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Forget colored cornstarch -- real Alaskans are coated in mud, blood

Craig Medred
A face of a racer in the Crow Pass Crossing is muddy and bloody. Bob Hallinen

KENAI RIVER -- Dipnetter Doug O'Harra smiled ear to ear, despite a face splattered in mud and blood. That’s when the idea hit: 

Ban the Color Run from Alaska. Ban it.

Come summer, real Alaskans are about blood and mud, or mud and blood -- not about prissy colored cornstarch.

The Alaska Boys and Girls Club should be embarrassed about hooking up with a multicolored scam. (Fundraiser or not, with income big or pitifully small as appears to be the case.) 

Not because a private enterprise profited from the newfound American fondness for quasi-athletic events that raise funds for charity. Private enterprise is a good thing.

But of all organizations in the 49th state, the Boys and Girls Club should help instill Alaska values and Alaska traditions in Alaska kids.

These traditions include sliding during the winter -- be it sliding on skis, snowboards, dog sleds or snowmachine skis. It really doesn't matter which. Sliding is what real Alaskans are about for the seven or eight months the state is blanketed in snow.

But come spring, short as it is, and through summer, which is longer, and into fall, Alaskans are about mud and blood. Whether they are whalers working the Beaufort Sea, fishermen on the mighty Yukon River or runners negotiating the slopes of Mount Marathon above Seward, Alaskans are smeared in mud and blood for a few precious months, be it their own or whatever it is they killed.

This is no multicolored, cornstarch state. This is the red-and-black state.

Muddy, bloody O'Harra had a big pile of dead salmon on the muddy riverbank this weekend. Mud and blood are good. They are what you get when you embrace the land. They indicate a full freezer or a stuffed smokehouse heading into winter.

Colored cornstarch? Really?

What's the point? Can you save it to make pink moose-roast gravy for Let's All Pretend We’re Special Day? Or is this some multicolored substitute for real Alaska colors?

Mud and blood. Embrace them.

Mud and blood are our roots. Anyone who's been anywhere on the Copper River when the wind is blowing in from Cordova during the summer knows what I'm talking about. You can watch the dust blowing in the wind turn to mud in the sweat on your arm and wonder how deeply steeped in the "terroir," as the French say, were the Ahtna people who lived here thousands of years.

Terroir is how the French sum up the geography, geology and climate that make a place special. Mud and blood are the symbols of our terroir.

God love 'em. 

Contact Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com.