Sourdough Autumn

He dipped the two-gallon bucket into the spring and set it on the bank.  With both hands, he grasped a spruce limb to force protesting back and knees erect.  He paused to survey the twenty yards to the top of the bank.  Three times he set the bucket beside the trail to draw deep breaths.

A dozen paces from the bank’s crest, the sod-roofed log cabin nested in white-barked birch.  From up-pointing tips of caribou antler nailed to the frame, a two-by-five-foot door hung from buckskin hinges.  A sixteen-inch, four panel window let light inside.  Beside the door, rip-sawed from a fourteen-inch diameter birch, a three-foot long bench rested on wooden legs.

He set the bucket on the packed earth, dropped the sweat-stained, brown, felt hat on the bench, pulled a blue bandanna from a rear pocket, and sat.  He mopped the mat of white hair, broad forehead, ominously kinked nose, leathery cheeks, and full beard.  Laying the bandanna aside, he reached for a tin cup on a nail beside the window.  In long gulps he drained two cups from the bucket and returned the cup to its nail.

From a pocket of a dun Felson jacket hung beside the window, he retrieved the stub of a pipe and red tin of Prince Albert.  He scraped the bowl with a twig, tapped it against the bench, and blew through the stem.  He packed tobacco with a forefinger, struck a wooden match against the bench, let the sulfur burn off, drew short puffs, and watched the tobacco glow.     

At under six feet tall, after decades of wicked Alaskan winters and torturous summers scant evidence remained of shoulders and arms which, day after day, had driven a single-jack against the butt of a star-drill in a quartz vein.  Now, forearms and biceps hung like empty leather pouches. 

There had been fishing, hunting, some trapping, but always it was only about getting the gold!  On Upper Willow Creek pea- and a hen’s-egg-size nuggets nested in a pan of glittering “fines.”  On the Little Su a coffee can filled with coarse gold and one palm-size nugget!

Winters were one of twelve, $10-a-night steel cots, mattress, sheet–$11 for a laundered sheet—blanket, and pillow, in a twenty by thirty-foot room at  the Palace Hotel.

By spring Anchorage’s Montana Club, High-Hat, D and D, and The Outpost, Seven Card Stud, cheap likker, slow-eyed women, and shifty characters, left barely enough cash for a handful of caribou jerky, flour, coffee, salt, and bag of beans. Fish, rabbit, ptarmigan, with luck a caribou, would feed him through the summer. 

Each fall, after cashing in his bullion, he stuffed an Alaska Railroad roundtrip ticket to Fairbanks in the empty pouch at the bottom of his pack.  When “breakup” ice clogged Cook Inlet, in Robert Service’s words, “skinned to a finish,” 30-30 slung over his shoulder, pack on his back, he boarded a rail coach north.   

Between Anchorage and Fairbanks the Alaska Railroad enjoys the distinction of a score of unscheduled stops where Dreamers and Madmen plunging into or escape from “The Bush.”  At one of these he got off to paw his way through Devil’s Club, Wild Rose, and alder to a rock overhang where, camouflaged under a 6 by 8 foot canvas tarp, his pick, shovel, pan, and bedroll lay cashed.  It was time to pan another lonesome stream and pick away at another craggy outcrop.   

From his hilltop perch, the old prospector surveyed a hundred miles of spruce, birch, alder, meadows, rivers, streams, lakes, and muskeg bogs.  On the hazy horizon, like a ragged igloo, the Koyukon people’s Deenaalee, “high one,” Chechako’s “Denali,” dominated a pristine sky.

On the polar route from Oslo, Delta Flight 243 drew a chalk line on the blue slate, ten thousand feet above the summit.

I Wonder?   

Who would be more content, more at peace, the world’s wealthiest man, Jeff Bezos, in a $10,000 personally designed office chair, looking over Manhattan from a 100th floor penthouse, or an anonymous, renunciation who, eighteen hours a day for two decades, sits cross-legged on the clay floor of a Nepalese cow shed?          

Putin’s Piece

Vladimir Putin‘s assault on America continues.  Despite Russia’s and America’s Presidents denials, our National Security Agencies have irrefutable proof Vlad meddles in our elections.  While cyber-attacks against our government, corporations, public institutions, and citizens clearly lead to Russia, tracking them to Putin‘s doorstep is  problematic.  Nonetheless, there is no doubt, apart from the most pedestrian events, anything occurs without the Kremlin Dictator’s blessing, if not instigation.

From 1975 to 1991 Vladimir Putin served as a foreign intelligence officer in the Committee for State Security (KGB), predecessor of today’s numerous state security, intelligence, and secret police agencies.  In 1991 he joined Boris Yeltsin’s administration.  From 2000 to 2008 Vlad was Russia’s President.  Barred from two terms, from 2008 to 2012 he chose to become Prime Minister.  In 2012 he was again elected President and seems determined to hold the office in perpetuity.

I cite the Russian Dictator’s bio to argue that today no one else is better positioned to understand and manipulate the Levers and Switches of Power within Russia and around the Globe.

This said, I offer an old man’s wild-eyed, factually unsubstantiated, hypothesis: Given Vladimir Putin’s limitless resources and Machiavellian instinct, the “Dark Web,” “Deep State Conspiracy,” and QAnon; lies about the effectiveness of masks and vaccines against COVID-19; acts of Proud Boys, Patriots Prayer, White Supremacists, and Neo-Nazi; Trump’s “stolen election”; and current Republican Party efforts to deny Americans’ voting rights may, at some super-clandestine level, have the Soviet Dictators fingerprints on them.

In this same vein, orchestrated and commanded by would-be Dictator Donald J. Trump, “Patriots” who wrap themselves in the flag and make a great show of preserving, protecting, and defending America’s Government are the very folks who attempted an armed overthrow of that Government. I have to wonder.

How to destroy your enemy without firing a shot?  Attack and kill him from within!

Think America!  I’m dead serious!