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The Sky IS Falling

This article was in the Alaska Dispatch The October, 2008 arrival of Henny Penny Palin was hard on us all, because she had a hard time adjusting to her new home. At the same time, we were having to deal with the possibility that Sarah Palin might be our new next president. The bird reminded me of Sarah, which is why we named her Henny Penny Palin.

What is to become of us all? This question again came to mind as Pete and I undertook a search for Henny Penny, our new chicken. Our neighbor Pat brought her over last night. I’d told her I needed a third chicken. If Stubbi, who is eight, dies this winter, then Catchi, who is five, will be without a mate. She’ll need the warmth and companionship of a buddy. (We live off the grid, have gone solar and wind, which means the chickens live in an insulated box in the winter.) I’d picked Henny because she’d been raped by a rooster. Tending to her back wounds, this was something I could remedy. But this morning, when I went to check on her, I discovered that Henny Penny had escaped via the coop side-hatch.

As I thrashed through fireweed, devil’s club, and cow parsnip, my thoughts were elsewhere. What IS to become of us all? I’ve been working on the Obama campaign this past week. This was a decision brought about by extreme necessity. A week before, I’d been working at the Alaska State Fair. I picked recycled bottles and cans out of the green garbage cans with long handled pincers, put them in plastic bags, and then returned the goods to the sorting area.

As I was picking, I met up with Wasilla resident Suzie Cosby who was sporting a McCain/Palin button. I was too stunned to say anything in part because she’d previously been opposed to NAIS, a governmental mandate that which would require all livestock to micro-chipped. The day before, McCain had announced that Palin was to be his running mate. I live in Palmer, which is 10 miles from Wasilla. I figured that everyone would realize that the former hockey mom was ill-suited for the job. After all, she’s anti-ANWR, pro-life, pro death penalty, and a member of the NRA. My friend was not a statistical anomaly. The tee shirts and buttons had become an overnight identifier of what a friend once called “The unwashed masses.”

Women’s rights—I had once, on the radio, heard Palin say that if her daughter was raped, that her having the child would be God’s will. I’m an ardent feminist who has spent more than her share of time on the pro-choice side of the street. The thought crossed my mind that should McCain die, this woman would, through default, be our next president. This was why I made a beeline for the Obama booth and told them to sign me up. Like most people, I’m busy. I’m putting the finishing touches on one book, and writing another. I have animals to tend to. We have three horses, two goats, a dog, and now three chickens. Ours is a very peaceful place, and the animals, which are creatures of routine, all get along.

Yesterday our morning routine was hurried because I agreed to go door-to-door and talk with future voters. I have an aversion to knocking on doors, and I hate small talk; however, Sarah’s having become a national media darling was a motivator. I’d heard yesterday that National Inquirer reporters had come to town and were offering money to those who could provide Sarah gossip, and that reporters from the Wall Street Journal were staying at the Best Western Motel in Wasilla. And the London Telegraph reporters had interviewed some of the Obama Campaign For Change staff. All was, indeed, heady stuff. But it was also scary. Sure, Sarah is “honest” and “nice.” But can she govern while tending to untold children? I have my doubts.

At mid-morning, I met up with Jonathan, who is in charge of organizing the volunteers in my district. It’s a big job: his territory runs from Palmer to Valdez, an area about the size of the state of West Virginia. Jonathan is from South Dakota, and has taken a semester off from the University of Minnesota. The 20-year-old is majoring in Political Science. He came up here with his dad, and will drive the family car back to South Dakota after the election. He has large brown eyes, listens intently to what people say, and has a very positive attitude about most things. That he is a twenty-something, and I’m a 50-something soon made itself woefully apparent. I asked, and he said that he had not packed a lunch. I told him he was going to get hungry but let the matter drop. Even though I’m old enough to be his mother, I’m not his mother.

We agreed to go and canvas the Soapstone Road area. I’d been looking forward to showing Jonathan the area adjacent to my neighborhood or what I call the “backside of Alaska.” As we bounced along gravel roads, he agreed that that “residences,” which consisted of trailers, Quonset huts, sheds, and a smattering of cabins, was “kinda rough.” Nevertheless, he was up for the challenge. We lasted a half-an-hour. Our official reason was that the car geolocator had not given us enough name/locater information. The unofficial reason was that the area didn’t appear to Jonathan to be very inviting. So we returned to Palmer and agreed to meet Brennen, another campaign worker, over in Wasilla.

What is to become of us all? This is the question I asked myself as I spent the afternoon canvassing in Palin Country. It was as far removed from Soapstone as we could get. The streets are well paved, as were the driveways, a few of which had just received a coating of fresh asphalt. The homeowners were hard at work tending to lawns, varnishing siding, and weeding flowerbeds. Most owned a large truck, and one smaller car. Their homes are energy inefficient. I didn’t see a single solar panel or wind generator.

The McCain/Palin supporters (of whom were in the majority) appeared fearful when they came to the door. All were tight-lipped, and therefore they were only able to make one word utterances.

“Republican,” “McCain,” “Uh huh,” these were the key words on this, a brisk autumn afternoon.

Of the 75 residents we visited, three supported Obama, and one was undecided, but she asked where she might get an Obama button. I deduced that this was because she was, on three sides, surrounded by Republican neighbors. Jonathan and I kept at it, going to the Colonial Subdivision, and visiting residences on (no kidding) Bunker Hill, Revolutionary, and Freedom Streets.

What is to become of us all? Alaska has a mere three electoral votes, and so I felt like I was spinning my wheels. There was no way that either Jonathan or I were going to change public sentiment, at least not here. But at least I was doing SOMETHING. This is what I was thinking when, from out of nowhere, a tan colored pit bull tore across a well-tended yard and leapt over a knee-high fence. I stopped, breathed deeply, and averted my eyes. Jonathan yelped, and ran behind me. A woman who’d been standing on the porch, yelled, and the dog, looking back over its shoulder, snarled at us.

“We’re with the Obama campaign,” Jonathan yelled.

“I don’t have time for this!” she yelled, as she picked up a toddler, shoved it in the house. The dog wheeled around, and again raced in our direction. The joke that Sarah made during her campaign speech came to mind: What’s the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? The hockey moms wear lipstick. I again held my ground. Jonathan again ran a few yards. And again the dog ran back to its owner, who had by now corralled two other surly mutts.

Jonathan, who was visibly shaken, suggested we call it quits. “I need something to eat. Mind if we go to Arbys?” he said.

“No problem,” I replied.

Jonathan punched a few buttons, and a voice directed us to one of Wasilla’s innumerable fast food joints. I didn’t lecture him about the evils of fast food, but I did ask if he’d read Fast Food Nation. He said that since he’d been working on this campaign, that he haven’t had time to read anything.

“Oh.” I replied.

We returned to Palmer. I hopped in my car and drove home. Pete had found the hen hunkering down under some brush. I put some aloe Vera on her plucked back, and we put her in a dog crate. We’ll soon introduce her to Catchi and Stubbi. What is to become of us? Pete surmised that I have a feeling of impending doom because I spent the previous two days in Palin country. He’s right. I’m thinking that if the voters in the Lower 48 are as pro-McCain Palin as they are in Wasilla, the sky very well might fall.




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