Geoann and I worked together at a stock brokerage on K Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s. When she and Ken decided to get married, she asked me to be in their wedding party and I was happy to be a part of their celebration.
When Ken completed his term in the Air Force they decided they would move to the Seattle area where she was from and still had family. They moved around Washington and I visited them a couple of times. I remember the fine strawberry rhubarb pie she made.
One of our adventures included going to the sea shore and digging for clams. That was a first for me. I had never had clams except in clam chowder, but I learned how to cut them from their shells and Geoann prepared clams on the half shell for dinner that night, a delicious meal.
Ken was a photographer on their local police force and when he retired, they did not waste much time before packing up and heading up to Alaska where they could enjoy the unique lifestyle of our last frontier. Hunting and fishing filled up their freezer every summer and provided them excellent meals all winter. They got glimpses of the wildlife from their windows, everything from bear to a lynx and the always hungry moose. One moose claimed their yard as his territory and Ken had to be careful making his way in and out of the backyard and driveway.
In the year 2000 their younger son was to be married and Geoann and Ken thought it would be fun to invite some of the folks who had been in their wedding to their son’s wedding. For me going to Alaska was a dream come true, and off I went in February of 2000 to the Kenai Peninsula. To my surprise I was paged in the airport in Minnesota where I was waiting to change planes. Ken’s brother and sister-in-law were there waiting to board the same plane. We had a pleasant visit and were soon advised that the airport was officially closed due to the pea soup thick fog. In time the pilot of our flight decided that our plane was not that big and he could get us above the fog and make a safe trip, so we did not have to spend the night in the airport.
Stepping from the aisle into the row of seats I was assigned to I asked the young man in the next seat if I might put my carry-on bag under a seat and in the smart alec tone of some too bright youngsters, he remarked “That’s what it’s for!” I stood up and glared at him, delaying all the people behind me until he looked up and said, “Whaaat! You’re looking at me just like my mother does!” Once we got over that bump, we went on to have a very interesting conversation and I learned that he was heading to his cabin in the wilderness of Fairbanks where he moved to get away from all the stress and chaos of Silicone Valley. He had just come back from an industrial show and looked forward to working from his computer, and via phone, in his chosen seclusion.
The plane deposited us at a tiny airport in Anchorage. On display was a stuffed polar bear, in a standing position, about eleven feet tall. I had heard that was the only animal known to hunt man. We would be transferring to a smaller plane for the last leg of the trip. By the time I got to the right departure gate, Ken’s brother and sister-in-law caught an earlier flight, and I was on my own. The Triple A travel agency advised me that I should not worry because this would be an old fashioned prop plane, the Alaskan ‘bush pilots” were among the best. There were about fifteen other passengers, most of which seemed to be workers on the pipeline, besides myself.
The stewardess did everything in that seventeen minute flight that the best did on long flights. She greeted us with a big smile, read all of the regulations about seat belts and oxygen masks, handed out large wrapped cookies, and covered cups of orange juice, came around and collected all the debris and offered water and then bid us farewell as we filed out of the little plane.
Ken came to collect me, saying I looked the same as ever and so did he. The snow piles at the edges of the driveways were half again as tall as he was. Geoann had made ice candles to line their driveway by filling coffee cans with water and letting them freeze, then putting little vigil candles in the top center of each one.
The wedding was lovely, the young couple charming, the guests a delight, the food beyond wonderful. What I remember about the vast stretches of snow covered land that I saw was the feeling of how really big the place was. We did have a drive to the beach of the Bering Sea and I took a handful of pebbles home with me. Looking out at the water there was no boat, no bird, no fish, no people for as far as I could see in either direction.
We’ve kept in touch over the years by e-mail and Christmas cards and this past spring I asked Geoann about a wonderful salmon snack that we were digging crackers into and scooping out of the bowl and into our mouths. Not only were they kind enough to write out the recipe for me, but they sent me 3 jars of fresh salmon from Kenai for me to enjoy and share with my local friends. Nothing from the store can compare.