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April 25, 2011

Good Friends

It was Easter Sunday. We tend to pay this holiday little mind. And right now, we’re in the thick of trip preparations. But we always stop what we’re doing when friends appear. (Most don’t bother to call. We don’t have cell phones, which makes it hard to get a hold of us.) We give those we care about our undivided attention because socializing takes precedence over getting stuff done. Spending time with others is what Squalor Holler is about.

Janelle appeared on our doorstep at 2 p.m. She’s going to be living here in our absence, so we’d arranged to give her a house-tour. But first, we all sat down at the kitchen table and talked. Interspersed between our informal directives were her stories about her working at the muskox farm. Janelle, 30-ish, began working there a month ago. She said that the first baby of the season was born the other night. It was decided to name this year’s offspring after state capitols. Tallahassee will be followed by (perhaps) 17-or so others, some of whom will be named Providence, Salem, and Bismarck. Of course, Pete got the atlas out, and we matched capitols to states, then talked about how fitting the names might be. Janelle rightly reasoned that tourists will like seeing animals named after the capitols of their home states.

Heather appeared as Pete was showing Janelle the garden. Heather is an old friend—she and I go back a long ways. We met while taking Katie Long’s horse course. I then hoped to purchase Delilah and she then hoped to purchase Elan. There were, for both of us, some horse-related ups and downs, but things eventually worked out for the best. I now own Raudi and Heather now owns Rio. We also took several of the vet tech courses at nearby Mat-Su College together.

Heather was low on hay, and had called and asked me if she could have a bale. I of course said yes. She pulled in the driveway and I wasted no time in showing her the new trailer. She agreed, it’s a beauty. Our conversation then turned in the direction of what’s going on with our horses. Rio, Heather said, is doing very well with his training, and she’s hoping to ride him soon. She had a setback this winter—she fell down some steps and torked her knee. She’s still recovering from the subsequent surgery.

A car pulled in as Heather and I were talking. (Pete was still giving Janelle the tour). It was Bill, Katie, and Charlene Long. They were out for a drive, and our place was a welcome destination. Bill was of course, most interested in the trailer. I have not yet tired of showing everyone all the bells and whistles—I most like showing them the pop open windows.

Katie has Alzheimer’s disease. It is such that she now makes no sense at all when she talks. However, she is still able to make her thoughts, concerns, and needs known to others, mainly through the tone and timbre of her voice. She, in her own way, owwed and ahhed when I showed everyone the walk-in tack room, And she expressed concern when I opened the rear door, for she was thinking that perhaps she was going to be asked to get in.

We all also spent time hanging out with the horses. Raudi chased Siggi away, so that she could get all the attention.

Heather and the Longs left, and Pete and I finished up the tour with Janelle, by taking her to the upper cabin. This is a good place to hang out, because one can sit on the porch and take in the view. We talked some about the bees, the garden, and the greenhouse. Oh yeah, the greenhouse. We showed her the inside before she departed.
The afternoon was uneventful. Pete and I consolated trip stuff, and discarded what we did not need to take along. (I was glad he helped with this—I think we need everything. He keeps reminding me that the packhorse load limit is 150 pounds.) At 5 p.m. I stepped out onto the porch, and saw a tall, lanky fellow walking a horse down the road. A second glance confirmed that it was our good friend, Dick Stoffel. He’d decided to ride from his place to ours. His route took him across the Matanuska Moose Range. Apparently, the ground is still frozen, although he did have to cross a creek.

I had Dick tie Mariah, his red roan, to the trailer, and I gave her some hay and water. He untacked her, and she settled in for own visit with Raudi and Siggi. Dick accompanied us up to the main cabin, and we all sat down and ate smoked salmon. He and Pete both had a beer. Dick, like Bill Long, is on the opposite side of the political fence from us, but no matter. We listened politely, and on this day, avoided the most pressing topic of all, which right now is the feasibility of large-scale resource extraction.

After Dick left, Pete resumed canning last year’s freezer fish. And I prepared Raudi for a ride. I let my mind wander as I rode. It repeatedly occurred to me that I’m incredibly grateful to have such good friends. In fact, I suspect that during the course of our trip, that I will at times miss them, and suffer bouts of homesickness. For what is life without friends, people who you can talk openly with about one’s successes and failures? Indeed, without them, life would be unbearably lonely.