"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, December 2, 2019

Turnabout Is Fair Play

Ed Estes (1911-1996) is a local legend. He came to Moose Pass as a youngster when his mother Leora was hired as a cook during the construction of what eventually became the Alaska Railroad. 

She was also the first postmaster in this fledgling settlement and, according to Ed, she named it Moose Pass.

Lean, wiry, and hard-working all his life, Ed was tough as steel. He owned the local grocery store with his brothers, worked heavy equipment jobs in the local area and unloaded freight from the railroad with an ancient crane, the same one he had operated in Whittier during WWII. He also owned a gas station and one of his favorite stories was selling "no leak air" for 25 cents to a customer with a very low tire. The guy had summoned Ed after hours and only wanted air, not gas.

He also had a contract with the US Postal Service to deliver the US mail to Hope by dog sled, a distance of more than 50 miles one way, before an all-season road was constructed.   In all kinds of weather, and for the princely sum of $25.

My husband and I took Ed to dinner on his 67th birthday to a small local restaurant. Shortly after we placed our orders, Ed got down on the floor in the stance of a pushup,  hands and toes.   He put a toothpick between two fingers of his right hand and put his left hand behind his back. Then, with one arm, he lowered himself, took the toothpick between his teeth, and raised his body again in a one-armed pushup!

Ed loved to tell stories and he was good at it. Some seemed to be pretty far-fetched but he swore they were all true. Who cared, actually? They were great stories. How I wished I had written them down or recorded them.

I worked for Ed briefly when his bookkeeper was on vacation. My husband tipped me off that Ed was lamenting about cooking a turkey and his store was out of cranberry sauce. He told Ed that I had recently canned many jars of cranberry sauce made from the local lingonberries.

Eventually, Ed came to me and after a long, drawn-out explanation, finally came to the point. I said nothing. That threw him.

At length, I wiped my eyes and shook my head. Ed asked if anything was wrong.

"I don't know, Ed. But, every time I look at you, all I see are dollar signs." He lit up at having his favorite line turned on him. He said he'd be right back.

He returned with one of the kitchen serving utensils shown in the photo below, placing it triumphantly before me. They are very nice utensils with rosewood handles and engraved with the name of his corporation. He used to give them out at Christmas to his store customers.

I waited.

"Pints of half-pints?" I said. His grin got bigger and he scampered off to the storeroom, returning with two more utensils.

"How many?"

Before it was over, Ed had several jars of cranberry sauce, I had a handful of loot, and both of us were grinning over a great story to tell in the future.


  1. Tender post Gullible. I missed something in the story where Ed put a toothpick between two fingers and laid down on the floor etc. I assume you still have the nice utensils with rosewood handles. 75 miles to Hope and back by dog sled. Was that a once-a-week mail run? Smiles and Hugs from Patti and myself.

    1. I dithered about how to describe the push up and toothpick event. I just rewrote it and think I got it this time.

    2. Got it. A one-armed-push-up. Yes you got it. Smiles Cap and Patti who somehow knew about the one-armed-push-up feat.

  2. Sounds like Ed was yet another of our Alaskans to be treasured. His pushups at 67 years old, when you and Ken took him to dinner, are indicative of the great shape he must have been in .. and the life you portray of him certainly depicts that he stayed ACTIVE! Pretty good trade, your homemade cranberry sauce for the beautiful utensils. Love the story! You, yourself, are a legend in my eyes and heart! Smiles and hugs. Patti (and Cap who will soon be returning from more world travels)

  3. You drove a hard bargain and awakened Ed to the fact you were on to him. Initially, he didn't know who he was dealing with! You are one tough and humorous cookie.🤗

  4. Great post about Ed Estes. I'm wondering if we can excerpt a small portion of this for a book being written about the history of Moose Pass? Please email me at kaylene.johnson@gmail.com Thanks!