Saturday, October 27, 2007

Almost Short At Work - Ready for Dog Time

Today is Saturday, and I'll be getting off duty from work at 6 am on Tuesday, so I'm starting to feel a bit like a short timer.

Like most people who work at remote sites in Alaska, I frequently feel as though I am living two different lives. My life at work consists of spending 12 hours per day, seven days per week, two weeks on and two off, protecting the pipeline from the ravages of crime, terrorism and disease. It sounds really exciting, but the life of a security officer / paramedic on the pipeline is actually pretty darned easy. It's one of those endeavors that consists of many hours of pure boredom punctuated by moments of terror.

I intentionally refer to my work site as "my place of employment" because I am so rarely asked to actually perform work. Like most emergency services workers, my employer prefers that I not be doing a whole lot. Safety is emphasized over all other factors on the pipeline, and if I am actually working it means that something disastrous has occurred. Thus far during this tour of duty, there have been no such disasters, so my duties have been mundane things like standing watch at the gate house, administering a few influenza vaccines to other pipeline employees and of course dealing with the inevitable and usually superfluous mountain of paperwork.

Meanwhile, I've missed a few activities back at the ol' home place. For example, the annual International Sled Dog Symposium was last weekend, and all the accounts I've heard have been very complimentary. Apparently I missed a really good one. I'm sure my friends will tell me about the high points as I settle into my other, "off-duty life" in a few days.

Before I left for my place of employment I dropped my truck off at Snow Valley Equipment and Repair, a few miles from my own house. I asked the proprietor, Frank Snow, to do a fair amount of work on the rig and he told me by phone this afternoon that it is ready for me to pick up. He had to replace a universal joint on the front drive line, rebuild the engine pre-heater (so it will start in cold weather), and he also installed some new 'moose lights' (aka driving lights), installed a citizen's band radio for me, and installed two more ring bolts for confining dogs around the truck while they wait for their turn to run. Frank is known for doing very good work and he is a local, hard working family man. I much prefer to support local businesses. If you live in Two Rivers and need some work on your rig I hope you'll consider having Frank do the job for you. He's good people.

While at my place of employment I frequently feel isolated from my other life, back in the 'real world'. Emails from my friends are greatly appreciated because they help me stay connected as well as informed. Recently my dog training partner Lynn Orbison sent one that truly made my day brighter. She is now running dogs on sleds rather than the four-wheeler. When you consider that we weren't able to run dogs on sleds until December of last year, it is a very big deal. She even sent a photograph, showing my twins Rose and Nels who ran in the wheel position behind a pair of leaders in the small four-dog training team. It was wonderful seeing these yearlings in harness, doing the job they were bred and trained to do.

Speaking of the twins, Kyle Belleque is the Kotzebue musher who gave them to me. Kyle is training his team for a middle distance race, the Kuskokwim 300. Kyle is maintaining a really nice blog about his endeavor, and I very much enjoy reading his updates. You can check it out at

Kyle is going to be in Fairbanks for a couple of days, and I'm very much looking forward to spending an evening with him. We continue to correspond frequently, sharing information about our dogs and lifestyles. He has certainly proved himself a fine, up and coming "dog man", and I'm excited about meeting him in person.

The days are getting noticeably short up here as we are currently losing nearly 7 minutes of possible daylight each day. The sun is much lower on the horizon. The result has been some very colorful sunsets. The other day I captured an image at sunset, with alpine glow on some of the distant hills and the tree tops near the pump station.

The sunset on the 20th also caught my attention, and I thought you might enjoy seeing it for yourself.

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