An Eskimo Shaman Story (-or why you should love mosquitoes!)

A story passed on to me by friends when I was visiting in Emmonak, Alaska:

Hey, you want to hear shaman story? Youbetya? OK by golly, I’ll tell you story:

Long long time ago, nobody here, just the people, no white men, no snow machines, no four wheelers, plenty fish, plenty birds, plenty game, plenty of mosquitoes!

Good life, good fishing good hunting, the people were happy. Tell the time, you look at the sky. The sky, the winds, the sun, the clouds, they all tell you when it’s time to hunt, to berry pick, to hunker down for winter, to fish… So.

So that day, one day, one of the people would look up and say, “Hey, it’s fish time!” and all the people would pack up, the elders, the children, everybody and head to Emmonak, the place where the black fish gather, and set up fish camp.

Way back then fishing was good, everybody full and happy… but one of the elders started telling how when he was young and everybody came here the mosquitoes were not as many were not as bad, did not bite as hard.

Well the people all started talking; “Hey, it;s good here, fish are plenty, weather’s fine but the mosquitoes!”

So they grumbled and complained and grumbled and finally went to the shaman.

The shaman said; “Hey what’s up?”

The people tell him; “Life is real good here, the fishing is good, weather’s fine but can you do somthin’ about those darn mosquitoes?”

The shaman asked; “You want me to get mosquitoes to stop biting?”

The people say; “Yes!”

The shaman asked: “You sure, are you really really sure?”

The people say: “Yes, yes, yes!”

So the shaman tells them OK, if that’s what you want I will do it and he takes out his magic seal bone needle and he takes out his magic caribou sinew thread, and he calls the mosquitoes one by one and he sews their little beaks shut.

So. That season the fishing was good, the people were happy and hauled in all winter’s supply of fish and the mosquitoes didn’t bite!

All summer the mosquitoes did not bite and the people were happy.

Well, the next year, one of the people looked up and said, “Hey, it’s fish time!” and all the people packed up, the elders, the children, everybody and headed to Emmonak, and set up fish camp.

They got there, they found no mosquitoes but also they found no fish! They fished and fished and fished all season but they got no fish, the people would be hungry come winter!

Finally they said: “Hey this is not right, we need to ask the shaman to fix it!” So the did.

The shaman said: “Hey what’s up, the mosquitoes are gone aren’t you happy?”

The people said: “No we’re not! There are no fish.”

The shaman said: “Of course there are no fish, the fish eat the mosquitoes and you asked me to take care of the mosquitoes so I did!”

The people said: ” uh-oh, we did not know that, please please can you bring the mosquitoes back?”

The shaman said: “You want me to?”

The people said: “Yes.”

The shaman said: “Are you sure?”

THe people said: “Yes, yes, yes!”

The shaman said he could, the shaman said he would.

He took out his magic raven feather and the ash of magic caribou sinew thread, blew the ash in to the air and waved the raven feather to send it all flying all over the world! Well the magic dust dissolved the thread and the mosquitoes started eating and breeding again.

That winter the people were hungry, but next year and all years thereafter up until today, this very year, every single year the black fish and the mosquitoes, and the people returned to Emmonak and the people are happy!

Reflections on the Green

Short story of my life to frame my thoughts on green: Born in Ohio, raised in Florida, lived in NYC for 4 years -which is the great reason I moved to Alaska.

Looking back on my Florida years I recall a certain discomfort that I just couldn’t put my finger on at the time. In retrospect I suspect it was the constant greenness, the lack of seasons I had experienced in my very early years.

New York City;
An interesting period, States of Emergency called over 3 inches of snow. Taking the ferry to Staten Island for a weekend camping trip and hopping on a bus in the dark of the evening, trying to look out the bus window with a topo map in hand, getting off in what we thought was deep woodland, setting up camp, in the forest, awaking in the morning to the sound of someone shouting “Fore!”

