Love, Alaskan style & reindeer for breakfast
Published July 06, 2005
“You’re from WHERE?” I asked the cute-ish freshman I had just met in the campus cafeteria.
I started dating the guy, and, before I knew it, my Alaskan adventure had begun.
(I’ve chosen to skip the part about how I thought he was a dork for an entire year, and how he kept asking me out anyway, and how my roommates and I laughed at him behind his back, and how I eventually agreed to go out with him (just this once!), and how I decided he was actually kind of cute. Now we’ve been married almost 12 years and I’ve given birth to his two children. Go figure.)
The first time Chad told me he was from Alaska, I figured he had grown up in an Arctic wasteland where his dad trapped seals for dinner.
Then I went there.
In reality, Chad and his family lived 10 miles outside the town of Kenai on the Kenai Peninsula, which is south of Anchorage. They lived on a large wooded lot and moose often ventured into the yard looking for food. As remote as that may seem, a quick drive in the car would take you to anything you could possibly need, such as a post office, a grocery store, and, most importantly, Taco Bell.
This was quite an education for a Beaumont girl. Whenever I wanted to experience some elevation while I was growing up, I stood on top of a crawdad mound in my yard.
Alaska is full of natural spectacles of which I had never dreamed. Blue, blue rivers wind through mountain-lined, spruce-studded valleys. Eagles circle overhead. In the summer, you can get up at 5 a.m. and go to bed at midnight and never need the headlights on your car. You can even shoot a bear and eat it. (Although I do recommend a little cooking time.)
Chad did have to break some shocking news to me my first trip up there. That image you have in your head of brown-eyed reindeer decked out in jingle bells and dutifully whisking Santa around the world on Christmas Eve?
Forget it. Reindeer, which are domesticated caribou, are raised in Alaska for nothing other than to be made into sausage. Now you know how Santa got so fat. (“Blitzen! It’s What’s for Breakfast!”)
Reindeer meat notwithstanding (truthfully, it’s quite tasty), I came to love Alaska. I loved pulling huge, flopping fish out of salmon-packed rivers in the summers. I loved ice-skating on frozen lakes in the winters. I even loved watching volcanic ash flutter out of the sky for days following a nearby eruption. Alaska is an amazing place.
Chad and I even kissed on top of a mountain. No wonder I fell in love with the guy.
In 1994, my in-laws moved out of Alaska and our visits there stopped. Last week, Chad finally got to go back after 11 years. He hiked, fished and drove around his hometown. He spent time with old friends and visited the grave of his sister, the victim of a 1992 car accident.
Next summer, we hope all four of us can go to Alaska. Texas is the only home our girls have known, but Alaska is a big part of who they are.
Until then, we’ll be standing on crawdad mounds in our backyard.
Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.