Saturday, February 01, 2014

House of Alaska II

Mooner was the head of the dog team. While the rest of the dogs would rear up, barking, at the approach of a human, their thick fur ruffs sticking out like lions' manes, his behavior was more dignified and subdued; he allowed us to approach at pet him.

Dinner for the dogs meant the boiling of a murky paste of oatmeal and fish-heads in a cauldron. A portion of the resulting mess would be slopped into each dog's hub-cap. The team slurped it up ravenously.

Dispersed among the singing aspens and spruces surrounding the cabin were fire-killed trees, who had come to their ends in some catastrophe decades before, and could now be collected for the needs of the cast iron cook-stove. In the undergrowth, a world of textures and scents awaited inquiring senses: crackling dry leaves, the lime-green, rounded edges of blueberry bushes, pungent, sweet and spicy spikes of Labrador tea, and creeping nagoon berries--rare, ruby raspberry-like wine-jewels.

Behind the cabin lurked an outhouse with styrofoam seats, for unmentionable needs. Toilet paper was doled out by the square; when it was in short supply, old phone books residing near the seats became a source of more than just reading material.

The barn was shared by pigs and goats, the odd barn-cat or two, and was inhabited by musty smells, squeals, shuffles and meh-eh-eh-ings.

In the center of the dim cabin grew a miniature, golden-green grapefruit tree, emerging improbably from a seed planted in a clay-fired pot, gladdening the eye even more than the kerosene lanterns.

If one were in the mood to hide from the grown-ups, one could slide behind the visqueen drapes of the unfinished upstairs and listen to them converse. A bright rectangle of insulation lured one's feet: perhaps it was the gateway to another world. Alas! this gateway, labeled Owens Corning on its other side, led directly to a precipitous plunge onto the back of the collie Hepsibah, one floor below. Ever after, Hepsibah, also known as Hepsi, eyed me with suspicion and nipped at me whenever I approached.

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