Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Winter Then

This is a continuation of Winter Now and Then.

In 1950, Chuck, at age 14 had walked three miles in the wilderness, set off dynamite to signal the cannery watchman to run across Hood Bay in the skiff, and was walking back to camp over the frozen south arm of the bay...

Chuck was walking along and picked up the tracks of a fawn. Pretty soon there was a fawn standing in the tracks, quiet and alert. Chuck approached slowly and then caught the skinny, ribby fawn. There were no doe tracks, and the fawn was not going to make the winter if it was left alone. Chuck hefted the baby up over his shoulders and pack, held onto the fawn's forelegs in one hand and back legs in the other, and carried it back to camp. The fawn calmed down and looked around while riding along. The little guy was a big hit in camp, and Chuck's sister named it Bambi. Bambi took well to camp life, and especially well to corn meal mush and pancakes.

Pet fawn in Southeast Alaska Hood Bay 1950

The fawn loved tobacco! Chuck would crumble a few of the men's cigarette butts and the fawn would greedily reach for the tobacco. Once Chuck pulled the tobacco away, teasing the fawn. The normally docile animal reared up and quick as lightning struck Chuck four times with its sharp front hooves, then it took the tobacco and settled right down.

The camp had oil stoves for heat, and in the cold weather the oil didn't last. The boss called out on the HF radio for the Baggen brothers to bring 50 barrels of oil in on the big tug boat named Lumberman. The ice in the bay was too thick for the Lumberman to break, and several miles of ice was too far to skid 50 barrels of oil. The Coast Guard cutter Sweetbrier was transiting the area and the Coast Guard agreed to break trail for the Lumberman.

The 180 foot Sweetbrier had inch-thick steel plating on the bow, and it came crunching heroically through the bay. As the Sweetbrier approached the camp the ice was very thick and two times the Sweetbrier had to back up and get a run at the ice to break it. Near the camp the ship turned and stopped.

The Lumberman was close behind, coming alongside the edge of the ice.  The men brought planks from camp to roll the fuel barrels off of the deck. Chuck's dad told him to stay out of the way while the men unloaded 50 barrels of fuel.

Chuck walked over by the Sweetbrier and the Coast Guardsmen offered him a tour of the boat. He climbed up the ladder and onto the icy deck. The uniformed Guardsmen gave him a nice tour. Chuck marveled at the three one-thousand horsepower diesel engines driving a huge electric motor that turned the propeller. Up in the wheelhouse he had the heady experience of putting his hands on the shiny ship's wheel and looking out over the deck. The cook even gave him fresh cookies, and then it was time for the ship to depart. Chuck scrambled down the ladder and walked over by his father, still grinning about such a great experience.

Sweetbriar breaking ice in Hood Bay winter of 1950

The Sweetbrier cut a big circle, and then the two boats left in the channel that had been made shortly before.  Within a few hours the lead that the Sweetbrier had opened froze over and the residents of the logging camp went ice skating on it that evening.

Chuck standing on an ice cake Hood Bay Admiralty Island winter 1950

It was a cold, cold winter in the shadow of the mountains in a remote bay in Southeast Alaska. Chuck and his sister were teenagers. They did their schoolwork and chores. They built an 'igloo', ice skated, played with their pet fawn, and made the best of the short days. The events of the winter of 1950 stayed with them, as any great adventure should.

There was more that happened that winter...but that is another story for another time. This post is an abbreviated version of the story of Chuck's time in Hood Bay. I am working on a book about his life, and will update you from time to time about the progress on that project.


Stay snug and warm!

Alaska Beachcomber

The start of this story is Winter Now and Then.

Another article with some old-timey details is Mack and Mattie's Cabin.