The Best of Friends

by Peter Twitchell

There are many good stories about man and dogs in Alaska long before the western world moved in from beyond our horizon in western Alaska.

My dad David Twitchell had his team of dogs which numbered around a dozen and he and Oscar Larson, when jobs weren’t available locally, would load their sleds with provisions for 3-4 months and moved to the Baird Inlet to trap, snare and use cages. The cages were 30 inches by 2 feet high, 2 x 4 lumber framed and six feet in length, and made with chicken wire.

These they moved to Baird Inlet by portage across the tundra to their dwelling place made of moss, sod and earth material – a mud hut tin building to hang their mink, otter, muskrat pelts and an occasional wolf pelt and red fox.

The tin building was 8’ wide, 10 feet and 6 feet high. These materials were moved to their camp by boat portaged across the tundra near the Tundra Akula villages during the summer months.

They brought canned foods, flour, Crisco, slabs of bacon, coffee, tea, and akutaq their wives had made, seal oil, and dried king salmon slabs by dog team.

After three to four months their team of dogs brought them back home to Napakiak and across the river from Bethel.

Dad always had a beard and I always thought that kept his face warm. Both Oscar and dad had sturdy canvas outer layers of cover to keep wind from entering their clothing. Dad always had 3-4 gunny sacks of pelts of animals he was going to send Mr. Apple Bumm in Seattle who bought their furs.

In a few weeks dad would receive a check from the fur buyer in Seattle in the amount of $6,000.00 to $7,000.00 dollars. This was considered a lot of money in the 1950s.

When summer rolled along dad and Oscar went to commercial fish in the Bristol Bay and made good money which they divided between them after paying rent on fishing expenses. They were the best of friends, Oscar and him, until 1965 when dad died in an accident.

Oscar Larson occasionally stopped by Mom’s house in Bethel and told me stories of him and dad, always adding that dad was a hard worker and strong man who shared his war time experience in Europe and how he cried.