Monday, October 01, 2012

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Fall has been good to the Cosmic Canines. We are enjoying our fall training; building our miles, working out the kinks, and waiting impatiently for snow. Yesterday I was woke to snow falling, and a nice little dusting on the ground. It had melted away by mid-afternoon, but it made for a beautiful morning run. Each blade of golden grass and every willow branch held up a tiny line of powder. It was cool to watch the snow and leaves kick up under the team’s feet and disappear. It was slightly foggy so everything seemed diffused, almost like winter was gently going to arrive soon. However, any seasoned Alaska Interior resident knows that this is deceitful and in fact winter is rarely gentle. So the neighborhood was up in a bustle, cleaning up their yards before it all disappears under not a dusting, but a thick blanket of the white stuff.

Of course it just excites us. I am getting close to being ready. I have wood cut, split, and stacked. And some fuel in the tank. The freezers are getting full of meat for both dogs and humans. Soon I’ll be able to turn them off. Just a few repairs to my barn and repairing the 4 wheel drive in my truck and I should be good to go.

I love to watch the progression of the team this time of year. For a little over a month the dogs have been living off of moose scraps and fish. It’s perfect timing. As the dogs get in shape I am “jacking them up” on high protein, high fat food. They eat wild meat and it brings out the little savage in them. Their coats get shiny, their muscles get bulkier, and frankly, they get cockier too. 

Its starts in late August when everyone realizes that they have no room in their freezers for their anticipated moose they plan to shoot during hunting season. Not to mention, the mystery Ziploc labeled “Steak 2009” will probably never be eaten not only because it is freezer burnt, but also because they have no idea just what kind of steak it is anymore. Well, the Cosmic Canines don’t really care about either, so the back of my truck stays open in the parking lot at work, ready for any drop offs. People come by the Lodge; grab a beer and say, “Hey Abbie cleaned out my freezer today.” “Thanks, throw it in my truck.”

Once hunting season starts, then the moose scraps start coming in. I pick up loads of moose fat and sinew, bones, anything. I cook it in a large wood fired pot. Many mushers have these “dog pots” and they like to poke fun at me at the lodge, saying, “Don’t make her angry, have you ever watched “Deadwood”? Remember Mr. Woo?” I cook up the scraps in boiling water until it falls off the bones. Before I throw the bones in I’ll crack them open with an axe so that the marrow seeps out as they cook.
This is also the time the fish wheels are catching the chum runs. This year was an exceptional year so there was lots of fish around, however it was also an awfully warm fall. That means all the fish needed to be split and dried or it will spoil and get wormy. I like the split fish, but I prefer to feed cribbed fish. It has been just too warm to do so until just recently. Basically I take the fish and stack it carefully so that it actually partially rots. I don’t want to get wormy, but I do want it to get good and stinky. So it has been a little bit of a stress wondering if I was going to miss out on fish all together because I was waiting for the temps. I made a trip down to Nenana and bad luck would have it the day the river rose so high everyone pulled out their wheels. So I came home with no fish and directions to come back later.

Then I was to have a friend go back down to Nenana and pick up some for me, but he called back to report there wasn’t enough. So I thought I had really screwed up. Ironically enough that same day my friend Courtney was headed down to Anchorage for an interview. About 200 miles north of the city she came to a 2 mile section of road covered in fish. Yes, fish all over the road…..only in Alaska. I guess a truck full of fish from Nenana was over loaded and spilled fish all over the place, and lucky me, my friend just happened to run through it. And let me stress how good of friend. Not only did she stop to pick up over a hundred fish for me, but she also put it in the back of her brand new car. I mean not-even-had-it- a-week car. So thanks to good friends and a God with a good sense of humor, I got my fish. Can’t help but quote the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (how appropriate for the Cosmic Canines) right now. “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”