Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Keith Freeman

Keith Freeman was interviewed on August 7, 2010 by Rachel Mason and Karen Brewster at his home in Cooper Landing, Alaska. In this interview, Keith talks about helping to build the Herman Leirer Road to Exit Glacier and getting the Cat across Resurrection River.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-05-11

Project: Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
Date of Interview: Aug 7, 2010
Narrator(s): Keith Freeman
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Videographer: Rachel Mason
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.

Sections

Personal background and childhood

Coming to Alaska

Settling at Cooper Landing

Getting involved with construction of Exit Glacier Road

The Skill Center in Seward using the road construction as way to train people

Early road conditions

Working with a Cat on the road construction

Talking about Herman Leirer and early road plans

Completing the last part of the Exit Glacier Road

Crossing the Resurrection River with a Cat

Use of finger dikes to try to control the river

Local support for construction of Exit Glacier Road

End of construction season due to heavy snowfall

Creation of fish rearing pond

Changes in Exit Glacier

Photograph with is son in front of the Cat

Getting back and forth across the river by skiff

Time it took to complete the road

Enjoyment and challenge of the road work

Other people who know about the road construction

Wages earned for the job

Running his own business, KF Construction

Changes have seen on the Kenai Peninsula

Working solo in the Cat

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster, and today is August 7th, 2010, and I'm here in Cooper Landing with Keith Freeman, in his workshop at his house, and Rachel Mason is running the video camera.

And this is for the National Park Service Exit Glacier traditional use history project.

Thank you, Keith, for agreeing to participate in this.

So, I know you worked on the Exit Glacier Road, but before we get to that, I just want to back up a little bit and find out a little bit about you, so people know who you are.

You mentioned that you were born in New Hampshire.

KEITH FREEMAN: That's correct, yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: And when were you born?

KEITH FREEMAN: 1943. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. KEITH FREEMAN: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what was your growing up like?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well

KAREN BREWSTER: Your childhood, what was that like?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, it was very, you know, middle class family, dad was a businessman, milk delivery, and things were great.

And then along -- when I was around 18, I left home and eventually got to Alaska when I was 23, in about 1966.

KAREN BREWSTER: And why did you choose to come to Alaska?

KEITH FREEMAN: I think I was just driving to the end of the road, which was Homer.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you, you decided to stay here in Cooper Landing?

KEITH FREEMAN: Actually, I got to Cooper Landing, I -- I had a job working on this power line that runs from Cooper Landing, Cooper Lake to Kenai.

And I went to work for this outfit. And this property where we are now was available, and I bought it, and have lived here ever since, which is 42 years.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now, did you build the house and shop?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, actually, the -- the shop, yes, but the house, there was a cabin there, a small cabin that had been moved over from Seward.

And it was there, it was tumbled down. And I fixed it up.

At the time, the Forest Service, United States Forest Service owned the land, and we had to lease, for recreational cabins.

And I think it was 1978, the land became available and we were able to buy it from the state. So...

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you said you raised a family here?

KEITH FREEMAN: Right. Four children. They're all grown and doing fine.

KAREN BREWSTER: Great. And so what kind of work did you do? You said, you mentioned working on that pipeline.

KEITH FREEMAN: Basically, I've been in the, you know, heavy construction my entire time here.

I -- there was a 21 years I worked for the State Highway Department and took care of the highway here in Cooper Landing.

KAREN BREWSTER: All right.

KEITH FREEMAN: And retired from that in '99.

RACHEL MASON: Did your wife come with you from New Hampshire?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, I met her in Anchorage, and we were married in 1971.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. Is she from Alaska, too?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, from Oregon.

KAREN BREWSTER: So your growing up in New Hampshire, did you grow up on a farm?

KEITH FREEMAN: Not exactly on a farm, but I spent most of my time on the farm.

We did have horses and things, but that's what we did.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how did you learn how to drive heavy equipment?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, I guess, just got on and took off.

That's how you learn, or I did learn anyway.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the Exit Glacier Road, how did you get involved in working on that project?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, the Foster family have been in Alaska for quite awhile, from the late '40s, and I had worked with them -- worked for them, it was called C. Foster and Sons at the time.

