Me & Jack

by Peter S. Oleson

I met Jack Bunch 23 years ago in Ketchikan, I don't remember the how and why. He was nuts, and he still is. He wasn't a very big person, but what he lacked in height, he made up for in volume. He hung around with a guy I used to work with, Milo Balzer. Milo and I worked for the local VW dealership in the early 70's. We spent a lot of time under the influence of whatever we could afford. My wife and I left Ketchikan in 1976 for Soldotna and Jack left in 1977, and ended up in Eagle River. Jack got married, and my wife and I had a child. I didn't see him much until 1980, when the Dead played in Anchorage, and I needed a babysitter near Anchorage. We showed up there the night before the show and went to see the guys the next night, they were great. I was sicker than a pig with a cold, but I didn't care. That night Jack woke me up about 3:00 and wanted to know if I had a gun, because there was a brown bear sniffing around outside and not much keeping him out there. I had a gun, but I couldn't imagine any circumstance under which I wanted to use it on a bear. We watched ol' Ephraim for a while and he wandered up to the neighbors and out of our lives.

Jack came down to Soldotna a few years later, he didn't tell me at the time, but I learned in the next week or so that he and his wife were not getting along real well. We had planned a week long moose hunting trip up in the Swanson River area. We drove out to the end of Swan Lake Road and set up camp about 3 days before the season opened. I had an old VW double cab pickup with a homemade sleeper on the back and we found a real nice spot where we could see for a couple miles. Every morning we would get up before dawn and walk up and down the road and eyeball the local moose population. After a couple mornings, it became obvious that there were no boy mooses hanging around the area. Well, boy mooses don't much care for the company of girl mooses unless the girl mooses are in a receptive mode. We concluded that the weather had been too warm to push the girl mooses into estrous, and therefore, if we wanted to find a bull, we would have to get further out in the boonies. Every morning, while we were sneaking around as the sun came up, and every evening while we sat and watched the swamp holes (moose pastures) to see who was moving where, there were always small aircraft circling around if any moose were present.

Jack and I, being the purists we were, and also resenting the noisy presence of pilots flagrantly defying the aviation rules, became increasingly pissed off at these aircraft. We headed out to a small knob we had checked out earlier and set up camp on the afternoon before the season opened. We decided to hang around the camp that night and not disturb anything. Over on the gravel road we had driven in on, we could hear the people driving in for the next days opening. We were sitting on a log on the side of the hill in the afternoon sun sucking down a pint of whiskey when we saw a guy in shorts come out of an alder break with a woman. He was walking kind of crouched over and looking all around so I elbowed Jack and told him to hold real still, cause it looked to me like this guy thought he was in the wilderness. We were bumps on that log as that guy worked his way up the hill, tiptoeing across logs, working his way around snags until he got about 10 feet from us. Jack couldn't stand it no more, so he blurts out "Howdy, seen any moose?". The guy jumped two feet in the air, which wasn't easy with his girlfriend hanging on him like that. They didn't seem to want to talk much and soon left and returned to the road system.

Meanwhile, Jack and I moved over to the other side of the hill to see what would happen in the moose pasture after the sun went down. About a half hour before sunset, as we watched a cow with a calf being joined by another cow with two calves, here comes another one of those damned planes. The dumb bastard sees the moose and has to drop down to a couple hundred feet over the pasture and circle 'round and 'round while his equally stupid buddy finds his binoculars. Meanwhile, the moose have beat feet back to the cover of the forest. Wouldn't you? We began to talk about what we would do to the next SOB in a plane that dropped below the legal limit of 2500 feet during the first two weeks of the season.

The next morning, opening morning, we woke well before dawn and sneaked over to out observation post of the previous evening. There were the cow and calf, the cow and two calves, and two other cows, but no bulls. As we sat there, we saw another airborne idiot come swooping down to check for horns. That sent the two cows with calves into the first growth. Then, we could hear something walking through the second growth and so could the two remaining cows, who headed for the woods.

Unsuprisingly, out of the second growth comes our friend of the previous afternoon. He walks right across the middle of the moose pasture in which 30 minutes earlier there had been 7 moose eating. He was still walking all hunched over as if he expected something to jump up and eat him.

Jack and I were completely disgusted by this time and decided to head overland to the camp and find another place to hunt. That was a mistake. We should have gone back along the ridge we followed the day before. As luck would have it, we became enmired in a swamp that seemed to have no end. Every time we thought we saw and easier way, we ended up in deeper water. At one point, we had to form a two man human chain across a deep swamp hole that would surely have sucked up either or both of us had we slipped or lost faith. We staggered up to the camp about 10:30, completely drained and extremely thirsty.

Being the kind of guys we are, we opted to polish off a few beers and a couple of nips of whiskey to build our strength. I don't know if it was the alchohol on top of our extreme exertion, or if we were just pissed off enough, but as we stood there by the camper, out in the open, right on top of a bald hill, we saw another one of those damned airplanes coming. He was skimming right over the treetops and as he lifted to go over our little hill, Jack said "F*** this guy, let's moon him." I could find no fault with his idea, so as the pilot climbed over our hill, he was treated to two vertical smiles. Well, you would expect that someone seeing that view would understand that he wasn't wanted around there. This yahoo began circling us. So we circled too. He got a 720 degree moon, at which point I became alarmed, but Jack yelled "he wants to see the elephant!" I had to hold Jack to keep him from exposing his genitals, which in itself may have looked weird from above.

I talked Jack into ignoring the bastard, which wasn't easy. I suggested that we take our fishing poles down to the lake we were near and try to get some trout for lunch. We went down there and fished for a while, but that plane seemed to keep coming back and circling us. I had a bad feeling about it.

About a half hour later, three Fish and Game trucks came flying around the corner and stopped up by our camp. The plane continued to circle. The officers were obviously directed by their airborne buddy to come down to where we were fishing. We observed all of this, so it was no surprise when they walked right to where we were. The head honcho, the dude with the badge says to us " Whatever you do, don't smile. That's Lt. Reynolds up there, and he's hot enough to f***. What the hell did you two do?".
"We mooned him, " I replied.

The six F&G agents that had been dispatched to arrest us all burst into laughter and again told us not to laugh. They had the advantage of having their backs to the Lt.'s plane. They were very nice to us and had a very good time speculating about the color of their boss's face, etc. but Jack and I had to go in to see the guy when we got back into town. He maintained that he was legally able to arrest us for indecent exposure. I maintained that I was legally able to arrest him for flying below the legal limit. So Jack and I walked.

Last week I wrote you that I would write again this week about the mooning of Lt. Reynolds. I hadn't heard from Jack in 4 years. This week he called me. He lives up by the Canadian border in Idaho. He's taking care of his mother so she won't have to go to a home. He got divorced just after our hunting trip, and he's crazier than a Christmas goose. Then again, I guess I am, too.

Come a come a funeral knotty no go
No one's burial yet you want I
Come a come a funeral, make your friend come
Claim say you're the general.

Peter Tosh

Peter S. Oleson

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