Peter Jenkins,On His Spiritual Journey and Looking for Alaska

Our next guest made his way onto the national scene over 20 years ago with a national bestseller, A Walk Across America, which I read when it first came out. Since then he’s been across China, walked west, traveled the untamed coast, and now Peter Jenkins looked for Alaska, wrote a book about it, one of the best-selling travel books in the country. It is titled, Looking for Alaska. It’s a paperback from St. Martin’s.

Q. Peter, good to have you with us.
A. Great to be talking to you again, Dick. You rock.

Q. So meanwhile, one of the interesting things, Peter, about the-about the first book I want to go way back there to start today is about half way through the-the book, a funny thing happened on the way to the west coast. And that is that you ended at an evangelistic meeting with an evangelist, and something dramatic happened. And you were telling me the other day that that was all kind of brought back to you just recently.
A. It was. You know, it was one of the most incongruous¢â‚¬¦ I’ve looked, you know, I looked and probably acted a little bit more like Kurt Cobain at the time than I do now because I don’t have a lot of hair right now. I mean, I wasn’t on drugs. I-I’d sworn off of drugs. I realized those were ridiculous and getting me nowhere and just a waste of time. But-but in terms of, if you could envision this-this young man with-with sun-bleached reddish hair down to his shoulders, unshaven beard. Somebody that, you know, he could almost look like he was living under a bridge in Seattle, you know. But I was real healthy. I had walked all the way from upper New York State to¢â‚¬¦ And found myself about a year or so later in Mobile, Alabama, just as radically different a place as anyplace I’d ever been. And I remember some people had invited me¢â‚¬¦ I was working as a tree surgeon and some people had invited me to go to this party. You know, and I knew it was going to be the typical listen to the Allman Brothers, people were going to be smoking dope, you know, just sitting around going, yeah man, you know, uh-huh. Like, what a waste, you know? So it was a Friday night and I was just walking through this beautiful city and I saw these big billboards for these revivals.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I had no idea what a revival was.

Q. What was your religious background up to that?
A. Presbyterian. I grew up in Connecticut in a very quiet, very, you know, official sort of east coast Presbyterian church.

Q. Yeah. But had it been a big part of your life or was it kind of Easter/Christmas kind of thing?
A. No, no. I mean, my parents believed and, you know, they made their six children go to church and Sunday school and things like that. But, you know, I had already been to Woodstock and sort of had

Q. You’d found another kind of religion.
A. Well, I wanted a religion that had emotion in it.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I wanted a religion that-that had-that had life and-and action and the kinds of things I found in the kind of music I loved, and actually realized that was possible. Because if you remember my book, A Walk Across America, Dick, I lived with this black family–

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œin North Carolina. And that sort of set the stage. In all of our lives as we– obviously, we’re on this spiritual quest, I mean, and it never ends–but you can see how-how things are-things are set up just like in a good movie, I mean

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthe scene is set. The scene¢â‚¬¦ The finale has to be set several times. And I had realized in that black church that, hey, you can have emotion and you can express yourself and you can even dance and you can sing for three hours and you can shout and you can be mad.

Q. Yeah.
A. You know, instead of just sit there like, well, huh¢â‚¬¦ So I went to this revival

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthinking, you know, I had no image of what it was going to be like. I think I’d maybe seen a black and white movie of Elmer Gantry or, you know, some crazy thing

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand so I had no-I had never heard of a revival to that point and I had never been to one. I had no idea, you know, back around New York, you know, you don’t see them. So I envisioned, you know, who knows what. So I walked into this revival and there was like thousands of people there.

Q. Wow.
A. So I had to go to the front to take pictures. And I thought, well, you know, this is going to be exciting. I looked at it as a sociological

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œyou know, like going to some tribal thing.

Q. You stumbled onto some strange hidden lost tribe and this is my chance to photograph it.
A. It is. I mean, it’s like¢â‚¬¦ And I was actually working for National Geographic at the time, so I’d read and seen where they went to some of the various spiritual-spiritual events over in Africa and Tibet.