And a fellow named Jack Foster was working on the road, running the Cat, and he either got tired of the project or other things came up, so he needed somebody,

and he knew me, and I had the experience, so he invited me over to take over in -- I think it was late September of '74.

So my involvement on the road was about six weeks, two months.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so where on the road did you start?

KEITH FREEMAN: I started -- they had the road down up to where the first rock cuts are that you drive through today.

And that's where the Skill Center was doing the blasting. And they were training people to work on the pipeline.

They had a school, and they were doing the drilling and the blasting.

And that's where I started, pushing with this -- alls we had was this D9 Cat.

KAREN BREWSTER: That was it, just one Cat?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yep. That's all it was. It was just a Cat road.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hmm.

RACHEL MASON: You said the Skill Center, were they having the students?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. They had a program set up, I don't know the exact details or I've forgotten where they were teaching the drilling and the blasting, and I believe it was in conjunction with the Alaska Laborers Union.

RACHEL MASON: I see. So they were using it as an instruction.

KEITH FREEMAN: Right. There was going to be a big demand on the pipeline, was one of the things they were doing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know if any of those guys who worked on the Exit Glacier ended up getting jobs and working on the pipeline?

KEITH FREEMAN: I'm sure they did but I have no exact way of knowing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it's interesting that they were using it as a training.

KEITH FREEMAN: Was this Val Anderson in charge of that? Or...

KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know. He just mentioned that he went and helped.

KEITH FREEMAN: Okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: But I don't think he was in charge of it. And I don't know, and Percy Blatchford did some of the blasting. KEITH FREEMAN: Yes. That's right.

KAREN BREWSTER: And I don't know how that connects. I -- you're the first one who has mentioned the Skill Center training.

KEITH FREEMAN: Uh hum. KAREN BREWSTER: So

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, Percy was and I believe still is with the Laborers Union, and he would know more about that than I would.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. So to get to where you started to work, what was the road like up to that point?

KEITH FREEMAN: Up to that point? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: It was a pretty rough gravel road, and nowhere near like it is now.

And of course, the road does -- did not go by Windsong Lodge, it went around by Seavey's.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what's now old Exit Glacier Road?

KEITH FREEMAN: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: That was the main road.

KEITH FREEMAN: And there was a couple of stream crossings. I believe one was called No Name Creek, probably still is.

There was no bridge and it was, you went down through it, boulders, and it was, it was okay, but it was rough.

KAREN BREWSTER: So did you get to the job site, then, by driving your own vehicle?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yes. Yeah. I drove out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so it was passable for KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: What were you driving?

KEITH FREEMAN: I had a -- a Ford Bronco, and then also a Datsun pickup. Two wheel drive.

KAREN BREWSTER: Two wheel drive and it made it?

KEITH FREEMAN: Oh, yeah.

RACHEL MASON: So you would commute to Cooper Landing every day --

KEITH FREEMAN: Oh, yes. RACHEL MASON: -- to work there?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yes, I did.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's a long commute.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, about an hour.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Wow. So what kind of -- what did you do with the Cat? Did you knock trees down? Were you pushing dirt around? What were you doing?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, that first stretch there was finishing up pushing through them rock cuts where they blasted, and making that fill that's there now just before you enter the bridge.

And then there's a rock, that we call Blackrock. I don't know whether it's called Blackrock now, but...

KAREN BREWSTER: So it was the debris left over from the blasting you were moving it out of the way?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. I probably made that -- that fill, that high fill there where you go around and approach the bridge. Yeah. Pushed all that rock out there. A lot of pushing, a lot of work.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it sounds like hard work.

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah, it gets tiring.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you -- you was -- you were the only Cat operator, there was just one Cat?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. Just me, all alone. And Herman Leirer. We haven't mentioned him yet.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: He would come out each day and check on me. Worked alone.

KAREN BREWSTER: Tell us about Herman.

KEITH FREEMAN: He was a good old guy. You know, yeah, I remember him well.

KAREN BREWSTER: What was he like?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, no nonsense, you know, let's get it done, the heck with the -- this and that, you know, we don't need to ask whoever or whatever, just do it.

KAREN BREWSTER: No permits back then, huh? Nobody did it with permits.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well...

RACHEL MASON: How did he get the funding for the road?

KEITH FREEMAN: Good question. I do not know that, but I -- I'm thinking that it -- he got bits and pieces from the city.

