You know how every once and while you encounter a photo from when you were a child that brings back a rush of memories? Just tonight I found myself flipping mindlessly through a few old photos, looking for something to share with you and I found this. The year was 1983. I was in 2nd grade and lived in the village of Akiak. A small Yup’ik community on the Kuskokwim River. The shiny new Ski-Doo Elan was my dad’s, but I drove that “sno-go,” as we called them then and still often do, everyday after school. I loved that machine, a simple 250cc engine, with bogey wheels. I had free reign of the area, so long as I didn’t venture too far away, but I did take a trip on it to Bethel, the big city. The windchill that day had dipped to sub-fifty below and I begged him to take me. Round trip it’s about fifty miles, but a slow fifty on a small single banger like the Elan, and on the return at night, my little feet were nearly frozen. I don’t remember much of all that happened, but I do recall having to stop and my dad warming my toes with his bare hands and sticking my feet down into the Sno-Go’s cowling and placing them near the warm engine block. I’m pretty sure I learned my lesson after that trip and when I asked to go along, on the rare occasion when he said I didn’t couldn’t go, I definitely didn’t beg.
The days of the Elan have passed, but a few folks in Alaska still drive them. They are gas sippers compared to the 1000 cc monster engines of today, but those changes in horsepower don’t compare to the bigger changes that have come to that area, with even bigger changes on the horizon in terms of resource development racing that direction as fast as any sled.
Me? I skate ski now. I’m slower than the old sno-go, and I can’t pull my sister behind me, like I was in this photo. Sadly, I also can’t say I’m as carefree as I was back then, riding across the tundra without a worry or thought of what might would be down the trail. But now such thoughts fill my mind and I can’t help but see an old photo from my past and reminisce on the golden memories and think about what the future holds for my old home on the Kuskokwim now that outsiders have discovered a different sort of gold.
Don Rearden grew up on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska, an experience that informed his critically acclaimed debut literary thriller The Raven’s Gift. While calling Don “a master of the cliffhanger” The Washington Post went on to praise the novel’s “hunter-hunted suspense of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the post-apocalyptic bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the haunting mysteriousness of The X-Files.”
Stay tuned for more posts from Don Rearden and his upcoming Alaskan thriller only from The Rogue Reader.