A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
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Wasilla is the place where I have lived for the past 29 years - sort of. The house in which my wife and I raised our family sits here, but I have made my rather odd career as a different sort of photojournalist by continually wandering off to other places to photograph people and gather information, which I have then put together in various publications that have served the Alaska Native Eskimo, Indian and Aleut communities.

Although I did not have a great of free time to devote to this rather strange community, named after a Tanaina Athabascan Indian chief who knew Wasilla in the way that I so impossibly long to, I have still documented it regularly over the past quarter-century plus. In the early days, my Wasilla photographs focused mostly upon my children and the events they participated in - baseball, football, figure skating, hockey, frog catching, fire cracker detonation, Fourth of July parade - that sort of thing. 

In 2002, I purchased my first digital camera and then, whenever I was home, I began to photograph Wasilla upon a daily basis, but not in a conventional way. These were grab shots - whatever caught my eye as I took my many long walks or drove through the town, shooting through the car window at people and scenes that appeared and disappeared before I could even focus and compose in the traditional photographic way.

Thus, the Wasilla portion of this blog will be devoted both to the images that I take as I wander about and those that I have taken in the past. Despite the odd, random, nature of the images, I believe they communicate something powerful about this town that I have never seen expressed anywhere else. 

Wasilla is a sprawling community that has been slapped down hodge-podge upon what was so recently wilderness of the most exquisite beauty. In its design, it is deliberately anti-zoned, anti-planned. In the building of Wasilla, the desire to make a buck has trumped aesthetics and all other considerations. This town, built in the midst of exquisite beauty, has largely become an unsightly, unattractive, mess of urban sprawl. Largely because of this, it often seems to me that Wasilla is a community with no sense of community, a town devoid of town soul.

Yet - Wasilla is my home and if I am lucky it will be until I grow old and die. Despite its horrific failings, it is still made of the stuff of any small city: people; moms and dads, grammas and grampas, teens, children, churches, bars, professionals, laborers, soldiers, missionaries, artists, athletes, geniuses, do-gooders, hoodlums, the wealthy, the homeless, the rational and logical, the slightly insane and the wholly insane - and, yes, as is now obvious to the whole world, politicians, too.

So perhaps, if one were to search hard enough, it might just be possible to find a sense of community here, and a town soul. So, using my skills as a photojournalist and a writer, I hope to do just that. If this place has a sense of community, I will find it. If there is a town soul to Wasilla, I will document it. I won't compete with the newspapers. Hell no! But as time and income allow, it will be fun to wander into the places where the folks described above gather, and then put what I find on this blog.


by 300...

Anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Wasilla. This encompasses perhaps the most wild, dramatic, gorgeous, beautiful section of land and sea to be found in any comparable space anywhere on Earth. I can never explore it all, but I will do the best that I can, and will here share what I find and experience with you.  

and then some...

Anywhere else in the world that I happen to get to, such as Point Lay, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Serenki, Chukotka, Russia; or Bangalore, India. Perhaps even Lagos, Nigeria. I have both a desire and scheme to get me there. It is a long shot. We shall see if I succeed.

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Shortly after yesterday's flurry of excitement, I see blured kids through a school bus window

I came upon a bit of excitement yesterday, a bit after noon. I photographed it, alright, but the only image that I am going to post today is this one, taken shortly after the excitement had ended, about two miles away from the scene.

Actually this was pretty exciting too, and Kalib would have really been excited if he could have been with me. "Bus!" he would have shouted. "Bus! Bus!"

Kalib just loves school buses.

For now.

As to the big flurry, I will wait to post my documentation of it until Monday. I wait because the number of visitors to this blog tend to fall down a bit on weekends and so I will save it for Monday, when those readers who disappeared to recreate or whatever come back.

I will give you a few clues as to what the subject matter might be:

You know that most days when I am home, I stop at Metro Cafe and then go driving on roads that this time of year can be icy. I often see trucks on those roads, even Kenworth trucks, and I pass horses and sometimes, even people riding horses. Sometimes, perhaps, there could even be a famous person riding a horse and I might not even know it. You know, too, that I took this blog to India for Soundarya's wedding, and found that the highways there can be very scary, and you know that just last week, all the major news and propaganda networks were also busy in India.

So there you go. With clues like that, you should surely be able to guess what yesterday's flurry of excitement was all about.

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Reader Comments (15)

nope lol, i guess i have to wait till monday ;)

November 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

I seldom post here but visit often. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it. It is so interesting and I love the pictures. I especially like watching your little grandbabies grow(I have a 25yo unmarried son so I have to wait for mine!). It looks like you have a really nice family and I know you must be proud. Thanks for sharing.

November 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersallyngarland,tx

President Obama flew in from India to Wasilla and decided to stop into the Metro Cafe for a quick cup, having heard so much about it from Bill Hess, but it was icy and the limosine pick up that we saw just a few blog posts ago, slid once again, and was sideways in the road. That's it, isn't it? I'm right, aren't I? The president came in and visited with you, talking about important matters like fine black cats and school buses.

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

twould be interesting to know how people find your blog, bill, like sally from TX. i found it when i googled 'mother of the groom dress.' and of course i'm clueless about who came to town. hey, how did you like the new clint eastwood film starring matt damon? reviews were good.

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Deming

Excellent guess Debby!

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Ruth Deming:

This blog is mentioned on some AK blogs I read but I actually found it through google. I can't remember exactly what I googled but "Wasilla" was part of the search. I've been following it ever since. It may be what actually led me to the other blogs. It was a long time ago, it seems now, so I can't exactly recall but I really enjoy it.

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersallyngarland,tx

I know......A friend of mine is friends with her and posted on her Facebook that they had lunch at Metro. Small world. isn't it?

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAKPonyGirl

I know, I know!! A little boy, a snowmachine, a truck and a helicopter.....

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J

Wait, I take that back, looking at the time and date of this post...I think that incident happened about the time you posted this blog, so I think I am wrong, ooops!

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J

Twain - Monday is almost here. In fact, back where you are, it is here.

Sally - Thanks for the encouragement, and now I will give you some. It took us an awfully long time to get grandkids. It didn't happen until our oldest three were all in their 30's. Given the fact that we have kids, the youngest ready to turn five, you would think that we would have more - but we all truly enjoy the two we do have.

AkPonyGirl - It is, and I would never have expected such a thing to happen. After I post this, be sure to send your friend a link.

Debby - As Michelle says, that is a good guess. You just might be right. We will find out tomorrow.

Ruth - It was the first movie Margie and I had saw in a long time - and I did enjoy. A very different kind of movie for Clint Eastwood. Who could ever have foreseen it? Perhaps he got to wandering whatever became of all those souls The Man With No Name and Dirty Harry sent into the Hereafter.

Lisa - Now you've got me really curious about this little boy, snowmachine, truck and helicopter...

November 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

Bill, if you look online at the Frontiersman they have an article posted about the truck vs snowmachine that had a young boy on it. I didnt realize until after I posted yesterday that the incident took place in Palmer.

Now am I really curious to see what story you are going to post!

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J

You saw the wonderful and beautiful Lisa Kelly.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

I will not only send a link to my friend I will post it on FaceBook on her page if that is okay with you.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAKPonyGirl

Lisa, fortunately, I did not witness that one.

Kyle - you are right. And now you can visit the post.

AkPonyGirl - of course! The more links, the better.

November 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

Going back and rereading your clues I am having an "ohhhhh, I should have known that" moment. LOL

You always seem to be around for the coolest things Bill!

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J

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