SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

The unspeakable word



September 15, 2015
Tuesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Gentle readers with delicate constitutions may want to avert their eyes.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Today's topic is the "F" word.

(shock and horror ensues)

Yes, I have been subjected to several recent conversations in which the four letter "F" word has been bandied about so frequently, so carelessly, so routinely that you would "swear" it was as ubiquitous as a humpy trying to make it up Ketchikan Creek or at least as common as an alder leaf dancing on the winds of September.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, the "F" bomb has landed.

It is FALL in Our Fair Salmon City.

Sure, sure, chronologically it is not "Fall" until September 23. And that other harbinger of the season, the Death of Daylight Savings, doesn't even happen until after Halloween on November 1 (Spring Ahead, FALL down!).

But the chill was in the air on Labor Day and that got people jawing.

"Wow, it's nippy."

"What happened to summer?"

"Seems kinda early this year."


It is Ketchikan, so it's always nippy.

And summer is always optional in these here parts, although we did have a lovely May and June.

And how can Fall be early? Especially if summer seems to usually end around the Fourth of July?

Early would be Fall arriving in March.

Which has been known to happen.

Oh well. I guess we didn't have enough to grumble about, so we had to get all up on step about summer being over. Even before the last sunny, warm Labor Day barbeque party.

Which technically – in Ketchikan - was in 1937.

But I digress.

Hope Springs (a great name for a town) eternal, and I saw many people rushing to buy their party fixins at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, even though the National Weather Service was predicting a “Post Tropical Storm”

(there’s a slogan for ya, “Ketchikan: Your Post Tropical Paradise”) to arrive on Labor Day itself.

Of course, betting against the weather gnomes is always a safe call.

Whatever happened to Hurricane Ignacio that was supposed to come here?

The projected weather maps showed it taking a sharp right turn north of Hawaii and smacking full ukulele into Southeast Alaska. Maybe it hit north but it sure didn’t do much here.

Even if it did digress into a tropical depression, we could have used a little more weather excitement than the three day drizzle we got. Go figure.

Speaking of which, three of the Eastern Pacific Hurricanes this year either have been named or will be named after former girlfriends of myself. Should I be concerned?

That’s a serious tropical digression!

And why are we all so bummed about the "arrival" of Fall anyway?

Because In many parts of the world, Fall is a glorious time.

The heat of summer has broken and the blizzards of winter have yet to arrive. The temps are moderate and that little crack in the air puts a spring in your step. Feeling your nose and your fingertips start to chill on your daily constitutional always makes that hot toddy seem even more inviting.

I experienced a half dozen such Falls in New England with the leaf-peeping and everything. It was a wonderous Goldylocksian time; not too hot, not too cold, just right.

Even in other parts of Alaska, Fall can be a joy. The changing colors and the steady but slow march down the hills of the Termination Dust. Winter IS coming, but be joyful that it has not yet arriveth.

But alak, alas. Fall in Southern Southeast is neither wonderous nor glorious. It is wet and bitter and wet and windy and wet and slushy and - did I remember to say wet?

Even in these days of Global Warming one can still expect it to start raining in October and end, well, sometime the following year, if we're lucky.

Climate Change? Not fast enough for us locals.

And, of course, it is also a wee bit windy.

Despite all the rainfall – four feet is the norm between September and November – we don’t tend to get that much flooding, because – wait for it – it tends to blow horizontally above the landscape and not land on the ground.

Kind of like how Barrow is one long winter blizzard in which only 10 inches of snow actually falls.

Thank heavens for small favors. But if you are walking you get wet none-the-less.

And it is that lovely, bone chilling sort of wet. The kind that is – in its own way - more bitter than those minus 40 degree days in Fairbanks. At least that’s what we tell ourselves when we brag – and yes we do – about how “bad” our weather is, even though we do not have “weather” like other parts of Alaska.

So, that's why people get all touchy when they think Fall is on its way. The weather that defines our toughness is on its way or may have already arrived. And, of course, summer wasn’t really much of a “summer.” Because it never is.

Actually, you can always feel just a hint of fall in the air the first week of each August, as if the local earth took one revolution just a bit farther away from the sun or if there was one additional waterlogged cloud in the sky.

Ah, fooey, maybe we're just too sensitive.

I'm sure it is still summer somewhere.

Just not here.

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