du jour include Gertrude, Leopold, Arnoul, Desiderius, Albert
the Great (patron of students, scientists, and of all the natural
sciences), Valeria, and Eugene.
Waterston (61), (Judge) Joseph Wapner (82), and Ed Asner (72) are
all birthday boys today.
State Park in Custer, South Dakota, is holding its annual buffalo
auction today and between 500 and 750 people from all over the country
are expected to attend. Just out of curiosity, what is the weather
currently in Custer, South Dakota? Predictably, it is snowing and
the temperature is expected to get all the way up into the 10's. This
should make the 300-500 "surplus" buffalo nice and frisky.
And they had better be pretty darn frisky, too, since buffalo aren't
cheap. At the North Dakota Buffalo Association Fall 1996 sale held
on December 14 in Mandan, North Dakota (where the weather had to be
even worse than in Custer in November), the cheapest buffalo, bull
calves around 385 pounds, went for $500-825 per head and 2-year-old
bred heifers (females who haven't had calves before but are pregnant
now) went for $2,295-4000 per head.
According to the NDBA, the "heighlight" [sic] of the sale
was that 616 head of buffalo brought in $1.2 million. That would have
been the heighlight to me.
Now, the NDBA isn't interested in merely sponsoring buffalo sales--it
is actively promoting the buffalo industry. Their site has an entire
brochure entitled "Why Raise Buffalo" that is bound to bring
a smile to your face. Just for starters:
"Why Raise Buffalo? You'd like to get into the buffalo business,
a little hesitant because you're not all that acquainted with the
Why, yes, that is ONE reason that I hesitate.
It was like driving down a glacier and I was terrified. However, after
an eternity of plummeting down the mountain we leveled off safe and
sound on the outskirts of Haines and there I saw my first Alaskan
Actually, I saw hundreds. It was an eagle sanctuary and it was the
time of year when the eagles gathered in droves, or whatever eagles
gather in, to take advantage of the spawning salmon fighting their
way up the Chilkat River. Eagles stood shoulder to shoulder in the
icy shallow water surrounded by struggling fish. Eagles unable to
eat another bite filled the branches of the fir trees at the river's
edge. Eagles everywhere you looked.
Luckily, there was a ferry leaving Haines that night and we arrived
long enough ahead of its departure that I had time for a brief tour
of the town. It was one of the places I had considered when I was
picking my destination and now I was very glad I had settled on a
Dropped at the terminal, I straightened out my ticket with no trouble
but I had forgotten about getting the dogs on the ferry. If all had
gone as planned, they would have stayed in the car for the trip--several
times a day people were allowed to go to the car deck to take care
of pets. Without a car, I didn't have a way to contain the dogs. Again,
I got lucky. The terminal at Haines provided free kennels, requesting
only that they be sent back with the boat. Apparently people less
attached to their pets used to just abandon them rather than buy a
kennel, and it cost the city less to pay for kennels than deal with
And so I was finally on my way to Wrangell. The dogs were on the car
deck safe and sound and I took my pile of stuff and went to the passenger
area where I got my first exposure to Alaska food prices, decided
I wasn't hungry so much as tired, found a spot to throw down my sleeping
bag, and fitfully slept.
Morning was lovely. The sun was shining and everything looked like
a travelogue. The blue, blue water and the blue, blue sky--no pollution
here. Mountains leaped out at us, all snowy and sparkling bright.
It was more beautiful than I could have imagined and I was used to
living with natural beauty. This was different. It was what breathtaking
is all about.
I met a couple of guys who lived in Petersburg, on an island one stop
short of Wrangell. They were vehement about my rethinking the Wrangell
plan, saying that Petersburg was cleaner and far more civilized. These
guys didn't look all that clean or civilized to me, so I decided that
if they thought that Wrangell was somewhat barbaric, I probably DID
want to move to Petersburg instead. Besides, the ferry was stopping
in Petersburg at noon, so I would have four whole hours of sunny daylight
to find a job and a place to live.