A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
All support is appreciated
Bill Hess's other sites

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.

Blog archive
Blog arhive - page view
« We nearly got blown off the road but finally the sky began to clear; bareness revisited | Main | Lazy day »

The party begins with a buttery shout, progresses to flaming fire, and ends in displays of affection

The party began with a shout,"Pizzles stop licking the butter!" It was Liza who shouted, instantly causing all heads to turn to look at Pizzles as he licked the butter.

Shortly thereafter, Rex fed a piece of buttered bread to Cortney. Nobody shouted, "Cortney stop licking the butter!" 

No, this indignity was saved for Pizzles alone. True, Cortney was eating bread that the butter was spread on, yet, however one consumes the butter, in one way or another, one must still lick the butter.

Afterward, poor Pizzles begged for a piece of the bread spread with butter so that he might lick that butter too, but nobody would give him one. I am proud to say that, a little bit later, when I was eating my salmon, I gave three pieces to Pizzles. They were tiny pieces, yes, but he is a cat. He is a tiny creature. Tiny pieces for a tiny creature - just right and quite generous of me, because I wanted to eat all of the salmon - my piece and everybody else's, too.

I should note that Lisa took a little heat for calling Epizzles, Pizzles, rather than the nickname that has become the moniker of preference for him: "Poof."

This is because awhile back, Pizzles, who had always been an occasionally well-mannered cat, started to pee outside his litter box.

Poor Melanie and Charlie - they tried all the known remedies to convince a cat to restrict his peeing to the litter box, but nothing worked.

Then, they suddenly realized, "Pizzles.... Pizzzz..." Kind of sounds like the whiz of a cat peeing, pisssss. It occurred to them that everytime Epizzles heard them call him "Pizzles," he could be misinterpreting his name as an inducement to pee wherever he wanted.

So Melanie and Charlie quit calling him "Pizzles" and stuck to his other nickname, "Poof."

And sure enough, Poof quit peeing in the house.

I understand that he started to blow lots of stinkers, however. Nobody told me this, but it only makes sense.

Poof was well-mannered on this night, however, and didn't poof often, because he wanted some of my salmon and he innately understood that I do not share my salmon with Poof cats who are poofing all about.

Pretty soon, Charlie appeared with Lisa's surprise birthday cake. Her birthday was actually November 22 and we had all planned to celebrate together as a family down on my wife and children's ancestral White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona, but then Margie had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery.

I stayed home with her, of course, but given the fact that I was in the hard, early stages of the shingles that still bother me, if to a lesser but still sometimes very aggravating degree, traveling would have been pretty hard on me, anyway.

So we had a late celebration.

It has, of course, become a tradition that no matter whose birthday it is, Kalib, joined now by Jobe, with Lynxton on deck, helps to blow out the candles. But Kalib and Jobe are in Phoenix tonight. Tomorrow, they will board a plane and fly back to Alaska.

So Lisa had to blow her candles out all by herself. Without the benefit of the assistance of little people, this process, which normally takes at least 10 or 15 seconds, happened just like that. So I did not get to snap a bunch of frames, but had to settle for just one.

This was a wild berry cheesecake, by the way, made by Melanie with assistance from Charlie - I am pretty sure it was the best cheesecake I ever tasted.

Afterwards, the glow of young love brightened up the otherwise very dim room: Lisa and Bryce.

Melanie and Charlie.

Rex and Cortney... and a reminder of young love from a different time, which feels like maybe last week to me... the young love that made all of this evening's display of young love possible... Margie.


View images as slides

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (9)

Happy Birthday :)

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Happy Birthday Lisa! What a beautiful family you and Margie have. Poof too!

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

I'm glad you and Margie got to celebreate with everyone. :)

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShoshana

Those who are in love are forever young.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

hehehe... Poof! Lovely family time...

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuji

That is the most beautiful picture of Margie...she looks as if being surrounded by young love can turn the clock back. She looks like a woman in love.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Awwww. How sweet! My best to all the couples in love, young and slightly less young. May your shingles soon be nothing but a faint memory.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDianne Woodruff

ah love! what a lovin family you have, charming billy!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Deming

twain - :)

Thank you, Mrs. Gunka. Poof is a little goofy looking as well - part of his charm.

Shoshana - me too. It would have been nice in Arizona, but at least we did t.

Martin - we must put that one to the test.

Suji - One day, you must meet the Poof.

Debby - I sometimes get the feeling that she is.

Dianne - thank you - a memory that I kind of wish I could never have.

Ruth - My mother used to sing that song to me when I was a boy. I couldn't stand it. I had not gone to see a wife, whether she could bake a cherry pie or not. Still, I would have been happy to take the pie - with ice cream, not a wife.

December 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>