Spring’s the blink of an eye, the wild roses bloom, soon gone as the rose hips form.

Summer’s midnight sun, white nights, almost seeing the growth of brome grass as it gains inches everyday reaching up to five feet tall by fall.

Autumn, hectic autumn, so much to do before winter, so little time.

Winter; Snug inside, noting the snow go from blue to rose as the noonday sun barely peaks above the horizon. Trips to town to shop, dressed as if, or carting clothing for, a ten mile walk home at a temperature of -40°, ’cause that just might happen if the vehicle fails.

So! Over the years I’ve come to appreciate and anticipate the greens, the vivid spring greens that almost hurt the eyes, the softer summer shades and the comfort ‘neath that shade, the poignant green yellows moving toward a russet fall.

However looking back at paintings, sketches, pastels I’ve done over the years I notice my palette changed with the seasons; rich and vibrant in the spring, mellowed shades on summer works, frantic hues in autumn and soft, relaxing pastels in the long winter night.

Greens are good, quite good, in their season, in their place, in their time, but in a painting in a year, in a lifetime, the contrasts are grand!

Rant # 6858

Just as a thought exercise, I tried to recall the 20 year old me of 1958 and tried to look at America, the world, today from that viewpoint.

Space X, Falcon 9, the Dragon launch, etc., yep 20 year old me could appreciate and delight in that, a natural progression from the Sputnik launch in ‘57.

The population explosion? Of course, easy to understand and expected, seeing the almost exponential population growth following WW II.

Much of today, however, would be completely alien and absolutely inconceivable to that 20 year old me.

Just to mention a very few of the great many things that…

Grown women, and men, proudly walking the streets in pussy hats? Women proudly wearing full body vagina costumes on Washington Mall? Drag queens’ story reading in libraries and elementary schools? Racist to say all lives matter? Blacks demanding segregated dorms in colleges? Police standing down while a mob takes over their police station? A presidential candidate calling half the nation deplorable? Tearing down statures of Robert E. Lee, George Washington, Christoper Columbus and a missionary priest? Brand names, team names, street names, changed to avoid offending someone or other? People and groups barred from using Paypal, Visa, etc., because, though their business is perfectly legal, somebody dislikes them? A celebrity selling candles made to smell like her ____? A scientist’s life and works canceled because he wore a Hawaiian shirt? Banks refusing loans and bond support to anything dealing with the oil industry because carbon dioxide is bad? A world wide lockdown because of a flu and, amazingly, most people accepting and going along with it? The Governor of California mandating all people must wear masks in public? States requiring a 14 day quarantine of visitors arriving from other states? The need for more personal pronouns than just he, she, it? Money in your bank account seized and turned over to the state if you allow the account to remain inactive too long? Police able to issue you a Driving Under The Influence ticket if you’ve had 3 beers and are on your own property, mowing your own lawn on a riding mower? One must take off their shoes to prove they are not a threat to be able ride an airliner? One way aisles on supermarkets? Boys that “identify” as girls must be allowed in girls’ locker rooms? Medal detectors at grade school entrances? Criminals released from prisons so they don’t catch a virus, church goers threatened with being sent to prison because they got too close to each other and might pass along a virus?

Yes, just a few of the very many things that make up today that 20 year old me in 1958 could not ever conceive and that me, today, trying to look at from my 1958 viewpoint, quite frankly, would not believe to be possible.

Real. Lie. Manners. Philosophy.


First, I’m sitting up here on top of the world, North Pole, Alaska, looking down at the KungFlu fiasco, Minneapolis riots, California scheming, screaming, etc. and none of that has had much, if any, real effect today, on my day to day life.

It all, from here, of course seems unreal. I do allow that, just as a butterfly wing flap in Malaysia may predicate and progress to a snow storm in my back yard that, as I’m at the far end of a long supply chain, the giving up living to keep from dying in the lower forty eight might mean I won’t find bread or beef in my local stores in November or December. T’ain’t real today however, none the less I’m, of course buffering against that possible real tomorrow.

