When Sarah Palin burst upon our con­scious­ness, she brought her fam­i­ly along, includ­ing the baby, Trig.

The grand­fa­ther says Trig is named after his great uncle, a Bris­tol Bay fisherman.

I vague­ly remem­ber read­ing this expla­na­tion of the name at the time. I gave no thought to where the name might have come from beyond that.

On page 405 of Com­ing Into the Coun­try, McPhee is dis­cussing the cab­ins of Dick and Donna.

The shan­ty that Dick and Don­na use on stopovers in Eagle is only a lit­tle up from squalid…Their fish camp down the Yukon can be dis­cour­ag­ing, too – a dirty, fetid, light­less cab­in astink in aging salmon. These more man­i­fest habi­ta­tions long ago earned Cook a rep­u­ta­tion as a sloven – among peo­ple who have nev­er been here. This seclud­ed cab­in (his home of homes) is neat and tidy – in fact, trig.

Upon read­ing this, I imme­di­ate­ly thought about the Palin baby. Vis­it­ing I find the fol­low­ing definitions:

neat, trim, smart, or spruce.

in good phys­i­cal con­di­tion; sound; well.

to sup­port or prop, as with a wedge.

to act as a check on (the mov­ing of wheels, vehi­cles, etc.)

That is a com­pli­cat­ed four let­ter name. With luck the ironies will shift and mul­ti­ply as he grows.

A Chuckle

I got a chuck­le* from this on page 376 in Com­ing Into the Coun­try. The speak­er is a woman named Elva. Elva has a mas­ter’s degree in edu­ca­tion and for many years ran the school-dis­tricts health pro­gram in Anchor­age. This expe­ri­ence leaves her the most qual­i­fied med­ical provider in the town of Eagle.

Peo­ple come in off the riv­er with blood infec­tions, red streaks up their arm. They get cys­ti­tis from not enough water. They come down from Daw­son with v.d. We don’t have lab­o­ra­to­ry tests. We treat on symp­toms. An out­board motor chewed on a guy’s legs awhile. We sewed him up. I tell every­one, ‘I don’t mind help­ing you out. Just don’t use me.’ We don’t want to be awak­ened for noth­ing, for some­one who is mere­ly drunk. For gun­shot wounds and stab­bings I of course get up. Oh, we have enough of that sort of thing. Yeah. You betcha. We’re get­ting ready to have din­ner with com­pa­ny and they come in and bleed all over the sink. Who needs TV in Eagle? We’ve got action enough in the streets.

You betcha.

I’m guess­ing health care costs in Eagle were (are?) on the low end.

*I won­der if I’ve ever used that word before.….


McPhee’s Com­ing Into The Coun­try has begun to get more inter­est­ing in the sec­ond half…

On page 261* is this:

In a good fish year, two moose, two hun­dred ducks, and sev­en­ty-five quarts of king salmon will be plen­ty for one riv­er cou­ple. The upper Yukon now is con­sid­ered “full,” sat­u­rat­ed with set­tlers, all space reserved – rough­ly one per­son for every five miles.

One per­son for every five miles is con­sid­ered sat­u­ra­tion. I guess because if things get more crowd­ed a need for a wee bit of gov­ern­ment arises.

Just pri­or to the above is an account of a near­ly week long gath­er­ing of “riv­er peo­ple” for the 1976 ver­nal equinox.

It was a coun­cil of war and a par­ty, too – a time of talk and music, no booze – a way to keep con­tacts, to exchange opin­ions and information.

Then just a bit fur­ther on:

They planned a net­work of cab­ins for win­ter trav­el. They tried, with no suc­cess, to agree on a a com­mu­nal bulk food order, and on a way to admin­is­ter com­mon own­er­ship of a truck for use in Eagle. Their desire to be “trib­al” does not approach in strength their need to be self-reliant.

There always have been and always will be peo­ple who feel crowd­ed when the den­si­ty goes beyond a cou­ple of square miles per per­son. Peo­ple who want to sur­vive or fail to sur­vive on their own. Peo­ple who are unable to come to an agree­ment on a com­mu­nal bulk food order. There has always been a wilder­ness for such peo­ple to go to. Sure­ly those days are com­ing to an end. The avail­able wilder­ness is now all set aside for parks, for min­ing, for drilling, for natives.

Such a life will soon be avail­able, if not already, only to those wealthy enough to buy all the need­ed land.

*Yes, I am a slow reader.

A Plan for Man

More from Com­ing Into The Coun­try by John McPhee…

This is from Book II, What They Were Hunt­ing For in which the search for a loca­tion for a new Alaskan cap­i­tal is described. On page 133 a Robert Atwood is quoted:

Ide­al­ists here in town see a need for a park in every hous­ing devel­op­ment. They want to bury util­i­ty lines, reserve green belts, build bicy­cle paths. With these things, the bowl could only con­tain three hun­dred and fifty thou­sand peo­ple. They favor ani­mals, trees, water, flow­ers. Who ever makes a plan for man? Who ever will make a plan for man? That is what I won­der. I am known amound con­ser­va­sion­ists as a bad guy.

Fool­ish me. I thought favor­ing ani­mals, trees, water (water!!!) and flow­ers was a plan for man!

Invitation to a Question

I’ve been read­ing Com­ing Into the Coun­try by John McPhee. Yes, I’m thir­ty three years behind the times.

On page 37 and going around the cor­ner to 38, McPhee and com­pan­ions are in the Alaskan wilderness:

Break­fast in the fry­ing pan – freeze-dried eggs…Nobody’s skin is going to turn brown on these eggs – or on cin­na­mon-apple-fla­vored Instant Quak­er Oat­meal, or Tang, or Swiss Miss, or on cold pink-icinged Pop-Tarts with rasp­ber­ry fill­ing. For those who do not believe what they have just read, allow me to con­firm it: in Pour­chot’s break­fast bag are pink-icinged Pop-Tarts with rasp­ber­ry fill­ing. Lack­ing a toast­er, and not car­ing much any­way, we eat them cold. They invite a question.

Oh good! McPhee sees it too. A ques­tion is indeed invit­ed! He continues:

To a palate with­out bias – the palate of an open-mind­ed Berber, the palate of a trav­el­ling Mar­t­ian – which would be the more accept­able, a pink-icinged Pop-Tart with rasp­ber­ry fill­ing (cold) or the fat gob from behind a cari­bou’s eye?

Wait. That’s the invit­ed ques­tion? Yeah, sure, it is an inter­est­ing ques­tion, but it sure as heck is not the ques­tion that I was think­ing about as he con­firmed the pres­ence and eat­ing of the pink-icinged Pop-Tarts with rasp­ber­ry filling.

You are prepar­ing to go into the Alaskan wilder­ness for an extend­ed peri­od of time and you pack Pop-Tarts?!

And I’ve got to believe that the unbi­ased palate would pre­fer food (the fat gob) over man­u­fac­tured crap (Pop-Tarts), though I sus­pect I would seek a third option.

But that’s just me.