Q. Somebody had better document this.
A. And the deep south was-was-was-was like being in a foreign country to me at the time.

Q. Yeah.
A. I mean, I now live here, and I’ve lived here for 20 years and I love it. But then it was very different. So I go in there, and I go to the front. And-and this-this guy in a three-piece suit and cowboy boots and short hair and just like-just flames coming out of his eyes just starts coming out and starts screaming and preaching and throwing his arms around. And I was thinking, wow man, these are great pictures I’m getting. And then¢â‚¬¦ You know, there was like sweat dripping and all. And like when he would through his hand, it was like lightning bolts would come. I mean, it was just¢â‚¬¦ This guy’s name was James Robison. And he was from Texas.

Q. Yeah.
A. He and I couldn’t have been more-more unalike, more, you know, whatever the correct terminology is.

Q. Yeah.
A. And he-and he later told me that he wanted to scream out, hippie, stop shooting those pictures and get away from me.

Q. Really.
A. Yeah. But he said, God told him to stop. Because I probably would have never ended up becoming a Christian that night, obviously, if that had happened.

Q. Yeah, exactly.
A. And so he kept preaching and I-and I dropped the camera and basically started paying attention. And I honestly felt like, it was like when he was saying, preaching the gospel, that it was like a huge sword that was like slicing me into like a whole bunch of pieces.

Q. Wow. Now, you said you were looking for emotion. You obviously got that. I mean, you got a guy-a guy whose eyes are boring through you and he’s got his arms waving around like a lightning bolt’s coming out of his fingers. And he’s yelling at you. This guy, there’s obviously passion there. Do you remember any of the-the-the-the¢â‚¬¦
A. The actual gospel part of it?

Q. Yeah. The-the-the words, the message. The-the mental part of it. Was anything going through your mind at that point or was¢â‚¬¦
A. Well, I remember he was talking¢â‚¬¦ You know, I had a hard time when people would say that you’re a sinner–

Q. Yeah.
A. –with-with absolute things. When people would say, you know, that you can’t do this and you can’t do that.

Q. Yeah.
A. And I had a hard time with that. I mean, I really am a very, I think, naturally rebellious person and also somebody that wants to question everything. And-and but he was saying those things and talking about-talking about how¢â‚¬¦ Let me see. I think I’m just pulling this somewhere right around in here. Let me see if I can pull out the actual

Q. Well, I tell you what. You work on that. We’ve got to take a quick break anyway, so we’ve got plenty of time.

We’re going to be back with more of Peter Jenkins. Amazing story. We’re going back to the beginning of his career really. And we’re going to find out more about Looking for Alaska and-and also why this story has-has come back to Peter recently, and a little bit about his journey along the way. Don’t go away. This is Dick Staub. You’re listening to Peter Jenkins. His new book is available in paperback now. It’s called Looking for Alaska. It’s just another wonderful dramatic read full of great stories in a place that most of us won’t be able to spend a few years like he did. We’ll get back to Peter right after this. Don’t go away.

Well, that’s Hobo Jim. We’re going to learn more about him momentarily. But right now we’re locked in a space capsule, 20-20 years ago.

Q. Was it 20 years ago Peter?
A. Actually, in 1975.

Q. Holy mackerel.
A. So it was even¢â‚¬¦ It was almost 30 years ago.

Q. 27 years ago.
A. Yeah.

Q. So-so there you were, you at a James Robison thing. You’ve said you were kind of interested in is there any emotion in any religion? You got the emotion, you were going to try to sort out what it was he was actually saying that night.
A. He was saying things like, joining a church won’t make you a Christian anymore than joining a Lion’s club will make you a lion. From the day you were born you wanted to do your own thing and you were rebellious against God.

Q. Oh my gosh, that one got you.
A. Oh, yeah. I could really relate to that. If you-if you really-if you-if you want to really know God, you’ve got to repent of this rebellion which the Bible calls sin.