Somewhere, sometime, long ago and distant, someone pounded in to my head, with a ruler on my knuckles and/or a belt to my butt, that lying is just plain wrong! Three score and ten years later (I suspect I was right around ten when that happened.) I must note I still consider that truth to be self evident and, looking back, I’ve been more than willing to walk ten blocks out of my way, or even keep my mouth shut, to avoid telling even a white lie. Of course I didn’t always succeed, but I did, and do, try to tell nothing but the truth, even it it ain’t the whole truth. Can’t say, even today, that my avoiding lying ever did me or anybody else any harm.

Grease is the manners that allows society to smoothly run. Shucky darn, even in that misplaced predicate/object sentence the concept comes across loud and clear, nuff said.

I’ve always defined philosophy, philosophies, as O&M manuals for living one’s life. I include religions under that heading. Immanuel Kant and Gregorian chant serve the same purpose for different folks. I’ll allow most of my philosophy is quite sophomoric, not surprising really as I, as most of us, began formulating it when I was a sophomore. None the less, my, and anyone’s, personal philosophy is a work in progress, with deletions, addendums (Addenda, if you want to get picky about it thought, addendums is considered acceptable as well.) and copious footnotes added as time passes and something approaching wisdom is gained. In spite of the copious addendums,footnotes and caveats my philosophy can be expressed in a few sentences: Take care of yourself and yours. Treat others fairly. Make some allowances for that guy if possible, after all, like me, he’s just trying to get by. Most important, enjoy now, right now, really, it’s all you’ve got!

Having said that, I’m heading outside to cut another cord of wood, getting ready for, just in case, November and December.

Rant #6,857:

Last night a friend asked if I was cranky while we talking and I said no.

Well that’s not quite true, I meant I was not cranky with my friend. However the world in general and the massive failure of the international mail system, damn right that makes me cranky. Grumble. Grin.

I think the unprecedented, response to the covid19 fiasco will lead to the fall of civilization. OK, perhaps I indulge in hyperbole, but, on the other hand, maybe I’m understating the problem.

This mail system failure is an example. Japan will not accept mail from certain countries. Same is true with the States. Even between US & Japan, mail transfer, as I read , is impossibly, abominably, unacceptably slow!

Oh I understand the reasoning behind the initial reaction to covid19; As it possibly (probably) was created in, and escaped from a bio-weapons lab in China, hesitating, stopping everything, for a short period until we see if it’s going to destroy all life was a good thing. However after the first week or so by early March at the very latest, we have had a rather clear understanding of the disease, it’s vectors and it’s potential morbidity and moralities.

So! Way back then everything should have returned to normal, international passenger planes should have started flying, barber shops should have been opened, folks that wanted to go to Las Vegas to throw away their money should have been allowed to do so, etc.

Yes, everything should have gone back to normal, the exception being we clearly understood what segment of the population was/is vulnerable (Folks with four score years behind them,such as me, etc.) and they should have been protected or allowed to protect themselves but, but, but let everyone else go on with their lives!

Destroy, delimit, curtail the economy, force workers to huddle in place rather than work and produce goods, foodstuffs, clothing, fuel, mail delivery, etc., and far far more people are facing starvation, injury, disease, freezing, etc., resulting in several orders of magnitude higher levels of death and destruction than could have been caused by winnie the flu.

Also, Grumble. Grin, after we stopped talking and my friend left, I tried to back up my computer and ran in to a software problem that kept me up after one in the morning! Grumble. Grin.

I do consider the mail failure as a bellwether of possible things to come: The world economy is so complex, convoluted and interconnected that, for example, a crop failure in Kansas or Illinois can affect the price or, or even the availability of, beef in Japan and/or England.

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

& the international mail could just be that nail!

Grumble. Grin.

So! Have a nice day! -BIG GRIN-

My thoughts concerning SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and abcdefg2020.


