Pioneer Potluck: Looking back on the 1990s

  • Wednesday, March 7, 2018 10:05am
  • LifeFood

We have been trying to downsize our many accumulations we have amassed through the 33 years of living here on this property.

We moved into the cabin next door to us, in 1985 with my car loaded down and the trunk full. Bob had a bit of furniture, and duffle bag full of clothes. The very first thing we acquired was a puppy. We named her Penelope Ann of Bishop Creek. Penny was our constant companion for 13 years. Since then we have had three more dogs. Sadie made us happy when we rescued her from the Kenai Shelter. We gave her quality life for about 5 years. Then we got a call saying we should come and look at these cute little black Labs at the shelter. We brought Jake home from the shelter. He has been our pain in the patoot, aggravation to the limit sometimes, but our delight and constant companion for 4 years. In the meantime we had a wolf dog named Destry.

We moved to our forever place where we reside now in 1990. Our adventure has been fun and full of great memories. Bob built a house for us, then because I love to sew and had taught myself to use the computer, he built me a sewing-computer cottage, separate from the house. Then because he wanted a nicer shop than the one that was “temporary” for 20 years, he built (with help) himself a shop-cave complete with big TV.

Along with all the years, we have accumulated “stuff.” So to help with the “overflow of stuff” we bought a shed (with help) and Bob (with help) completed the inside to house the “stuff” we need at times. So now it is about spring time and we need to undo the accumulation of “stuff” and downsize. The containers of stuff will be shuffled one more time and with the reminder every minute that I do not need something any longer, I hope to have a large amount of “stuff” gone by the end of summer. I will use my Mother’s philosophy: If you have not worn it for a year, seen it for a year, or needed it for a year — throw it out. And she did! I have not followed that very well.

My accumulations of memories have been jogged by a piece of paper Bob found, trying to downsize, that belonged to a video I took in 1992. He gave it to me knowing I would like to have the memories of a great time in Fairbanks. The video, I have no idea where it is! But this piece of paper helps me with this story.

Susan, Porter and boys, Joe and Michael lived in Fairbanks. Porter worked for Coca-Cola and Susan was a teacher’s aide at one of the schools. The boys were in school in North Pole. I got a call from Susan, “Hey Mom! Can you come to Fairbanks and stay with Joe and Mike? Porter won a trip to Europe from Coca-Cola! We will be going to Belgium and France. On the way back home we will stop in New York to see The Phantom of the Opera.”

I told her I would be very happy to.

I arrived in late September. It was still kind of autumn warm. I took the kids to school, went to McDonald’s several times and had lots of fun. It came time to fill the tank of the Ford pickup and I drove to the neighborhood gas station, as instructed by Susan. Before she left, she gave me three cards. A friendly man at the station filled the tank and I handed him one of the cards that Susan had given me. He started to go in and took a look at the “credit card,” and came back to the window of the pickup.

“You must be Susan’s mother?”

Yes, I said. He said “This is a Library card. I cannot charge gas on it.”

Joe and Mike ducked down under the dash board and sat on the floor of the pickup, so they would not be embarrassed as I fumbled, stuttered and stammered, telling the gas man, that this was the only card I had. I told him “I must have taken the wrong card and I did not bring any money with me.”

He said in a kindly manner, “That’s Ok, I know Porter and Susan and I will just catch them when they get back.”

Mike and Joe rode home hiding under the dash emitting a few snickers. I had embarrassed them to the max because the truth of the matter, I did not know one card from the other, having never owed a library card and at the time never, ever saw a credit card. They have never let me forget it, nor will I.

My stay in Fairbanks was very eventful and full of fun, such as the time I took Mike to a basketball game he was to play in. Joe and I selected a place to sit on the first row bench. Joe promptly moved to the far edge of the bench. As the game got started, I heard this hissing “hex-hex” noise from the far edge of the bench. It was Joe putting the “hex” on the other team so the would not win. I tried to ignore him, I tried to shut him up, I gave up! He was bent on helping Michael win the game. They did! No doubt with Joe’s help! My memories in Fairbanks are vivid.

This was the same year we acquired Destry, a wolf dog. A total challenge and at times a delight. Not able to teach him much except what he wanted to do at the time he wanted to do it. One of the annoying habits was sneaking up behind you and nipping you on the upper leg right below your behind. Not a bite but a playful nip that hurt! We had to watch him closely around everyone. It was his way of playing and letting you know he wanted to play. One late afternoon our friends were standing around one of Bob’ bonfires. Bernie let out a yelp and jumped around, rubbing a spot on her upper leg. Destry had snuck up and nipped her and ran off.

No matter what we did, he thought we were playing with him. We just never put our back to him. He loved us dearly, but had a painful way of showing it.

We had renters in a cabin we had bought, and one day the little gal came over in tears. “Have you seen Noodle?”

Seeing the questioned look on my face she explained that Noodle was her pet ferret (she was not supposed to have as a pet in the house).

No I said, but I will keep a look out for him. She disappeared up the hill to the cabin in tears calling Noodle. A few minutes later, here comes Destry with something in his mouth. It was noodle! Try as I could, Destry thought I was playing with him, he would run up to me, then bolt off in another direction, stand still until I got close, then bolt off again.

We played the game for a half hour. Then all of the sudden, Destry bolted off into the woods and up the hill, with me behind him. He went off in the woods and I did not see him until about an half hour later, without Noodle. He had mud on his nose and paws and a look of complete satisfaction on his doggie face. My heart sank. I never told the little gal where her Noodle went. A few weeks later, Destry disappeared and we never ever saw her again. We think someone kidnapped her as she was a beautiful wolf dog and dog breeders in the area would be very happy to have her. We are so sad to this day.

That is not all of the pets we have had through the years, Frick and Frack the kitties came to us by way of Susan. I had given to her and the boys a kitty before they moved to Fairbanks. They named him Romeo. Romeo turned out to be Juliet and had kittens, two of which we adopted. Thus was the start of the kitty population we had have through the years. Frack and Frick were grandmas to several kitties. Now we have Bootzee who will be 24 years old in June and her relatives, Sam and Beau, both 17 years, Mr. Big and Mr. Little, 14 years old.

Yes, we are the zoo keepers to a black dog, five kitties, and a black kitty who came to us two years ago in a very cold night. He jumped right up in my arms and snuggled close to get warm. He is a delight and earned the name “Cave Cat” as he resides in a place of honor in Bob’s cave. He was someone’s nice kitty who became lost or was dumped off, because very morning I get Cave Cat hugs and head bumps, as he snuggled down in my lap for a snooze. He does the same to Bob and takes a afternoon nap with him.

So ends this down the memory lane of years gone by in the 1990s. And what did you do in the 90s? A small piece of paper jerked my memory. I am so grateful I can still recall most of them. A small piece of paper helped!

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self-taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at

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