He could see the -- the tourist -- tourist, I guess, attraction of having a road to the glacier. And -- but I don't know how he got funding. I have no idea.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you mentioned before that he had started on the other side of the river?

KEITH FREEMAN: Someone had. I know that there was a fellow in Seward at the time, name of Lloyd Blondin, he had been there for years.

He's not there now. And he was a contractor and he worked on the other side of the river.

And I don't know -- even know how far they got, but they never got to the glacier.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. Well, in 1974 was that old road cut still visible?

KEITH FREEMAN: On the south side of the river?

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: I don't -- I do not know. It's quite a ways across there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: Now, actually, I believe Herman started on this road around 1970. Late '60s, 1970, sometime in there.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you pushed through all that rock up to where the bridge is now, but there was no bridge...

KEITH FREEMAN: No.

KAREN BREWSTER: at the time? So did you keep going on the other side of the river?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. All the way to the glacier. I have a pic -- photograph here of the Cat at the glacier.

KAREN BREWSTER: Rachel's going to try to zoom in on that.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I'm going to zoom in on that. Let's see.

KEITH FREEMAN: Actually, I believe I rattled right up and poked the glacier, but -- and then I decided -- I had my camera with me that day, I took the picture.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's a great picture.

RACHEL MASON: There it is. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so was there already some kind of a road cut on the glacier side of the river, or you were doing the first push through?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, they'd been over there and cleared the trees.

There's some other photographs here, with the -- with the clearing of trees.

I don't know when that was done or how it was done, but the -- it's rather -- it stayed straight.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: And what I did was --

KAREN BREWSTER: I think we've -- I think we've finished with the picture.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's the same one. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. RACHEL MASON: Okay.

KEITH FREEMAN: Then I cleared all the debris off, and fortunately, you know, it's all gravel over there, so rounded up a lot of gravel from the sides and bermed it up and made a passable road.

KAREN BREWSTER: Tell us about how you got across that river. It's not a little stream.

KEITH FREEMAN: No. And that -- that river can change in a matter of hours in flow.

And we took the -- we decided to cross, we didn't know exactly how deep it was, so we kind of felt -- felt -- you do that by dropping your blade, you know, as you go, and then you pick it up and drop it;

and if it doesn't hit bottom, you know there's quite a hole there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then can you back up? Can you back up?

KEITH FREEMAN: Then you back up. Because you don't want to be going like this .

But we worked our way across it, and it was a -- it's probably 4 or 5 feet deep when it's low, which is, I don't know, not very often. So.

RACHEL MASON: What month was it when you were doing that?

KEITH FREEMAN: In October. Late September.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it would have been lower?

KEITH FREEMAN: It was, except for periodically, it came up -- it seemed like the -- anything goes by for a storm, and it raises in elevation pretty quick.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how do you walk a Cat across through the water?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, we -- we just -- if you can, you kind of get downstream and come upstream with your blade down, and feel on the bottom, and that makes a wake and the water goes around to a certain extent.

It kind of gives you a little bit of vertigo, if you look at the water, because it -- it's coming up and around.

And if it's too deep, see, it gets up in the fan, the big old fan will pick it up and start throwing water everywhere, and you can't see what you're doing and you don't want to, let's say, be dead in the water.

KAREN BREWSTER: I was going to say, at what point does it kill the engine?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, it probably wouldn't for quite awhile, being a diesel, but it does get up on the floorboards and you begin to wonder.

Because those tractors, you know, are pretty big, and...

KAREN BREWSTER: Did it ever get to that point when you were crossing? Did you get water on the floorboards?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. Yeah. So after we got over there, we -- we found out we could make it, so then I went back and picked up the fuel trailer.

It was 500 gallons, I believe, on wheels, and hooked on and towed it over. Then we left everything over there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. So you did go back and forth at least twice?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you had mentioned something about finger dikes?

KEITH FREEMAN: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: And using those? What are -- what are those?

KEITH FREEMAN: I believe there's still some there. The -- where there's always an attempt on these I think they are doing it on the Mat Su River up there now, they try to push out some rock to make the water flow away from the embankment.

So we did a bunch of those back on down towards Seward, too, wherever Herman thought we needed one.