Why thank you world, frankly I’m quite flattered.

However I do feel it’s a bit much that you put the majority of folks out of work, close schools, restrict travel, transport of goods, sell out all the rolls of toilet paper in the nation, cancel public discourse, shut gyms, restaurants, bars, churches, etc., all just to protect little old me!

It’s also rather nice that, to ease any feelings of guilt I might develop seeing the world stop just for me, that you state these actions are quite necessary to protect all from the China virus.

However in so far as from the information available, assuming one catches it, and data suggests that over 80% of us won’t, it’s quite clear that those of us over 80 (Myself and the few others that make up less than 3% of the population.) have around a 15% chance of dying if hit by the kung flu. Of course others can and will die from the beer virus as well , those 70+ year old, 10% chance, 60+ 5%, but the vast majority of folks, the rest of you way less than 2%. 2% risk? Here, hold my beer.

None the less it seems that to protect the largest at risk group, the 3% of us over 80 you’ve stopped the world. 3% of the population, let’s see, that’s me, my friend Richard, maybe John, though he may only be 79 and just a few, very few, others.

Again, thank you ever so much and I am quite, quite flattered but.. don’t you think it would be easier and put far less strain on the rest of you if you just go on with your lives and ask me, and perhaps my friends over 60 to stay home for a while? Shucky darn, you could even do things to make our lives at home easier and more satisfying, maybe deliver food, etc. to us (meals of wheels, there’s a unique concept.).

I suspect most of us would be willing to do so, to stay home at least until the liquor runs out and we’ve down to our last 47 rolls of toilet paper and if we don’t & we die, hey it’s not your fault. We are adults, and must accept responsibility for our own decisions, even, especially, the stupid decisions.

Again, I say again, again, I am, of course, quite flattered, but you shouldn’t have.

Seriously, very seriously, quite seriously, you shouldn’t have!

Way back in my day!

Hum. Back in the late forties, early fifties, we built a house and lived down in Perrine (It’s spelled Perrine, but everybody pronounced it PEErine.) in Florida, between Miami and Homestead. It was piney woods country, not many houses back then, not too many people.

I was 11 or 12 at the time and had a dog, a Red Walker Foxhound, named Pal.

Well, as happens in the piney woods, Pal used to pick up ticks that had no trouble working past his short fur and sucking his blood until their butts were almost as big as a grape.

My uncle Norman, who grew up in south Florida and knew the country well, told me you don’t want to just grasp a tick and pull it off a dog as that leaves the head stuck under his skin and it festers becoming a running sore. He said the best way to get the tick out was to pour a little gasoline on it’s butt and it pops right out and you can stomp him dead then.

So, I siphoned off about a cup of gas from my dad’s truck and poured in right over Pal’s tick. Pal let out a yelp and took off running, it must have been at least a mile and a half down the road, turned around, came running back and fell over right at my feet.

Well, every time I’ve told this story, over the years, with at least five people listening, one of them would ask me; “Oh how terrible, was the poor dog dead?” and I’d explain to them; “No, he just ran out of gas.”


I admit I’m smiling reading youngsters writing nostalgically about how nice south Florida was 20-30 years ago, way back in the ‘90s.

Mine was the Florida of the late ’40s and the ’50s.

I grew up in Coral Gables, then down in Naranja, then back up on Bird Road then on SW 34th Street, where our back yard ended the glades began, with nothing but glades from there up to Tampa.

Even in the Gables there were many vacant lots where we could set up sand lot baseball games.

Down in Naranga, our nearest neighbor had the ten acres next to us, next nearest neighbor was probably over three quarters of a mile away. I remember, when I went to Redland Elementary school, a kid that would walk to school, barefoot through the pineywoods with his shoes hanging by the laces around his neck, sitting on the steps, picking the sand spurs out of his feet before putting his shoes on to go in.

