Missing family at Christmas

snow on cabin roof

snow on roof

Monday, December 24, 1979—warmed up to -25° to -30° today. Did some sewing, worked on the lodge’s chain saw. My snowmobile still isn’t right. The carburetor on the lodge’s snowmobile froze up today so we didn’t get any logs out. Went to the lodge after supper, exchanged gifts and they gave me a beautiful beaver hat. (They had Libby Riddles make this hat for me.) I also got a bottle of whiskey and a package of Copenhagen.

Tuesday, December 25, 1979—went over to Bob and Margaret Schmidt’s house party in the evening. Sylvia called, got to talk to Beverly, Nadia, Paul and Laura. It was really good to talk to the family, I miss them a lot. Betty at the lodge had a large Christmas Dinner.

They walked 8 miles at -35° to Gunsight Lodge

Gunsight Mountain in Winter

Gunsight Mountain in Winter

Wednesday, December 12, 1979—did some chores around the cabin and got the truck started. The lodge here at Nelchina wanted me to go down to Gunsight Mountain Lodge and get gas for them.

While I was there at Gunsight, I listened to an amazing story told by a man named John and his wife. They had just walked over eight miles of the trail from Alfred Creek at -35° below zero to get here. The snow was very deep and they had no snowshoes. They had originally tried to drive out with a small Cat from the gold mine on Alfred Creek, but they couldn’t get over the mountain and down the pass. The employer had left them there with too little food, promising to fly food in to them. This didn’t happen and they ran out of food. It was such a hard walk, that he couldn’t carry his wife. She became exhausted and he kept telling her that it’s just a little farther, just a little farther… He coached her to stay with him and they eventually made it to Gunsight Lodge. Of course they had heat there and the lodge owner gave them food and a place to stay. It got down to -40° that evening. (Life in the bush demands fortitude.)

Overflow on lake ice

white ptarmigan

A winter ptarmigan

Tuesday, December 11, 1979—got up at 3:45 a.m. and got to Cal’s at 5:00 a.m. He has invited me to ride in his snow track with him and his son Ernie on his trapline. It was such a day that trappers don’t like. We didn’t get any fur. I did get two ptarmigans and when I shot these ptarmigans, I walked over to pick them up and lo and behold there is overflow on the ice! The snow is about a foot deep and the overflow wasn’t obvious when I started for the ptarmigan. I got out on it and broke through a thin crust of ice and not knowing how deep the water was, I didn’t want it to go over my Sorel boots and get my feet wet. It’s very cold so I laid down on top of the snow which held my body in that manner and then I rolled off the area of the overflow—I did take the ptarmigans and rifle with me.

We saw quite a few other ptarmigans but we didn’t shoot any more. Saw some caribou and lots of moose, but we didn’t see any bulls. There may have been moose that had lost their horns and at a distance, it’s hard to tell a bull from a cow and be positive about it—for me anyway. I really enjoyed the trip. It was fun and I thanked Cal for taking me along. His trapline is 73 miles out, and the temperature was -25° to -35° depending on the elevation of where we were at the time.

Feet stuck to the freezing floor

cold feet

My feet would stick to the freezing floor

Tuesday, November 27, 1979—got up late, changed the plugs on the snowmobile. Tim and I went out to check the traps. Nothing there, no luck. I wiped out the windshield on the snow machine—rolled it over. Didn’t get hurt. Bob Schmidt, Leo Ogilby, Lee Dudley and Mike Phillips were at the lodge. Fixed beef heart stew and noodles for supper.

Wednesday, November 28, 1979—I sure have a sore back today. Moved some more things from the little green house to the cabin. It snowed all night. It’s nice to be in the cabin. At the green house, where I was staying before, when I would get up in the mornings and walk over to the stove to build a fire, my feet would stick (freezing from the cold) to the floor. Here in the cabin, the floor is insulated and stays warm so my feet don’t stick to the floor. After breakfast, I packed snow around the cabin and packed a trail to the wood area with the snowmobile. Worked on the clutch of the Ski-Doo. It’s been giving me some trouble. Borrowed Dan Billman’s draw knife. Mike gave me a mink carcass to use as scent and bait for the trapline. Then I put up a drying rack in the cabin. Lots of neighbors are at the lodge this evening.

Hung the snowmobile up on a spruce

1970s Skidoo

Norman flew over the windshield

Tuesday, November 13, 1979—serviced the snowmobile track and found the track adjusting bolt is lost. I have no replacement, so I drove over a 110 miles to Wasilla to get it and a spare belt and some material for the cabin and trapping license. Roads were icy and foggy. Got home late.

