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
« I have created my own Arctic winter day of night, right here in Wasilla; the new Uiñiq - front cover | Main | My day so far - as interpreted through my iPhone »

I take a walk and see a dog just about get run over three times, someone tries to sell me a car, raven makes a moonflight, traffic accident near Metro Cafe

As regular readers know, when I am home I try to take a good walk, bike ride or both everyday, but I hadn't in probably a week or so. So I finally did. The warm weather that had brought rain and melting over the weekend had been driven out and the air was cool - not cold, but cool. About 22 degrees F (-6 C). Sarah's Way was covered with ice of the slickest kind.

When I first stepped out, I tried to walk across the street so that I stay on the left-hand side of the road, but each time I took a step forward, I would just slide right back.

So I stayed on the right until I reached the corner where a certain kind of dreadful insanity rules, then carefully picked my way across to the left side and almost instantly came upon these three, well camouflaged moose. It kind of made me sad to see them, because they were just outside the home of the late Patty Stoll, who died of cancer in September of last year.

She was like me in that she loved to get out and walk, bike, or ski and it was always a joy to come across her on the trail. Unlike me, she took care of herself when it came to eating, sleeping and living habits, but the cancer got her anyway.

I found some frozen footprints that had rotted a bit during the thaw and rain. I wondered... could they be mine? My heel leaves a mark kind of like that.

I tested it out - too big. But then maybe it got bigger when it was melting. Truth is, I don't know.

I walked along Seldon and finally reached the paved bike trail, which was completely bare. No ice on it at all. Relieved that I no longer had to worry about falling, I walked on. Soon, I heard the sound of dog paws and claws, clicking against pavement, coming from behind me.

I turned and saw this dog advancing quickly toward me. Suddenly, it turned and dashed out onto Seldon - right in the path of a car that was coming fast. "Doggie!" I shouted, hoping it come my way, but it didn't. The driver hit his breaks hard, veered to the left and shot by the dog - missing it by maybe two or three inches.

This is not that scene. It happened very fast. Not only did I not have time to raise my camera and shoot, I did not even think about it. All I thought about was trying to get that dog out of the way.

The dog then came back to the bike trail, trotted up aways ahead of me, then once again dashed out into Seldon, right in the path of another driver who also had to brake hard.

No. This picture is of the third car that the dog went in front of, causing the driver to brake. This driver was coming out of a turn and going relatively slow, so it was not so close a call as the previous two.

A bit further ahead, as the dog moved along in front of me, I came to a house up the hill a bt, under construction, with carpenters working on the roof. One of them began to whistle and call out to the dog, as if the dog was his. From their vantage point, they would not have seen the worst of the near run-overs. 

I figured if one of them was bringing the dog to work and then letting it run wild, he ought to know how close he had just come to losing his dog. So I turned onto that street and began to walk towards them.

I had not gotten far when this car came driving slowly down Seldon. The driver was whistling and calling out for the dog. The dog headed toward him. It now appeared that this was the dog's owner, not one of the men on the roof.

I was going to tell this man how close his dog came to getting killed, but before I could come within conversational range, he turned the car around, whistling and calling to the dog as he did so. I thought he would get out and let the dog into the car, but instead, he drove off with the dog chasing happily from behind.

His house must have been nearby. Unless he reads this blog, which doesn't seem likely, he will never know how close he came to losing his dog on this day.

I am not judging him. I think just about everyone, even the most responsible and loving, who has ever kept a dog has had that dog get away and go out wandering.

Obviously, when this realized his dog was gone, he came looking, found it, and returned home with it.

Having seen the dog dash obliviously into the paths of three different cars, I was not certain how wise it was to have that dog chase from behind on a busy road, in the lane of oncoming traffic, but I trust they made it home safely.

A bit further along, someone tried to sell me a car. I didn't buy one.

It was dusk, and the dusk was beautiful.

A raven came by, headed to its home in the foothills to the Talkeetnas. It had put in a good day's work and deserved its rest.

Next came a C-130 Herc.

And then came Margie, driving in the car. She stopped to see if I wanted a ride home. Normally, I would have kept walking, but it was 4:00 o'clock - time for me to take my break and head for Metro Cafe. So she picked me up, got out of the car at the house and I continued on to Metro.

When I reached Metro, I saw that there had been what appeared to be a minor traffic accident on the church grounds across the street. I shot this image as I began the turn into the drivethrough lane.

Elizabeth had witnessed the accident. The investigating officer came in and, in a friendly and non-threatening tone of voice, asked her if she could tell him what she had seen. She agreed. She handed me my Americano. The officer began to ask his questions. I played the role of the lazy reporter and drove off, without hanging around to learn the details or take any further pictures.

All I try to do in these quick walk and drive by pictures is to create a bit of the flavor that is Wasilla. Even with just this much, I could taste that flavor. That was enough. I did not want my Americano to get cold. So I drove off, leaving the larger story untold.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

Every story ever told is always just a piece of a story. There is always more. If you had stayed to get the story of the wreck, you would not have the whole story. You would have gone from one person to another, to another still, and as you were trying to collect the story, to gather it all, your coffee surely would have been cold. Good that you knew when to stop.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

great stories today

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Thank you, Twain12 and you are right, Debby. That's why I have taken on the role of the lazy reporter. A sliver of the story is enough.

December 9, 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>