Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2021 >Daily Dispatch #144

May 25, 2021: Book-Related Conversations

What I like most about the book project is the fact that it has opened the door to many interesting conversations. There are stories in the books themselves, and also stories about the stories.

And then, there are stories. This project is taking me places that, ordinarily, I would not go. For example, the books that Vickie Kaye left that were about rail roading I took to the Alaska Railroad sub station (I guess this is what I am going to call it) where Pat Durand gave Pete and me an overview of the ongoing work that’s taking place on Engine 557. We were lucky, the outer shell had not yet been put on, so we could see the framework of the steam engine.

There were books on steam engines, we passed these on to him. I wish that I’d taken the time to look them over more carefully.

I have spent some time with members of the Valley Arts Alliance – they get together on Thursdays at 11 a.m. and socialize. One of the things they do is host an Art on Fire day, this at

the Wasilla Museum of Transportation and Industry. Before today, I thought this was a small event, a few old geezers pouring iron and bronze into molds and then cracking the molds.

I wasn’t even that interested in attending. Today my friend Nan Potts dragged me kicking and screaming to Pat Garland’s place. He is an artist who casts bronze pieces. I could not picture it, so Nan wanted me to see how the tiles for the bookends are going to be made. It’s actually pretty simple – the iron (future tiles) will be poured into sand blocks that have already been etched. The sand blocks will then leave impressions in tiles.

This turned out to be a real eye opener for me, in fact it was similar to that of my visit with Pat Durand.

Both Pats work in man caves that in actuality are large shops. Equipment and supplies are organized in that they know where things are. And both men are obsessive about their respective crafts, one Pat rebuilds engines and the other pours molds.

Right inside the door of Pat G’s shop were two large, bronze figures – a Native man and a Native Woman. They had been cast but not yet cleaned up. The morning sun shining on them made them appear to be iridescent. Beside these figures, who were standing arms extended, towards one another, was a wheelbarrow full of bronze cast pieces. Chunks of their mold were on them. Pat explained that these pieces are going to comprise the rest of the sculpture – two children. The front of a face was staring up through what seemed like rubble.

The finished sculpture is going to Bethel, where it will be placed in front of the Kuskokwim Delta Native Health Center. It will be crated and freighted – this is going to be a feat in itself.

This was just one of Pat’s many projects.

I got the sense that the work he does is very time-intensive and mainly involves hands on labor. I do not generally equate this sort of sculpture work with the term art, but Pat, who talked like an artist, debunked my previous misconception.

I am going to give him a copy of a book on Michelangelo, and a card saying thank you for sharing your stories.

Next: 145. 5/26/21: The Inn Will Never Be Full

Horse Care Home About Us Dispatches Trips Alys's Articles