Posted by: gmelvin | September 1, 2013

School’s Started – Along w/ Everything Else



“Hey, the district plane is here!” I looked out my duplex window, and saw the plane taxing across the runway. “That’s odd,” I thought. We were supposed to take the ERA charter Imageplane to Unalakleet. I quickly called another teacher to clear my confusion, and he informed me that several bags were being dropped off. That’s all. So I got the school truck keys, and headed out to the runway. When I arrived, the plane already took off while leaving the bags on the tarmac. I picked them up, and after looking on their label asked myself, “Who’s Montgomery?”

It’s the time of the year for teacher training. All district villages send their teachers to Unalakleet, AK for 2-3 days of training. Unalakleet is the same village from where Flying Wild Alaska is based. You would stay in school classrooms, or a friend’s house if you were lucky. Showers in the school gym locker rooms. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner in the MPR, aka “cafeteria.” Meetings with your school staff. Life here is busy most of the day, which is one of the reasons I haven’t posted anything for awhile. However, everything calms down with after-school teacher activities. They provided fishing opportunities, marathon, water boarding on the shore line (while being tied to a 4-wheeler), Zumba and karaoke (I did not attend either), and board games in the MPR. It was in our first staff meeting that I learned we had a brand new teacher, whose bags I picked up that morning.

One day, all district teachers assembled in the gym for morning announcements. We were crowded, but mostly waiting to get onto our workshop sessions. Time lag of some sort going on, so we waited for the admin to arrive. He came in, and put on an awkward face of apology for being late. Our anxiousness settled when he excused his tardiness for talking with Chuck Yeager. Was that a bad joke? Nope, Chuck Yeager then walked into the gym. It was hardly believable for such a popular character to visit in Unalakleet, AK. He smiled and waved to the crowd, and our conversation with him was quite funny. There was a mad rush of teachers as the assembly closed, just to get a hand shake and picture take with him at the last moment.

FYI – check this other blog about our training. It also has a “unique” photo of a caribou standing up in the back of a truck…at the airport…


            It was a brilliant Saturday outside, and I decided to find a musk ox before school started. My neighbor went with me on the 4-wheeler (which is named Stormy) to the west side of the village, California Creek. Nothing. Although it was a nice ride, he had to be dropped off when we came back to the village. I decided to go on the east side in search for a herd. It didn’t take too long. Just as I about made a turn to the reindeer camp, a large herd grazed on the grass in plain site. I carefully picked out a male from the herd, and made a shot. He swayed back and forth, but didn’t go down. A few minutes later, I made another shot. He was down in seconds, but something odd happened. Another nearby bull came and started butting the downed musk ox with his horns. The Imageshot bull on the ground looked up at him for a few seconds, as though asking, “Why?” The other bull just continued with his horns. The downed bull made one more glance, and then fell limp.

This was my first time field dressing any hunting game by myself, and it was the toughest act of my life. Physically. I’ve worked together with other teachers several times with killed hunts (including my first kill), and had a basic idea on how to field dress. However, this guy (musk ox) had tons of hair. Plus, he’s big. I eventually got the head and hid off, and was very careful while gutting the bull. A friend helped me the following day in detaching the remaining ribs and backstrap meat in the rain. We sliced off all the meat the following week. We now have meat for the school year, which includes roast, steaks, jerky, and stew meat. Plus, we can make hamburger! I enjoy getting my meat from musk ox and salmon, as it saves me cost in having meat shipped from Anchorage or Nome! There is a chance I’ll find a moose this year.


            One of my favorite past times is taking other teachers and friends out for a ride in the tundra for their first time. Many are surprised on what’s actually “out” there. Even more, they are surprised at what a 4-wheeler can actually do. Steep inclines, treading rocky terrain, navigating deep ends of a large stream, mud and snow – not much what a good machine can’t handle. I went out with such a group just yesterday, and below are some pictures. Several show an ugly ditch we often get stuck in, and how we got the 4-wheeler out. For some, this is “old-hat.” For others, it’s a fun outing!


Tying both 4-wheelers together

 Pulling out of ditch via rope

Group shot of everyone on top, several miles north on California Creek

Group shot of everyone on top, several miles north on California Creek

On the way back, we searched and found a large batch of salmonberries and blue berries. I don't like them, but maybe my family in Oklahoma will

On the way back, we searched and found a large batch of salmonberries and blue berries. I don’t like them, but maybe my family in Oklahoma will

*I didn’t mention any games that we’ve played this week due to this lengthy post. If I have time, I’ll post some extra smaller blogs this week…if I have time.


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