A few years ago some neighbor loaned me the Dick Proenneke DVD and then last month I saw a book online and ordered it. Since then I have watched as many online videos I could find.
I live in Idaho, not a place like Twin Lakes but I am 20 air-miles from the largest wilderness in the lower 48, with pine, white and red fir all around me, and I take my domestic water off my roof, cut my firewood and until my 75-year old knees got too sore, hiked the mountain country and big river trails. All this made me especially interested in Dick’s life. I was only a rough carpenter but have built most of my outbuildings from scrap wood and I loved all the building description.
I lived in one city of 34,000 for 2 months but the rest of the time, including growing up on an island in Puget Sound, Washington, I was out in the modified sticks. Dick talked of his trip up the Al-Can. My parents a cousin, a dog and me drove the Al-Can in 1962 where I ate ice cream cones with the ice cream made from canned milk. We drove to Tok Junction and on to Anchorage, ending in Seward, where my dad, the cousin and I boarded the boat I had christened when I was 12. We traveled to Port San Juan in Prince William Sound and then Cordova, and at the end of a lucrative commercial salmon seining season, my much older brother, the skipper, and I traveled to Friday Harbor, Washington by way of the Alaska and Canada Inside Passage. With the animals I have seen including a female brown bear a hundred yards from me, Dall sheep seen on the mountainsides, and moose both on the Al-Can and in my area in Idaho, I had an attachment to Dick.
And I helped a neighbor build his log house having done all the peeling with a draw knife and a spud. And when my parents moved north from California to Washington in ’54, my parents and I built a log house with vertical rather than horizontal walls. My dad built some amazing, Dick style door handles but as he got more “civilized” he replaced them with conventional. What a waste. These experience, though not as exciting as Dick’s, sure gave me a love for his life.