We all know it. We experience it every time we travel and explore this great nation. Alaskans are harder working and more ingenious than 99.4% of the rest of the United States. (The remaining .6% are the guys who make Skully helmets. Those things are just awesome.) Our superior character development is a product of our environment that has been burned (or frozen) in us a vigorous will and desire to do what must be done so that we can have what we must have. I believe our magnificence is traced to the very activities that we Alaskans participate in on a daily basis and do so with only minor whining, eye rolling, teeth grinding and complaining. But once instilled in our souls, allows us to out-perform the rest of the world when given equal opportunity even with mittens on.
Superior Work Ethic: If you live in southern states, what do you really have to do to go to work? Start your car? Commute? Put on flip-flops? Cry me a stinking river. In the winter, Alaskans have to get up 2 hours early to shovel 18” of snow in our house slippers only to discover that the car wont’ start because hell froze over while you were sleeping under 47 blankets. No problem. We’ll push start it up the driveway. Third time’s a charm. Then we fight the blinding snow flurries against idiots who refuse to clear snow off their windshields and sacrifice the 3.2 hours of daylight to our job. The traverse from our vehicle to our place of employment is reminiscent of the planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. Repeat this for the drive home only now the four-lane highway is three lanes and no drivers can agree on the exact location so we just swerve randomly and hope in the name of all that is holy that those around us are paying attention. Sadly they are not. They are texting three paragraphs while nursing a mocha. No wonder rolled over minivans decorate the sides of roads like something out of an arctic version of Mad Max. Then there’s that one guy who’s still riding a motorcycle with sidecar and a dozen or more bicyclist. By the way. If you’re biking to work when it’s -10* I assume DUI. Just saying.
Even though the sunlight we’ve been dreaming of is only around for 90 days we still drag our butts to work. So when the opportunity to play arises, we take it, baby!
This leads to Superior Recreational Effort: There is a saying in Alaska. “There is no such thing as bad weather. Just bad clothes.” I added “and not enough Fireball”. Question: what insane group of people will get up at 4am to drive 90 miles on the one of most dangerous stretches of road in the USA to stand in freezing water and fight with non-English speaking combatants while cautiously looking over their shoulder for the hundreds of hungry and ill-tempered bears that surround them? Alaskan Fishermen. Who will spend $80,000 on equipment that will only be used 10 times a season with varying results, all of which cost more money? Alaskan Fishermen. What group of people will poop in a trash bag lined bucket, eat wet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while standing in the freezing rain, catch nothing and still say it was a great day? Alaskan Fishermen. In your face golfers. Oh, but we golf too. Only we can do it at midnight and our golf carts are all wheel drive, produce 140 horsepower and have a winch. Our golf clubs are made of moose antler. A moose that we personally killed with either a rifle or our car on a cold dark winter night. And that’s our summer which lasts about that long too.
During the winter over 60,000 Alaskans drive 160 miles north to spend a week in Paxon where nighttime temperatures reach -45* so we can ride snow machines (known to outsiders as snowmobiles) at speed over 100 mph while pulling skiers down a mountain. The nights are filled with the smoke of a thousand campfires that light up the sky like the crimson breath of a dragon. We call it Arctic man. Much innocence is lost there.
Superior Effort for the Care of Animals: We have a name for small dogs in Alaska. Bird food. We have a name for medium sized dogs in Alaska: Bear food. We have a name for large snarling beasts of dogs that can be saddled and ridden like wild steeds: Awesomeness. And what do Alaskans call cats? Chew toys for Awesomeness. If you choose to own a small pet, you must realize that you also have to shovel a place for it to do its business while keeping owls and eagles at bay. During the summer, you must watch carefully that they are not snatched up or consumed by these circling aerial predators or bears while frantically waving your arms to ward off the swarms of mosquitoes and hornets. All for the love of an animal who will most likely end up missing next time you go camping. That’s also why Alaskans are less touchy-feely. Consider it emotional calluses.
Superior Child Raising: Unlike the rest of the country, 24″ of snow in 24 hours still means you’re tunneling your way to the bus stop and going to school. By the age of 14 most Alaskan children can work a shovel better than Tony Hawk can work a skateboard. More than likely they also have learned proper gun safety and how to start a fire using shoe laces, a dead squirrel and piece of cheese. The cheese is a snack. So is the squirrel. Heck, kids build snow shelters as a recreational pass time. Snow shelters with cable tv, spare bedrooms, and a sun deck. Which is odd because there is no sun. Alaskan children learn to handle fear by going tent camping since all of Alaska is bear country. That’s kind of like hiding a steak from a dog by placing a napkin over it. Still the sweet taste of dirt covered burned marshmallow lures us to our doom.
When we misbehaved we had to ride in the “play pen” commonly referred to as a car trunk. If we were going fishing, we rode in the truck bed with no padding, in the rain and loved it. We didn’t have paintball, Nerf guns or laser tag. We had slingshots, pellet guns, heavy coats and ski goggles. We didn’t have building blocks or fancy robots. We had old decking, a dull saw, and some rusty nails in a Folgers can. With that we built tree forts that rival anything made by the Robinson Family. Which is also how Alaskan kids learn physics. There is only 5* of slope they turn a bike jump into a catapult. But either one is fun, just depends on your landing area. By the time we’re adults, many Alaskans own more chainsaws than dress slacks, and more cans of mosquito repellent and old fishing lures than all the glitter in Vegas.
Once you’ve accumulated the endeavoring, creativity of long time Alaskans and place it anywhere else in the USA, you discover we why we thrive. We do more with less. Work harder because it’s all we know. We fight for what is important because if we don’t, you will be consumed by the oppressive darkness that surrounds us. We may wear dress hoodies to the opera. We may choose Spam over escargot. When you say “skin care” we think of stitches and Neosporin. But what most people think is hard work, Alaskans call good fun. As my daddy use to say “keep your hands out of your pockets and keep moving”.
Kevin Cross: Born and Raised Alaskan.