Fleeing the Country: Rural Alaska Through the Eyes of a Child
In 1978, Eartha Lee moved to rural Alaska at the age of two, leaving her birthplace in Blairsville, Georgia far behind. Before long, the family began living twelve miles out the Taylor Highway in an abandoned one room cabin. Electricity, a telephone, and indoor plumbing were out of the question. For seven months during the winter, they were without transportation into Eagle as the road was completely covered with snow and ice. During this time, weeks could pass without visitors. Eartha's story is a perspective of the child who dreamt of what was beyond the ever-rolling mountains. As the years passed, Eartha, her little sister, Sara, and her older brother, John Charles, were all taught at home through Alaska Gateway Correspondence Study, a program free of charge to students who lived in rural Alaska. However, the supplemental lessons that centered around living in the wild were vital for their survival. Over the long winters, Eartha's family lived in various cabins for shelter when weather conditions were extremely cold, dark, and harsh. During the summers, they set up camp in clearings that have long since been taken over by raspberry bushes and new trees. In earlier years, a big blue canvas tent served as a temporary seasonal home, but as the family grew, an old school bus kept crowded sleeping areas bearable. Such a life became increasingly lonely over the years. Eventually, the family relocated into Eagle, a community of about 130 residents. During the upcoming years, they lived in Eagle or on the outskirts of the nearby Eagle Village, home to nearly 50 Athabaskan Natives. Eartha's family lived off the land to a large extent, eating fish, moose, caribou, berries, wild plants, and small game such as squirrels, rabbits, and grouse. Her father worked fighting wildfires, cutting wood, gold mining, and fur trapping to earn money for basic supplies: kerosene, flour, salt, sugar, coffee, honey, oil, and other essentials. Her mother was the ultimate homemaker and teacher, making ends meet even when faced with the grim challenges that are inevitably a part of living life in rural Alaska. In "Fleeing the Country: Rural Alaska Through the Eyes of a Child" the author does not only speak for herself, but for so many other children who have grown up in isolated areas of Alaska. While it is romantic in one sense to see this great land as our nation's Last Frontier, many youth are confined here because of situations beyond their control. "Fleeing the Country" is a much needed story that will serve to provide a new point of view for this and future generations who dream of a thriving wilderness that can be enjoyed by all in their due time.
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