Howard Fix was interviewed on August 6, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Barbara Cellarius in Northway, Alaska. In this interview, Howard talks about his work in construction in Northway, his experiences hunting, trapping, and fishing in the area, his work building fish wheels, and changes in the weather and seasons that he has observed during his time in Northway.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 6, 2014
Narrator(s): Howard Fix
Interviewer(s): Leslie McCartney, Barbara Cellarius
Transcriber: Sue Beck
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Moving to Northway in 1964
Building additional houses in Northway
Trapping and hunting in the area
Building fish wheels
Changes in weather and seasons
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LESLIE McCARTNEY: So today is August the 6th, 2014. I’m Leslie McCartney with Barbara Cellarius, and thank you, Howard Fix, for letting us come to your home to speak to you today. And we’re just outside of Northway -- about a mile?
HOWARD FIX: It’s a mile from --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Northway Junction. HOWARD FIX: -- from the Northway Junction.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Great. So, Howard, maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself. Where -- where were you originally born and where are you from?
HOWARD FIX: I originally was from Virginia. And I -- I went into the army and met some people that was from Alaska, you know, when I was in the service, and we decided that -- that I would come up here. So I -- I came up in ’64.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you drove up the Alcan?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, drove up the Alcan. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
HOWARD FIX: Gravel all the way. And I -- I went to Valdez and built that small boat harbor that’s there in ’64 and ’65, and then -- then I came to Northway to do another job, and I stayed and never -- never left.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What was the job in Northway?
HOWARD FIX: Oh, the TACAN. The VOR for the FAA. Built that VOR there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What did you find special, or what did you like about Northway?
HOWARD FIX: It was just remote and was just out of the -- you know what -- it was out of the big-rush city stuff, which I don’t -- I don’t like the cities.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And did you find this spot right away? Where you are here?
HOWARD FIX: No, no. I -- I lived down on the Northway Road for twenty-some years and -- my wife died of cancer -- and then at -- me and Janie got married and this -- and this was her native allotment here. So we moved -- moved up here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And what year was that then?
HOWARD FIX: '89 is when we first got together.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. And how long has it been in Janie’s -- Janie’s allotment?
HOWARD FIX: It’s since ’71. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Since ’71. Since the land claims.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, since the land claims. Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you have a huge garden outside.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. We have another garden up there that’s full a strawberries. And we’ve got rhubarb and strawberries up there. Got strawberries below the woodshed here, too. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is gardening something that you did before you got here, before you came to Alaska?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So when you were in Virginia growin’ up did you garden?
HOWARD FIX: Oh yeah, yeah. My -- my granddaddy was a really -- a real gardener. And he was Cherokee -- part. Some Cherokee, so.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Just continued the family -- HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- tradition.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So tell us what Northway was like when you first arrived.
HOWARD FIX: It -- there was no frame houses. All the houses was logs and very few. There’s not any of them left anymore -- maybe one. I think Ben Albert’s cabin is still there and that’s the only one that’s still left.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: They all just kinda got torn down and rebuilt over the years or?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, in 1980 we built twenty log of the -- the big -- the big log houses down there now. And then there was a couple more housing projects after that.
They were frame and foam walls and, you know, whatever. And -- but before that there was just that few log houses and that was it.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And you had children at the time then, Howard? Did you have children that went to school in Northway at all at the time?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, yeah. We got five girls.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did you? And was there quite a few children in the school at that time? Was it fairly large population compared to today?
HOWARD FIX: Well, in ’70 -- ‘76 we started the new high school. I built that, the whole thing. And they went to -- it was some grade schools that they went to before that.
But my girls wasn’t old enough to be in high school, and when I got the -- the school built, they became the age of high school, so they got to go to high school here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh. So they didn’t have to go to Tok or be sent away to boarding school?
HOWARD FIX: No. No. They graduated from this high school here.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And are they all still in the area?
