Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Bob Allen
Bob Allen
Bob Allen talks about rescuing a bald eagle, cabana life, and leaving Skibowl Hill.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-16-01

Project: Unalaska Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Bob Allen
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Slideshow
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Sections

Discovering a bald eagle with Visqueen around its neck

Bob and the police come up with a plan

Eagle lands in the water

Bob attempts to rescue the eagle

Getting attacked by the eagle

Coming home with eagle bite marks on his behind

Cabana life on Skibowl Hill

Had to leave the island

Discovering the wall of snow at his door

Working out an exit strategy

Taking a flying leap out of the cabana

Discussion with the neighbors on the way out of town

Saying goodbye to the local police and his neighbors

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Transcript



BOB ALLEN: Well, I'll tell my eagle story, I guess. Any policemen. Hey they're all true. No policemen in here tonight to back me up. Okay. Anyway a couple winters ago I was out to the dump.

I don't know whether I was dumping something or scrounging but anyway there's this eagle flying around. He had, well he wasn't flying around, he was sitting there on the fence around the dump and he looked a little bit puny.

He had this 25 foot sheet of Visqueen wrapped around his neck hanging on to him. He was sitting there with his head down like this here. I thought at the time, maybe he was choking but he wasn't.

If you're an eagle and you're wearing 25 feet of Visqueen, it's wet. It's going to pull your head down.

Anyway I got to looking at this bird and it's winter time. I got to thinking well it's a doggone shame, you know, an eagle sitting there with this big sheet of Visqueen on him.

So I was figuring on what I could do about it and I thought well, if I could get close enough to him I could put my foot on the Visqueen and maybe he could extract his head.

About that time a police car pulled up and two of our Alaska finest jumped out. I can't remember the officers names now. But anyway, they all, we started surrounding this eagle.

He's still sitting on the fence and he's looking at us like we're all stupid, you know. Here's these two policemen getting on each side of him and I'm getting on this side and moving in on him.

Eagles, you know, they don't move their head too much. They just sort of look out of peripheral vision. This eagle must have thought we're three real dummies because you don't catch an eagle.

So anyway, I didn't know what the cops were going to do. One of them got a great big rock and I think what he was going to do was throw the rock on the Visqueen if the eagle flew.

What I was going to do was run and jump on the Visqueen if the eagle flew and the other, the second policemen, he thought it was a good idea if the eagle went over the fence cause the Visqueen would hook on the barbed wire and slap into the ground.

I didn't know what we was going to do with him once he was on the ground but anyway. So we got around this crazy bird and he took off. He looked like a big kite, with a big long tail. He couldn't get any more than maybe 25 feet off the ground.

He's flying along, just a working, dragging this Visqueen with three idiots chasing him, trying to jump on the Visqueen. The more we chased the faster he flew.

Well anyway he went out and he landed on the shore. He flew from the fence out to the, right to the edge of the shore, the embankment there.

So we split up again and we kind of gave it this number and came in from three different sides. One of the officers ran to the police car and came pack with a packing quilt.

Like a big Beacons packing quilt that you wrap furniture in. So he's got the packing quilt. The first officer still has his big rock and I got leather gloves on.

We're moving in on this bird and he's sitting there looking at us. Anyway, he let us get within maybe just beyond rock throwing distance and beyond glove, leather glove distance and he took off and started heading for Delta Western dragging his Visqueen.

Well, of course, the Visqueen hit the water and the first wave that came along slapped that eagle right down into the water quick. He took a nosedive and a splash.

Well, now we got America's bald headed eagle out there in the water with 25 feet of Visqueen wrapped around his neck. I couldn't bear that, so I've never been afraid of too many things.

So I jumped in the water. I mean I just jumped in to grab the Visqueen and start hauling him in. Well, it drops off real sharply right there. (Laughter)

The weather wasn't conducive to any kind of, well surfing might be the better word, because there were some pretty big rollers coming in.

I got hold of the Visqueen alright. About that time a big old wave slapped into us. I say us because it hit the eagle and I both.

The next thing I knew I was wearing an eagle. (Laughter)

I had Visqueen wrapped around me and this eagle, when that wave hit him he came right up on me and he wasn't a small bird. Kind of like a turkey with claws.

So I saw him coming, so I turned over face down immediately see. Because I didn't want to look him in the eye. The wave washed up both up on shore, kind of and I tried to gray hold of something and it's all soft gravel. You know, you grab hold of it and then the wave took me right back out.