Q. Woa. And you didn’t like to be called a sinner, and you didn’t like to be told
that there were things¢â‚¬¦
A. No. Because I thought I was a really pretty good person, you know, and I thought I was in search of the truth. And-and then the more I heard this stuff, I mean, like religion is not the answer, salvation is.

Q. Yeah.
A. And if you confess him, you must confess he-he is God’s only son. And you know, things like that. And, you know, but I don’t know how to explain it. But if you really think about the way God set this whole thing up, I mean, I think that we’re-we have a¢â‚¬¦ It’s almost like a tuning fork because when you’re-when you-how do you¢â‚¬¦ You just have something inside of you that knows when you hear the truth.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. Because how do you really know if it’s the truth or not? Because to tell you the honest truth, after you accept Jesus then a lot of your–at least for me a lot of it you’re still wondering if it is the truth or not.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. You know, because you’re constantly being pressured from different sides.
Oh, that’s not¢â‚¬¦ What are you, ignorant?

Q. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
A. What are you¢â‚¬¦ So but I do believe that I just-I just knew that I was hearing the truth.

Q. So did you¢â‚¬¦ Like, did they have like an altar call?
A. Oh yeah. I mean, there was hundreds of people. I mean, I almost got trampled.

Q. And the hippie went up there.
A. And I was the only hippie up there. I mean, everybody else was just hardcore southerners. But, you know, that just doesn’t matter.

Q. Yeah.
A. I mean, all of our-all of the things that we think about ourselves, that we think of ourselves, as our image, whether it’s our earring or our clothes or our car, or we live in Seattle as opposed to-to Wyoming, or we have a tattoo, or we work at the hunger-you know, the food kitchen, or we teach, all that is just sort of insignificant really when it comes to what’s going on in our soul.

Q. So what-what happened when you went forward? Did somebody¢â‚¬¦
A. I just-I just, you know, followed along like a little sheep. You know, I mean, the only time in my life I probably have ever done that.

Q. Really. Now, did somebody sit down with you and then explain to you what in the heck was going on?
A. I mean, what was so bizarre, Dick, was that this little woman with no make-up and very slender… I’ll never forget. She looked like a little librarian from maybe a rural church in Alabama, you know.

Q. She got hooked up with the hippie.
A. And she was my advisor, you know, or whatever you want to call it. And she came up to me and she said, you know, you look like you’re about eight feet off the ground, you know. And I said, you know, that’s about how I feel.

Q. Really.
A. And I said, and it’s natural. And that’s the amazing thing about it. And she said, that’ right. She said the angels are smiling down from heaven right now. And I said, I can feel it.

Q. Wow.
A. And she said, but I just want to say one thing to you. It’s not always going to be like this.

Q. Really.
A. I mean, right then I almost wanted to slap her. You know, what are you, raining on my parade?

Q. Exactly.
A. But I have remembered that because she was exactly right. And I mean, she said, you’re on a mountaintop right now, but you’re going to go through some very dark valleys, as we all do, and that’s part of the-that’s part of the learning process and refining curve.

Q. Wow.
A. You have to be refined.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s like steel. It’s like a diamond.

Q. How did that change the rest of your trip?
A. Well, I mean¢â‚¬¦

Q. Did you stay around and get discipled? Or did you kind of move on?
A. Nope. I just-I just worked there for a little bit longer and I ended up moving on. And stopped in New Orleans. But it’s changed my whole life. And so here recently, just about a month ago, James and I¢â‚¬¦ James has a show, a very popular show on television

Q. Uh-huh.
A. ¢€œcalled Life Today, and he and I¢â‚¬¦ And I got to go on his show. You know, we’re a lot more alike now actually. I mean, now we both wear jeans and boots and cowboy boots and, you know, and I live in Tennessee and he lives in Texas.

Q. Yeah.
A. I drive a pickup and he probably drives a pickup. And, you know, we’re just probably a lot more alike. But just-just visually. But, you know, I-I realized, as I was sitting there with him, that he gave me in many ways, as did other people, one of the greatest gifts anybody could have ever given me. He led me to the Lord. And I mean, that has had probably the most powerful and substantial influence on my life. For all the, you know, for all the rebellion I’ve continued to do though.

