Pioneer Potluck: More about Bob’s bonfires

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2015 3:01pm
  • LifeFood

1986 To 2015

North Nikiski, Alaska

Bob built a big fire ring on the second level going down to the lake. Our cabin sat above on the first level. We could see out our door at the different stages of the glowing embers and who was sitting there in the wee hours of the night. The first year, 1986 we spent most of the nights at the fire pit with friends. Sometimes a moose would wander through the trees and grass on his way to the lake. Sometimes they would stop and give us a wide-eyed look, sometimes they just continued on their way to get a long cold drink.

We had a resident hooty owl. About 11 o’clock almost every night when the fire had burnt down to hot glowing embers, he would let out his whoo-whoo and Bob would answer him back. The owl would answer him back. Great entertainment! For years in the fall we have had an owl in the tree not to far from our “state of the art” outhouse. And yes, Bob still talks to him.

We had bon fires right up to deep snow, making it hard to get down to the pit. AND because I am short and spent most of my time going up and down the hill with food of some sort, Bob built some stairs down the hill to the pit. What a difference that made for me.

One roaring big bon fire night, Roger was playing the guitar and John strumming along with his, the rest of us, feet propped up on the warm rocks, trying to sing along and remember the words to all those wonderful old timey, country song, I looked up to see Dave Inglas’s sole of his boots dripping into the fire. I hollered at Dave “Your boots are on fire!” He jumped up, stomping his feet and scraping them back and forth in the gravel. He sat down and took a look at his boot soles and said in a mater of fact way, “I just bought these yesterday! I thought my feet were getting a little warm!” We all had a little giggle about the whole incident, but this is not the end of the story. He had ground the gravel into the hot soles of his boots. When he went home and walked across his kitchen floor he heard clickety-click coming from the bottom of his boots. Taking them off and further inspection, he discovered that the soles had hardened and the rocks were permanently embedded! He wore them like that for a long time, because “they were new and I cannot afford another pair.” We never stopped teasing him!

Later in the year, John Turnbull, on his three-wheeler at the end of the road was out for a nice ride in the fall. I tease him about how his “wheeler crawled up a blade of grass” and dumped him over backwards and he broke his right wrist. After getting it fixed, John could not drive his truck as it is a stick shift, his right arm was in a crocked-like cast, with his thumb sticking out to one side, so I designated myself to be his taxi. We laughed at most things and I never got tired of hauling John around.

However, he almost met his demise, yes, as he was sitting down by the fire! It was fall and John was wearing his wool poncho and his old fishing hat on his head. He had picked out a tall stool to sit on. He had a hard time holding his “casted” arm in his lap and holding on to the frosty beverage in his left. So Bob carved him a “forked” stick. It was a long sturdy stick with a just right “y” so John could park his arm in it. We were singing and jabbering, when in slow motion, John’s chair tipped forward and he fell into the fire, head first. Just as fast as he fell in, the other guest grabbed him and shoved him back on his up-righted stool. We were asking if he was hurt or burnt, as we all were trying to put out little flash fires on his fuzzy wool poncho. Just as we had one put out, another erupted. Finally satisfied he was ok, we began to settle back in our places, John said, in his low key, soft voice, “Anyone seen my hat?” No more than those words came out of his mouth when his hat in the fire jumped into a blaze and burnt quickly. It was a canvas hat and there wasn’t anything left in about two seconds. John spent the rest of the night lamenting about how he had that hat for a long time and probably would never find another like it. He was grateful for his friends fishing him out of the fire – but he was more upset about his hat! We have told this story a million times. Still funny!

I baked, I cooked and we kept our “orphan friends” in good food and enjoyed the great company for four years. I had loads of fun getting to know the good neighbors and lonesome men that worked so hard on the platforms and plants in the area. They became our forever friends.

Then one crispy, fall day Bob and I were down on the “big rock” that served as a dock for our canoe. He wanted to show me something and told me to get in the canoe. I do not like to be in a boat, I cannot swim and I would rather just sit on the bank and watch all the other people in the lake having fun. Bob had his sheepskin coat on and I had a heavy wool coat on. He convinced me that I was safe to travel in a canoe with him. He had an idea about some property to the left of the cabins. He wanted to show me and the only way to get there was in the canoe. So with all the courage I could muster, I got in the bow of the canoe and I sat down. Holding on tightly, I did not breath, I am sure. Bob paddled across the lake. We climbed out of the canoe at the edge of the piece of property he wanted to show me. We walked through the brush and stickery Devils Club, about 7 foot tall. He wanted to build me a house here! It would take a bull dozer and so on and on…ok I said. We got back in the boat and I sat as quiet as I could as Bob paddled back across the lake to the “rock-dock.”

Seeing he was getting close to where I could finally get out, I did! I jumped up on the rock and dumped Bob out of the boat and into the cold clear water. He, in his sheepskin sank to the bottom, looked up at me and started to laugh. Bubbles came shooting out of his mouth and I knew I had drowned him!! I screamed at John and son David on the bank by the cabins, over-looking the lake, “Bob – Bob is drowning! Help Help Help ME!!” When they just stood there and clapped and whistled. I thought they had not seen or heard me so I screamed even louder pointing to the water-HELP HELP!! By that time Bob had popped up the surface and was climbing up on the rock-dock. John and David stood up there and clapped and clapped. Said it was the best picture of a man getting dumped that they had ever seen. I was “wet-hen” mad!! I kept repeating “HE COULD HAVE DROWNED!” They just laughed at me more. I still see nothing funny about this! When they tell this story, it sends them into heaps of laughter. It’s NOT funny!!

The Grannie Annie series is written by longtime Nikiski resident Ann Berg. 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


The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.

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