Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"The Final Frontiersman"

Heimo Korth has lived all of his adult life in Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle.  He and his family were featured in a 1992 National Geographic video called Braving Alaska, which I used to show to my geography classes when we studied seasons and length of days and nights.  So it was a pleasant surprise to see him and his wife and daughters on a recent TV show about Alaskans - and then to discover that a book also existed about their lives.  Heimo Korth is the last person to be granted permission to live in the northern Alaskan wilderness.  The permission extends until his youngest child passes away, and then his descendants will have to move elsewhere.

This is an interesting book to see how people exist when they live in such a remote area.  They have three cabins that they live in a circuit in, so as not to put too much pressure on the animal trapping in any one area.  They kill all their meat and eat virtually every part of every animal.  Heimo's wife, Edna, and their two girls are used to making do or doing without.  But they love their existence, and Heimo and Edna have no desire to live anywhere else.  The girls, however, at the time of the writing were eager to leave, and, at the time of the new TV show, had grown up and left the wilderness.

I found their lifestyle to be an extreme version of what many people would like to do - which is pack up and live in the woods.  The book was a little difficult to read because the author (Heimo's cousin) wrote somewhat circularly - going from the current situations that the family was going through (as in planning for winter, finding food in the spring), to Heimo's history of how he got to Alaska, to the political situations that evolved that have caused living in the Arctic to be closed to newcomers.  But the book was a good summer read about a family that seems like old friends.

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