Q. Yeah.
A. I’m not trying to sound like I’m, you know, anything special.

Q. Well, you and I have talked about this because there was the off-off also in the-in the story of your journey there was¢€œthere was a marriage and great joy. And-and-and you were on a lot of the Christian talk shows. And-and you were, you know, you were a wonderful, wonderful example of everything people wanted. And-and then you went through some tough stuff. I’ve been through a divorce. You went through a divorce. And you found that-that God was faithful but that you had a little bit of an experience with the Christian subculture at that point.
A. Yeah. I was angry at God at first, and then I realized it had nothing to do with God. You know, I-I realized lots of things. One was that here people were raising up this dude who walked across America. You know, I have an ability to write and I know that’s a gift from God. And I love people. And, you know, that comes across in my writing. And I make things come alive with the written word, and maybe the spoken word as well. But, you know, people were suddenly alleviating, I mean, elevating me as like a Christian leader

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œyou know, which was a major mistake. I mean, I had no training, you know. That would be like sending-it would be like sending me in to lead the war or something. It would be a big mistake. Or me head up your cooking school. That would probably be even worse.

Q. Yeah, yeah. So people put you on a pedestal and-and unfortunately, because you’re human, you probably liked it a little bit. I mean, you were getting a lot of attention for this stuff. That’s natural and normal.
A. I liked it to a degree, but I didn’t really like it

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œbecause I-I-I’m a pretty honest person and I found I could not be honest really. I had to¢â‚¬¦ You know, I’m smart enough to know the right things to say.

Q. Yeah.
A. And so¢â‚¬¦ Do you know what I mean?

Q. I do.
A. It’s real simple. You just figure out the Christianese stuff and you say it. And, you know, you can just get away with it forever if you want to. But I’m too¢â‚¬¦ I don’t know. Well, I think, when you really are a true Christian I don’t think-I think lying and living a lie really gets to you.

Q. Yeah.
A. Because you have-you have the spirit of God in you and you-you know that you’re just doing the wrong thing. So¢â‚¬¦ And I didn’t like that at all.

Q. Yeah.
A. So, yeah. We do like it to some degree, but in some ways it’s a trap.

Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. Because the reason people liked me was because I was honest.

Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. And then I became dishonest in a way, and I couldn’t really be the real me.

Q. Yeah, wow.
A. And then I’d¢â‚¬¦ So it was kind of a trap. But it was beautiful to be able to see James after all those years and thank him, you know, for this great gift which has filtered down to my six children and, you know, to the millions of people who have read my books.

Q. Yep.
A. And blah, blah, blah.

We’re going to pick up there.

Q. See, he told you he had a way with words. That blah, blah, blah part is just brilliant.
A. That’s the real effective one.

Q. That’s the honesty coming out there.
We’re going to be back with more of Peter Jenkins. Let’s talk about Looking for Alaska. Don’t go away folks. We’ll be right back.

Q. Well, there’s Amy Grant singing about Tennessee Christmas which¢â‚¬¦ Peter, how in the world did you end up in Tennessee?
A. You just don’t know. Amy’s a friend of mine, and-and she’s-she’s another person that’s been held on a huge pedestal, you know, and had a lot of un-un-unjust things said about her. She’s a wonderful person. And I’ve ridden around my farm so many times around Christmastime feeding my cows listening to that song. And that’s just one of the great songs.

Q. It is a great song.
A. Yes, it is. I mean, you can just translate that and just say that’s a Seattle Christmas or a Washington Christmas, or whatever. But anyway, I ended up in Tennessee because I-I when-when the whole thing came down to it, I really was shockingly impressed with the south.

Q. Yeah.
A. A lot of us don’t have-a lot of us that don’t know the south don’t have good impressions of it. There’s, you know¢â‚¬¦ Obviously, you can just think about what people are thinking about Senator Lott right now and all that’s going on with that.

