Well, I had my first taste of Alask-Italian last night. Mooseballs with pasta. The best part, the sauce was cooked with freshly HAND picked Stinging Nettles. Yes, STINGING NETTLES. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of rubbing up against one of these plants… Lucky you. They don’t get their name because they’re gentle to the touch.
They have a saying here, “they don’t sting you if you look at them when you pick them.” I laughed, and the look on the family’s face I was sharing this evening’s supper with was priceless. It’s no joke. Most stings are from accidental touch. When you are careful and watch where you touch the plant, you can pick them with ease and avoid the sting.
The pasta and Mooseballs (meatballs) was amazing! I honestly enjoyed it way better than beef! WAY BETTER! I hope I don’t come back to the “lower 48” and not eat beef any more, but at this point, who needs beef?! For real! They informed me that Caribou is the best meat and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some, literally. Apparently you have to head north to find them, so that’s my plan on Tuesday. Hunting season for Caribou doesn’t start until August so I’ll have to keep shooting my bow at my “Morrell” target 😉 for now, but it’s never too early to scout hunting locations!
I was welcomed into the home by the Duame family. We shared a beer before dinner, had small talk, but it wasn’t until mid dinner that the stories started to surface. The family I ate with had so much vast information, ideas of where to visit and not to visit. What was even more interesting is, “Dan the man” is the head of Alaska housing and development. (Or something to that nature). When I mentioned Adak Island his ears perked up. His daughter, Kerry, mentioned I “landed in the right home. He’s the guy you want to talk to.” And oh boy is he! My first major contact for the film and a new friend. They ended up sending me with maps, beer, laughs, a place to store any of my belongings and a continued conversation with their friends on ideas for me to set up camp. I have to tell you, I felt right at home. We honestly laughed and told stories until 10pm, which it was still light out so its easy to lose track of time, or we were just having that much fun…
One story that Dan’s wife Merry subtly dropped was his Grizzly Bear attack. We were discussing filming locations and he mention Nome, where they had lived for 7 years. And just like that, the conversation continued. I had to stop them, “wait, I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s not a big deal to you, but I’ve never met someone who has actually been attacked by a bear, can we go back to that really quick?” Dan replies, “yeah, he tore open my hand, I bled a bit, made it out and was in the hospital for a couple days. So, Nome… The terrain is similar to Attu and Adak…” Again, I stopped him. “Wait, I apologize to keep going back to this and I’m sure it’s not easy to talk about but, that’s crazy.” About that time his wife pipes in, “oh yeah, I sent the story to several people to share, I guess I’m not a good enough writer, no one wanted it.” Although, the local paper did an article and she ended up showing me. 1990. Here’s the brief story I got out of him and it’s much better if you see it in action.
Dan was moose hunting and ended up jumping a sow (mom) with her two cubs. They ran off, but the mom circled around and came charging at him full speed. He knew what was about to happen and was able to quickly raise his gun in the heat of shock and fear and fire a bullet. The bullet grazed the bear’s face and hit her shoulder, sending her tumbling “like a gymnast” head over heels. She jumped back up and dove on him. As she jumped he reached out his left hand, thinking it would protect him and she grabbed a hold of it with her teeth and proceeded in jerking him back and forth. She eventually let go and stood over him. He grabbed his neck in fear that’s where she’d go next. (Bear usually go for the back of the neck to paralyze their prey). They stared each other in the eyes and in a quick instant, she turned and ran off after her cubs.
Dan fired several shots signaling his friend that he needed help and slowly made his way back to his truck where his wife and 2 year old daughter were. When he arrived he mentioned he’d been attacked and his wife Merry thought he was joking. Thought he’d shot a moose and the blood all over him was from the moose. But one look at his “ghost white face” and confusion, she knew it was no joke. She rushed him to the hospital and they medivaced him to Anchorage where an expert surgeon saved his hand.
If I had only brought my camera!! I was going to and then thought, not on the first night, it may be odd. Let’s start as friends. I have no doubt there’s more stories inside his wise-aged head. I heard many more and some were much lighter, actually sending us all into out loud laughter. I ended up making the very short drive to my (their) cabin and when I pulled up, guess who was standing there to greet me? Ms. Moose!
Another day here in Alaska. One look out the window and I feel right at home. It’s going to be hard to leave this cabin and the Duame family. One things for sure, I’ll be back. And our friendship will only grow. The best is yet to come…