You know how when some people come into your life, you know they’ll be there forever? Then, life intervenes and you wander off on separate paths, running into each other occasionally here and there, now and then, and years go by without contact. A rumor passed on from a mutual friend lets you know that friend’s general whereabouts and well-being. Or not.
Suddenly, word of that person’s death arrives at your doorstep. No, you say, I was just thinking about him a couple weeks ago. I was wondering how he was, what he was up to now, and if he had ever quit smoking. I remembered this story and that story about him, and those stories brought smiles to my sad heart. Then I tried to recall the last time I’d actually seen him, and I scanned back through the years like riffling through a Rolodex, and realized it’s been almost twenty years.
But that can’t be. It seems like only yesterday
A much newer incarnation of the McCarthy Lodge.
McCarthy was a boom town that sprang up five miles downhill from the Kennecott Copper Mine in the early part of the 1900s, one of those places that provided “rest and recreation” (with very little rest) for the isolated miners from the mine. When the price of copper plunged, the mine closed and was abandoned, but a score of hardy
folks remained at McCarthy. The old railroad that hauled copper to Cordova for shipment was shut down, and the railbed used as summer access to McCarthy, with many a rail spike showing up for decades afterwards to smite an unsuspecting tire.
Ruins of Kennecott Copper Mine, circa 1985.
In the winter, however, the only way out of McCarthy was by airplane, dogteam, or mare’s shank.
Dogteams on main street of McCarthy, ca. 1985. Lodge is uphill on left of road.
My husband and Adrian worked together on several construction jobs, the last one on
The commissary in our construction camp on
He did, however continue working in
The exciting plank bridge over the Kuskulana River on the road to McCarthy, built as a railroad trestle in 1910. It has been refurbished since, as isn't anywhere near as exciting to cross. Planks were missing off the old 500 foot-long bridge, and the river could be seen 283 feet below.
Parked behind the limo at the airport arrivals curb was a white Dodge van that was to pick up the project manager, the one who had much to do with
Thus, when word circulated a couple days ago that
Spike from defunct Copper River and Northwestern Railroad. They continue to pop up along the gravel road to McCarthy, which is the old railbed.
It was his dad Winston who had quietly slipped the bonds of earth on a peaceful Sunday morning, perhaps an out of character way to pass for a man who had lived life to the fullest. I’m sure, however, that in passing he epitomized the words of advice on the plaque that hangs above my computer, the one about skidding “in sideways, totally worn out, shouting Holy S…! What a ride!”
And, I’m sure he was every bit as proud of the stories that surround his son today as he was of the teenager he called a man to a high school teacher, many, many years ago.