The Hunter and The Gatherer

The Hunter
In late summer in Alaska, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of death. Hunting season is here.

If one thing can be said about my man, it's that he loves to get ready. Loves it. It took me hours of sitting in the truck, waiting to go somewhere wondering "what's taking him so long?" to figure out that my man likes to think of, and plan for just about every eventuality.

On Tuesday, Hunter and our good friend, Allan, are flying to Tok for a ten-day sheep hunt. They're each allowed 50lbs of equipment, not counting what they're wearing. The plan is to hike around the tundra with this 50lbs of gear on their backs in search of a big juicy Dall sheep.

When I first heard about this, I laughed. I've seen documentaries on sheep. They like to stand on rocky hillsides. All Hunter would need, I reasoned, was a good aim, a trampoline and a couple of friends. I told him this while driving down the road toward Aleyeska outside of Anchorage.

Hunter launched into an explanation of how hard sheep hunting was when he interrupted himself to point to the cars stopped on the side of the highway and the people staring and pointing at something on the hillside by the road. I slowed down to take a look and lo and behold! It was a sheep. Thank you, universe, I couldn't have planned it better if I tried.

Anyway, my Hunter is getting ready for his sheep hunt. I think he's loving it. He's got a new tent (which looks like a coffin as far as I'm concerned), a new featherweight-yet-warm sleeping bag and is wondering aloud how much he fit in his pockets to maximize that luggage allowance.

He gets back in time to get ready to hunt moose.

The Gatherer
Before Hunter and I were married, we had a serious talk about the traditional roles of a husband and wife. We decided that arrangement wasn't really for us and...yada yada yada.

I don't think we were talking traditional enough here. Our conversation rested mostly on housework, cooking, dog training and potential child-rearing. Issues from the 1900's. We probably should have gone farther back in time.

While Hunter gets ready to hunt, my girlfriends and I are starting to gather. Tundra blueberries, salmonberries and huckleberries are starting to ripen. Yesterday Michelle and I went out and picked a few pounds of blueberries each. I canned them this morning and as I type, I'm waiting for another friend to come out to pick huckleberries.

As food prices skyrocket in rural Alaska, it's becoming more and more worth our while to live off the land. Fortunately, it's quite easy in Dillingham. In late September we'll go mushroom picking and once the frost hits, start gathering low-bush cranberries.

By month's end, our freezer will be full of berries and meat for winter. I've already canned and frozen salmon. I'll have a few gallons of berries and enough meat and preserves to see us through until next August when we start this process all over again.

I'm quite content to take on the traditional role of the gatherer. Killing, gutting and butchering mammals isn't for me. Braising, stewing and roasting mammals on the other hand...

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