Sunday, April 10, 2011
(The village at the base of the only mountain near by.)
From Dillingham, it was a short flight to the village of Manokotak, there is normally around 350 people (335) Eskimo, 1 black, and a handful of white fishermen) who reside year round here ( Back in 1983), but, when I landed the Village was empty. It was an extremely eerie feeling to land in a new village where I was going to be living, teaching and coaching, only to find that there was only a handful of people here. The pilot told me once we landed that the entire village moves down river to "camp", where the people fish for salmon all summer long, the village is empty. We taxied the plane to the end of the runway closest to the town, we were met by an elderly native man who was riding atop of a four wheeler, and he had a look of confusion on his weathered face. I introduced myself to the thin, grey stubbled, weather beaten gentlemen, his name was Leroy, he quickly told me that the" teachers don't come till Fall." I replied, “I’m here, I always spend my summers here in Alaska". Leroy looked down at the ground, shook his nearly bald head, and said, "Teachers don't come till Fall ". I just knew that would not be the last time I heard that this summer!
On the back of Leroy's 4 wheeler was a trailer to haul anything that was brought in by plane, supplies, mail, just about anything, (new teachers who come four months early). Like many villages in Alaska, there are no roads from the main towns out to the villages, this is why it is called the "Bush". The best way to get around in the bush is always by plane, it is quick, and sure, well, most of the time. In the winter in Alaska, everything freezes, this allows people to move about on snow machines, one can go anyplace on a snow machine.
During the summer the mode of transport is by boat, four wheeler, or plane. I'd brought my own boat ( 14 ft. Boston Whaler inflatable) and four wheeler, all I needed was gas, Leroy showed me where to get gas, and told me to write down what I used, it was a town co-op. We then went to the teacher housing, I got settled in, nice place, but it was very warm, no AC, why would they, all the teachers leave during the summer, by the time they return, it is Fall. Leroy told me he was leaving for camp the next day, he said that the post office would be open, and if I needed anything from the store to have the lady in the post office let me in, write down what I bought ( another town co-op), and I could pay later. Leroy then scratched the stubble on his chin, stuck his jaw out, it was a personality trait when he was in the middle of making a decision, and said, “we better go over to the post office and meet Stella, she's pretty tough, she better know who you are, or you might have problems." So, we went to the Post office, which is next door to the store co-op to meet the post mistress Stella. Behind the counter is a short, moon faced, round women with dark curly hair and horned rimmed glasses. "Who's this guy Leroy", came from behind the counter, Leroy replied, "the new science teacher and basketball coach, Mark Daly". Stella had a serious frown which struck me as a “bad moon rising", then, she of course asked why I was there now, it is summer, and teachers don't come till Fall. I gave Stella a huge smile, extended my hand out and said, "I'll be here all summer, fishing", the moon became full once again, the frown gone, Stella informed me that she would be in the Village every Monday for Mail and if I needed anything from the co-op, I'd have to do it on Monday, for she too was going to camp. The moon became quite sunny as Stella even gave me a smile, and said, “I’ll tell people in Camp you are here, so you don't have problems".
I was all set, gas, food, a nice place to live, boat, fishing and all alone to enjoy a beautiful river all to myself for the next three months to explore the upper Igushik River. Miles of wild river teaming with Salmon, Trout, Pike, Char, and Grayling, it would be a summer that changed my fishing perspective forever.
Next time, we start fishing! Stay tuned..