26 Pickup: The Half ton
Roxane Fridirici: I enjoy reading 52 Pickup and the insights into the World of Walt as well as Inuit writing. Could we please learn more about Walt’s time in Alaska?
That idea is actually in the wings with a novella called Tooth & Claw which is centered around a portion of Walt’s time in Alaska where he was working as security on an oil rig and called in to do a rescue/evac as a winter storm is coming and there’s a strange blip on the radar near the party that needs retrieving… I’ve spent quite a bit of time up in Alaska and have often described it as “Wyoming on steroids”. There is just so much lore about the place and mysterious incidents that I don’t see any way of avoiding that period in Walt’s life. The novella is about two-thirds of the way finished, but I’ve still got some work to do—especially if I end up turning it into a full-fledged novel, which is always a possibility when I’m actually writing.
Walt is in a very bad place in the piece and Henry’s been dispatched by parties unknown to check on him. Of course, when Walt goes winging it out toward the Arctic Circle into the teeth of a storm in an old C119 clamshell to save some hapless survey crew, guess who’s there to watch his back?
I’ve long been fascinated by the Nanuq, or Great White Bear,ever since I almost stepped on one when part of a fishing trip in Alaska, but that’s a story for another time. I’m a big supporter of Polar Bear conservancy and think we really must keep those magnificent animals from going extinct from climate change and over-hunting. The Inuit have long stalked the Great Bear with the utmost of respect for the animal’s prowess in strength, intelligence, and cunning. Even in death, the skull of the bear is placed on a bench so that it might “watch” the celebration of dancing and feasting in its honor. Afterward, the hunter takes the skull of the bear out onto the sea ice and may only return after hearing noises that will indicate that the spirit of the bear has continued on its spiritual journey.
Polar Bears are one of the few animals on the planet that actively stalk human beings, because with so little interaction with us, they simply have no fear. In Alaska I was talking with an old Inuit man whose son had just gotten a job in a geological crew as a spotter, and I asked him what a spotter was? He said that when they’re out on the ice shelves of the North Slope that as soon as the plane landed, they jump out and begin assembling an aluminum tower with a pivoting seat on top for the spotter, who climbs up there with a .416 Rigby rifle. Evidently, when some of those bears come off the floating ice after hibernation, they’re hungry and nothing stops them from coming in and trying to haul a member of the party away for lunch—and I mean nothing.
Sounds like a Walt and Henry situation, now doesn’t it?
See you on the trail,