Hunting Season is in full swing and you finally just a couple days ago read the first post from us since this spring! There is a reason for that. So many different and new experiences as well as all of the twists and turns that life throws us all are a part of the reason, of course. The biggest truth is that I simply allowed it all to overwhelm me.
“Never Complain, Never Explain” is a quote I heard when I first began working to bring Pioneer Outfitters online. For the most part, I live this way pretty well. With lots of other pieces of this that, granted, but for the most part it works well.
This post is different in a major way than any that I have offered you over the last 4.5 years. For months now, I have debated with myself over sharing with you these changes and keeping you in the loop as well as just not. After all, they really don’t have a major effect on Pioneer Outfitters or what you might expect of Pioneer Outfitters… or do they? So, I have decided to “keep it simple, stupid” and stick to the promise of just sharing with you, my way and keeping you in that loop of changes.
So many of you know me, or at least know of me. As Alaska Chick, Pioneer Outfitters Manager, Master Guide Terry Overly’s right hand/ assistant/ helper/ daughter, Zach and Bella’s Momma and of course that cranky chick who bosses everyone around. However you might know a piece of me; like you, I am so much more than any one description can do justice to.
Over the last year, an important truth became clear to me as a Mother. I will not be able to continue home schooling my youngest child here in Chisana and that means returning to having two homes so that she will be able to benefit from public school. We will be returning to Tok (110 miles North) at the end of our (Pioneer Outfitters) 2015 Fall Hunting Season.
This decision, as you might be able to imagine, has caused all kinds and flavors of unrest, worry and even resentment. There are a few definite advantages to be acknowledged for me moving back into Tok. The biggest advantage is of course for my children. I miss my 16.5 year old, Zachariah, who has been living with his Daddy and attending school in Tok for the last couple of years and my little girl Bella deeply needs little friends of her own that a town environment can offer.
As for Pioneer Outfitters and our own team and crew, there are also advantages to having one of us located where we can help logistically and when needed without infringing on other people’s busy lives and schedules. And yes, I will continue to be one of Pioneer Outfitters guides.
The terrible truth and drama of this decision however is without an airplane moving my family’s household and belongings is very difficult. Another problem is that even being watched over by trusted family, our home in Tok has suffered greatly in the years we have lived in Chisana. It is all well and right to trust in God and His guiding hands and paths laid out for us except that it feels also that I am forced to accept and trust in others as well who may not have our best interests at heart.
Added to these big changes in plans and directions for this year, the pressures of having huge dreams and goals come true in the shape of our 2015 Summer Horseback Adventures has kept us all here in Chisana hopping fast, with no time to lend a helping hand for these big changes and the challenges that come with them.
As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty stressed. Then, I was reminded pretty radically… and not for the first time, what really matters. People matter.
On the morning of July 15th, I was doing some of my morning chores, just outside of our house. Kenny- one of our Alaska Guide Trainees, came by for his morning check-in, hellos and assignments and we sat on the porch for about ten minutes chatting. Bella was still asleep in the bed we share (because of space available) upstairs.
As Kenny left- I stood up and opened the door to my house. The floor was engulfed in flames and the air was a solid wall of smoke. I yelled, “FIRE” to Kenny and he immediately came running- I ran for the stairs yelling Bella’s name and Kenny moved me aside, instead running up the ladder/stairs that lead to our bedroom where my little girl lay asleep. He later told me he wasn’t able to see anything and couldn’t find Bella with the first sweep of his arms across where he expected to find her and suddenly did when Bella reached out and grabbed his hand.
I continued to yell Bella’s name from down stairs as I also blindly grabbed the 5-gallon water jugs from the kitchen and hauled them to the front room to pour them on the floor and fire. Kenny yelled for Bella three times when I finally heard Bella’s fearful and questioning cry, “Momma?!”
I had made it back to the bottom of the stairs as Kenny began to descend with my little girl in his arms. I poured water on a couple of towels and grabbed a bottle of water and ran behind Kenny outside where he set Bella down wrapped in a blanket. She had black streaks, marking the path of her breath as she almost slept through dying of smoke inhalation.
My little girl could have died. All the stress and worry of being packed and moved into Tok come October instantly faded in the light of all that mattered was my daughter was safe and alive, and I would be reunited with my son soon.
