A mother could be proud of a daughter like Janelle. Raised in the wilderness since age three, Janelle is the essence of what it means to be Alaskan. Although there is power and water in the original homestead which her parents built with their own hands, she herself now lives simply without these amenities by choice.
She conveys a delightful enthusiasm when sharing her pioneering story with guests. It is contagious to the point of spawning a longing within them to have experienced this adventure for themselves. Admiration oozes from their pores and a desire to hear much more.
We look with great interest at the old structure built to smoke salmon, a tall-legged cache to protect provisions from bears; a lean-to for the cow, and an easily spotted outhouse. There also is the wood pile to supply the wood stove for cooking and the fireplace for warming hearth and home. There are three kitchen gardens; the matriarch prefers circular rows; the patriarch favors rows facing north/south, and the offspring prefers an east/west formation.
The antlers proudly displayed above the door; are a testimony to the skills of Janelle’s mother, Joanne, who shot a moose and provided her family with a year’s supply of meat. Janelle prefers its lean firm texture to the softer beef of the lower 48 which is marbled with fat.
Joanne home schooled her children; then became the school teacher in her area. Having come from the state of New Jersey in 1960, she and her family exemplify the true American pioneering spirit and are a living testimony as to the satisfaction gained, and remains to this summer day in 2007. Although Janelle’s father passed away last year at the age of 80, and they returned to lay his body to rest among the family roots, both mother and daughter cannot bring themselves to live anywhere but where they have dedicated their lives in the Alaskan wilderness. They possess a spirit that won’t be tamed.
Civilization has encroached in the last ten years with the arrival of the Princess Corporation. Janelle’s ingenuity has prevailed. She has embraced the onslaught of tourists to this vast bastion of the Mt McKinley domain and opened her heart and her door and allowed the outside world to see. She recognizes and acknowledges the need for people to look into a realm they only know from a flat screen. One cannot determine which portrayal is the “real world.” It perhaps is different for you than for me.
Although I felt like we invaded their privacy and solitude, they made us feel welcome to sit a spell over fresh warm fry bread with butter and strawberry jam and a cup of coffee and listen to a yarn or two.
It is a privilege to step into a life foreign to me as a city dweller; and a pleasure to be welcomed into a home with a warm hearth and heart.
Thank you from the bottom of mine, Janelle and Joanne. I shall fondly remember you for years to come.