But the first flood that come along just took them right away.

KAREN BREWSTER: And those were to keep the river from taking the road out?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

KEITH FREEMAN: Herman, and I believe he's correct, said that the whole valley kind of tipped to the north.

That's why the water was constantly on the north side of the valley.

Whether that happened in the earthquake or what, you know, of '64. It very well could have.

KAREN BREWSTER: It could have.

KEITH FREEMAN: And it's still that way. It wants to keep eating into the north side.

KAREN BREWSTER: When you put those dikes in, it reroutes the water?

KEITH FREEMAN: It kicks it out, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then what happens if there are fish in the water?

KEITH FREEMAN: It's amazing how many fish are in that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I'm surprised to hear that there would be fish in that river because it's all glacier.

KEITH FREEMAN: I know. In the process of building these finger dikes, these little braided streams that are out there would, let's say, go dry, and there'd be a number of fish left behind.

They'd be in these little pools.

And some were -- there was some really ugly looking, what are they, sticklebacks? I don't know what they are.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it wasn't salmon or anything?

KEITH FREEMAN: I believe there was.

KAREN BREWSTER: Really? Huh. And as you said, back 30 years ago, there was no environmental regulations --

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, I'm sure that --

KAREN BREWSTER: -- following you guys around.

KEITH FREEMAN: I'm sure there was environmental regulations.

We, you know, tried to abide by what's nice, but there was a fellow named Ted McHenry with Fish and Game that lived in Seward and he always collaborated with us, what we could probably do and what we shouldn't.

KAREN BREWSTER: And he had no problem with the dikes?

KEITH FREEMAN: Not that I know of.

KAREN BREWSTER: As you say, you know, things were different back then. Nowadays you might not have been able to do that --

KEITH FREEMAN: No, we would --

KAREN BREWSTER: -- but that was ok for the time.

KEITH FREEMAN: Nowadays we'd probably have to begin with the permitting process, which would conservatively take five years.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I'd say, dragging a fuel trailer across the river might not happen now. People are -- have different sensitivities.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, it could be a problem there. We don't want to pollute. We didn't lose any fuel. Just towed it right across.

KAREN BREWSTER: So those dikes, you took all the, just the river gravel that was out there in the river plain, and just pushed it up?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yes. And also where those rock cuts are, pushed them, some of the rock out, but they didn't last very long.

The first high water in Resurrection River would just start eating them out and they'd be gone.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I could see pushing that rock out kind of like making riprap.

KEITH FREEMAN: Right. The -- the river developed such a flow, it takes the fine material out then it works around the rocks and they disappear.

They just go down in the riverbed, I guess.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. It's powerful. That water is pretty powerful.

KEITH FREEMAN: It's pretty heavy, pretty -- quite a stream flow there.

RACHEL MASON: After you were done, did you hear whether people started using the road right away?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, there was no way across the river.

RACHEL MASON: Oh. The bridge was still -- there was still no bridge.

KEITH FREEMAN: No bridge at all. In later years, I've forgotten when, one of the government agencies built a foot bridge and then people could hike in.

KAREN BREWSTER: So there wasn't a big celebration, yay, we built the road, we got to the end, woo hoo, when you finished?

KEITH FREEMAN: No. I don't think so.

KAREN BREWSTER: Maybe Herman did.

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. Herman. I don't know. Have you looked in the Seward -- in the newspaper archives?

KAREN BREWSTER: Not yet.

RACHEL MASON: We -- we should -- we need to do that. KAREN BREWSTER: We will.

RACHEL MASON: I'm trying to get a sense of how supportive people were of Herman's effort, or whether --

KEITH FREEMAN: That's interesting. In fact, I'm -- you've got me interested again, I -- I think I'll go down there this winter and look in the Phoenix Log.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, if you find anything, let us know. RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, I've looked through there, the old originals way back to the beginning of time down there that you can look through, and it's really interesting.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I'm sure.

KEITH FREEMAN: Down in the basement of the library.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. 'Cause yeah, I was wondering, now, okay, there's a road, were people going out and using it?

It was still a pretty rough road when you finished?

KEITH FREEMAN: Pretty rough, yeah. That river gravel is, you know, boulders and glacial till.

