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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yep, It's Sunday Morning Chat Time... and the story continues

Hello Everyone,

Well I didn't mean to leave you all hanging last week, I just couldn't type the whole story in one day, it's too long, especially if I was going to give you all a lot of detail.

Ok, so I left of at my arrival to live with Fred, and it's now August 2004.  Fred had decided before I arrived that he was going to add a bedroom on to the house.  I was aware of this already and it was intended to be de before I arrived, but it wasn't so that made for a bit of chaos because the house was't very big, you have to remember, the people who live there typically build their own houses and Fred was no exception.  So my belongings ended up staying in the back of the truck until the room was done, which wasn't too long.  It was like the rest of the house, it had plywood floors and he installed an oil stove for heat.  I ended up painting and trimming it out to look nice, but it was funny, the rest of the house didn't look like the bedroom.  The bedroom was the only room made with boards and drywall inside, the rest of the house was made from logs so it was rustic everywhere else.  Now, you might think - wow, how neat, I bet all those logs were beautiful...lol  Nope..  those "home made" houses are very basic and they're all over rural AK, many do not have much in the way of closets, or space in general.  Most of the time it's very cold so everyone in the house has all of their winter gear out. And you need serious winter gear, not like what we have in the Midwest.  I mention all this because in a very short time it was very cold after I arrived and I soon figured out all the hooks and nails I kept noticing were used to hang coveralls, coats, gloves, you name it.  When everyone came in, they would take all of their outer wear off and hang it all over the place. It's just how it is, and the heat from the stove dries everything and keeps it warm and toasty until you need it again.  So, if you like the romantic, beautiful look of a log home, you won't find it in a home like this.

So, how did my life go with Fred after I got there? That's a question I need to answer the end of the story makes sense.  As soon as I arrived Fred showed me a little bit more of "how they do things".  Well as you can image, a dishwasher was just something they laugh at, that's what the girls were for.  So, here was the routine that was shared with me.  Fred worked on Eilson Air Force Base in a civilian job.  He had a very good job, I don't recall what he did, but he made good money.  Anyway, back to it, he told me he got up early and now that I was there, I should make his breakfast every morning, and it should be a big breakfast, sausage (which he made fresh right there), toast, eggs, and potatoes.  I was to get the eggs from the chicken house and set them out to thaw, it was so cold they would freeze.  He had another big barn building that he had sacks of potatoes in from the growing season, so everything was there for me to do this for him.  I was also told I needed to learn about taking care of the dogs so I could help with that.  There was always loads and loads of really dirty laundry needing to be done, and I would need to plan a big dinner for everyone and have it cooked each night. 

It became very clear overnight, that Fred needed a hand, not a girlfriend, not a future wife, but another worker.  All of the "sweet, nice" Fred was gone just that quick.  He had these expectations because his wife who passed (who was native Alaskan), had done all these things.  I was devastated, and immediately full of regret.  I was there though, and the younger of the two girls was so excited she couldn't stand it. I had to figure out how to live there, or head back home, and if you saw how happy Megan, the youngest was, you would understand why I decided I had to give it my best.

Also within a day or two of my arrival Fred took me to Megan's school, she was in 5th grade and was doing really bad.  He introduced me to her teacher and the principal of the school, and let them know I would be handling everything with the kids schooling...  news to me too.  I couldn't figure it out at the time, but the teacher and principal both seemed "over" excited about me being in the picture.  I soon figured out why.  The oldest girl was 15, here name was Michelle, and in high school, which was on the military base.  There were so few children in this part of Alaska that there was no high school for them.  The way the grade school worked was that many grades were combined.  It wasn't what I was used to, and I'm not sure if it was the best set up.  I know Megan was lost.  She had barely learned to read, and by this time she needed to be using reading to learn, not still trying to learn to read. 

