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"Alaska is a meeting place of different civilizations. The natives, who had lived there for thousands of years, lived with the extreme conditions as a natural part of their lives, although they quickly learned to adapt and to appreciate the modern conveniences. The white man came from a highly developed life style, and tolerated those same conditions only with the help of the natives and the modern accoutrements that he brought with him. Yet, in the wilderness areas, the two cultures bridged the gap with no difficulty at all, and worked together with perfect ease and mutual respect."
Brian Fortier wrote this near the end of "Cheechako on Wings." In between, he gives us a glimpse into an Alaska that once was and, in a strange way, may still exist in the more remote areas. That perhaps is what intrigued me most about the story he weaves in between, going from his yen to go to Alaska to fly and his equally strong need to return to his Vermont roots. Return to his roots he did, but Alaska never lost her hold on him. From the vantage point of fifty years, his simple, direct story still has the ability to pull you in and make you wonder, "What must it have been like??
Early on, Fortier compares those flying Alaska's skies to cowboys and it's an apt comparison. Like the cowboy of yore, early Bush pilots had little to hold them down, their home as big as the skies above them. They went places others rarely saw, opening the way for those to come. An easy read, "Cheechako on Wings" is essentially a vignette of that lifestyle, one where you wouldn't think twice about taking off into the unknown, albeit only after filing a flight plan. As Fortier makes clear, even fifty years ago, there was a nice balance between being foolhardy and simply adventurous.Read more ›
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