Unhinged Alaska: High Arctic memories

An old buddy contacted me just after the first of the year and I was a bit stunned because I haven’t heard from him since he moved to Arizona fifteen years ago.

He has always been a bit of a recluse so I figured he was living in some cave outside Apache Junction while still searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine or had been devoured by a horde of rouge Gila Monsters with bad taste.

Not so.

He had regained part of his sanity and is now a community dweller and has become a rather successful writer.

The purpose for his call was twofold. First to see if I had assumed room temperature and, if not, kibitz about some of our Arctic ventures that he might include in his latest work.

He was particularly interested in the animals I had chronicled during my sojourns along the Dalton Highway, especially King Taz and Road Kill.

I hadn’t thought about those deranged critters in years so I promised him I’d look through some journals and send him what I had on the idiots.

I forwarded these old archived notes:

There are some strange creatures that traverse the high north and some of them are actually animals.

Take for example a couple of little creatures that I ran into just last week. The first one is a rather stunted red ball of fur normally identified as a fox. I’m sure that, if this cutesy guy was hang’n in your back forty, you would probably name it ‘Pookey’ or something equally insipid.

Major misnomer. The guy is a land shark. He is Super Vulpes. He is the Tundra Terminator. He is all things to all pooches. This crimson canine has the ego of a Saudi prince and the personality of a piranha. I call him ‘King Taz’ because the stud would denude a Tasmanian Devil if it crossed his turf.

I first met KT when I came rolling through a corner and caught him gnawing on a steel-on-wheels terminated caribou lying by the side of the road.

Normally, scavengers bolt for the bush when a rig rolls up but not this puppy. He looked up and, instead of splitting for cover, jumped on the carcass and stared at me like I was dessert.

Since it was a slow night, I stopped, backed up and had a stare down with Taz.

The mini fiend displayed a major attitude but, when he finally decided that I wasn’t there to duke it out for a piece of his buffet, he went back to gnawing on his ‘bou-butt roast.

It was fascinating watching the ravenous cur trying to devour something twenty-five times his size in a single setting and Taz has been on that carrion ever since.

Yesterday, it looked like he’d started a condo framed up in rib bones. Heck, give it another week and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a satellite dish and a mail box.

It hasn’t been all gravy for Taz, he’s been having some problems with local gang members from The Raven Crew.

Those bad boys swoop in to grab a quick morsel every time Taz-man tries to grab a nap or turns his bushy rump. It’s driving him canine-schizo and the lad needs to chill.

Besides, he’s gaining so much weight that he’s starting to look like a little rubicund beachball ball with paws. If he doesn’t get his act together, the only thing he’ll be able to do come mating season is wheeze.

The other denizen that has caught my attention is a small ditzy owl that dwells near the old Dietrich River pipeline camp. This guy is amazing.

The winged psycho is about eighteen inches tall and has the IQ of concrete.

Unfortunately, the micro birdie has a death wish and I figure he’ll be Mac truck grill-cheese sooner or later.

Why? Because, the avian fanatic is as avaricious as Taz, only his preferred epicurean delight is bunnies, especially those of the Bridgestone compacted kind.

I’ve nicknamed him, ‘Road Kill’, not only because of the mutilated cuisine he prefers but, because of the obstinate raptor’s obvious future.

He won’t move or let go. If he finds a hosed-hare on the road, he sinks in his talons into it and then damn near herniates himself trying to take off.

RK might as well be attempting to air lift a rhino. Once he realizes that he can’t whisk the road stew to his penthouse, he just sits there looking like he wished he had a cell phone so he could call in chopper support.

This is not a healthy habit especially when your din-din is laid out in the middle of a straight stretch of the Haul Road.

What can I say? We all have our little crisis in life, don’t we? Taz has the Raven Gang, Road Kill has no discernible brainwaves and I own a dog named Howard who makes them both look like Rhodes Scholars.

Note: Old Bro must have liked it. Now he’s asking about Gertie, the griz, and her triplets I came across near Prudhoe.

My answer was a question: “Yo S.S., who’s writing this book, anyway?”

No answer. I remain stunned.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t still dealing with Superstition Slim, the Arizona con man.

More in Life

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)
Off the Shelf: The power of personal voice

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” provides first-person accounts of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Most Read