RACHEL MASON: Well, if the goal was to get tourists to come, then it probably wasn't too easy for tourists to -- to get to the glacier.

KEITH FREEMAN: No. You know, in the '70s, you know, the tourist trade hadn't picked up, you know.

It got going in the late '80s, like we know it today, with the cruise ships and everything. I don't think there was cruise ships then.

Some people flew in to Anchorage and drove -- yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: You know, people may have come up on -- you know, back in the old, old days, they came up on steamer or took the railroad up.

That's how they went through Seward. That's a long time ago.

So... So what did you do after that?

KEITH FREEMAN: After the --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you did your six weeks on the road, and you've obviously gone on to do other things.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, I -- I no doubt -- we got snowed out eventually from doing any work.

In fact, one -- one episode there, they had one of those rare 36 inch snowstorms overnight in Seward.

And when I left Cooper Landing, it was raining here, and got over there and there was all that snow. So,

I went down to Ted McHenry and borrowed a pair of snowshoes and snowshoe'ed all the way out there to get that bulldozer.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

KEITH FREEMAN: And then plowed the road. And the snow -- I'll never forget this. The snow was of that consistency for making snowmen. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-hum.

KEITH FREEMAN: But there was, like, 3 feet on the road, fresh snow. And I started plowing my way back.

Well, the snow would roll in front of the blade until I'd have a snowball that was higher than the Cat. I mean, you couldn't even -- I couldn't even see.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

KEITH FREEMAN: And so I'd kind of nudge it to the side then make another one. And I got to thinking, man, this is fun.

So, but that -- that pretty well shut things down. I was -- we -- we also dug the fish rearing pond there that's off the side of the road on the way in there.

That was probably in November.

KAREN BREWSTER: On that -- on the Resurrection River?

KEITH FREEMAN: On the road, yeah. On the way in on the right hand side, there's a -- there's a it's off of No Name Creek. It's probably all grown over by now.

KAREN BREWSTER: And why did you -- what was the reason for doing that?

KEITH FREEMAN: Fish and Game wanted to establish some salmon spawning habitat, so while we were in there, we dug that out, pushed the gravel out. Or I did.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So your snowshoe walk, that was -- where did you start?

KEITH FREEMAN: There, along where Seaveys live.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So that's a pretty long snowshoe in.

KEITH FREEMAN: It was. I was in shape then.

RACHEL MASON: Have you spent a lot of time in Seward since then? Or have you done -- have you done anything out in around the glacier?

KEITH FREEMAN: No. I've been over there several times and -- and hiked around there and looked at it, that's about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Have you noticed the glacier changing since you were out there in '74?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, it certainly has receded. I don't know how -- I have no idea how much, although I -- I do not -- those little placards that they have, I don't think those are quite accurate.

But who knows, you know, where the glacier was in 19 whenever.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But you've noted -- you noted in one of your photographs that you can see some notches that the --

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah, these here, they have the --

KAREN BREWSTER: -- some knobs as to where the glacier is?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yes. You'll be able to compare those to what it's like now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. Yeah, we could compare to see how far back it's gone.

KEITH FREEMAN: In fact, you've got me interested, after all these years, to go over there and do those.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, come back with us and come visit.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, one of the pictures, too, you had a picture of your son with you in front of the Cat.

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. That's this one. He's my first boy, he was -- '71? No, in '74, he was about two years old there.

RACHEL MASON: Hold it right in front of the camera so I can take a look at it.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so -- so why was he out there with you? Did he come with you on the job?

KEITH FREEMAN: Oh no, I think mother and him, they rode over to see what I was doing that day.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. So they obviously could get all the way out there, huh?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. They made it.

KAREN BREWSTER: It must've been she was a good driver. That road doesn't sound like it would have been an easy drive.

RACHEL MASON: I'm trying to focus on the notch there. Well, we'll

KAREN BREWSTER: We're going to scan them.

RACHEL MASON: We'll scan 'em later. KEITH FREEMAN: Okay. RACHEL MASON: Yeah, I got it.

KEITH FREEMAN: Now, one thing I want to bring up on my own is you haven't asked me how we got back and forth across the river.

We didn't run the Cat back and forth every day.

RACHEL MASON: How did you get back? KAREN BREWSTER: Then how did you get back and forth?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, Herman borrowed a skiff from Dale Clemens at the Fish House.

