The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things / Of shoes and ships
and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings / And why the sea is boiling hot, and
whether pigs have wings / Calloo, Callay, come run away / With the cabbages
and kings. -- Walrus,
A Flatlander In Wonderland
Bob Anderson and I drove across
country and up the
I also worried that I might be pregnant as a
result of our three-day layover, so to speak, in northern
I was a 22-year-old kid from the
Midwestern flatlands, the suburban flatlands surrounding
When I left for college, I moved as
far away as possible from
The area was beautiful, especially
to a kid from the wilds of urban
It was with this background,
that Lt. Anderson and I headed north to
Endless expanses of
untouched valleys, canyons and mountaintops. Sheep with curling horns nibbled
alongside the roads. Tiny wildflowers surviving in spite of the sheep, or
perhaps, because of them. The slopes carpeted with summer foliage, and above
the tree line, outcroppings of primeval, jagged rock wearing swashes of white
against an iridescent blue sky. Our eyes followed the contour of the valley
floors, where from the vantage point of the narrow, dusty
And then the axle breaks.
The bus driver did,
indeed, bring us an axle on his return trip and the good mechanic of
The border crossing into
Alaska was easy, I suppose because of Bob’s military identification – and the
fact that border crossings between the United States and Canada were always
easy forty years ago. The road improved dramatically on the
Second Lieutenant Anderson and his
almost-journalist, but definitely pregnant wife, eventually pulled into the
state’s largest city,
It was probably the second
lieutenant who, a few days later, discovered
The instructor was an understanding
man. I completed the class, grabbed my
skinny, little transcript with three credits of “B”, and sent the precious document
Never having seen a snow machine, I applied for and was hired as the first editor of the Alaska Snowmobiler newspaper insert. I think we put out three issues before the season ended. Next up was a night editor’s position for the town’s morning newspaper. When a day job materialized, I moved over to writing 30- and 60-second advertising spots for KFQD, the state’s oldest radio station.
One night come March, the first day of spring actually, I awoke with the definite knowledge that new life was about to emerge. Elmendorf Air Force Hospital conveniently took me in, and a day later, we brought home our baby boy.
Weeks passed, and life settled into manageable routine. I began to think of work again. It was the lieutenant, now a first lieutenant, who came home with the interesting news that the town’s afternoon newspaper had an opening for a reporter. He had learned this from another officer whose wife had held the position. The officer was being transferred, and there would be a vacancy.
Diploma in hand, I scheduled the interview. The Anchorage Daily Times had a special place in its corporate heart for both the military and military spouses and so I was hired. My assignment included reading the morning report at the police department, editing the religion page, checking on issues and activities that fell under the heading of health and social services, and attending meetings of the Anchorage School Board.
Like most young reporters, I loved
the police beat and was thrilled to have the opportunity to cover a real live murder. Elmer Haub of Mendeltna
Creek, population about 50, was convicted of killing his wife, cutting her up
into manageable pieces, and burning her body in a nearby woods. The newspaper photographer and I drove the
153 miles north from
It was the religion, health and social services, and education assignments that would mold my life and my career.
After a year or two on the newspaper,
I began receiving job offers. One such
offer was with the
The Lord did give me an opportunity to change my mind. After rejecting the school district offer and accepting the position with the education association, the teachers withdrew their offer. There was internal conflict as to whether the organization needed a public affairs staff person and Bob Van Houte, the chief executive, had several more months of lobbying to do before he was able to again offer me the position.
I had already resigned from the newspaper and turned down the school district offer and I needed work. I found temporary employment for a few months, and in September received another call from Van Houte. They were ready. Could I come by for an interview?
These were the days of protests and college campus riots.
“We know you can write,” said one interviewer, “but could you burn a building?”
“Well, perhaps not,” I offered, “But if I write well enough, we won’t have to.”
It had been a joke.
I got the job.
I’d change my party affiliation later.