Little Red Kicksled

Some months ago, I ordered a kicksled from Kicksled Alaska. I’d been thinking about it for quite a while: what could be more perfect for commuting to campus or running the dogs? Skis are great, but switching in and out of ski boots is a pain, and ski boots aren’t much use against the extreme cold Fairbanks sees in the middle of winter. Plus a kicksled can be used for moving a little bit of gear, like a backpack. I thought about it and thought about it, then said to heck with it and went ahead and placed the order. I think I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

Silna and Crozier have really taken to it.

The sled finally arrived about two weeks ago, and it has seen use every single day since then. Alan and I went straight to the hardware store to make a few dog-related modifications and then took the sled to the river for a test run. That whole first week, we took turns kicksledding out to the burbot sets. The dogs learned to get excited when the harnesses came out and went from awkwardly pulling out of sync to matching their gaits and running shoulder to shoulder.

We had to take our fishing lines in this past weekend, so now we take turns running the dogs on the trails around Alan’s neighborhood, practicing “gee” and “haw” and “on by,” and wearing out the pups. Silna is real lead-dog material: when she sees Crozier veering off to try and pee on a tree, she knocks into him to remind him to stay on task. You can almost hear her scolding him. She’s the brains, Crokie’s the muscle, and together they’re turning into a handsome little team of two.

This afternoon in the Goldstream there was a lot of fresh snow, so the going was tougher than usual

I don’t know thing one about mushing. I learn something new every day from working with these puppies, a real classic case of “who’s training who?” We’re careful to take it easy, to always stop when the dogs get tired, to always quit while everybody’s still having fun, and I think that’s good enough for now. It’s easy to see how people get hooked, though. There is a clear path from here to ten dogs and a basket sled with a tent, a grub box, and a chainsaw in it, no question about it.

Venetie Kickball

For some unholy reason, they made me the middle and high school P.E. teacher. If you’ve ever known me, and especially if you knew me in middle or high school, you know this was a horrible mistake. P.E. is first thing in the morning for thirty minutes. The kids troop in late in snowpants and boots, and they want nothing but to play kickball, so I let them. I don’t want to pick a fight first thing in the morning, and I don’t care what they do as long as it’s somewhat physically active. I’ve resigned myself to kickball for the time being.

Kickball was a thing at my school, too, and throughout every spring there was a constant dread in my mind of the hideously embarrassing moment when I’d come up to kick and everyone would move in close, chuckling. It sounds like such a cliche woe, but it happened every time we played (and we played a lot) for the five years I attended that school. I was such a joke in all things sports, and rightly so. I really did suck. It hurt though. I definitely have some organized sports ptsd, and here I am a gym teacher. Blah.

Venetie kickball is a little different from what I was expecting when I tossed them the ball the first time. Because they have to play in their pintsized gym, and often with very few players, who range in age from twelve to twenty, the rules are modified. It took me a few days to figure out what was going on. It’s actually pretty genius: I’ve seen the kids make it work with as few as two players.

Venetie Kickball

  • There are six bases: the four corners of the gym, plus the two halfway marks on the long sides.
  • The pitcher rolls the ball from anywhere. When the pitcher has the ball, the runners can’t run.
  • You (almost? I think I saw it once) never get an out by tagging a base. You have to hit the runner with the ball. No head shots. They throw viciously hard, but the risk is understood. No injuries yet.
  • If the offense runs out of kickers, the runner closest to home is forced to run. Since the defense can’t tag bases, they have a pretty good chance of dodging the ball and making it home to kick. This is how they manage with only two players.
  • If it hits the ceiling, it’s an out.
  • If it doesn’t cross halfcourt, it’s a reroll.

When it gets hot, instead of taking off their sweatshirts and snowpants, the kids open the fire door and let the cold air into the gym. Sometimes, since the door is in the corner with third base, someone will wing the ball at a runner and it will fly through the open door into the still dark schoolyard. Inevitably, half the kids will run out and track snow all over the gym floor when they return. I saw one really great wipeout, but the girl got up laughing.

That’s pretty much it. It’s fun to watch because there are these big, athletic high school boys playing with these tiny, gangly sixth grade girls, and it somehow comes out pretty even. There are built in mechanisms that make the game work for the funny situation we have out here. I like that. It’s modified and unique like so many other things in this place.

Speed limit sign on the old airport runway. Wonder what sort of vehicle it's directed at.

Speed limit sign on the old airport runway. At what sort of vehicle is it directed? Who is supposed to enforce it?