We had a lovely interlude this afternoon in the town of Crooked Creek, a veritable metropolis nestled way out here in the middle of nowhere.
We had just stopped the boat and walked up to the local P.O. when from clear across the river came the sound of Johnny Cash singing “I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow.” It’s a pretty wide river, too, so that must have been one powerful sound system. A friendly native lady told us that it belonged to her father’s cousin, an 80-something-year-old guy (exact age unknown) who liked his music loud. My kind of guy.
She also regaled us with tales of moose hunting, gave some advice as to the location of prime fishing spots, and was kind enough to tell us what happens after you die: You climb up a spiral and after 20 days, you’re halfway to the top; after 40 days, you’re all the way at the top; but it takes you a full year to get where you’re going. That’s if you were a good person. “If you were ugly,” she said, “it’s a lot harder.” This is why when somebody dies, the tribe memorializes them with three feasts, 20 days, 40 days, and one year later.
At one point she said, “When I go down to L.A., they expect me to have these pearls of wisdom dripping from my lips. I want to tell them, ‘We’re winging it just like you.’ ” I never did catch her name.
We made an effort to find one of the spots she recommended so Willis can fish for salmon. We’re not 100% sure we’re in the right place, and so far he hasn’t had any luck, but all is well.
The weather has been awesome—surprisingly warm but cool enough to make you glad to be in your tent. Finding a place to put the tent has been another matter. There’s such a profusion of life here that finding a clearing is next to impossible. Also, most of the riverbank is sloped, so we spent about an hour last night cruising for a suitable campsite. Once we did find one, much stomping of vegetation was necessary before we could set up. But in the end we were quite comfortable and for the second night in a row I slept like a goddamn log—no tossing and turning, no waking up in the middle of the night to piss.
On the downside, I appear to have lost my beloved black Thinsulate hat—acquired in Dover, England—in Aniak yesterday. But on the return upside I purchased a maroon knit hat in Crooked Creek, and I have a very positive feeling about this new hat.
James is cooking up beef burritos in the back of the boat, and maybe I should be helping him.