The Last Frontier #8 1


That’s Yu’pik for ‘hello’. Yu’pik is one of the 20 Native Alaskan languages (it’s impolite to use Eskimo). It’s pronounced Wah-ka. Say it 3 times and you sound like a Muppet Baby (Wah-ka,Wah-ka, Wah-ka… ohh, how the standard of humor has sunk!). I suppose I should have learned to say good-bye because this is the last week in the Land of the Midnight Sun, making this the last e-mail. So, it’s only fitting that it has a fishy smell to it.

The Short

  • We finally had the movie night, and it was excellent (minus the dry heaves from attempting to eat 6 Twinkies while on a road that redefines curvy). Hopefully, Ashley will edit the film so you can see the highlights.
  • We went fishing again and Kemmer caught this 50 lb beauty! Notice the beautiful chrome color, indicating it had just left the salty Cook Inlet. We caught it on the Kasilof, not the Kenai. See Alaska Facts for explanation.
  • A newly, twice-retired church planter in Seward is heading back to the States with his wife of 40+ years. Charles Joyner will be missed.
  • I’ll only be in Dallas Tuesday August 8 to Saturday August 12, and I’d love to see YOU if at all possible (yes, YOU!)
  • Otherwise, I’ll TRY to make it back up to College Station the weekend before school starts. No promises.

Alaska Facts
Fishing nets
This week’s facts are devoted to just fishing nets! Nets are like a good pair of shoes to a fisherman, and there is an art to netting. I am not even a novice in the art because no one will let me touch the net (nor do I want the responsibility). To give you an idea of the chaos of netting, of our pastor netting a 50 lb king salmon (and listen for the sounds of victory). But the net is not reserved for fish caught on a line with bait. Instead, you can simply dip net, or as I like to think of it, fishing for the lazy man. Two steps. Put net in water. Catch fish. Sounds like a great way to starve, but the catching is so easy that the government has set very strict limits. For one, only Alaskans can dip net, and they can only catch 25 fish for the season (plus 10 more for every member of the family). You also have to have a special dip netting license, separate from the standard sport fishing.

But there’s an invisible net that has stirred up this town. You see, there has been a severe drought of sockeys (red salmon) in the Kenai. How bad? As of July 17 about 82,000 sockeyes had escaped the commercial fishing nets, far less than the minimum 650,000 needed to insure future strong salmon runs (800,000 is the max). Fish and Game closed the Kenai to all fishing, not just the commercial boats with the driftnets.

If you make your living off salmon caught on the Kenai, you\’d better find another way to make money. So, what did closing the Kenai do to the sockeye numbers? As of July 29, almost 410,000 sockeyes appeared on the sonar, nearly 300,000 in the last six days! That\’s 73%! This is good news for next season, but we still need more fish. There has been talk of seeking government assistance for residents who are looking at thousands of dollars of lost income, but nothing has been settled. Think of it using this analogy: Fishing is to Alaska, as football is to Texas.

Initial Conclusions

It is to early to fully wrap my mind around all that has taken place this summer. So much of the major events of the summer have been omitted or purposefully vague; so if you care to hear them, just ask. Really, it’s just another story about nets. So many of those goals changed from beginning to end (college ministy?), but I’ll never remember the details what didn’t happen. But I will remember all the people, who have labored so diligently to help build this church. What a wonderful group of people I have lived and shared life with other the last 10 weeks.

Before arriving, I was told Alaskans were in a word “hearty”, and my experience proves this true. Hearty in a robust and full of life way. Who else would (or could) go fishing at 2 AM, come home and do it again that afternoon? Few churches I know have such a difficult time keeping its members in service for Sunday, not because from boredom, but it keeps Alaskans inside. Who else could work for 2 weeks straight at an oil field, where the sun sets from late November to the end of February and -30 F is an acceptable working condition?

Yes, Alaskans are hearty; hearty as in a heartfelt friendliness to others. The hospitality has been above any expectation, and the food has been even better. Still, it’s the unlikely moments that impressed me. Like when we waved at passing cars and 95% of the passing motorist returned the gesture. Some even honked. I can’t imagine such a reception in other areas of our country. To be sure, there are a number of grizzled fishermen, who congregated at Sal’s and want little to do with out-of-staters like myself, but they generally keep to themselves. But, as a whole, Alaska takes the sweetness of the South, adds three servings of Rocky Mountain majesty, throws it in a blender with a touch of Native spice, and out comes the heartiest meal you’ve ever tasted, leaving you to wonder when do we eat seconds.

One thought on “The Last Frontier #8

  • Kemmer


    Thank you for coming to Alaska, our Church, and our Home. The memorys of you will stay with Kathy and I for ever. You have become our second son and you will be truly missed by us. Thanks for all pictures, your little smiles, your manners, all the church help you did, and your love for Christ. Don’t forget us, and come back soon.

    KING Kemmer.

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