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Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010



If you’re stupid, you’ve got to be tough. Now don’t get me wrong here. Alaskans are not stupid - far from it. I’m talking about kids in general and two specific kids in Alaska. Many of us guys remember what it was like to be invincible - when the laws of nature and causality only applied to others and not to us. Youngsters in Alaska are no exception of course, but when they do something really stupid, they have to be a lot tougher.

My wife and I and our 35 y.o. son were on vacation in Alaska last week. We had all flown to Anchorage, and used that as a home base while seeing the sights in our rental car - the Alaska State Fair, Talkeetna, the beautiful Kenai Peninsula... On Thursday, we were enjoying crab omelets for breakfast with a 27 y.o. young man from Anchorage that I knew from an aviation forum. He offered to take my son 4-wheeling in the back country and since my son owns a jeep and is into that sort of thing, they both headed out for the Knik glacier about noon. (The Knik glacier is on the middle right of the map, below.)

Alaska Story_6.jpg

They asked me to come along, but I didn’t relish the idea of bouncing around in fetal position the back of a jeep so - luckily as it turned out - I declined. Instead, I bought a $10 fishing pole at one of the two Wal-Marts in Anchorage and went fishing. After several hours of not getting any bites at the various lakes and streams in Anchorage , I gave up and returned to the hotel. Being late afternoon by now, the wife and I decided to retire to the patio behind the Millennium Hotel, which just happens to be on the final approach path to the Lake Hood floatplane base. That’s the biggest floatplane base in the world, located right next to the Anchorage airport. Guests can sit on the patio and watch the constant stream of float planes coming and going while sipping adult beverages and eating gourmet snack foods, which is exactly what we did.

I left a voice message on our son’s cell phone telling him where we were and to come join us when he got back. When he wasn’t back by 5PM, I left another message, then called the jeep owner’s wife. She told me "don't worry, they'll be fine". Yeah, right.

About 9 PM - back in our room now - I got a cryptic voice message from Mr. Jeep on my cell phone that they had “lost the jeep” and I needed to come pick them up at the Palmer airport, about 45 minutes north of Anchorage. Terri and I were about ready for bed, but instead we put our shoes back on, gassed up the rental car, and headed North. We got to Palmer about 45 minutes later, but amazingly, nobody there seemed to know where the airport was - it was very strange. I finally went into a pizza place and some old-timers pointed me in the right direction and we got there a few minutes later. The last message I had gotten from the kids was that they would be waiting at the Flight Service Station, so that’s where I went.

When I got to the FSS - almost 11PM now and dark - it was all closed up and nobody was around. About that time the cell phone rings again and it's them telling me that a friendly cop let had let them sit in the back of his cruiser to warm up, and that I should just look for the flashing lights. I saw the red and blue flashing lights midway down the airport and found the kids, shoeless, shirtless and still soaking wet. I thanked the police officer politely then we all headed back to Anchorage.

Now I wanted to hear the story about what happened, but She Who Must Be Obeyed had had it by this time. She screamed at the two kids to keep their d**n mouths shut and not say a single word all the way home. They didn’t. When SWMBO’s in one of “those moods”, I just keep quiet too.

Well, it didn’t matter - the story came out over the next few days. The dumb-a**es tried to ford a river too far. The water turned out to be much deeper than they had thought, the engine quit and the Jeep started floating down stream. They both scrambled up on top and for some reason, decided to strip down before they swam for it in the 35 degree water, like that would help. I guess they thought they could try to keep their clothes and belongings dry by holding them over their heads. Needless to say, that didn’t work. They lost everything in the rushing, icy water and scrambled empty-handed and half-clothed up the bank. They were forced to start walking out of the wilderness as the sun was going down.

Alaska Story_1.jpg

After walking barefoot over rocks for five miles and as proof that there is a God - they came across a pilot couple of who were out there in their bush plane moose hunting. (That may have been at the Hunter Creek airport - the “circle-R” on the map.) The pilots took pity on the two kids and after doing some weight and balance calculations, the woman - the lighter of the two - flew them out to the Palmer airport. They crammed my son into the baggage compartment in the tail cone, and put the jeep driver (code name: “Swimmer”) in the rear seat. When they got to Palmer and once again had cell phone coverage, the good Samaritan pilot allowed the kids to use her cell phone to make the original distress call at 9PM. My son’s cell phone was somewhere at the bottom of the Knik river, of course.

So my son lost his cell phone, wallet, his last $100, his shirt and leather jacket but luckily, not his life. His feet were bruised from walking barefoot on rocks for five miles and he limped for the next couple days.

OK, so much for the “stupid” part. They went into the wilderness alone, didn’t tell anyone exactly where they were going or when they would be back, didn’t carry any survival supplies, didn’t check the depth of the river before crossing, then panicked and took their shirts and shoes off. But that’s all water under the hood... Now for the “tougher” part.

Having survived all that, most kids in the lower 48 would have called mommy and daddy and asked for a new jeep. Failing that, they would have called the insurance company and asked for a new jeep. But not Swimmer. Over the next few days, he rounded up his 4-wheeling buddies and they all drove up to the scene of the sinking and managed to pull the jeep out and tow it back to Anchorage.

Alaska Story_3.jpg

My friend had to wade/swim back out in the 35 degree water (again) and dive down to hook up the tow rope. Me? I would have borrowed a dry-suit from a fisherman, but not these guys - they’re tougher in Alaska.

Alaska Story_3.jpg

Alaska Story_4.jpg

by John Cooper
(contributing Team Member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)


kathymlynczak said...

Now I wanted to hear the story about what happened, but She Who Must Be Obeyed had had it by this time. She screamed at the two kids to keep their d**n mouths shut and not say a single word all the way home. They didn’t. When SWMBO’s in one of “those moods”, I just keep quiet too.