HOWARD FIX: Sherry runs the post office and the rest of ‘em’s in Tok.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And it sounds like you’ve been involved in a lot of the construction that’s occurred --
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- in the Northway area since you got here?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, almost all the -- well, the -- the last houses that was built, the foam ones and the -- I didn’t have anything that -- do anything in them. But the -- the one batch -- the first batch of houses that was built was twenty, and -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: Really?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, I did them.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: The log ones. HOWARD FIX: The log ones
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. And they built them why, just because they’d be warmer and not as fire hazard or people needed more housing?
HOWARD FIX: Well, the families were startin’ to grow and there just wasn’t no -- no housing, you know. There was some of them houses over there that had twenty people in ‘em. And, you know, one room. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yes.
HOWARD FIX: And it was -- was getting -- so they -- and it was some housing -- HUD or IRA or --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Some kind of program that was --
HOWARD FIX: One of them programs, yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And did it also bring, I guess, better sanitation in, too? More water? Just different living standards, I suppose, when they built the new houses?
HOWARD FIX: Well, they -- they didn’t -- they didn’t have bathrooms or runnin’ water in these houses.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh! Okay.
HOWARD FIX: The first -- the first ones. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
HOWARD FIX: But they had a -- a good well. They had a good well, so they --they got --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Good water.
HOWARD FIX: They -- yeah. And now they’re on the haul system, so they’re --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And what was it? Lyle yesterday was telling about bringin’ the phone lines down -- the 1980's, the cables -- that there weren’t -- there was very limited phone access down into there. The 1980's they brought the phone cables down.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, there was no phone at all.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So do you hunt and trap then, too, Howard?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. I -- see there’s a picture of me with a bunch of fur over there. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, yeah.
HOWARD FIX: I -- I trapped -- oh, until -- well, I still trap beaver. But I don’t trap the other fur now. But I -- I trap. I mean that’s the way I took care of my family.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right, was trapping.
HOWARD FIX: I mean that -- there was no work very much.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So where did you trap then? What areas did you go to?
HOWARD FIX: Well, out where the refuge is now. It wasn’t a refuge then. And I had -- I had two cabins out there.
One that’s up Moose Creek a ways and one over -- over at Jalamund Lake. And when the land claims came through, well, we claimed them. So we still have that. Still have those forty acres.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So does your family still trap out there?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, Sherry does.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah, ‘cause Sherry mentioned that she still traps, so the same area then.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, yeah. She -- yeah, she still traps it. All the -- all the way into the refuge. I mean, clear over on the other side of the Black Hills.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So the establishment of the refuge didn’t really affect you guys because you could actually make a claim there?
HOWARD FIX: Well, they -- we had the -- the forty acres there, so it was actually private land within the refuge. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
HOWARD FIX: And we just built a new cabin on the one last year. ‘Cause a bear kinda ate the other one.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: As they do.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So how did you learn to trap? How did you get started trapping?
HOWARD FIX: I -- I trapped when I -- when I was young, you know, skunks and possums and raccoons down in Virginia. And it was a way to -- you know, if you go out and you catch a skunk, and they were worth three, three dollars and a half.
And it was a way to, you know, when I was growin’ up -- make money.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And when you started trapping were you using a dogteam or snowmachine? How were you runnin’ the trapline?
HOWARD FIX: Snowmachine.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And about how long was your trapline?
HOWARD FIX: I probably had two hundred miles total. Because I was goin’ -- I’d go down the highway and go way in, go down this way two or three places and go way back toward the LaDue.
And then when I took - where I took off, I went all the way up the Stover Creek and all the way around the edges of the Black Hills and back down to the cabin. I’d make a -- then I had another trail that took off again and went back up and went up the cat trail all the way in to Jalamund.
And then made a -- giant loop over there. So, I had probably two hundred miles total.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So did you get a whole variety of species? Bunch of different animals?