I think he borrowed it or rented it or whatever. And we had that out there to use.

And Herman had two long ropes fastened to each shore. And we'd let one loose, of course, and pull ourselves across, and vice versa.

That's how we went back and forth each day. When I went over in the morning, all alone, and then later in the day, Herman would come out and pull the boat over, and back.

Well, one day the -- when he got there around noon, the river had come up, and it was really flowing, so he pulled the boat over and he got in it, and started across.

Well, the current took him downstream, and he couldn't -- he couldn't pull himself across because he ended up like this, two ropes tight as fiddle strings with the boat out in the middle.

And I didn't know none of this because I was way down there working away at the time.

And he -- he finally, he he had a terrible time. He pulled on those ropes for all he's worth.

He couldn't get it to either side. And there he was stuck in the middle.

And he didn't have his knife with him. And he told me he finally took one of the oars that was in the boat and beat the rope to death over that, over the gunnel, until it broke, and then the current swung him across.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

KEITH FREEMAN: And then he was on my side. And he hiked down to see me.

How we got back, when we went back that day, why, we -- we got in the boat and just kind of cut the rope, the other rope loose and went downstream with the oars,

and eventually managed to get ourselves ashore on the other side so we could go home.

KAREN BREWSTER: But way downstream?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah, down there a ways. It was a kind of cold, wet day.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Was it just you and Herman working there then?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Man. So he cut -- with the oar, he cut the rope on the north side --

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it would swing into the south side?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. After he beat on it for a long time.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. That's quite the adventure.

RACHEL MASON: He sounds like a character.

KEITH FREEMAN: He was.

KAREN BREWSTER: So do you remember how long it took you to do the part of the road that was from the river to the glacier?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, I don't, exactly. I probably worked on it a couple of weeks. It's only --

KAREN BREWSTER: Because, I have no idea --

KEITH FREEMAN: It's only about a mile -- no, it's two miles, isn't it?

KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know.

KEITH FREEMAN: I've forgotten.

KAREN BREWSTER: And I have no sense of how long it takes to make a road out of nothing.

It's like are you out there for a day? Are you out there for two weeks? You know.

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, you can work your way through, and then come back and improve on it. So, yeah, I was probably out there a week or 10 days anyway.

KAREN BREWSTER: And would -- how long of a day would you work?

KEITH FREEMAN: Probably 8 hours or so, because, you know, it's getting dark, and then I'd commute back home here to Cooper Landing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

RACHEL MASON: Could you work in the dark or was --

KEITH FREEMAN: No, we didn't work. RACHEL MASON: Just in the light.

KEITH FREEMAN: Save that for driving back and forth.

RACHEL MASON: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was it a fun job?

KEITH FREEMAN: That's -- probably. All jobs are fun jobs, aren't they?

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you said it was hard work.

KEITH FREEMAN: I know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So I didn't know if that also meant it was not fun or you enjoyed it?

KEITH FREEMAN: Going into unexplored territory there.

Jack Foster, hopefully, worked on it, I know and I hope that you can talk to him.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I hope so.

KEITH FREEMAN: He will talk to you for quite awhile. It will probably take you quite a few hours

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

KEITH FREEMAN: -- to listen to his story. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. RACHEL MASON: Great.

KAREN BREWSTER: I look forward to that.

RACHEL MASON: Is there anybody else you can suggest that we might be able to get hold of that knows about the road?

KEITH FREEMAN: No, I can't think of anyone. In fact, there probably is, but I don't know them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Or anybody in Seward or Cooper Landing you know that has used that area for other things, for hunting or recreation or snow machining, whatever?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, if you needed some more -- if you wanted to try to contact Lloyd Blondin, he lives in -- down near Seattle somewhere.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, really. Is -- is he any relation to the Blondins in Kodiak?

KEITH FREEMAN: I have no idea.

RACHEL MASON: Oh, okay. Because that's there's a famous family there that --

KEITH FREEMAN: He might be.

RACHEL MASON: I think they're -- it's not a common name.

KEITH FREEMAN: You ask about Lloyd Blondin around the old timers in Seward, they'll laugh and say, yeah, we knew him. But he did, he worked on the other side.

