Homer, Alaska

September 25th, 2009

O'rya Hyde-Keller's description of Homer, Alaska, as "overflowing with characters who would make a short story writer swoon" was even more valid almost sixty years ago, when I lived there ("True North," Arts & Culture, July/August).

I worked as a geologist in the mountains and forests of the Kenai Peninsula during the summers of 1950 and 1951. Homer, perched at its southern border along Kachemak Bay, was my base of operations for resupply and the place where I engaged the services of a bush pilot. With my reddish-brown beard and my adventures on white-water rivers and with bears, moose, and swarms of mosquitoes, I melded in easily with the town's many colorful sourdoughs, hunters, guides, and fishermen. We shared smoked salmon, moose and bear meat, and tall tales. Twice I joined the locals for several days to fight forest fires.

Like Miranda Weiss '97, whose book, Tide, Feather, Snow, Hyde-Keller reviews, most of these residents of Homer were there for adventure, independence, natural splendor, and personal challenges. Others were escaping problems or people.

When in town, I stayed at the Heddy Hotel, the local hub of news and gossip. One evening while I was talking with some tourists at the hotel, we heard an ear-splitting crash coming from the second floor. Mr. Heddy and his wife rushed up the stairs from the lobby. When they opened the locked door of a room with the master key, they found the tour bus's driver and one of his comely passengers trying to extricate themselves from coil springs, broken bed slats, and torn sheets. That evening's event may not have achieved the high drama of "The Cremation of Sam McGee," but it was memorable.

Daniel B. Krinsley '49 ScM
Washington, D.C.

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Related Issue
September/October 2009