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Why weather Alaska winters? Because we've got it made.

Gerald Masolini
Mark Steen photo

CORDOVA -- Ain't got no diamond rings. Ain't got no Cadillac car (words of Arlo Guthrie). But I got me a nice wood fire to sit by. And I got me a shed full of firewood too. Got me some good books to read. Got me some moose meat in the freezer and some salmon too. Got me a wife that still seems to like me after all these years. And I got me a dog that wags her tail. Got some friends that smile and say howdy. Got some mountains and lakes and islands so purty they stop me in my tracks. I got clean air to wiff, good water to drink, and the pristine silence of winter to soak up. Gotter made, huh? Yep, gotter made.

I suspect all of us Cordovans think thoughts sorta like these, whether we admit it or not. If this wasn't true, our sometimes fierce weather and long dark winters would drive us south. Me and my friend, Gus -- you know, Gus Linville -- we like to talk about a quote from Sterling Hayden. It talks about bankruptcy of purse and/or bankruptcy of life. Sure, Cordova offers chances to do something about the purse part, but for the life part? We've gotter made, dudes. We're so rich we are on the edge of being giddy.

Just take a look at our young people. They ain't sitting around saying "Boring!" No, they're sailing! Eavesdrop on them, and you'll here casual discussions about their experiences in Katmandu and Tazmania, in Kazakstan and the South Pole, in the upper Amazon and Bali. You'll hear discussions about going rock climbing in South Africa, at Machu Pichu, and "Oh,the quinoa is so good in Bolivia."

You'll hear little mentions like, "Oh, when we stopped in Amsterdam, or Paris, or Lima, or Saigon, or New Delhi." What is going on here?? All this world-wide exploration sprouting forth from an isolated little town of 2,500 people. Did you zip around the planet like this when you were a kid? Probably not.

And take a look at the company we keep; our neighbors. Legendary types like Ed Bilderback, Ed King, Larry Kritchen, Wild Bill, Johnny Totemoff, Dick Willis, Teal Copeland, Mike O'Leary, Bob Nippell, Jim Poor, and pages more. We've got kitchen magicians like Barbara Olsen, Diane Ujoika and Pam Smith, and a whole variety of other wizards. Artists: world class artists. Machinists and mechanics and metal fabricators of the highest quality. Pilots -- best bush pilots in the world -- we got 'em. We got some very high powered teachers in our schools and Coast Guard people who are capable of saving our fishermen in the thickest of the storm and the darkest of the night.

And up on Eyak mountain, a 15 minute walk from the heart of town, is the icing on this cake we call Cordova: our ski hill. You've been up there. Smile city. Everybody's having a good time. And the views: that's the Pacific out there -- Prince William Sound out this way and back here are the Chugach Mountains. Fiords, glaciers, so many jagged, spectacular mountains that most are still unnamed.

One of these friends of mine and his wife drove out to the weir on a recent dead-still, full-moon night just to listen to the swans talking to each other. You know how our mountains look when the moon is bright; they shine. All this with swan music to go with it.

At our house we have two kids. Well, they're all grown up now and gone from home, but to Diana and me they'll always be kids. During the last 20-something winter snowboarding seasons, one of those kids has come down from the mountains many nights with the same words: "This has been the funnest day of my life!" The other "kid" looks forward to winters so he can go back into unvisited mountain valleys and "read" all the animal and bird tracks after a fresh snow. He'll come home with all sorts of interesting tales of a world seldom seen by us "townlings." Powerful stuff. Wealthy individuals, huh?

And the ice-skaters at Sheridan Glacier, what a winter wonderland that is, blue caves and grottos and mysterious crevices leading to who knows where. J.R.R. Tolkien would have really been inspired by such a landscape and John Steinbeck would have really liked all our characters. We've got our own Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat right here in Cordova.

How come we got all this? I know some of the answers, but surely not all of them. So when the nights are long, and the winds scream, and the rains pour, and the ice on your porch is somersault-slick, just hang tough. It's just the price we pay for the good stuff that's bound to come. We've gotter made, dudes. Fat city all the way.

This commentary originally appeared in the Cordova Times and is republished here with permission. You can reach Gerald Masolini with comments and suggestions at gmasolini@gmail.com

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