SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Vox Populi #7
By Dave Kiffer


December 30, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - A lot of readers had thoughts on my column on whining about aging.

Natch, they were mostly my more senior readers who felt that they were aging more rapidly than me and that I was a "piker" for even suggesting that someone in his mid 40s should be grumbling about the march of time.

There were also several fun suggestions about how to determine whether one had "aged" or not. Such things as remembering when the West End grocery giants were "Wingrens" and "Log Cabin" or when fast food meant "Toot and Tell" or "Mattles"

One person even remembered being baby-sat by my mother when my mother - now a great-great grandmother - was a teenager!

My favorite email indicated that one was truly "aged" if they could remember when Dave Kiffer was in junior high. Touche!

gif 2006

By Olle Johansson, Sweden
Distributed to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Since I wrote that column, I have found another example that I am no longer a whippersnapper. In the last few weeks, the preponderance of the spam on my email accounts has shifted over from internet porn come-ons to on-line meds solicitations. Hello AARP, here I come! Arrrgggh!

The column on tree-in-a-box also bought several responses. Most notably, I was taken to the woodshed for denying my son the outdoorsy pleasure of stomping through the frozen muskeg in search of a tree.

As I mentioned, I plan to engage in that activity at least once before Liam turns 18. I just have to wait until the weather is appropriately inclement. I also need to track down some tree-climbing gear so I can send him up a tall spruce to top it off. That is another favorite memory of my youth.

Of course, my father decided that - when it was on the ground - the tree top wasn't so good after all. That's all part of the "sharing" of the experience that I plan to pass on to my son.

It reminds of a story that I read in the Haines newspaper many years ago about an old coot who lived outside of town. He apparently got so tired of local tree hunters topping off the trees in his neighborhood. So he did a pre-emptive first strike and topped off all the nearby trees himself. Just another case of destroying a village in order to save it.

Several readers were also puzzled when I "opined" that bull pine trees were sharper needled than spruce trees. I suppose it's a matter of degree. I still have a scar on my hand from falling against a bull-pine.

On the other hand (pun intended), my grandparents used to have the world's largest devils club in their back yard. Now there was the "tree" to decorate. Funny, I think we only tried that once!

I also heard from lovers of "big" trucks, who objected to my blanket dismissal of their value. I heard about the need to haul stuff and about how they are a "symbol" of the Last Frontier.

Okay, fine. I just wish those symbols weren't making it so hard for me to maneuver around the narrow little highways and byways of Our Fair Salmon City. Just the other day, I was boxed in again in the Centennial Building parking lot by a couple of white vehicular behemoths named after large geologic features; a Chevrolet Ice-Floe and a Dodge Grand Canyon. Where will it all end?

Since I wrote about the weather several times in the past couple of months, I received a lot of comment about it. As always (to misquote Will Rogers or Mark Twain or some such sage) everyone is talking about the weather but no one is doing much about it.

Several folks said that I was mistaken when I wrote that we had only had 39 days of measurable precipitation between mid October and late November, but the NOAA weather stats don't lie. See

Kudos to Joanna Markell at the Ketchikan Daily News for digging a little deeper to find that the all time record for most consecutive days of moisture was 101 straight days in 1953, which was also the year that Ketchikan had measurable precipitation on 327 out of 365 days.

That must have been a particularly dreadful weather year because of all the new construction that was taking place in relation to the opening of the pulp mill.

Roads were widened, large apartment buildings were being built, the downtown tunnel was being dug and the mill itself was under construction. Must have been fun pouring all that concrete in the rain. Maybe that's why so much of the mill itself was built from bricks.

I'm sure y'all will find this hard to believe but 1953 was just a little before my time. I also appear to missed Ketchikan's all-time westest day, more than 8 inches fell on Oct. 11, 1977. I had already headed for the sunnier climes of LA and although my first year in the Big Cheesy was the wettest one in nearly 30 years, it was nowhere near that wet in any single week let alone day.

But 2005 will live on in the collective memory as a particularly egregious example of - as Ray Troll puts it - being "as close as you can come to actually living underwater." We will probably end up just south of 200 inches for the year and that's "pretty durned wet."

Hopefully I will live to 2040 something so I can fondly say " but it's not as bad as it was in 2005, now that year was a wet one."

Here's hoping you all have a happy, healthy and (relatively) arid 2006.


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

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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