KAREN BREWSTER: So are you glad you worked on the road? Do you have pride in that project?

KEITH FREEMAN: Oh, yeah. Sure. That was good working with Herman.

KAREN BREWSTER: Can I ask you how much you got paid?

KEITH FREEMAN: I have no recollection. I -- I have no -- not at all. But it was probably between $6 to $10 an hour.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's all?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. I think that's kind of what the wage was then.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

RACHEL MASON: And they must have paid union wages if they were hiring people out of the union.

KEITH FREEMAN: I don't know whether I got --

KAREN BREWSTER: Were you part of the union?

KEITH FREEMAN: I joined the Operating Engineers right along that -- about that time.

KAREN BREWSTER: So they hired you out -- out of the union hall?

KEITH FREEMAN: No. I -- I knew the Foster family, and actually, they sponsored me and got me into the Operating Engineers.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then I see, you know, you have a business, KF Construction.

KEITH FREEMAN: Oh, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: You've continued to do that kind of work?

KEITH FREEMAN: Here in Cooper Landing, yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

KEITH FREEMAN: The local projects.

KAREN BREWSTER: There's enough work in Cooper Landing?

KEITH FREEMAN: Seems to be.

KAREN BREWSTER: That's good.

KEITH FREEMAN: Remember, I'm retired. I only work 6 hours a day.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, but how long have you had your business?

KEITH FREEMAN: Since 1975.

KAREN BREWSTER: So there's been enough since 1975 to keep it --

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, that's -- I've, like, work for the Highway Department also for 21 years, and -- and so I've been busy.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Can you say anything about changes that you've seen over the years in this community and just generally on the Kenai Peninsula?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, things have certainly -- you know, the tourism thing is. ..actually, it's great it doesn't --

no, you know, there's the usual increase in population, but it's still pretty -- pretty good place to be.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh hum. Well, you have a beautiful spot here right on the lake.

KEITH FREEMAN: Thanks.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So you spend a lot of time out on the lake?

KEITH FREEMAN: Hardly ever.

KAREN BREWSTER: Really? You go snow machining out there?

KEITH FREEMAN: True. In the winter.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. No boat? You don't go out and --

KEITH FREEMAN: My boat is down there, it's a -- I haven't even turned it over and put the motor on it this season.

KAREN BREWSTER: Has it been as rainy and cold here as other parts of the Peninsula?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. This has been a -- we've had our three days of sun back in June.

This boat - this lake doesn't get utilized by boaters like the amount that you would think they would.

I think it's -- very few boats out there. It's too big and cold, I guess. And there's usually a breeze.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. More like being out on the ocean.

KEITH FREEMAN: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, is there anything else about your working on that road that you wanted to talk about that I haven't known to ask?

KEITH FREEMAN: I can't think of a thing. No, I can't.

KAREN BREWSTER: What's it -- well, I have a question. What's it like being out there all by yourself running that Cat, you don't have other people around?

KEITH FREEMAN: Well, just do your work and keep a working away. I suppose a little bit lonesome.

Not -- not bad, though. No distractions, nobody bugging you.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

RACHEL MASON: Get away from that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, because, you know, other parts of road building, there's a crew with all those people, and you were out there solo.

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. If we were building that road today, we'd probably have excavators and, you know, a bunch of other.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did you have a radio or anything you could --

KEITH FREEMAN: No. KAREN BREWSTER: -- call for help?

KEITH FREEMAN: No. There was no cell phones and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. KEITH FREEMAN: and radios. No.

KAREN BREWSTER: So if you got swamped in the river, that was it?

KEITH FREEMAN: I believe that was it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Thank goodness that didn't happen.

And then at the end when you finished the road, you walked the Cat back across the same way?

KEITH FREEMAN: Right. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: End of the season? And where did they -- where did it live for the winter? Was it your Cat? No, it was Foster's Cat.

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So where did it go for the winter?

KEITH FREEMAN: We took it -- I took it downstream, and we left it there when Metco is now. They were just getting into business at the time.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that's kind of the end of the road, the glacier road?

KEITH FREEMAN: Yeah. It's that concrete place there by the river, on the way into Seward.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Well, great.

RACHEL MASON: Okay, well, unless you have anything else to add, we'll cut off the --

KEITH FREEMAN: Bye.