Q. Yeah.
A. But the south is a beautiful place and it’s a very spiritual place. And I just really like it, so that’s how I ended up here.

Q. Have-have people been talking about the-the Senator Lott thing?
A. Oh, a lot. A lot.

Q. What are they saying?
A. A lot about Lott.

Q. See, there goes those word skills again.
A. Oh, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah.

Q. Blah, blah, blah, a lot about Lott.
A. Blah, blah, blah about Lott, Lott, Lott. But they¢â‚¬¦ Some of our most conservative radio talk show people here are the ones that, you know, because if it wasn’t for Tennessee we’d have Al Gore as the president now.

Q. Yeah.
A. And that wouldn’t, in my opinion, be a very good thing at all, because we knew the guy the best and that’s why we turned him away and didn’t want him.

Q. Yeah.
A. But some of these real conservative Tennessee radio talk show hosts, just real good people, some of them are saying he should go.

Q. Really.
A. Yup, which surprises me, but I think it’s a¢â‚¬¦ I think he’s made¢â‚¬¦ I think sometimes stuff comes out of our subconscious that we’re not really, that illustrates¢â‚¬¦ I mean, that’s what I always look for, as a writer, I mean, that’s what I’m always looking for is remarks like that–

Q. Yeah.
A. –that people make that are–

Q. Revelatory.
A. Yes.

Q. Well, you know, the fact that he said them 25 years ago in another setting. And, you know, there were letters to the editor today in a number of the newspapers saying part of the problem is that this is the way a lot of people really feel underneath it all. And-and people in the south have got to be very sensitive about that.
A. Well, for instance, see, I come from Connecticut where they’re more racist than they are here. I came from a very wealthy, almost totally white community called Greenwich, Connecticut.

Q. Yeah.
A. They’re extremely racist. But they would never admit it.

Q. Yeah.
A. And they would never even talk about it. And they-they do the same thing that I was talking about doing with the
Christian thing.

Q. Yeah.
A. They say the right thing. But as far as actually knowing anybody, or what if their daughter came home with an-with an African American or

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œor with a Hispanic or with a Chinese man or whatever. But so, it’s everywhere. There’s no question about that.

Q. Huh.
A. But I just¢â‚¬¦ I don’t know.

Q. Well, let’s move on to Alaska.
A. Yeah.

Q. Hobo Jim. I played a little bit of his music a little bit earlier. How in the world did you end up in Alaska?
A. Well, Hobo¢â‚¬¦ I-I ended up in Alaska I think principally, Dick, because ever since I did this walk across America and I’ve done all these other books, Across China and Along the Edge of America and others, I’ve really been, I’ve really felt this-this call or this drive to-to-to help our-our people understand our own country.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. We know so little about it. It is so massive and it’s so diverse and it’s so

Q. Yeah.
A. And Alaska is sort of the ultimate in-in that-in that it’s such an unusual place
and it’s the last frontier.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it’s the last place where nature truly reigns over man. And just, you know, there’s so many fascinating natives up there, Native Americans, the Eskimos Inupiat and Yup’ik Eskimo people and Athabascan people and Tlingit people and Haida people. And so I’ve always been drawn to Alaska. And then I met this songwriter here in Nashville who also is the State of Alaska folk singer named Hobo Jim.

Q. Yeah.
A. And he just, he’s written a lot of great songs about the iditarod and about different things.

Q. Yeah.
A. And he invited me to go visit him. And I went up there and I said, man, this is my next project.

Q. Really.
A. I got to do-I got to do Alaska.

Q. So how was it different from your other journeys?
A. It was radically different because Alaska is so radically different from any other of the, any other place in our country.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it’s-it’s so far away from everything else. The Alaskan people call the other 49 states, The Outside. And it’s like you’re-it’s like you’re on another planet. It’s like you’re in another country.

Q. Yeah.
A. In many ways they feel like they’re more of their own country. We actually moved our whole family up there because my wife really wanted to be a big part of this trip. And our little daughter who, our youngest, who was nine at the time, of course she didn’t have much say about it one way or the other, but she loved it. She did her third grade up there and part of her fourth grade.