HOWARD FIX: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Any difference in the animal population over the years that you were trapping then, Howard? Like did you see any increase or decrease or just the natural cycles?
HOWARD FIX: There’s more beaver.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Is there?
HOWARD FIX: There’s a lot more beaver now than there were then.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Is that because the water’s gone up?
HOWARD FIX: No -- I just -- I just think they’ve gradually --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: The population is growing?
HOWARD FIX: It just kept -- just kept gettin’ -- and I found that if you catch some beaver out of a house, then they’ll -- they’ll multiply. If you don’t catch anything out of there, they just stay the same.
I found that -- learned that. So, by catchin’ a couple beaver out of a house, next year they got two houses. And if you don’t catch -- if you don’t trap them, then there’s still just one house there.
They don’t -- they don’t -- they don’t crowd theirself out for some reason. And then they -- and when they -- you catch a couple, then they all have babies, so there’s a little like ten more of them there then. So it --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So do you use -- what area did you catch the beavers in now? Is it a smaller area? You said you had two hundred miles before. Is it a smaller area now?
HOWARD FIX: It’s a smaller area, but it’s -- it’s in ref -- within the refuge, the road in there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then where did you sell your furs?
HOWARD FIX: The -- the beaver, I send ‘em out and get ‘em tanned, then sell ‘em to the natives for sewin’.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the other furs you used to catch? I’m assuming you used to catch lynx and marten and mink...
HOWARD FIX: The -- there was fur buyers that came around. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
HOWARD FIX: Dean Wilson was one.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Mm-hm. Yeah, I’ve interviewed him.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. He was real good. I bought one year for him. ‘Cause he -- you know -- he -- he covered a pretty big area.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Where’s he out of -- I don’t know him.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Well, he started…he’s Lavelle’s brother. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, yes! Okay.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So he’s -- came up originally to Northway but ended up in Kenny Lake.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And how ‘bout hunting. Were you much -- did you do much hunting?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, I get all kinds of -- BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, yeah.
HOWARD FIX: -- buffalo and caribou and everything. Yeah I hunt.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And what -- what places have you generally hunted?
HOWARD FIX: Now, the -- the last ten years or so, I’m on the north side of the highway. But I used to hunt the rivers with the boat.
That’s where this moose here came from, up the river.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What kind of boat then did you have, Howard?
HOWARD FIX: Just an old aluminum. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So when you say the rivers, like down the Chisana?
HOWARD FIX: Up -- yeah, up the Chisana?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Did you ever go into the park from here or mostly down in the refuge?
HOWARD FIX: I -- just in the refuge. Now I mined up in the park. You know, back in the -- around 1980 -- around there someplace.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So were you up at Gold Hill? HOWARD FIX: Uh-huh. Up in -- on Gold Run.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And how did you get started doing that?
HOWARD FIX: I don’t know. We just kinda got into prospecting and wound up flyin’ up there and gettin’ into that.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So were you flying -- flying with somebody else you were -- were prospecting with?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. Lud Larsen flew -- flew us in from the airport. But I was up there -- I dunno -- maybe three years.
And it’s pretty good gold up there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Is there?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, I could -- I could get an ounce and a half in thirty minutes with a dredge, which is -- back then, you know, gold wasn’t even -- I think it was a $140 or somethin’ like that. Now it would be -- at $1300, it would be --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Ten times that! HOWARD FIX: -- a different story. LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you heading back soon?
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So do you still have a claim up there? HOWARD FIX: No.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Were you working your own claim?
HOWARD FIX: No, I -- with Ivan. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
HOWARD FIX: Ivan Thorall’s. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah, sure. I --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But now you’re looking more towards the Fairbanks area for -- HOWARD FIX: Yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So was that your first experience with mining when you were up at Gold Run?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, that was the first. Then after that -- after that I went on the Fortymile for a coupla years. Down the Fortymile there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Much luck down there?