Bird Road; we were close enough to the race track, Tropical Park, that when the wind was right I could hear their loud speakers calling the horse races. There was a rock pit nearby, off the edge of Bird, were we’d go swimming. We shared the pit with a 6-7 foot gator, look for her, if she was basking of the far shore we’d be in the water, lose sight of her, we’d be up on the shore. We never talked about it, never made a decision to keep it a secret, but somehow the fact that we shared the rock pit with a gator was a subject that never came up talking to our parents.

Old Tom was, of course right, you can’t go home again, but I moved to Alaska so my children could experience growing up pretty damn close to what I enjoyed in Florida. Yep the weather can be a mite cooler and the encounter stories they’d wait until long after to tell as were about bear and moose instead of alligators but they had a childhood much like the one I remember down in Dade County.


Devolution, a modest suggestion

Yes, evolution is a theory. Yes, there are blank spots, weaknesses, holes in it. However overall it’s a useful tool to explain and delimit our surroundings.

I still remember spelunking, over 60 years ago, in Florida caves and finding, with delight, blind insects and blind fish.

I remember then, at University of Florida, in Gainesville, seeing blind cave fish in a professor’s aquarium and learning that, in two or three generations, in a normal, not perpetually dark, environment, they regain their sight. That’s 2 or 3 generations later, not the first generation born in a normal environment.

This seemed, to me, more like Lysenkoism than Darwin’s evolution. The explanation the professor gave was gene potential, however I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept that said gene potential needed at least a couple of generations to be triggered.

Another curious, in my opinion, evolutionary fact is shoulder blades. We all have them, humans, dogs, birds, alligators. It’s quite logical we have them, descended from monkeys, shoulder blades are great for hanging and swinging around on tree limbs. One could say shoulder blades. scapulae, are specifically designed for hanging from limbs. However for walking on the ground, a pelvic girdle sitting atop legs is a better design so why don’t four legged walkers, if they came first, have two pelvises?

Now if one wanted negate at least the Cambrian Explosion confusion and push back the DNA enigma; I modestly suggest rather than evolution, perhaps we devolved from a higher life form. Instead of Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, Phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny.

OK, assuming there was no pre-Cambrian life, just a warm ocean soup full of nutrients, a bipedal space creature, descended from some arboreal limb swinger, crashes, dies and is dissolved in the ocean soup leaving hundreds of millions bipedal DNA patterns floating therein. As said ocean soup is not a suitable environment for a surface walking, air breathing light sword swinging, etc., the first trilobite on earth is born instead and within it’s germ plasm is, potentially, Buck Rogers waiting to be born when the environment is right!

Why yes, devolution would explain a lot and, once you factor in DNA degradation due to radiation, sublimation and reiteration, it’s quite understandable why we ended up with Bernie Sanders, Hillary and Occasional Cortex (& a few posters herein that I’m far too kind to mention by name, of course.), instead of Buck Rodgers.

High Steel In The City


Talking here with a digital friend, Gray Wolf , a gentleman quite, rightfully, proud of his American Indian heritage brought back some memories from the early sixties in NYC. At the time I worked for a time lock company and this story starts with me shooting the bull with a fellow worker named Jim Cavanaugh.

While talking it came up that he originally wanted to be a high steel worker, one of the guys twenty or many many more stories up riveting the sky scrapers together.

He’d spend his days sitting in the Local 580 (If I remember right) union hall, trying to get in the apprenticeship program, trying to get out on a job.
One day a steel worker, who Jim found out later was a Mohawk, noticed how long he’s been sitting and waiting and they got to talking. Jim told him I just couldn’t seen to get off the bench no matter how eager he was. Well the guy told Jim to head over to Brooklyn and talk with a guy he called the chief and tell him that he sent him.
Jim, having nothing to lose gave it a try. Turns out the ‘chief’ was in a part of Brooklyn called little Kahnawake, where Mohawk high steel workers lived and congregated. Seems Mohawks genetically lack acrophobia, fear of heights, and subsequently got in on the ground floor, so to speak, and dominated high steel work in NYC including building the Empire State Building.
Well, the ‘chief’ had a real say about who got hired, he called the union hall and Jim was out working high steel the next day.
End of the story; Jim found he wasn’t quite as comfortable as his new friend that got him working, standing on am eight inch girder, catching red hot rivets in a steel cone and setting them for the riveter to hammer home, which is why we were able to have that conversation in the time lock company.