I'm clawing at the gravel and going back out. In the meantime the policemen are going frantic because it's their duty, I suppose, to protect citizens from themselves. (Laughter)

So they have dress shoes on and they got these nice tight cut dress pants and their dress shoes. So they're very gingerly tippy toeing out there to waters edge and their hollering at each other, get him, get him, get him, get him. (Laughter)

They took this big old blanket and they gave it a throw and the next thing I knew I was underneath a packing quilt with a furious eagle who by this time had clamped on to my posterior and he was hanging on to both cheeks real good. (Laughter)

And you know, I felt the sharp, kind of grab me in the butt there and I turned around to look and he had that beak right there, you know, right there.

So I immediately went like that and I let him hang on. But we got this packing quilt over the top of us. So I'm being dragged out to sea with an eagle on my butt and I'm covered with a packing quilt.

I can't even see where I'm going but I can hear these cops and their voices are getting further and further away. Get him, get him, get him, get him.

Anyway, the surf again brought me fairly close and one of them says something about grab the packing quilt. I remember yelling, "Packing quilt hell, get this eagle off my butt." (Laughter)

I don't know what happened but one of us turned the other one loose. I don't know who had who but, anyway, the next thing I saw the eagle he was flying away. He kind of seemed to have a smile.

But he was flying away and the cops are showing me his Visqueen so that I can get hold of something so they can pull me out of the surf.

In the meantime the packing blanket was floating away and I've always been kind of frugal and it was a really nice quilt. So, I kind of reached back to grab the nice Beacons packing blanket and I said, "Just a minute let me get the blanket." One of them says, "Forget the damn blanket."

He says, "Get hold of the Visqueen, we're pulling you out." They did and I did. I came out and they wanted to know if I was hurt. I says, "Yeah." They said, "Where are you hurt?" I says, "Never mind." (Laughter)

They says, "Well we better take you down to the clinic down here and let the nurses examine you." I says, "No, no, that's alright." I went on home with a kind of sore rear end.

You know, I came in. I was soaking wet. I mean I was soaking. My boots, I had boots on, they were all full of water.

I come squishing in the house and Karen looked at me and she says, "Where have you been?" I says, "Well, I got attached by an eagle." I told her an eagle had grabbed hold of me.

She says," Where?" I pulled down my pants and I says, Tthere." He did have me didn't he. Karen: Three big ones. Long and deep.

Bob Allen: I'll tell you what. He, they got a grip on them like you can't believe. (Laughter) I mean I was kind of hoping that the Visqueen would come off his neck and he'd fly up on the beach and take me with him

because I kept getting washed out to sea and he kept hanging on.

Karen: He was sore for a few days and they were long and deep.

Bob Allen: I never did go to the clinic. Maybe I should have because you know those eagles they live in the garbage and they grab everything and, you know, I used to lay in bed at night and I'd think of this eagle grabbing old dead fish and stuff up there.

I'd check my butt to see if it was still there.

The police wrote out a report on it and some of my friends that work in dispatch kind of kidded me. Oh, we read the report. Ha, ha, ha.

Well we're talking about cabanas and Skibowl. That's my favorite place because that's where I settled.

My cabana came down too. Mine came down on skids. Partway anyway, so I can really relate to the cabana and the Skibowl stories because that's a very special place and like you indicated it was a special community.

Everybody was tight and during that period of time there was either real people up there and real friends or the druggies were in there.

I hit the tail end of the druggies and the second or third go around of the real folks. So towards the last there were very few of us survivors left.

Of course, we really became close and I know Jeff was up there then. We were the last of the Mohicans desperately trying to hang on to our homes.

We had them fixed up pretty cute. They were really nice. But these Skibowl stories, of course, get me started on a winter story up there.

In '89, I think it was, it might have been '90. Yeah, well. Maybe I'll get it dirty, oh I got to feed that with my fingers.

I just got off work and came running down here. Anyway, this is a winter. John, my friend John, was working for Magone's down there.

I got an emergency call from home that my dad had been, had a stroke and was taken to the hospital back in Wisconsin. So I immediately had to leave the island and fly to Wisconsin.

I made my plane reservations and everything and went back up to the cabin. And oh, Dan had John out on some island somewhere so he wasn't there to help.

Anyway, I was up at the cabin and I got all my suitcases packed and my plane was supposed to leave at, oh, I don't know, noon the next day or so.

Well that night was one of the blizzards and the williwaw storms and the snow commenced to pile deep and high. And it stormed all night.

The cabin rocked back and forth. I was in there with my candles and lanterns reading my Robert Service poetry, finally got to sleep.

Next morning I knew I had a lot of things to do so I grabbed my suitcases and everything. We were smart enough. Our door did open from the inside.

Somehow I could sense there was sunlight outside but I couldn't really see it. I guess you could look up to the top of the window and you could see it was bright sunlight outside so it must have been late in the morning.

Anyway, I got ready to go. Got all my suitcases by the door and got all ready to go and I took hold of the doorknob and opened that door and I was looking at a wall of snow all the way up to the top.