HOWARD FIX: Mm -- well, yeah, we done okay, but you know, no miner ever gets enough. You know, they say, “Yeah.” You could be gettin’ gold by the bucketfuls and you need -- want some more.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you mentioned using, I think you mentioned using a dredge. So was that equipment that you took in or was it equipment that was -- Ivan already had up there?
HOWARD FIX: It was one that we flew in.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Uh-huh. And then did you do the same kind of thing up on the Fortymile?
HOWARD FIX: Well, I had a -- I had a five-inch that was on the Fortymile. That was used. This up there was like a two-and-a-half.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay. HOWARD FIX: Because it was --the water was really limited down there.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah, right, right. I’ve wandered around up there. HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So if you go over to Fairbanks, do you have to bring the equipment over there with you?
HOWARD FIX: Yep.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: But you’re -- are you -- do you just kind of -- at the exploration stage up that way?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, and it’s gettin’ now to where it’s probably just wound up being recreational ‘cause I’m -- It’s hard work runnin’ a dredge.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then you were talkin’ about fishing? The fishwheel down at Slana? How long have you been fishing down at Slana?
HOWARD FIX: I don’t know what year I first fished down there. Probably in the ‘70s.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And have you had a fishwheel fairly continuously down there since then?
HOWARD FIX: Almost every year. And that was back when you didn’t need a permit and all this stuff. You could just fish, you know. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
HOWARD FIX: Now it’s gradually got into where it’s -- and then the -- then the park -- they made the park, and then you needed another different permit. But everything’s still the same; the -- the river and the fish and the --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I love when you say the river’s moving every year.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, the rivers move, but --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you were saying that a lot of people have been asking if they can use your wheel, ‘cause they need fish.
HOWARD FIX: They do, and -- and I just don’t tell ‘em no. I just figure out something where they can have a day to fish.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Is it mostly people from Northway? That are using your wheel?
HOWARD FIX: Well, no, there’s some from Tok.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: And then you’re building your own wheels?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Did somebody teach you how or is it something that you just figured out on your own?
HOWARD FIX: Well, if I look at something right away I can make some changes on it, make it better.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right, right. It sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience with construction kinds of projects.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. And -- and my fishwheel only has -- only has one dipper. Don’t have two.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, interesting!
LESLIE McCARTNEY: How do you balance it off then?
HOWARD FIX: It don’t have to. The -- the dipper is here and -- and I’ve got three paddles on it.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you just have three paddles rather than two paddles and two baskets.
HOWARD FIX: Well, the -- the dipper’s here and straight across is your last paddle. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Right.
HOWARD FIX: And then -- and I’ve got three more paddles here. So when the -- the dipper comes, these paddles are right here in the water pick -- brings that dipper right up to the top. Of course, gravity will make it go down. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah.
HOWARD FIX: Then there’s nothing in the water down here to scare the fish out of the way. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Okay.
HOWARD FIX: And whap, it comes down and catches ‘em. And it catch four times as many as the fi-- the wheel with two dippers.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: That’s pretty interesting.
HOWARD FIX: It’s -- nothin’ to scare them. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Yeah.
HOWARD FIX: And it’s -- and you only have to make one dipper instead of two. And -- and by being an empty spot in -- underneath there, that’s a chance for a log or debris to go through --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: That’s very helpful! HOWARD FIX: -- go through without hangin’ on something.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I was telling Leslie about -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- getting hung up --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- about a problem with tree and the wheel.
HOWARD FIX: And when you stop your wheel, then there’s nothing in the water. You can drag your whee -- you can drag your wheel right out of the water. Now don’t have to worry about liftin’ it up and down. There’s nothin’ on the bottom.
Sure works better.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you were saying your -- your children -- do they use it too then, Howard?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. Oh, yeah. They -- yeah, they get right in there and have their day or two days.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: I imagine then you put up your fish?
