Snow machines would screech by, all lights and usually a cheery wave. Cars were a constant. Despite Bethel being remote, remote, it was still after all a part of the US of A.
I often had to wait in the super sub-zero to get across the ‘super highway’ grandly named Chief Eddie Hoffman. Cars are mobile heat machines, and oft a time they would gingerly pull to a stop. All was ice, and any situation could leave a driver helpless while the vehicle slid and killed someone out there on foot.
One store break I jumped a taxi to get to the egregiously far post office.
“My son has just been found - dead!!” exclaimed a passenger. A teenage boy found frozen to death in a Bethel park. Another 16-year old had snow machined in from a village 400-miles distance, before he too keeled over dead on arrival. I spoke with a man, the father of another lost teenager, a school sports star who had tragically taken his own life. Arriving at AC a day before me was Gil, who hailed from Palm Beach. Now he was gone. “Howling at the moon” I was told, as if by way of explanation.
I walked on in the big freeze, my body on the edge of freezing down. My wan endeavour was to recover old form, and one afternoon I sort out Bethel’s only (sort of) gym. Any activity outside was highly problematic and at minus 9 degrees F, and a further minus 30 in wind-chill, I came upon a little Yupik kid playing in the snow happily with a toy tractor. He waved at me with the biggest of possible broad smiles!
“You look cold,” said another, a chap wearing a nice Colombia jacket from AC! I was walking sideways against the bone-breaking wind at the time, and crablike I had come upon a party digging a grave. Rare indeed, as in Alaska the ground is frozen hard as iron. You could have dropped a sub-compact down the huge, deep hole they had dug, very forbidding. But I liked the US flag there, crackling on a high pole.