Thursday, May 29, 2014

Harry of Alaska

I found the notes from my 2007 bus/van trip to Alaska. This is Harry, whom I rode with from the Tok to Fairbanks leg.

Harry is a Native American in his early 60s. He was born in Fort Yukon, one of 13 children. When he was five years old, he fell off a tree and shattered his entire left side. He was sedated with methadone at a hospital for eleven months. Back then, there was no medical knowledge about withdrawals so the medical staff just released him from the hospital. He had blackouts and other horrible symptoms for three years after that.

At age 17, he left home because of his step-father. He became an electrician and joined the Teamsters. He was a workaholic. 

Harry served in Vietnam. He first claimed that he served a few tours, but then admitted that he only served seven months and was discharged with PTSD. He has not worked regularly since. His union paid over $3 million in benefits.

He has two daughters and three grandchildren. His mom lives in North Pole, Alaska, a suburb of Fairbanks. He has a sibling in New York.

Harry wears a cap that has an Intel logo, except it says "Jesus Inside". He looks like a swarthier version of Senator Daniel Inouye. When I noticed the cap, he started talking about miracles, God, etc. He mentioned these subjects in the course of pleasant conversation, and not in a pushy way.

He lives alone on a 160 acre plot between Beaver and Birch Creek. Harry supports himself by trapping. He shares with me a salmon jerky he made. It's tough but good. A bush pilot flies him to civilization for $600 per trip. The longest he has ever been alone is 91 days. Being alone too long, not surprisingly, makes one go crazy. Like Howard Hughes, Harry explains, your image of your self is magnified. Before he gets too lonely or just before he comes back to civilization, he plugs in his satellite dish and watches TV.

He is frustrated with how the VA hospital and doctors have treated him. In fact, he's on his way to the VA hospital now for a regular check-up. The VA pays for his transportation, i.e. the bush pilot and this van company, to take him to and from the hospital.

Harry would give up his annual oil revenue check (which every Alaska resident is entitled to) if he could have the pre-oil discovery Alaska back.

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