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Thanks, Fish and Game, for kids-only fishing and memories of Alaska nearly lost

Bill Hacklin

When I saw on television that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened a part of Campbell Creek for a few days to kids 16 or younger for king salmon fishing, it caused a memory of a warm summer day in 1971 to come flooding back. There on that day I was witness to the best show of my life and I laughed more than any other day.

Driving north on Lake Otis Trail, just short of Tudor, screams of small children caused me to slide to a halt on the side of the road in the junky old Ford pickup. A reckless maneuver because Campbell Creek holds a great grudge against Lake Otis Trail and tried to remove it from the the earth in that exact spot, and caused some gnashing of teeth from my passenger.

On the opposite side of Campbell Creek were at least 25 kids, from 8 to 3 years of age. Where the adults and big kids were, I don't know, but they weren't there.

The kids were in full battle mode against giant marine intruders. Before the dust settled from my stop, one of the smaller children went under. A reach for the door handle was unnecessary -- before you could've said “King Salmon,” a heavyset kid planted both feet on the edge of the water, and three others joined hands and made a half-moon sweep and retrieved him. He was then dumped unceremoniously on shore, and was visited by a skinny little girl I dubbed “the nurse,” and she gave him a hard whack on the back.

Not a single one of the kids demonstrated any ability to swim or dog paddle, something everyone their age could do where I came from. But the submarine walkers with their half-moon sweep worked well.

Have you ever seen a flock of shorebirds moving as one, hanging, turning, changing directions, screeching? Were you there that day on Campbell Creek, you would have learned that small children can move the same way.

Back from shore were three black spruces wrapped with an old tarp and a piece of plywood. “Three Tree Fort” was the castle that required protection from the giants, which weighed more than the majority of the defenders.

The loudest screams came when a salmon, tired of the harassment, would charge right at the defenders, water flowing over its back, reminiscent of the shark in the movie “Jaws.”

This triggered a counter-attack, usually by a single warrior, feeling the power, wanting to count coup and steal thunder. With sharpened stick, he went for the kill, which never happened, and more often than not required a sweep by the submarine walkers and a visit from the nurse.

It was no scrimmage, but a protracted battle as evidenced by rocks, more rocks, logs, fence posts, lawn darts, toys with secret powers, bed springs, etc., all on the bottom of Campbell Creek. Genghis Khan, Chiang Kai-shek or Dwight D. Eisenhower would have welcomed these brave defenders into their armies who brought order from chaos and held until relieved by mom.

Time? I was lost to time, but the beast in my passenger seat had heard screaming kids before, could give a fig about fish, and went from simmer to boil in more than one half hour.

A fish cop drove by once, looked, but pretended not to see. At that time in Alaska there were many honorable people. Besides, the fish seemed in no real danger, and the kids were looking out for each other. We used to do that here, you know, look out for each other.

When I arrived here in 1969, totally broke, special people were everywhere and they offered me all kinds of help. I think things have changed. It pains me to say, but I think that spirit of daring and togetherness that all Alaskans -- including their government -- had in abundance out of necessity has dwindled.

That feeling that was here before isn't here now, I reckon. Now, I see more people interested in what they can take from Alaska for themselves than what they can build strong out of common resources for the common good.

There is something about a large fish in a small stream that moves you deep in your soul, if you have not sold it to the oil companies or others. So, thank you, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It is good to know some there still own their own souls, which cannot be said for the executive branch of Alaska's government or the majority of the Legislature.

The Declaration of Independence clearly says it is our duty to replace a crooked government. So take a copy, roll it up around a 2-foot piece of broomstick, slap your friends alongside the head and make them read it. Less than 10 percent of the population instigated, prosecuted and won the First American Revolution, and more than 70 percent were Tories aligned with the British.

The majority in Alaska may be aligned with the money changers and corporate masters. But if you are one of the less than 10 percent and fail to speak or act when you know you should, then you are in a way more trouble than the majority who are not being tested. So I say stand to the power good or bad. Then you will find your center. Find your center and you will be able to look in your medicine pouch and see your power.

The crooks in the Alaska government must go, and the Declaration clearly says it is your duty to do just that. To do less is to betray the brave defenders of Three Tree Fort.

Bill Hacklin lives in Soldotna. He worked 40 years in Alaska's oil patch in numerous capacities and is the former business agent of the Alaska Roughnecks and Drillers Association.

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, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.