Thursday, March 03, 2005
This picture provided by utask
My mind has been racing with experiences from Alaska. If you haven't read "a piece of the action", I highly recommend it. This is another "Tatitlek" story when I felt that my life was in danger.
The Eskimo people in Tatitlek were more than ecstatic to get their town rebuilt for "free" by the U.S. government and couldn't wait for their new homes and school. My dad, of course, was among these government paid construction workers. This village was normally very divided but now they were finally in 100% agreement on one issue: they hated the white men that had been sent to do the building.
Many people in the village drank A LOT. Because of the excessive drinking, there were all kinds of crazy things that happened all of the time. The summer of our stay, my family had STRICT orders from Dad as to who we should not associate with. We all understood that we needed to stay away from certain locals for our own well-being.
My dad had strategically placed our shanty about a mile from the town on our own private peninsula. It had been "jimmy-rigged" together by my dad in the evenings for the month before we arrived. We had no running water or electricity and a biffy out to the side of the house. We took a path along the shore to town when we wanted to see dad and we often got stuck in the mud.
On this particular day, in was more wet than usual and my dad decided that he would give us a ride home in the boat. We all walked down to the harbor where the boat should have been anchored, but it had been let out to sea. My dad was FURIOUS. He found a friend and they left immediately in hopes of getting our boat back, which had been let free to the currents by some hateful local.
While we all kept busy on the shore (what else did we have to do) my dad went and rescued our pathetic piece of sea transportation. We all cheered when he got back. My mom had loaded in the boat as well as a few of the kids. We were finally on our way home. A group of "locals" rode up to the side of us.
At first my dad ignored the locals, but they kept pestering him. So the "words" started to fly. From what I could gather from the conversation, the ring-leader of the Eskimos (he looked much like the guy in the picture above) was the man that had let our boat out to sea.
This Eskimo wasn't happy with my dad for one reason or another. (It could have been as simple as someone else's house got sheetrock before this mans...who knows) Well, the vocal altercation became more and more intense. The Eskimo pulled out his shotgun and pointed it at my dad. He insulted my dad repeatedly and made some kind of threat that he would shoot my dad right here in front of his family.
I guess my dad wasn't too worried because he knew that the guy was just showing off for his friends, but I was terrified because I knew this man was on our "Black Dangerous" list. He was aslo drunk, and he had a shotgun.
While my dad had it out with this man, he was trying to get the rest of us in the boat, so that we could get onto the safe waters. I was the only one left on shore when this man pulled out his gun. As an eight year old kid with obnoxoius tendencies, I saw this moment as my chance to prove that I could be like my hero, Laura Ingalls Wilder. And, prove myself I did. I freed myself from my dad's grip as he was trying to push me into the boat. I stood all four feet of myself as tall as I could between that mean eskimo and my dad and I gave him a peice of my mind, "If you want to shoot my dad, you will have to go through me first."
This brought howls of laughter from all of the local men on the boat. My dad turned his anger towards me and quietly said, "Alice, shut up, and get in that boat." The urgency of his voice made me think that I earned my dad a bullet in the head. I was devastated. I was very surprised that my dad jumped in the boat after me and off we went. I guess the Eskimos were either too entertained by me or distracted laughing that they had let my dad go without any kind of harm.
I got the lecture the whole 4 minute ride home. I don't know if my dad was more embarassed that he couldn't keep his eight year old in line or that she had just saved his life. He said,"Alice, you have to learn when to keep your mouth shut." My mom said,"You almost got your father killed." My 14 year old brother,"You aren't supposed to talk to that man, especially when he is drunk." My 10 year old brother,"You are a big mouth." On and on, the insults came...all the way home.
I couldn't believe it and I didn't understand it. All of the sudden everyone in my family was MAD at me. I had just SAVED all of us from death by gunshot wound. Why wasn't everyone thanking me?