Michelle was a handful.  On my first day there alone, when Fred had gone back to work, she skipped school, was lying to me about everything, and clearly did not want me there.  Both of these girls had been through hell.  At the time I didn't know how bad, but I later pieced it all together. Megan was 10, so I did the math backwards on her.  Her mother had been gone for a year, so she was 9 when she lost her, and her mother had been sick really bad, to the point she didn't even know who Megan was for many months before that, so that put her back to 8, and her mother had been sick for about 3 years prior to that, meaning she was only 5 when her mom could not longer care for her the way she probably wanted to, so Megan had missed out on her mom all together for the most part.   For Michelle it was different.  She had known normal life with her mom and she was hurting terribly, but couldn't express is.  And, let me just say, Fred's attitude was "there's work to be done around here, so stop your whining and get (whatever) done".  When one of the girls asked Fred if they could do something or if they wanted something he always said, "we'll see".  I hated that, that wasn't an answer.  And he had these girls doing chores that were a crazy amount of work.  If they balked at all, or said anything, he would yell at them and say "I'm the King of this house and you'll do what I say".  By now I was wondering what in the world had I gotten myself in to.  Megan had fallen in love with me because she needed to love someone. And no one had been sensitive to her needs like I was.  Michelle hated me, and Fred just needed another worker...

But if I thought my responsibilities were much work, they were nothing compared to those poor girls.  Here's how their day went, especially when the cold set in, and don't forget the darkness - the sun didn't rise until about 11:00am starting by about October or so.  The girls had to get up at 5:00am, and give food and water to 30 dogs.  Now, keep in mind it was usually between 10-15 below zero.  In order to give water to the dogs, they each got out a plastic sled, then they would get 5 gallon water buckets and fill them with hot water and put two or three of them on each sled. They would then pull them in the snow from dog house to dog house and break up the ice from the previous watering they had had, and put new hot water in their containers.  The dogs drank most of it immediately before it would freeze on them again.  Then they also had to feed them.  If a dog needed more straw in it's house they had to take care of that too.  Then they had to get ready for school.  When they got home from school they had to tend to the dogs again.  They had to do the food and water routine all over again - keep in mind, it was dark again, because the sun was only up until about 2:00pm.  They also had to "train" with the dogs, so they had to help Fred hook up the whole mushing set up, which is not small deal, and they would mush some dogs so they were all ready for their weekend mushing league events.  Then the girls ate dinner and they had more chores around the house to do, which started with the day's dishes. Fred wanted all the dishes left for them to wash.  I wasn't to do the breakfast dishes, nothing, the girls were to do them all at night.  Those chores always varied, they were whatever Fred needed done such as feeding pigs, chickens, he even had the butchering chickens and cleaning them, whatever he could think of.  Then finally about 8:00pm they were done and could start their homework.  Well - now you understand why Megan could barely read.  I found myself trying to do as many of their chores as I could to free up some of their time.  I hurt for those girls while I was there.  I tried multiple tines to talk to Fred about it, about their education they were not getting to work at, and got no where, he saw no value in anything but "work". 

Megan and I continued to get closer and closer while I lived there.  She began to turn to me for everything. I got very involved in her schooling.  I made a point to go eat lunch with her at school once a week which she loved.  I also walked her to the bus every morning.  BTW - those girls walked over 2 blocks in darkness so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face, to the highway where the bus picked them up.  They had to tromp through deep snow, and wait in horribly bitter temperatures.  It was brutal, but for them it was normal.  I also made Megan read to me every night.  I battled Fred for time for her to do her homework.  And it was a battle let me tell you. Megan was different then Michelle, Megan was curious about the rest of the world and wanted to see it.  She had taken a trip to AZ when her Mom was ill because her Mom had been there for treatment.  Megan realized there was more out there then just AK.  So I stressed to her all the time the importance of her education.  I told her it was her ticket to see the world. She could go to college in another state.  To this day I hope she was listening.  I hope she reached some of her dreams. But with Fred in the picture, it would have been hard. Ten years have gone by, it's hard for me to image, she's a 20 year old woman now, and I wonder what her life has become.

I got a job for myself while I was there because I needed out of the house and to be around other adults besides Fred who I was quickly growing to despise.  I got a job at the State Farm office in North Pole, AK.  I sold mutual funds.  I was a licensed broker already so it was a perfect position.  The women I worked with were all from the lower 48 too, they were military wives, so it was perfect, we all got along really well. That job was my connection to normalcy.