Q. Wow.
A. And we spent a year and a half and we just situated ourselves in this little town called Seward.

Q. Yeah.
A. Which, of course, Seattle has such a connection to Alaska.

Q. Yeah.
A. Because Seattle in many ways is like a lifeline to-to Alaska

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand it has been forever.

Q. Yeah.
A. Way before it was a state.

Q. Yep.
A. There’s tremendous connections between how the¢â‚¬¦ The ships would leave Seattle and-and take people to Seward. That would be before there was the road which was, that you can drive through Alaska. That only came about because of World War II.

Q. Huh.
A. People had to go basically from Seattle on ships and a lot of them went to-went to Seward, and that was their entrée into the center of the country.

Q. Now, one of the things that people are going to love about this book, among many, it’s a great, great read, as all of your books are, is the Seward police log. You decided to spend some time noting what was going on in the-in the-in the police log.
A. Well, Dick, I mean, just think of Seattle. You know, just think of your own neighborhood, a police log. And you really were able to find out what really went on

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œat your neighbors when-when the police came over or whatever. And, you know, but in a little town you can really find out what goes on. I mean like kids stealing a bowling
ball and bowling for cars, you know. Stuff like that.

Q. Well, and there were some unusual things. I mean, it’s a different kind of place.
A. I mean this-this, you know, that¢â‚¬¦ Well, a lot of people go to Alaska running from something.

Q. Yeah.
A. Running away. I mean, there’s a very famous–and I’m not going to mention the name–there’s a very famous Seattle family. They have some of the finest restaurants in-in Seattle that–and one of their sons was, I think, even educated at Stanford–kind of, you know, took a trip a little off the deep end and ended up in Alaska in a little community. And, you know, he was one of these classic Alaskan characters.

Q. Yeah.
A. People would see him out in the middle of the wilderness, Dick, with a harness and a chain attached to a harness. And attached to the chain a 400-pound log. And he’d be dragging this through the woods, through the total wilderness. And they’d ask him, what are you doing? And he said, I’m training to walk across Russia. But eventually he just, you know, he got further and further out there. So there’s some-there’s some fascinating characters there that are trying to sort of go as far as they can away

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œwithout being, you know, completely out of the United States.

Q. Yeah. I’ll tell you what. Do you got time for a few more minutes?
A. Sure.

Okay. We’ll listen to a little bit more of good old Hobo Jim. We’ll finish up with some more comments from Peter Jenkins. The book that we’re talking about is Looking for Alaska. It’s a paperback published by St. Martin’s. It is a wonderful, delightful, amusing read with a lot of interesting people. And it’s one of those must reads. It would make a great gift for this Christmas. We’re going to be back with more of Peter Jenkins right after this. Don’t go away.

Well, that’s Hobo Jim, and it’d be well worth your time to curl up with his music while you’re reading this book. It kind of gives you a wonderful combination of the two because Peter Jenkins, who has such a wonderful in addition to the blah, blah, blahs and the a lot of lot of Lotts–he also does have a great way of communicating about what it is he’s seeing, and what he’s hearing, and who he’s meeting, and how it feels, and-and what they’re thinking, and how their journey is going, and how it’s like and not like his. And-and you get yourself kind of immersed in the place through his writing. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful way to get another perspective of a place and, frankly, of yourself as well.

Q. You’ve already talked about Alaska being a place of natural, rugged,
dangerous beauty, an amazing physical place.
A. Oh, I mean, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I mean, I saw things up there that
just almost dropped me to my knees. And this is-this is from a person who’s-who’s had, I think you know, probably thousands of times more experience in the out of doors just from my walking across America and my boat trip along the gulf. And, I mean, one time I was with these-these Tlingit native leaders in Alaska, king salmon fishing, and all of a sudden I heard this sound coming out of the ocean and these-these humpback whales were lunge feeding.

