My mother, bless her soul, knew a lot about life and how to go about getting the job done. So did my Dad. As I read through the Alaska letters I question as how they were smart enough to figure out these problems of homesteading without the use of the internet.
In 1961 you had to ask, having actual contact with a real live person, to get an answer or research your dilemma in the library. Our phone system only reached four people and our neighbors were few and far between. We lived eleven miles from the town of Homer, Alaska in 1961 and I’m sure they had a library, but eleven miles back then was farther than eleven miles today, or so it seemed. With our road in the shape it was usually in, getting down that one and a quarter-mile from the top of the hill to the main highway was not always doable. It was usually a mile and a quarter of treacherous mud, snow, ruts, or spring break-up as Mother used to say.
Where did that great knowledge they had come from? Was it just sheer desperation of the will to live and survive in this wilderness bestowed upon us – to keep our family safe and happy in our home away from home?
Here’s one example of that knowledge. When a well had to be dug and they had to sink a sand point, Mother wrote as though she knew what she was talking about. It seemed our neighbors were the authorities on any given subject as they had already been there – done that. Me? I had to look the term up. What the heck is a sand point? Oh, and the advantage was – I used the internet! Now I know, though I doubt I’ll be putting any of THAT knowledge to use.
Whee, am I pooped! Yesterday and today we dug a well. We did what all the authorities, (Al, Jr., Jill, Jerry Alexander) in the area said couldn’t be done. We dug a well by hand that didn’t cave in and struck water at ten feet. Of course, Vernon dug to 14 ft. before stopping. Whatever the source of water is, it is surely cold and is coming in pretty fast. I was so happy to see that water I could have cried. When Vernon reached the point that he could no longer throw the dirt out with his shovel, I started pulling it up by the bucketful. We are going to sink a sand point into it this next weekend.
Now the authorities say – “Why dig a well when you can ditch from the same source you now have which is probably the same source for the well?” Vernon says, and he is right, that he would have to clear another acre and have a ditch dug which will cost more money than we can afford right now. Then, too, we eliminate about 500 ft. of pipe. I believe we have good water. I just hope it proves to be consistent. We may have saved money by digging this well but I’m sure I’m going to age 15 years before Vernon gets back next Friday. I’m scared to death one of the children will fall into it. It’s covered but not too securely with the only thing we had on hand, (½ inch plywood).” *excerpt from letter dated July 23, 1961
At the end of February, 1962, Mother was well into her third trimester of pregnancy and with spring break-up drawing near, due about the same time as the baby, she wrote:
“We’ve decided, tell Rigsby, to start going around with a shoestring and pair of scissors, but I doubt that Vernon would ever be able to deliver this baby if he had to.”
Luckily, Mother was an RN and could rise to any medical situation on pointe. I won’t tell you the rest of that story. You’ll have to read the book.
So with Daddy’s knack of finding the answers of what to do when and where and how to go about this homesteading adventure, in what surely seems to me the dark ages, and Mother’s medical knowledge, we all survived and probably are better people because of it.