We saw -40F/C for the first time this season at the cabin on Tuesday morning. Temps should climb to just above zero for Wednesday’s high.
We seem to have technical issues here between The Circles. Some people are able to see images on the site, while others can not. Even I can not see the images I upload to the site. This happened during the only time this winter that I have a full slate of work. As soon as my time allows, I will try to get drive out the demons that have taken up residence here.
Until then, Circle-to-Circle will be on a mid-winter hiatus.
Growing up in Minnesota, there were two people that everyone knew by only their first name. One was Prince, the other was Sid.
Sid Hartman was the sports reporter for the Minneapolis paper. He also had a show on the juggernaut, at the time, WCCO radio.
Sid literally started out on the ground floor of the newspaper business, selling the papers on street corners of North Minneapolis when he was nine years old. In 1936, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to take over the best intersections. By 1944 Sid had made his way to the sports department, and he wrote his first column for the Minneapolis paper in 1945.
From the sports desk, Sid became the de facto GM of the Minneapolis Lakers, when he was 27. He delivered the $15,000 check himself, at the Detroit airport, to have the Detroit Gems, of the NBL, to move to Minneapolis. The Lakers won the NBL title their first year. Behind George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers would go on to win 5 NBA titles before moving to Los Angeles. While doing that, he kept his day job as a sports reporter. He was also instrumental in the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota, to become the Minnesota Twins.
Sid came out of an era where the term conflict of interest was rarely uttered. He considered himself a reporter, not a writer. Sid based his entire reporting ethos on building relationships. Sid was an unapologetic “homer”. He loved Minnesota and its sports teams, but nothing was more dear to his heart than the University of Minnesota.
The gag line, “Sid’s close, personal friends” started on ‘CCO radio. From Bud Grant to George Steinbrenner to Bobby Knight, everyone in the sports world seemed to be Sid’s close, personal friend. When Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was Sid who introduced him.
Callers to Sid’s radio show who disagreed with him on any issue, were dismissed as “Geniuses”. How dare we second guess the “experts”. Of course, disagreeing with Sid was half the fun, it was the main reason we called in.
Sid passed away on Sunday at 100 years of age. His final column was in that morning’s paper. It was his 119th column of 2020. Impressive. Sid had 21,235 bylines with his name on them for the Minneapolis paper over a career span of 75 years. He also spent over 65 years on the radio, doing one sports show or another.
STRIB writer Jim Souhan wrote recently that it wasn’t like Minneapolis had their version of Sid Hartman, Minneapolis had the only one. There wasn’t another version in New York, or Chicago or Los Angeles. Sid was unique; there was only the one.
There have been a lot of tributes and online salutes, but the one by Ryan Saunders, the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the one that hit home the most. The final line says:
Sid was a remarkable example of living life to the fullest and finding your passion – may we all learn from the legacy he leaves.
It’s the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, although to be perfectly honest, we are well underway up here in Interior Alaska. The colors have definitely peaked already, and over half of the leaves are now on the ground.
I had an unscheduled day off on Monday. A job cancelled on Friday, and there wasn’t enough time, or ambition, to schedule something else in its place. It’s unusual for me to get a nice day on an unscheduled day off, and Monday was an absolutely beautiful fall day up here.
So I spent the afternoon hiking the seemingly, endless system of trails that start at my deck. I saw only one other person and her dog at the start of the hike, and after that it was only the grouse, red squirrels, a couple of moose and myself.
The woods were mostly silent, with only the occasional scolding from a squirrel, or the pre-flush clucking of a grouse. Even the trail, loaded with a carpet of leaves, allowed me to pass with barely a sound: Only a faint rustling was left in my wake.
A young moose blocks my way to the job site on Wednesday; its twin was eating willows in the slough to the right.
Winter 2019-2020 seems to have dragged on forever. We are finally turning the much anticipated corner into spring. I understand, for some of you, briar & tick season leaves you feeling itchy over the upcoming season, but up here in the Far North, I’m more than ready for spring. Without any hockey, we might as well melt the ice.
Spring officially arrives early this year. We have not seen a spring this early on the calendar for 124 years. Looking at the snow still on the ground here in Fairbanks, only the warmer temps signal any sign of spring.
Here in Fairbanks, we have finally pushed over the 12 hour mark for daylight. We gained 6 minutes, 44 seconds from yesterday. That makes both the moose and I happy.
