Posted by: gmelvin | August 12, 2013

Busy Times

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” – Old Zen adage

First off, I am no Zen believer. The Lord Jesus is the only one man worth following in this world, and any other. Please don’t side his mercy. I post this quote for the following reason: it’s good. It’s useful. Rest is needed; otherwise, the Lord wouldn’t have established the Sabbath. Life’s been busy here. I do apologize for being late in blog posting, but I hope to post more this week.


“Oooh…look at that reindeer.” Two young children from the village had balanced themselves on a wooden beam that overlooked the corral. They were on a fence support of some kind…about seven or eight feet high in the air. I had perched myself on one those beams, hanging my backpack on a rusted nail to grab my iPad for photo shots. The day had come when the villagers would wrestle reindeer to the ground, and clip their antlers. These antlers would then be sold…to the Koreans. Surprisingly. Santa’s not going to be pleased. Then, the herd beneath me quickly took off and ran in circles within the corral. Several approaching kids from behind – making a bit of noise with small talk – spooked the herd just enough to startle (unintentionally).Image

Several hours later, one of our new teachers arrived into the village for the first time. This would be a great village introduction. After finding what time the wrestling match would take place, I took our new teacher out to the reindeer camp. This was my first time seeing the match, and it was well worth the trip. They started, and the first reindeer that came out of the shoot met a villager who went directly for his horns. This man swiftly twisted the reindeer’s head into a backwards, upright stance which knocked off the animal’s balance. Once on the ground – and still struggling – the villager kept hold of the reindeer’s awkward neck bend while crossing over onto the reindeer’s back. Another villager called out the reindeer’s owner name and gender, which was echoed by a lady writing it down. Then someone with a large set of clippers (the kind you clip tree branches) came after the antlers, and snapped off the antlers just six or seven inches above the head. These antlers still had blood oozing out. Next, the villager directed the reindeer’s head a bit in the direction he desired, and quickly got off.Image

“And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.”

– Clement Clarke Moore

This would have been the sound I would have heard, if I didn’t get out of the way. Or some other villager.  Grandma almost got ran over by a reindeer. They bolted out of the group as if their own tail was on fire, and most of the time toward the crowd or wire fence. If the latter, you had an easy laugh with the other villagers (it looked funny) as the reindeer busted into the fence, only to get their antlers tripped and feet knocked out up in front of them. Other times, the reindeer would trip over their feet and fall down headfirst! This went on for some hours. Several large reindeer were called, “butcher!” and killed on the spot for food reasons. Others got lucky, and escaped. One reindeer received a special collar for herd tracking. Understandable. But how they get the reindeer from the tundra is beyond me. Tundra is very rough, and most spots would tear up your four-wheeler.


I’ve been busy trying to keep the house clean, so I stayed up late to finish some work. Lately, I’ve been hearing loud ripping sounds coming from my floors. It’s the carpet popping out of its seams. This summer, our duplex was re-leveled. One end of the house was raised nearly a foot high…having settled that much over the past several years. I’ve been told the house wasn’t built foundationally correct, and we’ve been having problems ever since. Other teachers have it worse. Every year on my end, a problem occurs with the middle partition, which separates the kitchen from the living room. Completely around the top portion of that partition, winter comes and separates the wall from the ceiling at least an inch. I also have several large cracks, and now the carpet is making noises. Last year (I believe), my neighbors on the other side of the duplex had a shattered window in the middle of winter. That room never got above fifty for the majority of the season.


As mentioned earlier, I’ve been busy…even missed an assignment’s due date. Thankfully, my professor gave an extension.  Now, we had a teacher’s parents visit this week, and they were quite pleasant to have around as company. Along with the teacher and her family, we toured the tundra, visiting various sites. Got stuck of course. Four-wheeler clogged up with water. But most importantly – they helped set the gill net.

