Thursday, August 6, 2009

Is It August Already??

I finally had the opportunity to look at my blog and realized that I had not posted anything since July 17...sooooo sorry! Time really has flown by and we have only 40 more days to go! It has been an amazing ride (in more ways than one).

One of the most fascinating places along the rail that we pass by each and every time we go north is the town of Sherman, population of two. (Photo above - Mary is standing at the door and waving to the passengers on the train). Sherman is located just north of Talkeetna in an area we refer to as the Alaskan Bush. This 40 mile strip has about 25 residents along the way that can only be accessed by the railroad. No roads, no airstrips, nothing, noda! The Alaska Railroad provides a "Flag Stop Train" that allows anyone along this strip to literally "flag" down the train, get on board and they will take them to their destination (either toward Talkeetna or Hurricane). They are charged by the mileage that they ride. Some campers/hunters board this train in Talkeetna and get off in the bush to hike, camp, and hunt out in the wild.

Shermans two residents, Clyde and Mary Lovel, homesteaded in Alaska in 1964, when they moved from Missouri with their four children - ages one to twelve. They wanted to begin a new life in Alaska - and boy oh boy, did they begin a new life. In 1963, after building a camper shell of plywood on the back of his 1949 Ford, three quarter ton flatbed truck, and hauling another camper behind the truck, they set their eyes on Alaska. With tons of truck/tire problems they finally arrived in Anchorage, 28 days later. They lived in Anchorage for approximately a year until they found property to homestead on in Sherman.

The property they found had a small two room "cabin" (I would have called it a shack) on it with no front door. They sold the truck and camper, packed everything they had on the flag stop train and headed to Sherman. And oh yeah...did I mention their was a bear in the area... Clyde had to continue to work in Anchorage, so he was only able to visit the homestead once or twice a month, so Mary and the children had to begin clearing the land and "proving" it up in order to own it, according to the homesteading laws of Alaska. She quickly learned to be innovative in order to survive out there with no help, no neighbors, no one! She learned to kill bear and moose, dress it, and can it so they would have food to eat. She washed their clothes in a creek nearby for two years and they hauled water to the cabin from that same creek so they would have drinking water and water to cook with (on a wood burning stove). The kids loved living out there and enjoyed being able to play freely. Mary had to home school the children because their were no schools in the area. Life for them was grand - seriously!

Mary wrote about their adventures in a book called, A Journey to a Dream, that we sell on the train. We talk about their place "Sherman City Hall" every time we go by to our passengers, recounting some of their adventures. Rennie and I were very anxious to read Marys book our first weeks here and fell in love with their story and them. We wanted to meet Clyde and Mary so badly, we were even considering taking the flag stop train ourselves and stopping by their place one day in hopes they would be home. Well, when we visited Talkeetna for the "Moose Dropping Festive" we actually got to meet them. I was so thrilled - so much so, as if they were movie stars - which they are in my eyes. Such sweet people!!! We were able to talk to them for about an hour.

Clyde and Mary are now in their 80's and 70's, still live in Sherman full time, have no electricity, running water, and have a two hole outhouse. Mary told me that they do have a generator that they fire up every once in a while so she can run the vacuum cleaner, do laundry (in a ringer washer...), or if Clyde wants to run a power tool. I stated that I could never do what they have done and Mary sweetly replied, "Oh sweetie, you could do it, especially if you had no other choice." It was such a pleasure to talk to them and spend time with them. I feel truly blessed to have met them. They will always remain a very special part of our Alaskan adventure.

I encourage you to read Mary's book. If you are interested, please let me know and I can give you the ISBN number so you may order it. She also is in the process of writing a sequel and I can't wait to have a copy!

I'm sitting with Mary, looking at some of her photos of their home during an Alaskan winter...Burrr!

See how high the snow is?? You can just see the roof!

Two of her grandchildren playing in the snow - wearing short sleeves! Their "Depot" is the small building just in the background of the photo.

Sherman City Hall in the dead of winter. How would you like to hike out to the outhouse in that??? Not me!

Sweet Mary, Rennie and I.

Clyde, Mary, and Rennie. Some special heros!

Mary's book, A Journey to a Dream

Until next time...Pamela