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We Alaskans

Reading the North: Earthworms and 'The Glass Ball'

Alaska Hunting: Earthworms to Elephants

By Jake Jacobson; Publishing Consultants; $19.95

The blurb: After hearing stories of shooting moose in the cabin yard, placer gold and massive runs of salmon, 5-year-old Jake decided he would live in the far north. Twenty years later, he arrived in Alaska -- more than eight years after statehood and 100 years after the Great Land was purchased from Russia.

The first two years, Jake traveled throughout Alaska delivering dental care to remote villages from Southeastern to Arctic Alaska as an Indian Health Service officer. He gained a firsthand knowledge of subsistence, commercial and personal use of the far north's abundant wild resources.

Within a month of arriving in Anchorage, Jake was hired as an assistant big game guide and ever since has been actively engaged in hunting and fishing endeavors that ranged from catching earthworms for fishing bait, accompanying Eskimos in their frigid pursuit of the bowhead whale and recovering ancient woolly mammoth remains.

After five years as an assistant guide, Jake received his registered guide license in 1972 and Alaska master guide license in 1984.

Excerpt: Often -- whenever I got the chance, actually -- as a kid and young man, I hunted up anything that might be used as fish or trap bait. If I was not planning to go fishing or had a surplus, older people or other kids were happy to buy my catch. Earthworms were much easier to keep alive than the other bugs ... and they didn't sting or spit tobacco juice on me. In the desert areas, grasshoppers or crickets were the main fish bait. In desperate times we occasionally used scorpions from which we had pinched off the stinger. On one occasion I wrestled a tarantula onto my hook which was immediately swallowed by a five pound largemouth bass. A large desert centipede tempted me. I figured that writhing, wiggling, hyperactive bug would be a sure draw for big fish, but after a few minutes of trying to find a way to hook it without being impaled by either end of the insect or by my own fishing hook, I cut off both ends, divided the long body into six pieces and found those still writhing sections worked very well on crappie. But I preferred the docile earthworms, as did my fishing companions. Digging worms was a welcome diversion from my heavy work-and-study schedule while attending dental school in Portland. A fellow student introduced me to the technique of placing a copper pipe in the ground, then hooking it up to a 12-volt battery, which brought the big nightcrawlers oozing up out of the grass. Such easy catching it was -- a technological triumph. So when I got to Alaska, I missed some things, like ring-necked pheasant hunting, my previous easy access to horses and burros, and worming. On my first trip to Kodiak in October, 1967, while looking over a small midtown lake, I noticed fish activity. In a moment of reminiscence I turned over a half rotten log and discovered earthworms. Immediately I knew I was home ...

Kids should be started out early on things that are most important in life, and I believe being provident and self sufficient are at the top of the list. Making use of locally available fish and game resources requires hunting and fishing. Both activities are also great fun, so I began to involve our kids in such pursuits before they could walk. By the time they had their own single shot rifles, they were well on the way to a hunting life. Living in Kodiak since birth, with trips to the lodge in the arctic before school started in the fall, hunting and fishing has been easily accessible to our daughters and they accepted those activities as a normal part of their everyday lives. Proper preparation of the animals taken was required, with the whole family lending a hand. Family involvement was always our first priority. Nature's bounty was always at hand, sometimes more abundantly than other periods, but always available in usable forms. The seasonal and annual vagaries of nature and animal availability are realities that all people should come to expect and accommodate. Constant availability of store-bought food is an artificial aspect of modern urbanized life and one should not be overly dependent upon having access to such extraneous resources. My family eats mainly wild meat.

The Glass Ball

By Jean Hatfield; Aleutika Press; $12

The blurb: As a survivor of childhood trauma, Dana knows she has to let go of the past if she's ever going to move on. The natural landscape of Southcentral Alaska -- far from her life with her longtime boyfriend, Mark -- calls to her as a place to heal. A place where she hopes she can sort out her feelings for him and cast out her demons, once and for all. There's only one problem: Luke, the handsome young widower who befriends her soon after her arrival. This magical summer in Alaska, filled with the beauty of the north country, will change Dana's and Luke's lives forever. And maybe, just maybe, give them the renewed hope they both need. "The Glass Ball" is a love story not often told. Both realistic and poignant, it shows that love and intimacy can be healing forces valuable in their own right, as part of the evolving stories of our lives. This is a story not so much about finding happily-ever-after as it is about realizing it is within our reach. Jean Hatfield has lived most of her adult life surrounded by the grandeur of Alaska.

Excerpt: She awoke with a start, still smelling the sweat from his body as he loomed over her, still tasting the oil from the gun he had thrust into her mouth, still hearing the harsh ratcheting sound of the hammer being pulled back. Wild-eyed, heart pounding, her skin prickling with dread, she glanced frantically around the small, unfamiliar room. Was that movement she saw out of the corner of her eye? She felt the color drain from her face. Opening her mouth, she tried to call for help, but the words caught in her throat. Then the framed print of Mount McKinley on the far wall came into focus, reminding Dana she was at a seaside inn in Alaska, far from her Oregon home, and she cried out with relief. Breathing deeply to dispel the enveloping, nearly paralyzing panic, she mouthed a silent prayer of thanks. He wasn't really there. She'd only been having a nightmare. Only? How many times had she been afraid she wouldn't be able to climb out of the darkness when she awakened in its depths? With great effort, Dana fought off the invisible pressure that seemed to weigh on her chest. She unfolded her tightly crossed arms and pulled herself upright. As she swung her feet off the bed, she realized her nightgown and hair were soaked with sweat. She shivered. Her nightmares were terrifying and real ... and exhausting.

Willing herself to stand, Dana then donned the crumpled terry-cloth robe that a few hours earlier she had tossed onto the wicker chair next to the bed. Her journal was open on the nightstand, and the scribbled words "I'm dying inside!" screamed back at her. Quickly she closed the book, fresh tears spilling from her swollen eyes, and squeezed the paw of the small, well-worn stuffed animal she'd clung to while she slept. Suddenly longing for fresh air, she walked toward the balcony of her second-story room. She opened the sliding door and stepped outside, grabbing the railing to steady herself. Moisture from the previous night's rain dampened the small wooden deck and tingled her bare feet. She gulped in the crisp, salty air, only vaguely aware of the seagull that called in passing and the cool breeze that played with the wisps escaping her long auburn braids. She stared, unseeing, across the wide bay that separated glaciers and mountains from the rocky beach beneath her, lost in another, earlier world -- a world she was trying to forget. "You can't let him win!" she chastised herself; speaking so softly she wasn't sure if she had actually spoken the words aloud. Feeling chilled, she pulled her robe tightly around her slender body -- almost as if by doing so she could pull herself together as well. Wiping away another flood of tears, she closed her eyes, hoping to capture the serenity of the dawn. "Think of nothing. Breathe deeply. Relax." Dana whispered the words again and again like a mantra, struggling to shake off the images that flashed through her mind like stills from a movie. "Let those feelings go ... you don't need them anymore." Unconsciously fingering the tight curl on the end of one of her braids, she concentrated on the words. The painful images slowly faded.

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