Forty Below brings calls about frozen pipes when you work construction. I’m not a plumber by trade, but when Fairbanks hits a cold snap, there are not enough plumbers or heating guys in the north for all of the calls. I don’t go out of my way to do these jobs, but if one of my regulars tracks me down, I’m not going to give them the cold shoulder.
The pictured cat belongs to one of my regular customers, and she does not like to be ignored. This was not the first time I’ve ignored this cat, only to have it leap upon my back, or shoulder, or use my leg as a scratching post. A thick work shirt is required here.
The cat is a curious creature: always fascinated with the work I’m doing, the tools of the job, and the materials needed. A newly opened wall is an invitation to a new adventure, and a ladder, of any kind, causes a race to the top.
The house also comes with a dog. The dog is not curious. In fact, the dog is a bit of a coward. Any work I do, sends it off shivering to the farthest corner of the house from where I’m working. The shivering often comes with a lot of whining. In the summer, I can let the dog outside, but at Forty Below, I’m stuck with the high pitched soundtrack coming from the corner.
First time in my life I find myself less of a dog-person.
A recent job had me “installing” a phone booth outside a customer’s home. The booth is complete with working pay phone and light. I have not had many requests in the past to get one of these back in working order, but I do like to diversify.
Good things to keep in mind for a future install: A pay phone weighs 55 pounds, so shipping to Alaska is quite hefty; a phone booth, can, with difficulty, be moved by one person with an appliance dolly, but it also slides like a blunt bobsled on the fresh snow.
Possibly one of those only in Interior Alaska moments.
I spent one day this week, out in the sun, finishing up a rope bridge that I was commissioned to build. The decking of the bridge had been completed last fall, and now I was back to add the rope-work for the “railings”.
I heard the moose munching on willows long before I saw it. They are not quiet eaters. A shrub or tree would move, but it took quite some time for the moose to show itself. Oddly enough, it was when I was out on the bridge weaving the manila rope into place that the moose reacted. It kept snorting at me.
At first, I was a bit offended, taking the snorts as commentary on my work. However, I came to the conclusion, that the moose simply did not like me hovering in the air, at a height allowing me to look down on the moose. As I continued to work, the snorts were then followed by hoof stomps and another snort. It really did not like me out there on the bridge. Eventually, the moose had enough of my bridge building, and I heard it splash about in the pond behind the house. It had gone for a swim. It was a warm 75F degrees, and I couldn’t blame it.
Unfortunately, the pictures are pretty poor, as I only had the cellphone with me on the job site, and I’m shooting into the sun on top of it. I watched it swim around, and splash about the pond for a good 15 minutes, before I had to force myself back to work.
Cabin life alongside the Chatanika River; Camera: Widelux, Film: Kodak Ektar 100
I have worked every day since last Thursday, attempting to get a jump on a large project. Early on Friday, I will have put in 80 hours this week alone. Luckily, I do see the (head)light at the end of the tunnel. I am close to passing the job onto a subcontractor for next week, which will allow me to get back to a more normal schedule.
Until then, I’ll think back on lazy days on the river as silent motivation.
What an Alaskan does upon returning from a month long sabbatical:
The view from Murphy Dome in black & white
Spend the morning fixing a customer’s plumbing problem. Like most plumbing problems, the job took two trips for fittings. Like all seemingly easy jobs, the customer added two new problems upon arrival, which had previously “slipped their mind”.
Buy potting soil.
Order flooring for a job that is two weeks away.
Buy tomato, pepper and squash plants.
Set up rain barrels for customer. Repair barrels where customer broke fittings. Reinstall water pump for garden from their pond. Let out their dog and chase it around the yard for a few minutes. Scratch their cat, so it doesn’t feel left out.
Stop by post office for mail, and Fred Meyer for just a few groceries.
Load truck with tools & materials for the next day’s job.
Uncover 1 ton work truck, that has been parked all winter. Hook up battery tender.
Take phone call from customer that wants me to hang several bird feeders. I caution customer that bird feed, especially black sunflower seeds, attracts bears, which she has had several visit in the past. Bird feeder job remains in limbo, as no decision was made.
Remove door to Rover hut for the season.
Unplug refrigerator to defrost, before restocking. Plug in the Rover’s fridge to substitute for the next 24 hours.
Hike out to back 400 pond with Leica to check out the nesting trumpeter swans. The sun is wrong for good pictures, but the reward of watching the swimming pair from the brush is still high.
Haul out deck chairs; put away snowshoes.
Drop window awning, because cabin was 86 degrees when you returned home this afternoon.
Crack open a beer and grill a chicken breast and zucchini.
Contemplate that tomorrow is really going to be a hectic day.