The Monday after Bouchercon, I left
And it was in the airport that I got the first sense of just how many more men there are than women. It’s not ten to one, as is popularly stated, but about 114 single men for every 100 single women. I don’t know what the statistics are for all men and women, or how this varies across the state, but I will say it was not only my bright red “I’m-not-a-deer” jacket (very useful in
I first took a small commercial plane to McGrath (left), and from there, took an even smaller plane (just enough room for me, the pilot, my bag, and his deliveries) to Takotna. It was just a short hop, about twelve minutes, but complicated because of the weather: fog or clouds means you stay put. There aren’t many other ways to get to Takotna; presumably you can travel by boat when the river is high enough, and there are a few roads to other local villages, but pretty much small planes are it. I was later told that the airstrip in Takotna is one of the ten most dangerous in
Takotna (right) was established as a gold mining town in the early 1900s. Now, there are about fifty people there year-round, including about 9 students in the junior-senior high school (if I remember correctly, there were four in grade school). When you live in a small community, I learned that anything new draws attention, and me wandering around the village was definitely new.
While I was at the school, I spoke to the students about what goes into a mystery, about writing in general, and about archaeology and archaeologists (I also did a couple of talks, one for the writers in the village and one for the library group). Among other things, I gave the students a couple of writing prompts (“What would you tell an Outsider about Takotna?” and “Create a superhero or action hero character. Describe what his (or her) powers are, what he stands for and against”). What I like about doing writing prompts is that you see that there are many different ways of approaching the same subject (in this case, setting and character, respectively), and in this case, it was a great way for the students to tell me about their community.
The landscape around the community was gorgeous, even in the rain. When the clouds broke, you could see
During an Alaskan winter in the bush, it’s colder and darker longer than around here, and if you don’t plan your food and fuel consumption just right, you’re going to get into trouble. Imagine having to fly in all the food you don’t hunt or grow—fresh produce is at a premium—and then having to store it for a month (or months). You have to be a jack-of-many-trades, because there’s no corner garage to bail you out when something breaks, and the Geek Squad won’t make it out your way when your hard-drive crashes. I like and admire the idea of taking such responsibility for yourself, and I’m good at tactical and strategic thinking, but I’m not sure I would find that kind of life easy. The neat thing was that one minute I’d be hearing stories about hunting, trapping, fishing, and three- and four-wheelers, and the Iditerod (the mushers and dog teams stop in Takotna every winter), things that I know nothing about, and the next minute, we’d all be talking about things we had in common: cats, books, music, and movies.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet the people I did, and to see rural