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Our Town – April 8, 2010

| Ghosts, History, Leaving Sitka, Neighbors, Relationships | April 8, 2010

The totem pole-lined paths through the woods of Sitka National Historical Park were silent, dark and deep. The Soupster strolled through an evening mist, alone.

This is the park’s 100th birthday, the Soupster remembered. While reaching 100 years old is the ultimate achievement for any human, 100 years for a mountain is a blink of its eye, if a mountain can be said to have eyes. A forest park must fall somewhere in the middle, the Soupster thought.

The shadows played with the Soupster’s vision. He thought he saw a person – dressed in furs and leather, with a fierce Raven battle helmet and face mask, carrying a blacksmith’s hammer – moving quickly between the shore and the screen of trees.

That’s K`alyaan, the Soupster thought. Katlian, who led the Tlingit fight against the Russians in this very spot in 1804. The Soupster remembered him from a famous painting. It was to commemorate the 1804 battle that the park was established in the first years of the 20th Century, becoming official in 1910. K’alyaan lived long after the battle – but not long enough to be running through the forest in 2010. A ghost? The Soupster wondered…

As if to answer his question, like a small gust of wind, a tall, friendly-looking guy with a mustache whooshed past. He juggled a camera the size of a small television, a tripod and a backpack full of photographic plates. He hurried in the same direction as K’alyaan. The Soupster could see through him to the trees and poles further down the trail.

That’s Elbridge Warren Merrill – E.W. Merrill, the Soupster marveled at the apparition. Served as the first, sort-of-official, superintendent of the new Historical Park and was instrumental in its formation. The Soupster had just seen some of Merrill’s fantastic photos in an exhibit gallery in the Visitor’s Center. There would be several more showings this summer of Merrill’s historical photographic art.

After glimpsing an ethereal, grandfatherly ghost of novelist James Michener ambling ahead, the Soupster stopped in his tracks. Michener lived near the park when he wrote his book “Alaska.” All three men – eh, ghosts, had been in the park while they lived.

The Soupster knew the park staff planned a big re-union this May for anybody who ever worked or volunteered  for “Totem Park” or the Bishop’s House over the years. Maybe these specters just arrived at the reunion too early.

The Soupster felt an itch and turned. His jaw dropped. Standing before the Soupster was a transparent iteration of his father’s late brother, Louis.

“Uncle Looey,” the Soupster blurted. “How can you be here?”

“Well,” said Lou, surprising the Soupster by speaking. “Your Aunt and I came up here on a cruise a while ago and we helped the park on a clean-up day.”

“You never told me.”

“Well, Nephew,” Uncle Lou said. “It was our Third Honeymoon and you and I always get into spats and then she takes your side.”

“And here I thought I was the bad one for not ever having you come and visit me here,” the Soupster said. “Not even once.”

“Well, look at it this way,” said a ghostly Uncle Lou. “I’m here now.”

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Would you like to create an Our Town?

The Sitka Soup would welcome an infusion of “new blood.” You may tell your story in words (450-500 of them), or as a graphic “cartoon” strip. We would even consider a short original photo essay with B&W photos. Your Our Town must be closely connected with the life of Sitkans, and the Soupster must make an appearance, even if it’s a brief one.

If we run your Our Town, we’ll pay you $50. To submit: Email your creation to shop@sitkasoup.com and put “Our Town” in the Subject line. Or call: 747-7595.

What is Our Town?

Our Town is a bi-weekly column that tracks the life of the Soupster and his friends and neighbors.

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

The first Our Town was published December 22, 1999.

Read Our Towns published before February 2009 HERE.

Who is the Soupster?

The Soupster is a long-time resident of Our Town who seems to have all the time in the world to traipse around, visit friends and neighbors and get into minor scrapes.

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