaurant was closed and so I had to make do with pretzels. Mmmmmm.

Apparently Darrel was ok with beer and pretzels for dinner!

The bar was pretty quiet as bars go. Most people were probably nursing hangovers from the night before. Just a few folks in there talking quietly. Until….Radar, the one legged man showed up. We learned he’s a regular and an entertaining one too! With little encouragement he will hop up on the bar and do a little jig. He’s pretty good too for a man with only one leg. He also likes to ring the bell and buy a round for the house. Before I knew it I had three pints sitting in front me. I finally had to insist I was good. Ugh.

At one point two women came in with a Great Dane pup in tow. Dogs in bars aren’t unusual here in Alaska. In one downtown Juneau establishment there is a big old dog that lies right across the front door. Except for the snoring you’d never know he is alive.

Anyway I guess this pup had been scared by the fireworks the night before and these two women had found him. Nobody in the place recognized it but they weren’t going to turn him out either so he found a warm, quiet corner and fell asleep. A little bit later pup and owners were reunited.

We slept like logs – in separate beds – how romantic. When we woke up early in the morning we both felt terrible. I thought maybe the beer and pretzels wasn’t such a good idea but after being outside for a few minutes I did feel better. Our room smelled heavily of diesel and Darrel concluded we had been breathing some rather unhealthy fumes all night – probably with a little carbon monoxide mixed in to boot.

After taking care of dogs and eating our own breakfast we hit the road. Next stop was our new home – a little cabin in the woods about 30 miles from Fairbanks.


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