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Augie Kochuten
Augie Kochuten
Augie Kochuten talks about her adventures on Caton Island, and about mallard hunting.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-16-01

Project: Unalaska Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Apr 26, 1996
Narrator(s): Augie Kochuten
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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Adventures on Caton Island

The ocean provides a few cold beers

Mallard hunting

House in False Pass

Mother-in-law's miracle run

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AUGIE KOCHUTEN: Well, when Ray told the Henry Swanson story about the coffee washing up on the beach. When I first came to the Aleutians I went to Sanack Island

and close to Sanak is also another island named Caton Island. When AJ was a baby, well, she was a year old, I guess that's a baby and she's now 20, a girlfriend and I decided to go to Caton for the summer because we didn't want be in the big city of False Pass.

(Laughter) 70 people. That was too busy for us so we went over there and stayed. There was a cabin there and that's actually where she had been living so it was kind of like her home.

But she had to go to False Pass cause her husband fished with Victor.

So we got a ride out there and went there and we had a pretty good, we had a good adventure there. Her little boy was maybe two. He was a little bit older than AJ.

We used to hike around the island. There are cattle on Caton Island. There's, well on Sanak and Caton, there are the long horn cattle.

So we used to hike around and make sure we didn't run into any of them but we wandered around the whole island. Our adventures including having live hawks dive down on us and stuff because they had nests, you know.

We used to carry these big sticks to scare them away.

But one day we were walking along and, you know, Helen is an Aleut from Sand Point and she said, “Boy am I thirsty.” said, yeah, “Me, too”.

I said, “Well when we get back we can drink some tea,” and she said “Well, no I'm thinking more of a beer.” I said, “Well, that sounds really good but I don't know if we're going to be able to get hold of any of that.”

But we kept hiking and pretty soon we were going along and we'd stop so the kids could get out. I'd take AJ out of the backpack and Albert would play on the beach.

Then we'd start hiking again. We started hiking and the weirdest thing happened, a Japanese beer floated up. (Laughter)

Then that tasted so good that we said let's go a little further. We walked along and we kept going and, you know, there were more. There weren't very many more, so we only got like maybe 2 or 3.

But I was lucky we didn't get any more. We might not have ever gone back to the cabin. (Laughter)

But anyway we hiked back and the funniest, the funniest part of the story is that we did have some gin stashed.

You know, that she had, been there. We didn't really stash it but we knew it was there, but we weren't really in to drinking the hard stuff. So the beer had been really good.

But she said, “Let's get in to that.” I said, (Laughter) "I don't know, we don't have anything to mix it with, we can't drink it straight."

She goes, "Well, we'll just use Tang" so, I don't know, you know. Of all things to mix, you know, we just used Tang. In fact, I used to know a guy name Earnest Mobeck who had orange lips from drinking Tang and vodka.

And that's the only thing of I could of, I says, "Gees, I hope we don't get orange lips." But, anyway, we did drink some gin and we decided to go hunting. (Laughter)

At this point, because the kids were sleeping, and the cabin was not far from the beach, so we saw some, poor little mallards and Helen goes, "I think we can get one." I said, "I don't know." All we had was a .22 but she said, Let's try it".

So we got one, you know. Here we were in our nightgowns and they started drifting away. So we were pulling up, running out in the water getting our mallards.

We got them and we brought them back and we roasted them the next day. And they were really good cause we didn't get any meat the whole time we were out there.

So that was good. It was a great adventure. But the beaches do tend to wash up a lot of stuff.

And I have one more story too about the wind. In False Pass, when you were telling the story about outside of Unimack, I don't know why but it always seems to blow worst there than it does here.

I don't know if it's just where we are or maybe the mountain structure or just those wild volcanoes, that you know, are on that island.

When Victor and I first got married we didn't have any place to live but, we built a home. When I went out to have AJ in Anchorage, I was gone for three months cause we didn't have any phones or anything back there so you were gone, you were gone.

I didn't have enough money to come back and they said, "Well, you're not going to have her for a while", so I just stayed out there. And poor Victor had thought I had left him because I wrote letters but it blew almost that whole time and he never got a letter.

So it was like, "Well, I guess she left me, too." (Laughter) Anyway, he was surprised. One day the [Grumman] Goose brought me in with this little bundle that was AJ.

And anyway, we had a house when I got back. That was the nicest thing. He had built, it was going to be a shed and it was built out of scrounged 2 x 12's from the old dock that washed away with the ice, when the Bering Sea ice came through.

So I was happy. I had a house and everything. And it was, since it was built out of 2 x 12's it - was pretty sturdy. Very small but sturdy.

Well Knut and Sophie, Sophie was Victor's mother, and Knut was his stepfather, lived next door and they lived in a very old building. It used to be a store and the Shelikoff's lived there and it went down in history.

But anyway, it wasn't very sturdy. So every time it blew terribly, Victor was always out of town for some reason. But every time it blew very hard they came over to our house because they didn't want to stay in that house cause the walls would shake so bad.

In fact, Knut had put a brace up in the inside of the house so it would hold the wall up. Cause southeast, I know, you think of people living in these houses with big braces.

But, one time it was blowing so hard and we communicated with CB's because we didn't have telephones or anything. And Sophie called over and she said, "It's blowing really hard and I'm coming over".

Well she had emphysema so she was on oxygen a lot. And I said, "Well, wait a minute. I'll come over and get you." And she was very terrified of this wind.

Every time it did blow it and I swear, she ran over to the house and she, behind our house is a swamp, and she had on bedroom slippers and she got over there and she goes, after she calmed down and had a cup of tea, she goes, “You know, I must be like Jesus.”

I said “why?” She said, “Because look it, my slippers aren't even wet” and (laughter) she ran through the swamp to get to my house.. (Laughter) And another thing is, she couldn't run either, she was too sick to be running.

But I mean it was like this miracle thing. (laughter) But you know that wind blew so hard that, you know how much a seine skiff weighs. It's like, a lot, you know, 700 pounds maybe or, I don't know. How much does a seine skiff weigh. A lot.

A big old wooden one. It flew all the way from one side of my house. It was turned over, you know, for the winter. It went and hit the top of my house and landed on the other side.

And that was pretty incredible. But, anyway the wind stories are never ending in the Aleutians. Maybe later we'll get into the bear stories.

Anyway, that's enough, so yeah.