Now for some reason, it takes over a week and a half for a single letter to get from Nome to Brevig Mission (even though we’re only 80-90 miles apart). This letter had to fly south to Anchorage, get processed, fly north BACK to Nome, and then to Brevig. It was my subsistence fishing permit, and it arrived Monday.boatnet

I wanted the gill net out. While a friend strongly advised against it that evening, citing strong winds, hardly any nets in the water, and possibly “youthful” ambition, we did so nevertheless. I took the chance with several teachers and our visitors’ help, due to wind direction and relatively good water. I don’t care if we came in around midnight, it was fun. Keep in mind this is what’s minimally required to get the net out. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Fill the inflatable raft and check for holes (we had some due to halibut)
  2. Unroll and untangle the net (took some time)
  3. Clean the net and lay flat across the beach
  4. Prepare the buoy and anchor. Use the inflatable raft and oar. Since I did not have an oar, I used a small blue shovel – just needed to be careful, and not puncture the boat.
  5. Connect a rope from the inflatable to the shore. This way, you can have someone pull you in after you dropped the anchor and buoy.
  6. Once the anchor and buoy is properly dropped, tie another rope to the buoy and have a person pull you in shore (make sure it’s a friend).
  7. Hold the net and pull yourself using the rope attached to the buoy. Once next to the buoy, connect the net.
  8. Pull yourself back in using the net.
  9. Attach the other side of the net to some fixture on shore.
  10. Check the gill net several hours later for salmon

An interesting event occurred one day. First, remember the oar was missing. So, I grabbed a small blue shovel – and it became my new oar. Second, my boat got a new hole…or two. Air was seeping out a bit faster than preferred. After a gratuitous amount of duct tape and cement glue, problem solved. I placed the anchor and buoy in the backside of the inflatable, and gave the rope I had previously rolled up to a teacher. Remember, it connected my boat to the shore, so I could be pulled back in. I sat down in the backside of the boat, and got about 50ft from shore when he yelled, “Greg!!” I looked back. “I think you’re missing some rope.” Confused, I pulled up my line and discovered only three feet remaining. I yelled out the teacher’s name in disbelief. I needed to get back to shore. Immediately. I turned the boat and paddled with my shovel…careful not to puncture the boat. It was no use. I wasn’t getting anywhere with this paddling. Normally, it would have been sufficient…but this case did not seem likely. After five or ten minutes (can’t remember), I gave up and began to drift a bit more back to sea. Then a thought occurred, “What if this anchor was in the front side of the boat…not with me?” I quickly tied the shovel handle to my small piece of rope, and tossed it overboard. I needed it out, in case the shovel punctured the raft with what I was about to do. I then began rolling the anchor bag to the front part of the boat. I kept it gentle, since I had a small leak behind me. Then with the anchor in front, I turned the boat back toward shore and began paddling. I felt much more resistance and initially a slower start, which was good. I began paddling against the anchor weight, which in return caused the boat not to turn around as much and…push forward. After a minute or so, I made “record time” to the shore.

salmonnetThe following day, we had a salmon return of 20 total – a record for us! However, the joy got spent quickly. The following hour after cleaning the salmon, I was pumping up the boat with a friend’s help, and the needle-sized whole turned into a six-inch rip. I done what I could to repair the boat, but now I’m sitting down in a Unalakleet school classroom for teacher training tomorrow. Next opportunity to test out the repairs will be this Wednesday or Thursday.


Today’s game is a spaghetti, western card game called Bang. You have several varieties of jobs, based on the number of players in the game. You could be a sheriff, deputy sheriff, outlaw, or renegade – each with its own objective to win the game. Then you pick your character, whose names often play parody off real life characters. Of course, any western game would not be complete without shooting one another – which you play a “bang” card to do so. If you get low on life, pick up a “beer” or “tequila” card to get some back. These links will take you to more detailed descriptions of the game: Bang Review &




  1. I love reading about your adventures! I always wanted to go to Alaska but never got the opportunity. I’m glad you made it to shore, that sounded scary!

    • I had several teachers joked they’ll pick me up at one of the few streams several miles west of my location. Overall, it was fun

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