Before I go today I wanted to share a few other tidbits about life there.  In the winter, no one turns their car off when they run errands, it's just too cold. So you can go to the grocery store, bank, post office, anywhere and you just leave your car running with the keys in it and no one takes it.  It's just how it works.  If you do have a job, usually the employer supplies an electrical outlet area for you to park in, so you pull in, get your extension cord, plug it to an outlet attached to the building, and plug it into your vehicle (which are equipped with heaters). This way when you come out of work 8 hours later your car or truck will start up.   We lived 15 miles from the closest town, which was North Pole, and 30 miles from the biggest city there, which was Fairbanks.  North Pole is where Santa really lives... it's Christmas all year round there.

Ok, I need to run for today and get some other things done.  I'll pick up here next week and tell more of the story... 

Hugs
Jane...vv08



16 comments :

  1. Jane, I love reading about this part of your life. I, too, hope that Megan listened to you, is continuing her education, and is seeing the world outside of Alaska.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Jane you are truly an excellent story teller. So articulate and expressive-you keep me wanting more! Those young girls are so lucky to have had you touch their lives and show them love. Thanks for a lovely start to my Sunday...sitting here with a cup of tea, reading your story...so nice!!

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  3. I can see this story is not going to end with a happy ending. Thanks for sharing your life with us hun. Hugs Shannon

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    1. It's not Shannon, you're right, but it even ends worse then you might be thinking. xx

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  4. Thanks for sharing more of your story of your time in Alaska. It is so sad to hear how much work the girls had to do and no time for education. At least they had you for a time in their lives and hopefully they will remember that. Looking forward to hearing more.

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  5. Thanks for sharing Jane. I enjoy hearing about your life.

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  6. Wow, what a hard life for those young ladies. Can't imagine how cold it must be there.

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  7. Holy cow! People think its cold here in newfoundland. Jez my kids were made to do their homework before chores, that is something they had to do Saturday mornings before they were allowed to hang out with friends. Sounds like Fred should have invested in workers instead of children and family , how did you control yourself not to let him have it girl? He would have heard words he never knew existed if I had to see that! Can't wait for next week! You should write your memoirs!

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    1. When you are in a situation with a person who doesn't seem right, and no one would hear you, and they own guns and knives, you pick carefully how you handle yourself. That's how I kept control of myself. Megan's pet horse died while I was there and rather then do something respectful with it since it had been her pet, he strung it up, gutted it, and cut it up to feed to the dogs.

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  8. Yes, I'm sure those girls had a very hard life living in rural Alaska. Life there isn't easy and then to have lost a mother at their ages makes it harder an then even more harder when you have a father like Fred. I guess Fred was totally different from his chats with you before you went there. I know we watch the people that live in rural Alaska on tv, and it's a life I don't want to live! I'm not into torture! lol And to me that life is torture. I don't want to go to the outside in the middle of the night with temps 20 below zero. Don't like sitting on my own post when the seat is cold. lol This is a very interesting story Jane and I can't wait to hear the rest of it. I am very glad you got out of there, but I feel bad for those girls that had to stay behind. That was a hard one for you I'm sure. Hugs, Brenda

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  9. You could write a book about your days living off the grid...thank you for sharing you!!

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  10. My heart is breaking for both of these girls! I really hope that Meghan took your advice and got an education but it sounds to me like Fred probably did not allow that to happen. I have a feeling that you are going to tell us that Fred died, was murdered or just disappeared like so many do in Alaska.
    Have you ever tried to find Michelle and Meghan? If not on Facebook maybe you could contact Troy from The Locator tv show. It sounds to me like a case he would probably jump on.
    I am glad you got out because it sounds like it was a horrible situation and I know that you probably think of these girls often. I wonder if Fred was like that before his wife got ill an died and that was his way of coping or if he was just an asshole. Sorry to be blunt but I say it like I see it.
    Can't wait till next Sunday to hear more.

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  11. I think we are beginning to learn why you love and respect Mike with every fiber of your being. I'm looking forward to next week's installment. Linda S. in NE

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  12. Oh boy!! Can't wait for next weeks installment..I love the relationship you describe with Megan, I'm sure it made a difference. You may have been the only person to show her any kindness..

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  13. Oh JaneI I feel for those girls. I hope the time you spent with them made a positive impact on their future. Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness can make all the difference in the world. Diana

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