By Donald Benham
What I would like to talk about today is how sometimes you fall into things. I will be jumping all over the map because I will be telling you how things can happen unexpectedly. We will be in Alaska. Our Caravan of Airstream campers were visiting Fairbanks and it happened to be during the Alaska State Fair. As I was viewing a 60-pound cabbage, a gentleman and I began a conversation. I was explaining to him that I was leading a caravan of Airstreams that was touring Alaska. He asked me where we were going to stop. I told him we were going to stop at several places one of them being Seward. He asked me where we were going to stay. My answer was I don’t know for sure. He asked me if 20 acres would be enough room. I said Sure, so he said you are welcome to stay at my place.
We pulled in and it was most all gravel. I had told him that we would need water. He said he could furnish water. When we got there, I saw a lot of wood laying around and asked if we could have a bonfire. He said sure, it will clean up the area. Some of us got together and started gathering wood up in a two-foot-tall pile. That night we started the pile on fire and had a really nice cookout fire. We stayed there for three days. One of those three days we went into town with our friends the Butlers. We had lunch there. Warren Butler and I stayed at the restaurant while our wives went shopping. Warren told me, “Don, we are almost running out of money.” We left the restaurant to catch up with our wives and here Mary Butler was so happy she had just bought about $400 worth of souvenirs to send home.
Back at the campground several people saw a large white bird up in a big tree. Someone said it was an eagle. I got the owner and showed him what the lady had seen and he told me, “If that was an eagle I’m going to cut that tree down before anyone sees that bird’s nest.” He took the field glasses and said it wasn’t an eagle. He said if it were, he would have to shut down his entire operation. He owned a trucking company. His job had been to carry the waste they cleaned up in the oil spills. He took it in his trucks to a hazardous waste dump.
Thinking of the eagles reminded me of one of our stops west of White Horse. It was reported that there were approximately 400 eagles. We saw them flying around but we didn’t attempt to count them. One of our campers had bought two puppies on this trip. They kept them in a portable corral under their canopy. When they got to this location they were afraid the eagles would make lunch out of their puppies so they bought a large tarp and covered the corral so the eagles wouldn’t see them. Later on we parked in White Horse and took the road down to Skagway. While we were down there we saw a boat that took tours out on the bay over to the little city on the other side of the bay where we did see many more eagles. Skagway is a frequent stop for tour ships. While there people can catch a train to go up the hill to Atlin Lake. That lake played an important part in lives of gold miners going up to Canada to test their luck. They had to climb the hill and cross the lake to the river, then down the river to Dawson City where they were mining gold. The miners had to build rafts or bring boats to cross the lake and go down to the Dawson City. The Atlin lake is the source of the Yukon river. We will close our caravan story right now and maybe continue it later.
Donald Benham was born Nov. 28, 1919 in Ashtabula. He served in World War II in the Army Transportation Corps, worked on the railroad for 38 years and in contracting for 12. He was married for 69 years to Flora and has three daughters. He’s traveled extensively in the U. S., Canada and Mexico, lived in Florida for 35 years and now resides at Brooks House Assisted Living in Hiram.