Becoming a “Bush” Family
“If any of you remember when you were small and lived maybe on a farm, there was a sense of community and helping one another. That is what we found living out here.”
School for the kids was another consideration. They would boat to Skwentna, 13 miles upriver, until freeze up in November and bring their work home until the river was frozen enough to travel on by snowmachine in December.
Brent was 14 and had been driving a boat for about 2 years. But with Stacy being only 8, we weren’t comfortable with that idea. So we decided we would do home school with the three kids that year. That first winter was heavenly. We knew all our close neighbors within a 5 mile radius.
If any of you remember when you were small and lived maybe on a farm, there was a sense of community and helping one another. That is what we found living out here. You also had to plan ahead for supplies that you would need for the next 6 months and go without fresh things for maybe a month at a time. The only way to get groceries was to fly to Anchorage at a cost of $150 or snowmachine. If it was cold, your fresh stuff would freeze if you came out by snowmachine. There was a small store in Skwentna that had supplies, so if you were desperate for something green, you could try to get it home before it froze on your snowmachine.
The next year Eric Jr. was in kindergarten and Shan took on the job of teaching him as well as the other three. It encompassed all of her time, with no time left for booking clients, correspondence, bookkeeping, etc.
The fall of 93, Brent had 4 years of boating experience with one of those years guiding our clients. Tyson was 14 and had also been driving a boat for 3 years and guiding clients for one year. So off the four of them went in the boat to Skwentna every day.
Easter Egg hunts in Alaska meant snowsuits and boots not dresses and hats. Skwentna School was the only bush school in the Mat-Su District. The building used to be the headquarters for the Federal Aviation Administration who maintained the runway back in the days. They closed that office down many years ago and sold the building to the Matanuska Susitna School District in the 60’s. Back then there were only a few students. Now there are 27 students all in one room with only a foot between each desk, one teacher and a teacher’s aide. 10 years ago they had one student graduating and no other high school students.
The School District was cutting their budget and told the parents either we close down the school or just eliminate the high school. They agreed in the fall of 1994. There were 7 high school kids that did correspondence study with a teacher’s aide supervising them. In 1995, three high school students opted to board in town in order to receive the teaching assistance they needed from a regular high school, participate in organized sports and seek the many educational opportunities not available in a small bush school.
Included in those three students, was our oldest son, Brent, who was a D average student on correspondence and obtained a 4.0 average his senior year. Some students cannot learn from just reading a textbook, they need the reinforcement of verbal teaching. When we decided to move out to the “bush” of Alaska, we told the kids it was “temporary” but we all loved it so much, that in 1993 we decided to make it permanent. Especially since moving back to town with everything we hauled out would be another major move.
We put our house in Eagle River on the market and hoped to still keep our renters. Without the rent coming in, we could not afford to live at the lodge. We managed to keep it rented until the house sold the fall of 1995, Now, if the kids, especially Eric, Jr. says he wants to go back to our house in Eagle River, he has no choice. I always tell him, how many kids can go swimming, fishing, sledding and snowmachining right in their front yard?