Growing Up Alaska: Dirt Floors

When we first came to Alaska, I was five years old and it was planned as a summer trip. My parents had already lived in Alaska for a few years in which both of my older brothers were born. This trip had been meant to show them where they were born.

As often happens with my family, one adventure led to another and we ended up staying much longer, thus these stories of me growing up in Alaska.

After a series of unfortunate mishaps that landed us in Fairbanks weeks behind schedule with a blown transmission and low on funds, dad found a job that would “extend” our vacation. He’d found work at an old hotel at a hot springs about a hundred miles north (closer to 240 by the way the crow drives back then).

Dad found a temporary place for us to stay for the month to month and a half we expected to stay. To help you understand, Fairbanks is a remote city in the interior of Alaska. Central, the closest community to the hot springs is so remote that most people in Alaska don’t know where it is at. Arctic Circle Hot Springs is at the end of the road that is only there to connect it to Central. The place dad found for us was beyond that, up a mining road along Portage Creek a few miles from the Hot Springs.

No electricity, plumbing, running water, well water and no one would hear you scream.

To call it a cabin would be generous. In fact, most called it a shack, which is even dubious. Built from logs, it was no bigger than 10×12 feet with a door so low that even my 5’9″ mother had to duck to get inside.

The inside was illuminated by two small windows on opposite sides of the “cabin.” There was a table under one window, bunk beds jammed in the corner and a “full” size bed along the other wall. This left just enough space for an “open” kitchen concept which included a narrow plywood counter, two “shelves” and wood burning barrel stove. The floor by the beds had wood, but the rest of it was hard packed dirt.

And in this tiny space, my mother had 3 boys, ages 5-12.

It was a small humble place that my mother made into a home. And what has always amazed me, besides my mother not killing us boys, was that she swept that dirt floor every day. Most people probably wouldn’t have cared that their dirt floor was dirty, but if this was going to be her home, she was going to make the best of it.

It is those little memories that most people would think are so insignificant that have always stood with me. That little shack in the middle of nowhere became a symbol to me of our family; it doesn’t matter where we are or what we have, we are family.

Life is seldom what you dream it to be, life is what you make of it.

Author: matthewlasley

I am a school teacher and an author. I like to write picture books, middle grade, science fiction and short stories. I live in Alaska and I love history, so those two things often influence my creative writing.

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