Russian River Campground, east of Soldotna, Alaska
Wednesday, July 11, 1973
We left Homer on this day. Time to go since we’d caught our salmon, I guess. We didn’t go far after dumping and refilling our water and sewage tanks, just to a campground a few miles east of Soldotna, which is about 75 miles back towards Anchorage from Homer.
The campground was on the banks of the Russian River. I imagine that name is a holdover from early in the 19th century when the Russians actually owned Alaska. There’s another Russian River in California, too, which supposedly marks how far the Russians got in their explorations of North America’s Pacific coast back in the day.
We did some more fishing, but as I wrote in my diary, we “discovered that you had to fish with flies,” apparently a state park regulation, so the only thing caught was a minnow, by my father. “It was cute.” I think that was the last of the fishing on this trip, if I remember correctly.
That evening after supper, my father took a piece of leftover bread roll and tied it to the end of his fishing line, then set the roll on the picnic table. Soon a ground squirrel came to investigate, and Daddy teased him by repeatedly tugging it away from him with the fishing line. “At first I thought it was funny, afterward I didn’t like it.” Honestly, I remember it not even being funny to begin with.
It was, to use my personal metaphor, like filling someone’s car with popcorn, being deliberately mean to get a laugh at someone else’s expense. My three sisters all got married the year I turned twelve. You know how people tie old shoes onto the back of the car when a couple gets married? Well, at the first wedding reception, my new brother-in-law’s friends decided to do something different, so they filled the honeymoon getaway car with popped popcorn. All the way to the roof. Everybody else thought it was funny. All I can remember is the mess it made and how it took forever to get the car cleaned out enough to drive it. My sister said that they were still finding popcorn kernels in that car a month later.
There are some things that other people find hilarious that I find just mean-spirited and nasty. And teasing some poor hungry ground squirrel is like filling someone’s car with popcorn.