Pioneer Potluck: More from the stinky fish barrel

  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:53pm
  • LifeFood

North Nikiski, 1986

First, an update to all the readers that want to know if we are done with the “renovation of the bathroom project”: Bob installed the beautiful door from Bernie and King and the nice big glass window from Porter and Susan Jordan, as a side window. It is so awsome. I will paint the frame today. Thanks to Bob and his skills as a carpenter who can put anything together with wood and nails and make it look elegant. I am so pleased. Project done! Thank you for your interest!

In last week’s article, Plan Nos. 1 and 2 did not work after Bob and J.T. poured the big sack of lime into the stinky barrel and replaced the lid. So Plan No. 3 was in the works as they sat around Bob’s bonfire and “pondered.”

Plan No. 3: By this time, the subject of the stinky fish barrel was ingrained in everyone’s mind — the smell too! The big bag of lime poured into the barrel did not work at all! So, Bob and John hatched another plan.

On a Saturday morning and sitting in their usual spots around the morning bonfire, Bob I am sure — although neither one claims it — said, “I got it! Why didn’t we think of this before! We’ll shoot holes in it, so it will drain into the ground.”

The reply was, “Let’s do it now!”

I had gone to work because I think I would have nixed Plan No. 3! Bob loaded his .38 Special, crept up on the stinky barrel, took aim, and many shots later, the barrel had two holes in it and nothing leaking out! He said it sounded like a small war over the lake with all the echoes.

Bob looked at John in disbelief.

“Must have been a bad idea, besides I am out of bullets.”

Bob was shaking his head from the noise in his ears. John looking at Bob couldn’t hear either. John had an excuse; he was hard of hearing anyway. Back to the bonfire, they piled wood upon the dying fire. Neither one of them, to this day, know why there were only two holes in the barrel. So that was the topic of discussion around the fire the rest of the day and into the night with two or three other neighbors partaking in the friendly fire. Just maybe another solution would pop into their head.

Plan No. 4: John jumped up from usual place by the fire and shouted, “I’ve got it! We have to burn it! That’s fish oil floating on the top of that stinky thing and Eskimos burn fish oil for light. Why won’t that work?”

Bob looked at John, “OK. How?”

He was tired, half asleep and the ringing in his ears had not subsided. He was ready for bed.

John said, “We will do it tomorrow, trust me, this will work.”

More discussion, then they slowly walked up the stairs and went to bed. The hooty owl said good night.

Over cups of hot coffee the next morning, they put Plan No. 4 into gear. They dunked a rag in gas, took off the wooden lid on the barrel, lit the rag on fire, tossed it into the fish barrel full of fish oil. It started to burn with a smoky glow, sending off billows of smoke signals to everyone in the neighborhood. It burned the top of the plastic barrel down to the liquid-fish-gut-mass, sputtered and smoldered, the thick smoke subsided and the fire went out. This took a matter of four or five minutes!

“That wasn’t too cool, huh?” John said to Bob, shaking his head. “Now the lid we cut won’t fit either! We gotta figure this out, Bob! We have to come up with another plan that works!”

I also think they were tired of me coming home from work and nagging agout the rotten fish smell.

Down at the fire pit with its glowing embers, the ideas were tossed around and discussed with everyone that stopped by to see what all the black smoke was billowing out at from the cabins by the lake that Bob, Ann and John lived in.

That is how Plan No. 5 was hatched about a week later.

No matter what you think reading this, it is a true story!

Next week: Plan No. 5!

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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