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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We take a scary drive to take a dog home and then we get to see three boys who are not as little as they were last time

Muzzy had been separated from his immediate family for almost four weeks now and besides that he kept eating the cats' food. So, somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 PM, we loaded his own food and personal possessions into the car, opened up the gate to the back and in he jumped.

We - Muzzy, Margie and I - then set off to drive to Anchorage. Down on the floor of this valley, the sun, which at its zenith now barely rises above the tops of the mountains to the south, had already set.

It's rays still created a beautiful fringe of light on the icy mountain tops.

The highway was icy, too, and scary. Here and there, cars had slid off the road.

I thought of the day before, when I had decided to sleep and let Margie drive herself into town for her doctor appointment. As I stated, she hates to drive in the dark, especially if there is ice on the road. In contrast, my night vision is probably about as good as anyone's except for a cat.

When I saw the ice on the highway, the big trucks and thought of Margie driving this gantlet in the dark, I felt very badly that I had slept. But, she did good. She came back alive and well.

We reached Muzzy's house in safety. In the window, I saw the face of a little boy who, it felt, I had not seen in years - even if it had only been a bit less than four weeks.

Dog and family exploded in joyful reunion.

Finally, it calmed down a bit.

Then Jobe noticed that grampa had come, too.

Kalib dragged his grandma to the downstairs playroom to see the trains. Jacob and Lavina bought this set of Thomas trains off Craigslist for $40 - and it has proved to be the best toys these boys have ever had - better than anything electronic or magical.

They hold it, they carry its cars here and there. They push it around the tracks and even where there are no tracks.

They never tire of Thomas the train.

I want such a set for myself.

I don't know where I could put it, but I want one.

Lynxton was sleeping in the very dimly lit master bedroom. His dad was still at work. It is kind of hard to get off a plane after three-plus weeks in Arizona, southern Utah and Las Vegas and go straight to work, but that is what he had to do.

Lavina goes back to work Monday.

It was hard enough for her just to leave the warm sun of the southwest and come back to Alaska.

Margie plans to go in Sunday night so she can stay and hang out with the boys.

The cats and I will be alone again.

Last Christmas, Melanie gave Margie and I a gift card to Century 16 and we still had one movie and one set of refreshments left on it.

So, at 5:00 PM, we headed to Century 16.

We saw Hugo.

MAGICAL movie.

I was entranched from the first fame to the final.

And that was the 2D version. The time of the 3D was off for us.

Yet, even the 2D often seemed 3D.

Gotta see it in 3D, some day.

Oddly enough, this latest wonder of modern communication technology really brought to life the wonder of books.

It made me want to do nothing but read books - and create books.

Afterward, we returned to the house to see if Lynxton had woke up yet. We found him asleep in the cradle of his dad's arm.

He soon awoke. Then his grandma took him.

I was amazed at how big he had grown - how chubby his face had become.

His had left with a lean, slender, face. He returned with chipmunk cheeks.

Lavina ate a lot of mutton in Arizona.

And then we left to go home.

As we always do.


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