We knew it was someone important when three planes flew over in the span of ten minutes. Planes are nothing new up here: float planes, ski planes, planes with those big, bouncy tires. These were jets though, and not F-22s from Anchorage. I walked with George up onto a ridge overlooking town to survey the situation—there were several locals crowded around a woman who had laid out a table and had commenced to selling books. Now, caribou are not known for their intelligence, but George and I both knew that only one person would be selling books in the middle of the bush: it was her! Being good Alaskans, we sauntered down the hillside to get a little closer look (and maybe even rub up against her). However, before we even got to the edge of town, Independence, one of our hippie friends (you wonder how we always seem to know when hunting season starts?) told us that she was here for something besides an opportunity to hawk her book. She was here for a caribou!
We thanked Independence and trotted away quickly, keeping along a low wash until we were well out of town. What should we do? She had always been a friend to the caribou and we held her in the highest regard. When the wolves were on the rampage back in 2006, she mounted a minigun to the side of her personal chopper and laid them to waste. I even saw her speed up once on the Parks Highway to hit a wolf with her truck. But now she was here for caribou meat—Independence had said something about putting it on television. This was an opportunity indeed! What better way to endear ourselves to her than to give up one of our own for her gain and sustenance? And after all, there is only so much tundra and we are so many to feed. But which of us to sacrifice, and how to go about telling him that he was the chosen one?
After we reported back to Big Chief Caribou,he called a council meeting to decide which caribou would be her prize. After much deliberation, it was determined that Lester would take one for the team this time. What did it matter to him? He was born a week too late and his too-large head got stuck in the birth canal. The damage to his head left him with a permanent stagger and he could barely remember to follow the herd…. but goodness he had a nice rack. He was called before the Council of Caribou and told his fate—I’m not sure if he heard or not. There was a huge chunk of lichen stuck in his ear from a fall he took on his way in. I led him out onto the tundra the next morning under the ruse that we were going to eat some blueberries. When I found a suitable patch, I left Lester there eating and I walked back across the hill. He must not have heard the four wheeler pull up 100 yards behind him. He always did make a lot of noise when he chewed. My only surprise was when it took six shots to finish off poor Lester. Physically unstable and not terribly smart (ok, very slow), he couldn’t have presented too much of a challenge to her. I guess they had to get the lighting right for the cameras.
Anyways, we’re all very proud of Lester. The animal rights groups even got a chunk of tundra preserved after Lester was on television, and of course we named it after him. Lester’s Lichen Swamp sure is a good place to eat blueberries.