(Posted by Amber Dibble on Sat, Apr 16, 2011)
The annual National Park Service (NPS) and Concessionaire Meg Jensen, Kirk Ellis, Mark Keogh(Hunting Guides) meeting was held on 5 April 2011. With Superintendent Meg Jensen overseeing the gathering and Mark Keogh bringing the topics to discussion, the group of Old Timers are consistent in their stand to do things the way they have always done them and in their own brand of pioneering.
Most people’s reaction to hearing that the meeting has taken place is one of automatic disdain for the NPS and support on the assumed opposite side of the table, so to speak, for the Guides. I have been attending at Master Guide Terry Overly’s side for years now, am always honored to be at these meetings and after so many of these, I will share with you a little about what I refer to as the Geriatric Boy Scouts. Seriously, these men have been doing something that simply isn’t done anywhere by anyone anymore, the way they are doing it, the way it was always done, where they have always done it.
These Master and Registered Guides, coming together to talk, argue, discuss and decide different issues, bring to the table, triumphs and piss-offs discussing them openly (well,…) with not only each other, but with the NPS, is always a crash course to anyone listening and not a member of these legends of Alaska, of the inner workings of a brotherhood much older than I am.
The experience, knowledge and expertise mixed with the passion and defense of their own vanishing breed, makes for very intense feelings contained by the fact that the head to these meetings is a lady who sits quietly and knows how to listen to what these proud men are saying, to her, to her departments and to each other. As she sits there, sometimes saying nothing at all, listening to the discussion breaking into smaller discussions, absorbing them all, reining them back in as tempers heat and flare at times, keeping order simply by being a Lady to these monarchs, Meg is obviously the head of the entire circle.
The only plague on the entire relationship, this is, these Monarch’s lives, and they have bonded and trusted few others outside their own tight knit group for so long, many before Alaska was a state, before the NPS staked their claim on these 13 million acres of land encompassing each of their lives and livelihoods, laying down laws and regulations that threaten to change or take away what they see as their own way of life.
The other constant worry is this: These men were here have been doing this and sharing their worries through the entire Federal regime. They have had Superintendents that truly care and Superintendents that couldn’t, even if they tried, begin to understand what these men actually are. Chief Rangers that do not know or even want to understand the complexities of the overall operation, the timing, the worries, the effort and the very real pride and ethics these few men are bound by. To conduct business in the most professional manner possible. These “Old Timers”, these Master and Registered Guides of Alaska, are bound by their own professional code of honor. Not because they are forced to, by regulations or laws, but because they want to
The Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve is a unique and outstanding National Park. Forbidding at times, awesome in it’s beauty. Majestic and powerful by nature, with her proud, rugged mountains, chiseled out of solid rock. Crumbled and worn in places by only nature, herself, but true to what they are.
These same words describe the men and women that live these lives in this vast, harsh space. They are part of this country. They are like the wind blowing through the mountain crags, the rivers flowing north, the mountain streams and creeks, the shale slides. They will continue to blow, flow, roll and tumble. This is the way of things. The men and women of this country will not be pushed aside or forgotten, this vast and beautiful country cradles and nourishes them.