LOL!!!!! So how come I don't have that title around my house?

Seriously, what a scary experience! I'm so glad your son survived and I hope he's the wiser for what he went through.

john galt said...


Your friend has a bit of Sarah Palin in him. I hope she's not as reckless, but I suspect she's probably as resourceful. ;)

Glad no one was hurt.

smithy said...

Those photos are amazing. What a story!

Like Kathy and John said, thank God no one was hurt.

John Cooper said...

I'm glad no one was hurt, too.

The "kids" didn't ask us to bring them any clothes, so we didn't - they drove all the way home shirtless.

Needless to say, the first thing my son did when he got back to our hotel was take a long, hot shower.

The next day, I went over to the Anchorage airport to speak to the TSA and ask them how my son was going to get back home with absolutely no ID of any kind. Actually, the supervisor I spoke with was pretty nice. He told me we should show up two hours early, the boy would have to fill out a form of some kind, then be subjected to "extra screening".

On departure day, that's exactly what happened. The ordeal wasn't much worse than the usual hassle of flying these days.

Not having anything to write with, the kids didn't write down the name of the good Samaritan pilot. But "Swimmer" still had a pocket knife and they carved the N-number of the aircraft in a picnic bench outside the FSS. When my son got home to Florida, he called the FSS and the lady - at her next break - went out and got the number and looked up the address/phone number of the aircraft owner.

I hope my son has written them a nice thank you letter.

lori_gmeiner said...

What an exciting story! Although I can't say that I blame "She Who Must Be Obeyed" for being furious with the two of them. ;)

And you and your wife must have been quite worried during all that uncertainty.

So glad everything worked out well in the end.

First_Salute said...


This is a great story, and I appreciate the time that you spent, assembling it; not to mention your observations (to put it sub-tile-ee).

I'm glad that you and SWMBO, had the chance to sit down, enjoy the cheese dip and drinks, and watch the seaplanes come and go.



cw-patriot said...

We tend to take vacations in the hopes that they will include something 'memorable'. But you need to advise your son that 'memorable' need not mean 'death-defying'.

I'm on the One Who Must Be Obeyed's side. We mothers cringe at every new grey hair, and those who cause ones that could have been prevented deserve all the wrath we feel capable of dishing out. :)

The photos are amazing. And the fact that those pilots just happened to be in the right place at the right time to offer assistance is nothing short of miraculous.

I, too, hope your son writes them a letter of thanks. The 'inscription' in the picnic bench is a long-lasting testimony to their kindness. :)

Thanks so much for the fascinating (if frightening) contribution here.

~ joanie

Brad Zimmerman said...

My wife and I have wanted to visit Alaska for almost 20 years. For some reason, your tale and pictures make that seem even more important. What an amazing place. It hardly seems like it could be part of America.

Thank God nobody was hurt in your son's trouble.

John Cooper said...

brad z.
Alaska is a magical place - at least to us. Besides being stunningly beautiful, one can't mistake the scent of freedom in the air.

Do NOT take a cruise. Fly up there and either rent a car like we did or take the Alaska Railroad, which goes just about everywhere.

If anyone was wondering, gas up there was $4.31 in the Anchorage area - not much higher than down here in the lower 48. I think we spent ~$300 on gas for 9 days up there - peanuts when compared to the cost of getting there.

trustbutverify said...

I always like Joanie's non political "diversion" columns, but this one is just as hair-raising as the political stuff! No "diversion" here. ;)

All kidding aside, it was actually entertaining reading, as long as I didn't have to go through it! I'm glad everyone came home in one piece.

SharonGold said...

I wet my pants reading your references to "She Who Must Be Obeyed." You men are all alike!

What a riveting story! Thanks for sharing it, and for the "better you than me" moment. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yikes!!!!! Scary stuff.

marcus aurelius said...

Our son's former pediatrician retired to Alaska about 5 years ago, and became a bush pilot. No one ever hears from him much anymore, and I guess that's a good thing (for him). He's probably very happy up in that beautiful wilderness.

Thanks for the great story.

arlene albrecht said...

Many of us guys remember what it was like to be invincible - when the laws of nature and causality only applied to others and not to us.

Don't be too hard on the guys. They're not doing drugs or stealing cars. I actually respect their thoughness. They just got in a little too deep- literally and figuratively.

Great reading though. :)

Anonymous said...

Sure a blessing, from God Himself, in 'providing' for these two guys in tough circumstances. I don't think I'd wanna do any of that offroading stuff at my age,,, but 30-35 years ago it woulda been a gas.
I know a kid like their son...when he was little he used to get in fights with the roosters on their farm, and let little snakes bite him on the fingers. And his mom was JUST LIKE SWMBO!! Amazing.

Skookum said...

JC, this is skook from flopping aces. Of course my story happened in Northern BC and I wasn't looking for adventure, but it found me. Thanks for sharing the story, if anyone cares to read a similar story of near death on a river jump over to flopping aces and check out the story with the cougar photo.

Actually JC, these guys with hot rod four wheelers set up for adventure have this sort of thing happen fairly regularly in the North country.

Thank goodness it came out with only a monetary loss, some of us are luckier than others. I am sure your son will have more respect for rivers and a better sense of judgement in the future.

It was an adventure he will never forget.

I love the wild country and will retire there in a few years. I miss the wildlife and wilderness everyday of my working life.

May I suggest a road trip. Dawson Creek North up the AlCan highway to Fairbanks return down the Cassiar through western BC, see the Gold fields in the Yukon, I have family up there mining Gold at over a thousand an ounce, how sweet can it get.

Thanks for the story.

G-d speed JC