The horrid MESS. Every single thing in the house was covered in soot. Everything. Well, as I said, I feel it was a tiny price to pay for my child’s life. It took 7 days of backbreaking, bittersweet, non-stop work, but it was done. The house was not only cleaned but packed as well.
That was the 15th of July. On Wednesday (the next day), Bella decided it was time to have some fun and that we should take a well deserved break and go for a 4 wheeler ride. So we did! It was a lovely day and my little girl is getting so big… She is even learning to drive the big 4 wheeler, I was feeling so proud and content with my decision not to allow her to stay somewhere without me while I finished my obligations to Pioneer Outfitters for the season.
I leaned close to her ear to tell her to slow just a bit, so that she would always have the best control- when she suddenly turned to the left, much too hard, much too fast. It was over in a blink of an eye It happened that fast.
I have been on a bucking horse with both Zach when he was little and Bella, reacting and getting them free and clear – even pulling them onto me, to land on me instead of the ground. I have been on snowmachines that have tipped over and have protected them with my own body. The 4-wheeler flipped and skidded on top of us across the gravel of the airstrip. Before I could even grasp what was happening.
Bella was trapped under the wheeler- with only her arm and head free. I shoved and could not BUDGE it. I screamed. There was no way anyone would be able to hear my cry for help- we were too far away. I HAD to get that machine off of her. I lifted telling her to drag herself free- yelling it actually… I grabbed the back of her coat and dragged her as she wiggled to get free. My little girl was free. Scared beyond anything, bruised, scraped, but alive, standing, crying and free.
Suddenly I fell back. I couldn’t stand, proceeded to throw up the first of numerous times to follow, and finding it very hard to breathe. I tried and couldn’t stand, couldn’t move really. How did I get that machine off of her? Bella was inconsolable, crying for help, crying for me- I think I passed out for a couple of minutes. I tried to calm her the best I could, but I couldn’t yell for help- and I really doubted it was even possible for them to hear me if I could.
I told Bella she would have to walk to get help. It broke my heart, but there was no other way. I tried again to get up, even to my knees and I simply couldn’t do anything but get sick again. Bella understood with the strength of a young woman, that there was no one else that she had to do this. So she left me, with tears running down her cheeks, to walk up our airstrip, down the trail leading to our house, to call for help.
Suddenly, two of the guys ran out of the forest towards Bella’s call for help. Joe and Kenny had heard her from the corrals where they were working. They were there and after helping me into a flat position, Joe took off at a run to get more help. Terry was there when I woke, along with Nancy holding Bella- who wouldn’t leave me, and Glen arriving with the other wheeler and a trailer. That trip up our airstrip to my house lasted for about ten years. It was horrible.
Not having an airplane is a terrible thing. We are still concerned and praying my left leg is not fractured. It was easily more than twice the size of my right leg- but with crutches, I CAN get around better and now- the swelling has finally started going down. It has removed me from guiding so far but we have great hope that I will be guiding during September.
So where are we now in terms of how this will affect and what effects might we encounter for us at Pioneer Outfitters and for you, hoping to know us better?
Well. Very little that was discussed and arranged in May and June regarding getting the house in Tok repaired and readied with others has been accomplished. That is worrisome. The house has to be ready so that I can have my little girl enrolled into school very quickly as she will be starting school late. The house needs to be ready so that I can earn a living (I also own and operate the only Day-Care in Tok that I operate out of my home, Tok Tots) and last but certainly not least, it needs to be ready to move my office in a logical manner so that you (yes, you!) are not hindered in any way, reaching out to us as Pioneer Outfitters.
Oh, it is just the moving and our home being ready that is of any real concern! We have done this before, years ago. During the school year, we (my children and I) live in our home in Tok. When school is out, we live in Chisana! See? Not difficult. Again, yes I will still be guiding and attending to all of my other obligations, duties – including continuing to guide for Pioneer Outfitters.
Here is another thought that tries to shove its way over and onto my worry list: What about the Campfire Chat with Alaska Chick videos? Oh, yes, I have a campfire ring at our home in Tok too; I couldn’t survive happily without a campfire snap-crackle-and-popping on a semi-regular basis. Would it be as acceptable for you for the filming to take place there?
So this brings you up to date on what has been happening to yank me away from sharing with you the day-to-day and big moments of these last few months. There is of course so much more to share with you and I am working on that too, right now.