Hillbilly Mom's Travels
This is Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska. I didn't take the photo,
but I've been to Ketchikan. You didn't think all Hillbilly Mom did
was sit on the porch of the Hillbilly Mansion, smokin' her corncob
pipe, swattin' flies, and pickin' ticks off the boy young 'uns, did you?
It was many years ago, but my family went to Ketchikan to visit my
mother's oldest brother, Paul, who lived there and worked for the
U.S. Forest Service. He had a house up on the hill. Well, so did
everybody, because Ketchikan is built on a hillside.
We went in early August, which meant 100 degree temps in Missouri
(that's Fahrenheit, Rebecca, we don't live on the surface of the sun, I
make sure to point this out every time I use Fahrenheit). When we
arrived, it was in the 50s, and men were jogging without shirts. That
was a big temp difference for us, and we thought they were nuts.
The trip was a trip. We flew into Seattle's SeaTac Airport. We were
supposed to fly into Ketchikan on Alaska Airlines (that was before
they were bought by Hughes Airwest and whoever has bought them
since that time). Anyhoo, we had a 16 hour layover because...um...
one of the engines wouldn't work. The most disturbing part of this
was that they took apart the whole engine right under the window
where we were sitting to wait on the flight. Some guy said, "Oh, you
don't have to worry about Alaska Airlines. They have the best
mechanics of all the airlines. They have to. They buy everybody
else's junkers and fix them up."
The flight into Ketchikan was OK, or so I thought. Later, when
I told people how interesting it was to see those two planes fly by
us, they kind of looked at each other over my head. Then they
said you should never be close enough to see another plane in
the air. Um...now I was nervous. One was on the same level, too,
but the other was below us some.
Well, nobody told ME that the Ketchikan Airport was on an
island. I thought for sure we were going to crashland. But we
I had to get used to pulling the shades at 10:00 pm to shut out
the setting sun. My uncle took us all around town, to all the touristy
places, including Creek Street. We went to a pulp mill, where they
cut the bark off trees with jets of water. That place stunk worse
than the salmon cannery. We went to Bight Park to see the totems.
We walked along the beach and were eaten by no-see-ums.
Because you can't see them, you know. Uncle Paul told us right
off the bat not to do anything stupid in town, like say, "Oh, there's
an Eskimo." He said they preferred to be called "Natives," and
to use Eskimo would be an insult.
Uncle Paul had rented us a cabin on some island nearby so we
could fish. He said he would make two trips to take us there.
Imagine my surprise when my sister, my dad, and I climbed into
his boat. It was a goshdarn little aluminum fishing boat with an
outboard motor, just like my dad used on the St. Francis river
to take us fishing. And we went out in the OCEAN in it. I couldn't
even see the island for a while. I was scared to death. I knew I
could never make it back to shore when we turned over. We
didn't, but I just knew we were going to. Uncle Paul dropped
us off and went back to pick up Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa.
Dad said we might as well get in some fishing, so he got out the
poles, and we walked to a little bay on the island. After a while,
we saw a red plane that lands on those floaty things. "Look at
the plane," said Dad. Yeah, we didn't see those much in Missouri.
The plane circled around several times, and Dad said, "He's looking
for someone." The plane landed in our little bay, and the pilot drove
it right up by us. "He's looking for US!" said Dad. Yep. Uncle
Paul's boat motor gave out, so he sent the pilot to pick us up.
We stowed our stuff in those floaty things, except the fishing poles,
which stuck up between the front and back seats of the plane.
The pilot started to taxi down the bay. The windshield was all
fogged up. He looked at my dad, and said, "Can you see anything?
Cause I can't see anything." Ha ha very funny. Then he wiped at
the windshield, and I saw a bunch of pine trees approaching. "I
sure hope we're gonna clear them trees," said the pilot. I hope
this was just an act to scare us hillbillies.
A few days later, we went back to that blasted island in that
blasted little boat across that blasted ocean. We saw big black
bear tracks, and a black bear cub across the creek. We hoped
the big bear had crossed the creek to be with the little one. My
sister and I went to fish in that creek. I was climbing down a
little ledge, and started to fall into the rushing water about 10
feet below. My sister grabbed me by the back of my CPO
jacket (that's how old I am!) and saved my life. She said she
only did it because she knew if I died, SHE would be in trouble.
We also saw some men with lines of great big hooks like treble
hooks. They were on the other side of the creek. We told Uncle
Paul, and he said he hoped we didn't say anything, because the
men were poaching salmon, and would as soon kill us as look
at us. I don't know how serious he was, but he did work for the
Forest Service and all.
Our next adventure was a ferry trip to Juneau. I was amazed
that we drove our car right onto the boat and parked it. We
didn't get rooms, we slept in the sleeping chairs on the sleeping
chair deck, I guess you'd call it. Uncle Paul said that this was
how the school teams traveled to play other schools. They
took the ferry for a week or two at a time. We saw a lot of
bald eagles flying around when we were out on deck. They
had a safety talk about how to jump off the boat if it started
to sink. Yeah, right. I don't do heights, and I don't do water.
They could just as well call me "captain," cause I was goin'
down with the ship.
We went through the big museum in Juneau. Hey, it was built
on the side of a hill, too. We stayed at the Juneau Hilton, which
was not as fancy as one might think, as it had only 6 floors.
Besides which the toilet overflowed the first night.
We went to the Mendenhall Glacier, which I found to be mighty
impressive as it was so freakin' OLD. We went on some train
ride, to, but I don't remember much about it.
It was a wonderful vacation. Several years later, Mom and Dad
bought a camper, and drove back up there. Which meant they
had to take the Alaskan Highway, which in case you people didn't
know, was a freakin' GRAVEL ROAD! Later, my uncle moved
to Washington, so the Alaska trips stopped.
Thanks, Rebecca and Lessa, for the comments that gave me this
flashback. I'm sure you are all now very tired from this jouney.
May I suggest a nap?