North Nikiski, 1986-87
A recap of the stinky fish barrel story: Bob and J.T. tried to blow it up — it just blew trees, limbs, old plywood and branches everywhere. When the glowing smoke cleared and the dust settled the stinky barrel was still there — a little worse for that matter, as it was charred black and along with the stink from the barrel a smoky plastic smell filled the air!
Two days went by and no solution came to the mind of the two guys sitting by the fire. Finally late in the day, Bob, being from Wyoming, cowboy country, came up with the final solution.
“We are going to have to get that out of the yard John. Let’s put a rope around the bottom of the barrel and drag it careful up to the gully at the top of the hill, push it over and that will be the end of this problem.”
J.T pondered on the suggestion for a bit, looked up at Bob and answered, “OK, sounds good to me.”
They pondered and planned the rest of the night and into the wee hours, going over every detail.
Next morning after cups of coffee, Bob started his ‘63 Ford pickup, backed within 10 feet of the blackened charred barrel and lassoed it and pushed the rope to the lower part of the barrel. They secured the rope to the back bumper of the pickup and took off very slowly, so as not to dump the contents of the barrel in the yard or anywhere near where we lived.
Up the road, very, very carefully they went to the gully. At the curve where the blueberry patch is and the blueberry bear lives, our neighbor Dale was cutting firewood. Not minding where he was driving, he drove his truck off into the swamp. He was stuck!
He hailed down Bob and J.T., not knowing they had a lassoed stinky fish barrel tied to the bumper. They explained they had a mission and on the way back they would pull him out. Dale got one whiff of the stink, started gagging and went running into the swamp trying to get away from the stench. He yelled “Go, go, get out of here! I will find someone else!”
Bob put the pickup up in gear and slowly continued up the road, not knowing that there was a little splash here and there on the road. Could it be there were growing immune to the smell?
The final resting place
The trip up the road was uneventful, a full mile or so from our house. They found the little trail covered with alders, slowly pulled the barrel through the brush, up to the top, unhooked the rope and turned the truck around. It was John’s job to run and tip the barrel over, while Bob revved the motor in his Ford, planning on a quick get away from what they were sure would be an over whelming smell in the alder choked, hot afternoon. But first Bob wanted his rope back. John ran to retrieve it, but the stink was so just to awful. He left it and ran for the truck, jumped in and yelled at Bob, “Go, go, get out of here that smell is just terrible — GO FASTER!”
The smell followed. Bob,gagging also, drove fast as he could with the tree branches slapping at the truck and bending the side mirrors.
“I can’t understand it, Bob, I can still smell it” John said as he gagged and a little pale around the eyes.
Bob looked at John, “John it must be on you! Get out and get in the back!” Bob yelled as he slid on this brakes.
John got out and jumped in the back of the truck, waving his hand in front of his face, trying to get some fresh air.
“Whee-u that’s better!”
He rode back to the curve of the blueberry patch. They stoppped to pull Dale out of the truck eating swamp. Dale stood way back and shouted, waving his arms, “You guys keep on going, you smell to bad! Go on, get out of here!”
They pulled into the yard, feeling pretty proud of themselves, took one smell of each other, “I gotta take a shower,” John said.
Bob replied “Me too.”
Clean of body and clean clothes, the smell still lingered. So they burnt their clothes in the bonfire.
But wait! This is not the end of the story!
Dale’s 10-year-old daughter walked down to see what was taking her Dad so long to get home. She walked along the same and only road that the fish barrel took its last ride to the wide beyond. They had plans to go to the movies in Kenai that night and she was afraid they would be late. Another passer-by pulled Dale out. They went and got Mom and off to the movies they went.
At the movies, Mom and Dad found seats, but daughter wanted to sit in the very front. She found a seat in the crowed front rows. But what was that smell? Soon, one by one, everyone cleared out around her, leaving her occupying the only seat for three rows around. Figuring out, that smell was on her shoes, she slipped them off and found a seat next to Mom and Dad and finished watching the show.
Several years have passed, and once in a while we are so sure you can smell “that smell.”
In hindsight, they were glad the barrel stayed upright in the yard, because if would have leaked into the lake, it would have put off an eerie green glow at night, smelled for years and we would have had to move. And we could not have had the bonfires to sit around and discussed the “Dreaded Stinky Fish Barrel.”
By the way, this is a true story — I could never conjure something up like this ever! That only takes two guys pondering by the bonfire!
I want to thank Jim and Ronnie Childers and their friends Pam and Keith for coming to Nikiski to meet Bob and I. It was a pleasure and privalidge to meet people who subscribe to the paper to read this article every week and then want to meet us. They are from Sonora, California. Ronnie gave me some wonderful recipes and a magaizine about their part of the country. Jim says it’s gold country. They were enjoying our chilly rainy weather as they left 100 degrees plus in California. Keith went to school in Rawlins, Wyoming, the same place that Bob went to school! It sure is a small world. I certainly hope they got some fishing in and that they enjoy the rest of their time in Alaska. Thanks again! We just made some new friends and great memories.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.