Eskimo’s Story 12/25/86

Met a nice Eskimo on the flight down from Prudhoe. He has just been elected village President (He didn’t know about the election or that he was running until one of his friends called him and said, “ha ha, you are elected.) and was coming down to Fairbanks to negotiate $400,000.00 in back taxes for the villagers with the IRS.

He told me about how a shaman drummed his grandfather to death. The shaman beat the drum while walking ’round his grandfather’s house five times and a blood vein burst in his grandfather’s head. He said he guesses that’s what his grandfather gets for stealing another man’s woman -but he’s kinda glad his grandfather did, else he wouldn’t be here!

We talked about whale hunting. He says he feels safer on the ocean behind a whale than in Fairbanks (He owned six cars before he gave up driving. He didn’t wreck them or anything, they would just stop running!). That the whale can only move his head around eighteen degrees & can only lift his “arm” around four or six inches. That if you know about whales they’re pretty safe. But he saw one time, a skin boat got too close. The whale he lifted his arm only four inches but he picked up the front end of that skin boat twenty feet out of the water and the back end was out of the water too. The boat was broke, all the ribs stove in, where the whale’s arm hit it but it still floated. It was lucky, he said, that the whale didn’t hit it under one of the seats that somebody was sitting on ’cause it sure would have broke their back. That’s when he found out how really good those old skin boats are by golly!

He said he was out another time alone working with a geologist in the mountains near Barter Island. He was walking alone going up a pass when he saw a big Silvertip Grizzly sitting in the middle of the pass. The pass was between two loose gravel hills and he couldn’t go far up the sides to go around the Griz. He was standing there trying to think what to do & the Silvertip was sitting there looking at him. Finally the Silvertip he snorted and then he took about three leaps up the gravel banks and sat there on side the hill. The Silvertip he looked at him and then slowly he turned his head and then he looked down the trail. The Silvertip he did this three times and then kinda snorted “what are you waiting for, man!”. Well he watched the Silvertip and then took off down the trail then, lookin’ at the Silvertip. He walked just as fast as he could without running and he went right past the Silvertip stepping in the hollow the Silvertip was sitting in before in the trail and the Silvertip just sat up there and looked at him until he was past and then the Silvertip he came back down and sat again in the same hollow. The Silvertip he didn’t even sniff the tracks or anything, he just came back down and sat there again.

He told me another time he was out in his boat with his cousin and they saw a big polar bear. He looked at it and it would be easy to kill. He would shoot it in the ear after it got up on the ice. It would be easy for him to shoot it in the ear, -he shot seals there and this bears ear was as big as a dinner plate- so it would be easy to kill. He looked at it and looked at it and so did his cousin. It was a big bear. He figured if he did kill it he couldn’t fit anything but the skin in his boat. He said to his cousin, “Moe, do you want that bear?”. Moe said, “No, I don’t want him, do you?” He told him how all they could haul is the skin so they didn’t shoot him. Another boat came along and they asked them if they wanted that bear. They figured they couldn’t haul it either. He said that in all three-four boats came along and let that big bear go that day.

This was on Monday, three days before Christmas, that we were flying down from the North Slope to Fairbanks. He planned to finish up with the IRS and fly back home to Barrow for Christmas. I told him he’d better make sure of his reservations because the plane will probably be pretty full then. He said he would but if he had any trouble he wasn’t really worried ’cause his grandmother she would take care of him. She passed away twenty years ago but she would help him -she had helped him many times before when he needed it.