HOWARD FIX: I went down there this -- this year, and there was 179 reds in the wheel and one king.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: In a day. HOARD FIX: Well, yeah. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Overnight or -- HOWARD FIX: Yeah, just overnight. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah.
HOWARD FIX: And I've got a live box so it hangs down off the side of the float, so the fish are all alive and then I don’t have to -- I didn’t like the dead ones that set there all up in the sun, you know, when you -- so with this live box, you got live fish. Fresh.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you smoke them very much, or you mostly freeze or can? HOWARD FIX: All. LESLIE McCARTNEY: All.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. All of them -- yeah, can. LESLIE McCARTNEY: You got a smokehouse down there?
HOWARD FIX: No. We -- we bring ‘em back. Because I want the -- the parts that we throw away to put in the garden.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Good fertilizer.
HOWARD FIX: For good fertilizer, I bring everything back and all the parts and pieces that we don’t use goes into the garden for fertilizer.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Do you ever have problems with bears?
HOWARD FIX: No. No way. We don’t have our dog now, but he -- he wouldn’t let no bear come around. BARBARA CELLARIUS: Oh, sure.
HOWARD FIX: You’d hear him just runnin’ up, goin’ through the brush. He’d chase the bear away.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Get any moose down into your garden at all? HOWARD FIX: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: No (inaudible) that way.
HOWARD FIX: We might now, since we don’t have that dog.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But so far not this year. HOWARD FIX: Not -- not this year. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Do you do any fishing around here locally?
HOWARD FIX: Nah -- yeah -- we fish for whitefish sometimes with a net. And then I like the -- the burbot. But that’s later on after it’s freezing up.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So that’s more a winter -- HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: -- winter kind of activity?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. I actually like the burbot better than I do halibut.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Does -- people here, do they fish under the ice -- put nets under the ice at all to fish?
HOWARD FIX: No. LESLIE McCARTNEY: No.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Do you use a set line for the burbot?
HOWARD FIX: We just use set lines, and just --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Have you found when you were hunting that the animals sort of changed over the years? Was there any -- or noticed any difference, that the landscape was slumping or anything like that?
HOWARD FIX: I -- well, I think we’ve got more moose now than we used to have. And in 1970, Fish and Game decided that they would have a cow hunt down here, because it was too many moose. And course when they opened this cow season, that’s what makes the moose.
And we didn’t have any moose for -- I don’t know -- maybe thirty years. It just knocked them right down to almost nothin’. And now, you know, here it is forty years later, they’re comin’ back now.
So I hope they don’t have another cow season down here and do that to the moose again.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: How ‘bout other changes just in the land that you’ve seen since you’ve been here, since you’ve been here quite a number of years.
HOWARD FIX: I’ve saw places where the ice is meltin’ out of the ground.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Like the permafrost?
HOWARD FIX: And it’s cavin’ in. And it’s causin’ the side of the hill to wash down and fill up the lake, and now that’s just grass there. There’s no water and that’s quite a few places I’ve saw that.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: How ‘bout the growing season for your garden? Has that changed?
HOWARD FIX: It seems to be longer.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Longer both in the spring and in the fall? Like warmer springs and later falls?
HOWARD FIX: Well, the -- the frost is a lot later. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Uh-huh. In the --
HOWARD FIX: In the fall.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what about the winters? Some people are saying the winters aren’t as cold as what they used to be. Have you -- or as long.
HOWARD FIX: Well, back in the 60s and 70s, it -- they --the winters would get -- you know, we’d have fifty below for like three weeks straight just every day.
Sixty sometimes, more than sixty below. And now if it - if it happens to get to fifty below, it’s for one night and that’s it. It’s back up -- back up to twenty again.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the summers, are they hotter?
HOWARD FIX: I think so. Getting more rain.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: This has been a rainy summer.
HOWARD FIX: And it -- it’s good for the garden. And it’s good for the fire season. See, we haven’t had any fires or anything. I think there was one down at Kenai or someplace.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah, there was a big one down there, yeah.