Wednesday, November 14, 1979—got up early and worked on the snowmobile, got trap gear ready, cut up some wood and Henry and I checked part of the trapline. Didn’t find anything in any of the traps. Helped Tim haul logs with my snowmobile and sled. It was a beautiful sunset. It’s dark enough here now that we need lights on the snowmobile after 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 15, 1979—while pulling a heavy load of wood out, I came to a turn and couldn’t get around it quickly enough. I hung the snowmobile up on a spruce and I went out over the windshield and piled over in the snow. Didn’t get hurt. Things like that happen every once in a while. We went down to Cal’s this evening to weigh out some gold. He’d gotten a black wolf already, and a nice wolverine, a mink and a marten so far on his trapline. He’s doing very well. Checked my trapline and I had two rabbits in snares and one had been eaten by something. I set a snare for a lynx and then when I got back to Nelchina, worked on the cabin floor and started the door—been living without a door.

Friday, November 16, 1979—it started snowing and is still snowing lightly. We got about 8 inches, but the temperature is quite warm. I got wet getting a load of wood. Ate, then went out on the trapline, but no fur is moving in this weather. Picked up some sets that weren’t producing and saw a cow moose and calf.

Saturday, November 17, 1979—last night was Jackie’s birthday and Tim, Mike, Jim and Blake came over here for a while. Then we went over to the lodge for a small party. I tended the bar. Dan Billman was there. He had brought me back four dozen traps that he had gotten for me when he went into Anchorage.

Norman returns to Alaska, Sylvia stays in Minnesota

Alaska Highway sign at Dawson Creek

Entering the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek.

Friday, November 2, 1979—Sylvia doesn’t want to go to Alaska for the winter so she will stay in Minneapolis with Nadia’s family.

Saturday, November 3, 1979—deer season opened as I left for Alaska. I got up the road about a hundred miles and the tongue on the trailer broke at Thief River Falls. Every place was closed except one implement dealer. He had no one there to weld it, but he let me do the welding. I drove back to the farm in Cass County and slept for 12 hours.

Sunday November 4, 1979—got up well rested and got a better trailer tongue, (better metal and stronger). I left at noon, drove 435 miles (some ice on the road), got to Brandon Manitoba and slept in the truck on the seat.

Monday November 5, 1979—started out before daylight and had a flat tire on the trailer about noon. Saw a flock of swans and one of honkers near Defoe Saskatchewan. The tongue in that trailer gave more trouble. (I had loaned that trailer out one time, and this person that borrowed it had pulled a heavy load over a curb in town and tweaked the axel. It was never quite right after that.) I jury-rigged up the tongue and got going again, made it to Lloydminster a little after 9:00 p.m. (Minnesota time). Got a room in a motel there and got a good rest.

Tuesday November 6, 1979—got up at 6:30 and went downtown, gassed up and serviced the truck, headed for Edmonton. Lots of fog and light snow. Bought a few groceries in Edmonton and I had two more ruined tires on the trailer. I’ve got to stop and switch out a lot of spare tires and wheels. Every time one of them goes bad, it takes time to stop, jack it up and get another wheel and tire on. Bought more tires and had them mounted as spares for this doggone trailer. The trees are all white from an ice storm here around Edmonton. I reached Dawson Creek at 8:35 p.m. and got a room. It’s too cold to sleep in the cab of the truck and I can sleep better in a bed, so that’s what I did.

Wednesday November 7, 1979—I left at 7:30, saw a cow and a calf moose just outside Fort Nelson. There’s lots of dust on the road here. I always think of the air cleaner on the pickup when I have to drive in dusty places. I’ll have to watch the air filter in case it needs to be changed. Reached Watson Lake at 12:15 a.m. November 8th.

Thursday, November 8, 1979—left Watson at 7:05 a.m. Saw a moose right away on the highway. It’s quite warm here, and more dust. It makes my sinus run and throat sore. Stopped at High Country Safaris (Ed Dolhan) for an hour—more dust there. Visited with them and then went on toward the Alaska border. I was out about 60 miles past Ed’s and I stopped and slept for a while, then went on to customs. From there I went to Tok and slept a little and ate.

Friday, November 9, 1979—about 4:00 a.m. I left Tok and got to Nelchina just before the sun came up. It’s great to be here. As I was driving down the road, I felt like I was going home. I really like Alaska. Unloaded the pickup and then went to a birthday party for Dan Billman. Met lots of new people, had a good time and got home late. The folks in the neighborhood all gather for this sort of thing and everyone always has a good time.

Saturday, November 10, 1979—left late and hauled in some wood with the snowmobile for me and for the shop at the Nelchina station. Then Henry and I went out making a trapline. Saw signs of fur—moose and caribou. Went to bed early.

