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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A free cup of coffee; 65 degrees, four-wheelers, the Little Su, black cat outside, a golf course far away

Just as All Things Considered began on the radio, I pulled up to the window at Metro Cafe yesterday afternoon only to discover that someone had bought me a cup of coffee and a cranberry muffin. She did not leave her name, but remained anonymous. And the day before, I found a gift card waiting for me from Funny Face.

My goodness!

Thank you all!

As Sashana prepared to hand me the cup, she and Carmen posed for:

Through the Window Metro Study, #3.3333333... and so on to infinity

As I drove away, sipping, I saw these two - father and son, perhaps; uncle and nephew, maybe; perhaps just friend and friend, out enjoying the 65 degree weather on a four-wheeler.

Yes. You read me correctly.


I thought for a moment that I had moved to The Bahamas.

But it was still Wasilla. I could tell by the four-wheeler dust. Can you believe it? Just a few days ago, the ground surface varied between frozen solid and muck, and now a kid on a four-wheeler can have a blast, kicking up dust.

As I crossed the bridge over the Little Susistna, I saw this man and this young girl walking along the bank.

It turned out that he is Mike and the young girl is his 26-month old daughter, Dagne. They live five miles from the river and this is the first time that they have visited it since before the snow came down in October.

Jimmy also ventured outside for the first time. He kept pawing at the window until finally I relented, but only under the condition that he would remain always in my eyesight.

Chicago observed, but did not follow. In the ten or 11 or 12 years that she has been with us, Chicago has ventured outside exactly once. As I have mentioned before and will someday tell in detail, here or in a book or both, it took us seven weeks and two days to get her back and then she was damn near dead - nothing but a dehydrated bag of bones.

She is fat now.

As eager as he had been to go out, once he got out, Jimmy was spooked. Something out there was frightening him. He refused to leave the porch.

As for Royce, there in the background, I would have been happy to let him out but he never wanted to venture past the window - which is odd for Royce.

I am happy to report that, at long last, he is gaining some weight. Yet, he is still skinny. He eats a ton of food - more than the other three combined, I would say, and it just seems to go right through him.

But he is gaining some weight, so he must be retaining some of it.

It was Caleb that had spooked Jimmy so. Caleb had knocked some balls way back into the trees, at the bottom of the little hill and had gone down to search for them.

Jimmy could not see him, but he could hear him. He did not know what he was.

A bear, maybe.

If Jimmy even know about bears.

I doubt that he does. How would he?

He probably imagined that Caleb was something even bigger and more frightening than the biggest, baddest, bear out there.

From behind my office window, Pistol-Yero calmly observed it all.

This is Caleb this morning. Where do you think he is and what is he looking at?

He is at IHOP. Caleb had to drop his car off at the shop at 8:00 AM. He asked me to pick him up and then he took me to breakfast, his treat. Caleb loves IHOP pancakes, so that's where we went.

Well, he's still looking. At what?

Passing cars, is all I can think of.

Or maybe golf courses, far away, like Pebble Beach, Tucson, or Scottsman's Head.

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Reader Comments (7)

The temperature was about the same here on the eastern side of the lower 48. Your son's picture reminded me of a recent conversation I'd had with Cara via IM. You should ask Caleb what he was thinking and post it after we all have a guess. My guess is that he had itchy feet, and was dreaming about being someplace else.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Wow what an interesting photo - a cat with cat butt!

(I tried to type that as my mind said it, I know it's bad English!)

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Mmmm pancakes. Royce looks good, glad to hear he's gaining weight. I went to a cat adoption center on their visiting night and enjoyed visiting the cats, but cried for Buddy all the way home. I have some things to resolve before I will be ready for new cat (s).

Glad to see you got the button up, Bill. I would have had to go the funnyface route and send Carmen some money for your coffee breaks!

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermocha

Mocha, thanks for mentioning that the button is up.....missed it.

Bill, I enjoyed the cat photos. So happy to get a Royce update; Furless Jim must also be pleased with his progress.

Take good care...........

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFunny Face

Thank you for putting the button up-I really enjoy reading about your everyday life-children -grandkids and cats

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnn S.

Just want to make sure you are aware of the airshow in Ankorage this weekend; it would be terrible if you wanted to go but missed it because I didn't tell you. There may even be a photo opportunity or two!

Here is a llink:

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Debby - Caleb does not remember for certain, but believes he was thinking about golf and coffee. That 65 was a blip. It is still very nice, but 48.

Michelle - Thank you! Yes, that was an interesting mutation.

Mocha - I know the feeling. I found Jim on one of my trips to the pound to check for Little Guy and he brought me to tears, right there. For two weeks, I pretended that I was not going to adopt him, because he could not replace Little Guy, but, of course, I had to bring him home. Where else was to go, if not home?

Yes, I am certain Furless Jim is. He has not seen him for awhile, but he does get the reports.

Thank you, Ann. I hope you will continue to enjoy.

Mike - Thanks for the heads up. I have so much to do this weekend that I can hardly afford to take the time to drive to Anchorage... but then... it is... airplanes!

April 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

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