Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Howard Luke
Howard Luke
Howard Luke talks about life on the Tanana River.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2008-04-01

Project: Fairbanks Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Dec 9, 1995
Narrator(s): Howard Luke
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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Sections

A discussion of rabbit snaring

Racing dogs with the legends

A dog named Schatze

Mushing, and dogs' intuition

Howard's camp, and the meaning of sharing

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Transcript

This recording has been edited.

So this is, this was quite a thing. This used to be way out of town, here at one time, right here.

We set rabbit snares from here. In them days, we sell rabbits for 30 cents, you know, and 30 cents was a lot of money in them days.

So we set rabbit snares; there was two of us, me and Daniel Thomas. Daniel Thomas used to shoot them, and then I snared them, and Mom used to do the skinning.

And then there was a place they called Charlie Main. It's down there ah, it's down there anyway, I can't think of the...

Where that Pioneer Hotel is here, they closed it now, it's right in the corner, and Charlie Main used to have a store down there and he used to buy everything.

Squirrel skins, and anything. He buys anything, you know. He’d hire people to tan them for him. So this is why we moved up from Nenana, it was too hard living.

And up here, you know we could snare rabbits, and stuff like that, and squirrels and stuff like that.

When I first came to Fairbanks I started dog racing in 1941.

And I never did win a race. I won one race in the 1940's, 1947. Andy Kokrine beat me two days, and the last day, I beat him.

So that was, but there always was any money. Gareth Wright, me and Gareth Wright was just like this; it was just going back and forth like this.

There was just two of us. Another one was John Greenway. I remember one day when they shut down the carnival, they shut it down.

They used to have a carnival right near where the bridge is, and right in front of NC [Northern Commercial Company] down there,

they had a tent there, maybe 400 feet long, I guess. And they had all this kinds of games, and like, slot machines,

and they had everything, you had all this kinds of games going on there.

So there was a swinging bridge down there, and Noah Pfeiffer, this old fellow I used to drive dogs for.

I raced for quite a few people. I raced for Agbaba [Steve]. I raced for Earl Norris one year.

So I brought this guy up. He was a German guy, you know, and he'd name all his dogs in German, and I didn’t know what they were, you know and I got a dog named Schatze.

And a few years ago, there was a neighbor living across river and he says, "Howard, do you know what Schatze means?" And I said, "No, I don’t," I says, "I used to drive dogs for a fellow named Pfeiffer, and he was a German, and he's the one that named the dogs."

And he says, "Schatze means 'my love.'" I said, "Oh yeah?"

So that’s how, he named all these dogs in German, you know. And I learned a lot about him when I first met him, when I first met him.

I started racing when I only had three dogs, me and Jake Butler started putting dogs together.

And Fabian Carey, do you remember Fabian Carey?

That’s one fellow I think that could have been something. I mean, if he was still living right today, you know. If he ran for something.

I mean, using common sense. That’s what I always say right today. Use some common sense when you are talking.

And I started racing for him, and that’s when we used to race, right in front of NC [Northern Commercial Company], we raced by the Cushman we started to go down, then we raced down, and go down Airport Road, then come by.

And Fabian Carey had his kennel right down there by Second Street, and I’ll tell you, I never, I told him, "I'm going to have trouble going by there, by the kennel." He said, "Don't worry, Howard." He said, "My leader will listen to you."

And I got that leader, as I was going; I started getting nervous, I had one more block to go. And I figured you know, going that, going 16 miles and he'd be all tired out.

Coming back that leader just kept on going, and kept on going. He knew, I tell you these dogs know.

I mean, I guess it's how you take care of them and stuff like that, you know. It means a lot that the animals.

And those are the things I’ve learned about these things.

People got to share with one another more. And I think because we're having got a problem right today.

This is what I try to do right now. This is why I built a place down at my camp.

I built a big octagon building over there. And I’ll tell you, I did something right down there. That I wanted to do, my mother started that. She started a little place, you know 12x12.

She'd bring people that got... people in Fairbanks that had no place to go. She built a place down there, and then she'd bring them down and clean them up and stuff like that.

And I'm trying to do that; follow my mother's footsteps to do these things. But now, I don't get, I don’t get nothing.

I talk to the schools, talk to the University, they say there's no money. I said you don't need no money just to come down there. 'Cause I'm willing... I want to share. This is what I want to do. What I've learned, I want to give it out.

I don't want to take the thing with me. And this is what this thing is all about. Because right today, that we don't have, we don't have that many elders right today.

And it's too bad them days that they didn't have a recorder, because we could have been, we could have known a lot better.

And I'm kind of happy right today that I did what I did.