Visit to Minnesota, Fall 1979

Minneapolis skyline 1979

Minneapolis Skyline 1979

Saturday, October 20, 1979—worked on the Cat, got it ready for winter. We packed our luggage to go to Minnesota and left Nelchina about noon. We met Karn Rudbeck’s friend at the airport in Anchorage and gave her their sleeping bags. Got on the plane at 6:45 p.m. Three hours later we were in Seattle. We had a three hour layover there, then 2 ½ hours later we were at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. Paul, my son and his wife Ruth came to meet us and we got to see Steven our grandson. He’s a new grandson, we hadn’t seen him yet. Later, my daughters Beverly Volk and Nadia, Darrell Breider (Nadia’s husband) and my granddaughter Laura came over to Paul and Ruth’s late. We had a nice visit. Of course we don’t have a vehicle here in Minnesota, so Roger and Bridgette came down from Motley and drove us to our home here in Minnesota. Real tired.

Sunday, October 21, 1979—went to Brainerd and saw my daughter Theresa Austin and her son and daughter, Lee and Darcy and hubby Larry. Stopped to see Bob and Karn (Karen) Rudbeck who live west of Brainerd.

Monday, October 22, 1979—saw Lee, Roger, Taymond and Clara and Theresa’s family and Everett gave me a tire, took Theresa’s family out for supper.

Tuesday, October 23, 1979—went over to Ernie’s and butchered that lamb that we were getting from him. We shopped in Staples, fixed some tires and took the pickup in to fix the heater. Roger and Bridgette went out to supper with us.

Wednesday, October 24, 1979—did some more shopping and cut up the lamb. Went to see the Rollins family. We have been friends for a long time and it was good to see them again.

Thursday, October 25, 1979—fixed tires on the pickup, put newer tires on. Shopped in Brainerd and Staples and visited Al and his mother.

Friday, October 26, 1979—Some time ago, I had gone to Iowa, cut some hickory logs and brought them up to Minnesota. I wanted them sawed so I could build a dog sled. They had been lying at a sawmill for a long time and hadn’t been touched. I was disappointed about that. Roger knew of another sawmill we might use so we loaded up the untouched logs and hauled them to this other sawmill.

Saturday, October 27, 1979—we loaded some gear and did some visiting. Went grouse hunting and I made a nice shot on a grouse. They make a good meal.

Sunday, October 28, 1979—it’s raining. I worked on my snowmobile trailer and then went to Brainerd and saw Theresa and family

Monday, October 29, 1979—got some supplies and worked on snowmobile trailer some more, packed gear and did some farm business.

Building shelter for the first winter


The first cabin

Thursday, October 11, 1979—I started building the plywood cabin (for Sylvia and I) to live in for the winter. This cabin is 12’ x 16’ with 8’ walls and a plywood floor. Over the ceiling, we had a place for storage. I got the floor done today and got both ends done. A couple of fellas that were over at the lodge came and helped me. We turned it upside down and I put the insulation in the floor and nailed plywood over it. Then we flopped it back over on the skids.

Friday, October 12, 1979—got both ends of the cabin done (left a door opening on one end that would be on the south when the cabin is finished) and started one side.

Saturday, October 13, 1979—finished the framing and got the cabin sheeted. Really tired tonight. Geese have been flying all day. They are quite high, but that brings the work to a halt—wish I was hunting geese somewhere.

Sunday, October 14, 1979—worked on the cabin a little and Henry and I went to where the Cat was parked and loaded it on a trailer. We had to use load binders and pull in on a length or two at a time. We got back too late to put roofing on the cabin. It was a sunny day—would have been a good day to do that job. Saw trumpeter swans flying. They were quite high.

Monday, October 15, 1979—it was nice, but quite cool. We got the roofing on the cabin. I used roll roofing. Laid it out on a strip of blacktop from the old highway. The sun warmed it up, and I cut it into 16 foot strips to go over the roof of the cabin. The roof was 8 feet on each side and we had to work like the dickens to get the sealer where it joins and get the roofing nailed down, but we got it done.

Tuesday, October 16, 1979—went to Anchorage for some parts and insulation for the walls on the cabin. We also needed grub and other things.

Wednesday, October 17, 1979—worked on the Cat all day.

Thursday, October 18, 1979—put the insulation in and covered it up. The weather is very nice, 18-20 degrees above zero at night.

Friday, October 19, 1979—worked on the cabin putting in windows and making a door, a table and a bunk. We’re really working hard to get everything done. Getting ready to go outside (to Minnesota).