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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This morning I received an email from Snook, titled, "fat cat called."

This was the message:

"fat cat called and I went and got her yesterday. she's home now...."

For the moment, this is all the information that I have, but it is mighty good information.

For readers who missed the story of how Fat Cat jumped ship in Circle after traveling by boat with Snook, Alma and I up the Yukon River from Fort Yukon to Circle, you can find it here.

This must mean that Fat Cat finally found her way to a home in Circle and so the promised call was made. It must mean that Snook would have made a five-hour round trip boat ride from Fort Yukon to Circle to pick her up.

It means that for over two months she evaded the lynx spotted near the village, and grizzly bears, too.

She must have had a grand adventure and she ended it just before winter, which here can sink into the lower -70's, set in.

If I had the resources available to me, I would hop in my airplane right now, zip up to Fort Yukon and Circle and put the story together as best I could.

But I haven't the resource and my airplane is hopelessly broken.

Yet, I am happy, just to know Fat Cat is back.

I wonder if she is still fat?

Maybe she is Slim Cat now.

Even if so, I have a feeling she will soon be Fat Cat again.

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Reader Comments (17)

Great news! Thanks for letting us know.

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca




September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Man. I just can't believe how happy I am about that cat....

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

oh what good news ...i would love to know what adventures Fat Cat had.

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

oh if only fat cat could tell her tales1

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

WOW! how on earth did fat cat survive for TWO MONTHS on her own??

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdahli22

Lovely, lovely, lovely news!

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Yeah for FAT CAT!!!!!!!

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCyndy E

Hip-hip horray!!!!!

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa H.

it's a sign...ROYCE...is smiling...
What not to love !!!

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentera civilian-mass audience

That's great news.. Wish she could tell us about her adventures..

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

That was a survivor! Do not do anything with your broken plane if it is not fix dear Bill. Want you here for much longer.

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStandtall-The Activist

Yay for Fat Cat! I often wondered what had happened/was happening to her. Thank goodness she is home!!!! Thanks for the update.

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

So glad to hear this! I hope he has lots of fun over the winter regaining his mighty girth!

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Laughing here... I was sure she was a goner after the first story. Great news.

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark W

Thanks so much for the update! Fat Cat has weighing (heavily, of course) on my mind--I am so relieved to know she made it through her adventure in one piece. I, too, am looking forward to when you can give us the full story.

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

Yay! As a three-cat-owned person, I've been stewing about Fat Cat all along. I was so afraid she would never be heard from again. Thanks for the update! Can't wait to hear the full story...such as it is, missing what I'm sure is the most interesting part, FC's tale of the last two months.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMQ

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