Q. Wow.
A. And they’ll blow a net, a literal net of bubbles around these herring

Q. Wow.
A. ¢€œand compress these herring, and then dive straight down and then come straight-and it was-come straight out of the water like a rocket with their mouths open. Well, also there were these bald eagles, like 30 of them

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œthat were all lined up like at SeaTac, you know, trying to land, but they were coming in and catching these herring as they were rocketing out of the water. So you not only had this¢â‚¬¦ I mean, it was like, you know, it was like¢â‚¬¦ I don’t know if it was like this amazing thing that God orchestrated like, okay, I’m going to just show you like the ultimate of what I could do.

Q. Wow.
A. So here you have this whale shooting straight up, then you’ve got all these
bald eagles coming down on either side of it with their talons just straight out.

Q. Yeah.
A. And the light was just beautiful like one of these, you know, paintings from
the 1900’s, early 1900’s, that some of the early explorers, or late 1800’s, would do of America with all that beautiful light and everything.

Q. Yeah.
A. One time I was up in a little Eskimo village called Barrow, Alaska, and I
looked out and there was probably about 15,000 caribou

Q. Amazing.
A. ¢€œjust walking through the village. And there was three black wolves
following them just hoping for a wounded or sick, or one that would get a little too far from the others. And that kind of thing happened constantly.

Q. Now, in this book you tell the story of interesting people and places and the
natural wildlife and beauty. We learn about some traditions of Alaska, some of them old and some of them more recent. You also, because your family went on the trip, you got to have some special experiences, especially with Rebekah.
A. I really did. You know, you spoke of your daughter a second ago

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œand-and what I have tried to do¢â‚¬¦ I had a wonderful father who’s passed away. And there was six of us kids. And one of the things I yearned for as a kid was to spend quality, individual time with my father or my mother, which I rarely, if ever, did until I initiated it myself later in life.

Q. Hm.
A. And so I decided, okay. I’m going to take part of this Alaska trip and I’m
going to travel with my daughter, Rebekah, who at the time was 19/20 and a college student.

Q. Important time.
A. Yeah, very. And she came with me to different places, different¢â‚¬¦ At first she was like and she’s a very brave young woman and at first she was like, Dad, Alaska is kind of scary. And plus she had a fear of flying, which was a major problem if you’re in Alaska. Because you got to get on these bush planes that are held together with like duct tape–

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œto fly somewhere. But after she went to a couple places with me she, of course, was like, you know, Dad, you’re a drag. I’m going to go¢â‚¬¦ I want to go somewhere by myself. But she ended up actually writing part of the book. And-and she had-she had a life-altering experience through this whole thing, too, so it was-it was great from that perspective as well.

Q. How did it change her life?
A. It made her braver. It made her more open to other kinds of people because
she went and actually lived with-with in an Eskimo village. It was funny. She said, Dad, I want to spend¢â‚¬¦ All my friends are going to Cancun for spring break, you know. And she goes, I know, you know, I know what that’s going to be like and I’m not interested. And, you know, I thought, where have I heard that before?

Q. Yeah, exactly.
A. Anyway, because she’s a lot like I am. But anyway, she said, I’d like to go
stay in a little village. So the only place I could find¢â‚¬¦ I had gotten an e-mail. I was on this radio program, Alaska Public Radio out of Anchorage, and this-this teacher had heard me in this tiny little village called Deering, Alaska, only 150 people, near–got to be way, way out, way closer to Russia than Anchorage.

Q. Yeah.
A. And he had e-mailed me and said, I read your first book and, you know, I’m a
teacher up here. And it would be cool if you come see me. So anyway, I ended up sending Rebekah up there. I never even met these two teachers. You know, just these two guys that hadn’t seen like a cute girl in God only knows how long. And she ended up going up there and staying with them. And then ended up spending a whole summer working on Kodiak Island on a-on a set-net site on a little island.

Q. Wow. You know, when you’re talking about this, the experiences that you’ve
had and the experience your daughter had are the kind of experiences a lot of American kids used to have.
A. Absolutely.

Q. It used t

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