HOWARD FIX: But the ones -- was nothing in here this year in the valley.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Have some years the fires been bad?
HOWARD FIX: Some years, yeah. It’s really -- and expensive, you know, the way they -- they’re really expensive for whoever pays for ‘em. I guess the taxpayers.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Have you ever done firefighting then at all?
HOWARD FIX: Oh, lots. LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- Howard? Yeah? HOWARD FIX: Lots. Lots of fires.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Big crews then would come in?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. Well, one -- back -- way back it was -- the crew wasn’t a certain size. They’d take out the whole village, you know, twenty-five or whatever was in it. Now I think they got the crew down that’s only sixteen people -- is all they can --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Really. Is that because they have more sophisticated equipment -- They don’t use many people? Or is it just --
HOWARD FIX: Well, that’s what fits in this -- in a -- some of their airplanes they’re using -- that amount.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did they used to use the Northway airport then for a lot of firefighting?
HOWARD FIX: Yeah. They’d bring in tanks and mix -- mix their retardant there a lot of times.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And now that that’s gone if there was fires around they have to come from somewhere else.
HOWARD FIX: Well, if it was a big fire right here close by, they’d just bring tanks down and -- and -- and make their retardant right there at the airport. That way they could get -- they could get the planes to the fire quicker.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: So you -- you talked a little bit about the fact that the park came in and you had to have a permit for your fishing. Are there other changes that you’ve noticed since the Wrangell–St. Elias was created? Or since the refuge was created?
HOWARD FIX: Well, the -- the refuge, they have a -- you can’t take a snowmachine out there until the snow is like six inches or eight inches deep or somethin’ like this. And I can remember trapping out there when it was just frost in the -- on the grass.
BARBARACELLARIUS: And you took the snowmachine out then.
HOWARD FIX: Right. The lakes would be froze over and it’s almost all lakes. You hardly run on the ground anyway out there. There’s almost all lakes. And there were there just wasn’t any snow that year.
And it had been like twenty-five, thirty below. The -- the lakes was just -- you know, I don’t know how thick the ice was, but I trapped and done real well.
And I’d go from one lake through the grass over the next lake, and it -- and it didn’t hurt anything. I mean, it -- the refuge thinks that -- if you drive on the ground without snow on it, it ruins the ground, but it’s froze. Can’t hurt it.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, if Sherry’s out there trapping it, then she has to wait for the snow to get so deep before she can go out.
HOWARD FIX: Right.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. And down the park is it -- you -- you didn’t trap down in the park though, you just did the refuge?
HOWARD FIX: I just did the refuge.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Does Sherry park -- does Sherry go down into the park or does she just do the same traplines that you used to do?
HOWARD FIX: I don’t think she gets over into the park -- or into the preserve over there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We were hoping to talk to her, but she’s going in for surgery she said, so maybe next time. HOWARD FIX: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Come back and talk to her.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: That’s about all that I had on our -- on the list -- LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- of topics --
BARBARA CELLARIUS: We had a list of questions. LESLIE McCARTNEY: -- or themes. Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Can you think of anything else that’s kind of important about living here?
HOWARD FIX: Well, with not being in the city or -- or borough you don’t have that tax, which I like that. And -- and by -- I mean, we can go to Tok and buy food from the store there -- whatever we need grocery-wise -- just about as cheap as it is in town or even cheaper, because you don’t have -- they don’t have that tax to deal with.
And -- and this winter we were out in Seattle for a month, and the prices out there are much more than it is in Tok -- much more expensive food and hotel rooms and whatever.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Do you get -- do you go away often, Howard? It seems when you have a big garden and stuff, you’re -- you’d have to stay home more.
HOWARD FIX: Yeah, stay home more.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, thank you.
BARBARA CELLARIUS: Yeah, thank you very much. This was very interesting.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Thank you very much.