I could see about maybe a foot of steadying clouds and sunlight up there and this tremendous wall of snow.

So I thought well, no problem. I'll just bail though it and wallow through it and drag my suitcases and drag myself up the road and drag myself down the hill.

But then I got to thinking. Well, once I hit the snow, it's all going to fall back into the house and I'll never get the door shut.

I'm going to be gone for, I don't know how long. John was off on some job somewhere that we were sharing the cabin together and I had a real problem.

How was I going to get...I could get out, but I knew I couldn't shut the door. Well, obviously I didn't want to start shoveling because I had no place to put the snow.

I couldn't shovel the snow back into the house and tunnel out. So I had to figure this one out. So I moved something, chairs or something, table over there and I climbed up to where I could peek over the top of the snow.

I found out a lot of it was just a drift that came up. So I could knock the drift away but I still had pretty much snow and I couldn't get over it.

So I had to put my ingenuity in gear. So I did.

I took my suitcases and I got a running start and I threw my suitcases up over the snow, up over the berm of the snow, and they landed with a poof out there somewhere.

It hardened up and I could hear them skidding down near the creek some- where. Anyway, I threw my suitcases out, my clothing bag out and then I had to get out.

So I thought well the only thing that I can do now is...ahhh, I have it. I have it.

So I went around and got a bunch of line, bunch of string and I tied it to the doorknob. Tied some kind of a spoon or something on the other side of the string and I threw the string out too, tied to the doorknob.

I thought well, alright now. What I gotta do is, I gotta clear this snow without even touching it so it doesn't fall back in. Because if it falls back in and I'm out there tugging on the door, I'm lost.

I'll never get this door shut. It will be open all winter and what a mess. So I'm looking at my watch and my gosh my planes going to leave in an hour, you know.

So I only had one chance because I couldn't disturb the snow. So I was wearing, I had heavy clothes and boots and I had to throw them out to because I knew I couldn't jump that high wearing the things I had.

So I, this was really stupid, if somebody had seen me they'd, this would have been quite a scene. So I got back and I practiced running to the door. The cabana is what, 20 feet long. So I got back. I'd make a little run and I'd say, okay, I'll spring from right here.

About the third time I got back and I came tromping across that floor and I hit and I went up and I did a roll. The old military roll. I cleared the snow and I did a roll. I landed, of course, somewhere out there in the snow upside down, my head down and my feet up. I dug around until I found the string and then I wanted to see if I'd really cleared the door.

So very carefully I sneaked back and I peeped over and there wasn't hardly any snow that had fallen in the cabana. So, I carefully got back and took my string and pulled the door shut and it latched.

Slam, click. I got it. (Laughter) So I was real happy. I ran around and found my suitcases and started dragging them through the snow.

Kind of a funny thing was going on at the neighbors. Like I say, it was the last of the druggies. I guess the people in the next cabana at that time,

had a big party the night before and the police were there. That lady officer, what was her name, the redheaded one. She was, Meta, Meta.

Meta had somebody down in the snow and was on top of him and was putting handcuffs on him. This is the neighborhood at that time. Meanwhile one of the other cops, it was.

I'm sorry, I'm at a loss for words now. He was chasing some guy and it was the funniest chase you ever saw because they were on their hands and knees in the snow and the guy was trying to make for the road.

This officer, both of them were on their hands and knees, and the officer was behind him hollering, "stop!" He had his handcuffs and they were crawling through the snow headed for the road and Meta was sitting on top of this girl handcuffing her and I'm dragging my suitcases out the door, you know,

headed for the road and I looked up and Meta gave me, you know Meta, she always had this big smile. She looked up, gave me the big smile and she says, "Good morning, Bob." (Laughter) I said, “Good morning, Meta. Have a nice day.” She says, “I am” - slam, clink, clink.

When I got to the road the other policeman had finally caught his crook up there. He was sitting on him in the snow and putting his handcuffs on.

He says, “where are you going, Bob?” I said, “I got an emergency call. I gotta go home.” It was the darnest conversation because nobody at home would believe that, you know.

I said, good morning to my neighbor down there in the snow. By this time he'd pulled his head up out of the drift. Everybody was smiling and waving goodbye and telling me to have a good trip.

The girl that Meta was sitting on that had been swearing unearthly at Meta, pulled her head up out of the snow and she said, and Meta was pulling on her feet by this time, she says, “When are you coming back Bob?”.

I says, “I don't know. I'll be back in about a month.” She said, “Have a good one” and yelled “Goodbye.” I went chugging down the hill dragging my suitcases behind me and I made my airplane.

I don't believe anybody at home would quite understand that story but I'm sure that anybody here at Skibowl would. Anyway that's a Skibowl story. It's true, too, by the way. I got some other ones too but I'm going to pass for now.