Verses of the Ballad #3


When I was a young boy growing up on the muddy banks of the Yentna River in bush Alaska, my family kept a lot of Alaskan Huskies–sled dogs for use running trap-lines, hauling freight, and running various ultra marathons such as the world-famous Iditarod. It was a lot of work keeping them all fed, and one of my chores, I shared this duty with my older brother Laird, was the daily ritual of ‘firing up the cooker’ to make all of them a hearty rice & salmon soup.

The following passages are from my novel ‘Ballad of the Northland’, where I describe the story’s primary character “The Boy” sharing a similar job–

1

Dawn smudged the sky into gradually lightening tones of grey, and a chill rain continued to fall. The Boy knelt in the mud and squalor of the dooryard amidst a flock of emaciated Cornish Cross chickens and starving Toulouse geese, all honking and gabbling desperately to be fed. He had gathered a little pile of the driest alder sticks that he could find and was now trying to set fire to some old crunckled up dog food bags covered with sap-sticky handfuls of dead spruce limbs. The plastic lining of the bags started to sizzle and black smoke coiled upwards. He immediately began to feed the smallest of the alder sticks to the growing blaze, and soon had a modest cook fire going under the chopped down 55-gallon drum that served as the dog team’s cook pot.

Heaped in a sticky pile on a tattered blue tarpaulin was the catch of chum salmon that Uncle and Auntie had gill netted from the previous day; a glassy-eyed, hook nosed jumble of dull red flesh and toothy grins. The Boy shooed the chickens away, then dumped the fish into the pot. Up in the lot, the dogs watched silently from their houses. Once the water reached a hard boil, he added several Tang cans of dry rice to the steaming mix and more wood to the blaze. He had a long stick which he used to keep the mess stirred up.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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4 Responses to “Verses of the Ballad #3”

  1. Marlene Phillips-Daniels Reply January 17, 2011 at 22:50

    Jason, I am really enjoying the Blog. Certainly remembered the picture you painted in Ballad, reading today’s Blog.

    • Sorry Marlene–I thought I already responded to this!

      Thank you for your positive comment–seeing as how you’ve read the novel, I hope you don’t mind ‘re-runs’!

  2. Jason Read your book in one sitting could not put it down Your talent for writing compares with your talent with your furry friends. I couldn’t help but admire how you combined the many personalities of the folks we know.
    And when it came to the spot where your family came to it’s demise that sounded like the same spot I lost Trim And the mention of Pilot brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the enjoyment, the memories and the stories to come. Harmony you are extremely talented and I always knew you and Jas would make a good Combo Love to the whole Family Happy Tails and Soft Landings

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