SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaska Bush Mayor!

By Dave Kiffer


August 14, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska -
I must be the only person in Alaska without my own reality show.

jpg  Life, Death and Road Maintenance by Dave Kiffer

Really, every time I turn on the tube, someone else has a show “celebrating” just how bat-guano crazy someone has to be live in this here Last Frontier.

First, it was those wacky fishermen on the Deadliest Catch. Bad weather, check! Bad crew, check! Bad language, check!

Of course, if anyone spent so much time fighting foul weather, foul crews and foul language as those yahoos do on that show they wouldn’t have any time to catch anything to sell. But who would turn in to watch a show in which the weather was nice, the crew was nice and the language was nice?

Apparently one person.

You see, I have a surprisingly high Google “profile” and people seem to contact me with questions about Alaska all the time. Usually several times a week.

A few years back, right after Deadliest Catch hit big, I got a message from someone claiming to a “religious broadcaster” wondering if I knew of “any Alaskan fishermen who fished in a Christian manner.”

I suspected he meant something a little less profane than Deadliest Catch. Maybe even a few allusions to “fishers of men” etc. But I wasn’t sure, so I asked him to define “fishing in a Christian manner.”

I guess the fact that I had to ask meant I wasn’t fit to know because he never answered.

Or maybe he just got some Canadian fisherfolk because they are less profane and work for less money.

So it goes.

After the deadly catchers, we were inundated with those zany State Troopers busting in all over our airwaves in search of meth-headed miscreants and other ne’er do wells.

Don’t get me wrong. Alaska has a lot of the illicitizing ilk. In fact, one could probably argue that we have too many of them. And I am all for the Troopers getting a few more of them off the streets (or dog sled paths). But I am still not convinced that bringing along film crews is the best way to conduct police actions.

For one thing, it makes the viewers down south think that everyone in Alaska is a hopped up doofus who always seems to be running around without a shirt no matter how cold or wet it is outside. Speaking on behalf Alaska’s hopped up doofuses (doofi?), most of the ones I see are more covered up than that. I mean there’s a reason why hoodies are so popular in Alaska.

Besides fishermen and troopers, there are a variety of other Alaskan stars of reality TV. There are rescue workers, there are pilots, there veterinarians, there are homesteaders.

Lord, are there are homesteaders. Clearly, according to the Lame Stream Media, there is no greater goal in life than to chuck it all up, throw your meager belongs over your shoulder and head for the wilderness to get back to some sort of American frontier life that has, in truth, been out of fashion in America for something like 400 years.

After all, when the pioneers first struggled ashore in America what did they do?

Did they each run off in a million different directions trying to “get off the grid” as soon as possible?

Heck no, the first thing they did was start building “the grid.”

They built cities. They build roads. They built outhouses. It don’t get more “grid” than that.

Naturally, I digress.

At any rate, these days everyone in Alaska apparently wants to live off the grid (except for the mail service that brings their permanent fund dividend checks). At least that’s what reality TV wants us to believe.

There have been at least four different shows featuring Alaskans, or Outsiders, living – or trying to live – off the grid in the Last Frontier.

The most recent example of “grid-ophobia,” is Alaskan Bush People.

“Deep in the Alaskan wilderness lives a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild,” says the promo on the Discovery Channel.

Well, isn’t that special?

Sounds little like the Swiss Family Robinson, except they are a lost tribe like the Tasaday or those ones that crop up in the Amazon every so often. I was once accused, by an Outsider, of “being raised by wolves” but it sounds like these folks really were! Go figure.

They “are so far removed from civilization that they often go six to nine months of the year without seeing an outsider.”

Okay, we all pretty much do that. It’s called winter and not many “outsiders” see fit to visit us between October and May. But I guess the promo means that they don’t spend much time in “town” either. Well, we’ll discuss that in a few paragraphs.

“They are unlike any other family in America.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that just about every family in Alaska, on or off the grid, it pretty much alike in its weirdness. So if we are all weird, and the Bush People are also weird, well that doesn’t sound all that unusual.

Now, since I like to see things for myself, so I tuned into an episode “Alaskan Bush People” the other day. As luck would have it (see above) almost the entire episode was one they spent in Our Fair Salmon City. Apparently, it was that one day every nine months in which they “come to town.”

Lucky us.

The first part of the show seemed to deal with having to pay a local dentist for services rendered. Since the “coin of the realm” is a terrible, terrible thing to all “off the gridders,” they seemed intent on paying for those services with a tote full of dead humpies. Yep, that happens every day in Ketchikan. Maybe I should see if my dentist would take a ling cod or two for that next root canal?

At least, they could have brought in some kings, cohos, or sockeye, but then catching those would have actually demonstrated that the Bush People really indeed knew how to live in the Bush.

Next up, the three young men of the family decided to go down town and chat up some women. One of them wisely noted that cruise ship days are great days find women in Ketchikan. It’s true, there are a lot more single women on town on cruise ship days, but I don’t think that’s the demographic the Bushers were looking for.

And apparently, they couldn’t even find them.

The show then shows them chatting up three young and attractive “cruise ship” women who just so happened to be three fairly well-known local women. One of them was well known enough for my son to turn to me and say “Dad, when is she gonna tell that idiot that she’s married?”

Technically, she wasn’t quite married when this was filmed months ago, but she was seriously engaged.

Anyway, the final segment of the show featured the Bush People upset that their boat sank in a Ketchikan harbor. A sinking boat is a shame, don’t get me wrong. I have been on the damp end of that transaction more than once.

Yet, this boat was still tied to dock and could probably have been pulled back without too much effort. Rumor has it that it was.

But the Bush People were standing around looking at the half sunk ship and mouthing platitudes about how tough it is to live in the Bush and how God works in mysterious ways. It was like one of those “God and Family” epilogues

they always have on Duck Dynasty. But that must have just been a coincidence, ya think?

All the Bush People need to do is to work on fluffing up their scraggly beards.

And to ditch those black leather motorcycle jackets. For all their talk of being Southeast wilderness survival experts, they didn’t seem particularly dressed for anything remotely involving rain.

So overall, I will have to steal someone else’s rating system and give the Bush People three or four “Pinocchios” for a general lack of “truthiness.”

Which gets me back to my own reality show. The one I do not have.

Once upon a time, I was talking to a producer from Los Angeles about local pilots for a bush pilot reality show (he didn’t bite on our local pilots because none of them sweared colorfully enough).

At one point, in the conversation, he got briefly interested in the life of a small town Alaskan mayor. He wondered if Ketchikan had moose or grizzlies wandering through the town. He wondered if fist fights broke out on the streets and the mayor had to break them up. He wondered if I ever swore during Borough Assembly meetings.

Finally, I admitted that, yes, sometimes the weather here is really, really bad.

Even over the phone I could sense his ears perked up.

“So, what are some of the things you do every day?”

I told him that I signed ordinances and I chaired meetings.

“But the mayor must do some wacky things in Ketchikan, right?”

I repeated that I signed ordinances and I chaired meetings.

“Really what’s the wildest thing that happened to the mayor yesterday?”

I thought for a minute.

“Well,” I said, after few seconds. “I was in a grocery store and a resident started talking to me about sludge fees. And he talked, and he talked, and he talked. Finally, he stopped when he noticed that my ice cream had melted and was running down my arm and dripping into a big puddle on the floor.”

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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