There are no such things as paved roads or nice, clean sidewalks in rural villages in Alaska. Most people who visit Alaska see Anchorage, Fairbanks, or maybe even isolated Juneau, the capital city. Those cities are neat, concrete bound, proper lower-forty-eight-type cities. But they aren’t the real Alaska. The villages with mud and mosquitoes in the summer, snow and ice in the winter, fishing and hunting out the front door practically—those villages make up the real deal, the last frontier, Alaska.
The people living in the villages—resourceful Native Americans, proud Eskimos, Aleuts, and Gussaks (which is what people of the land call Anglos and all others from the lower forty-eight)—meet the challenges of the far north. That is Alaska! The people work together to deal with the cold, winter darkness, summer’s long days, and most importantly, the intensified human emotions involving survival.
Larry and I lived and taught in Aniak, Alaska, that this story is based on. We fished, skied, snow-mobiled, threw a cup of coffee in the air when it was fifty degrees below zero, experienced the Kuskokwim River going through the pangs of break-up, and every few years: a flood, in which we got water in our basement. Life in rural Alaska is, at times, challenging. But the people make every moment rewarding.