Reading the North: New books of interest to Alaskans

October 12, 2013 

Tales From the Coop: Breakfast Reading

Judith M. Lindenfelser (Self published, $11; e-book, $6)

The blurb: This book is a collection of essays that revolve around Lindenfelser's experience raising chickens and selling eggs in Alaska. She has kept outside birds for nearly 30 years and sold their eggs. When her egg customers became curious about the chickens, ducks and geese whose eggs they were eating, Lindenfelser began including a "Tale From the Coop" with their egg deliveries. The essays take the form of weekly letters to her egg customers. The letters cover a year and are closely tied to the land and seasons -- both the here and now in Chugiak -- as well as the Minnesota farm on which she was raised.

Excerpt: Dorothy Patterson Was a Good Duck

Dorothy Patterson, 3, of Peters Creek, died May 20, 2007, quietly, while walking across the chicken yard to bathe in the drinking water. A memorial service was held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, with your Egg Lady, Judith, officiating.

Dorothy Patterson, a Rouen duck, was hatched in April 2003.

She brooded with two Pilgrim geese and Onan, a Rouen drake, who would become her mate...

Ms. Patterson was able to keep a cool head during times of adversity. Both she and her mate, Onan, were implicated in the untimely death of the lovely... Marilyn Momoe. (If you'll recall, Marilyn was found floating face down in the pond.) Ms. Patterson maintained a quiet dignity, despite allegations of fowl play. She was never known to utter a negative or critical word, even through those most trying of times...

Nothing speaks as eloquently of Ms. Patterson's expansive, romantic nature than the timing of her death. She died far before her time, on the one-year anniversary of the forcible removal of her mate, Onan, from the chicken yard.

Dorothy Patterson is survived by your Egg Lady, Judith, and Onan, who remains incarcerated for the criminally insane at Eagle River Car Wash and Duck Pond... In lieu of flowers, your Egg Lady prefers money.

Old Alaska: Events of the 1900s

Jim Rearson (Familius, $14.95)

The Blurb: Here are just some of the stories about Alaska in the 1900s: Rex repaid a lifelong debt when a bear attacked his master. Queenie, a half-wolf dog, was the leader of latter-day mountain man Frank Glaser's wolf-dog team. Why was she special? Why was there a rush to buy padlocks and keys in Interior Alaska? Why was a gun mounted on a small plane on Kodiak Island? And much more.

Excerpt: Frank Tondro, also known as the Malamute Kid, stampeded to the Klondike in 1898. He started mining on Dominion Creek, and in winter he hauled goods with a dog team for the store his father, Lyman Tondro, established in Dawson. The Kid was about 5'3" tall, weighed maybe 100 pounds and had a squeaky voice.

He resembled an Arctic explorer with an elaborate squirrel skin parka, fur pants and fur mukluks. He was a show-off who knew how to handle sled dogs.

Jack London included him in one of his stories, which made his fame permanent. While in Dawson he collected every stray dog that came along and eventually had 30 or 40 of them. He liked to hook them up with 20 or more in a team.

About 1915 he moved with his dogs to Fairbanks. During the years 1919-1920 , while under construction, the Alaska Railroad had a gap of 122 miles between Healy and Talkeetna. Roadbed and track laying had started at Seward and Fairbanks. Dog teams, horses and an occasional crawler tractor hauled freight and passengers across this gap. Dog teams from all over Alaska were based at temporary construction camps and roadhouses that sprang up in this gap. Interior residents wanting to go Outside (to the states) paid $100 fare one-way to cross this gap with a dog team ...

That winter, the Malamute Kid drove a 27-dog team in the railroad gap, and he owned two other teams for which he hired drivers. Come spring and breakup, he had 100 or so dogs to feed. He couldn't afford a boarding kennel for them. Instead, he got a job as a bull cook in one of the camps where he had access to food scraps. In this way, he scraped through the summer with his dogs. Cooks at camps and roadhouses were wise to him now and he couldn't get a kitchen job the next season.

The Carolyne Letters: A Story of Birth, Abortion and Adoption

Alaska resident Abigail B. Calkin (Familius, $14.95)

The blurb: Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, a single 20-year-old college student makes the toughest decision of her life. This is the story of Amelia, a young American woman who falls in love with the wrong man in 1964 Scotland. When their ill-fated affair results in a shocking pregnancy, Amelia is faced with three life-changing choices: give up the child for adoption, have an abortion or raise the child on her own.

Excerpt: 18 March 1964

A baby! How joyful! I must think all this out very carefully and clearly. What are the pros and cons?

It's life. It is alive. I want to cry and laugh all at once I am so happy. I feel excited, glorious.

When I awoke this morning, I felt ill -- literally and figuratively.

When I bent over to pick up my shoes, I almost lost the breakfast I hadn't even eaten. All sorts of thoughts pass through my mind: I want it but I mustn't have it, I shouldn't get rid of it but it's the only sensible thing to do; I feel beautiful, I feel ugly; I want to keep it, what will I do with it, I must get rid of it. What will I do? To think of it makes me feel relaxed, warm and happy. Life is regenerating itself. I have something alive growing inside of me. Something alive. Alive, all alive.

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