Brush with Greatness

I arrived in Fairbanks in August 1983.  I had come to attend the University of Alaska, Fairbanks with 2 classmates from SUNY Cobleskill, along with a 3rd friend who came up to work.  One classmate (Scott) and the worker (Ozzie) grew up over the hill from me in Cuba.  The other classmate (Bob) grew up between Albany and NY city. I didn’t get a spot in the dorm, but Scott and Bob did.  Scott came by the second day and said hey – you wanna go clean salmon for $5.50 and hour.  That was more money than I’d ever made.  You bet I did.  That job spawned (get it?) some of the longest lasting friendships I have to this day. Norm was the foreman of the processing line.  He was a UAF student and working for fellow Wisconsinites who were buying chum salmon from the Yukon, flying them in to Fairbanks in this plane that was sort of like a 20′ connex with wings, processing and freezing them at Chena Marina in Fairbanks, and then trucking them to Wisconsin to sell. When I got there the first day, Norm gave me a job on the line.  He introduced me to every one.  Buddy, Lisa and Todd were three that remain friends to this day, along with Norm.    A pretty petite lady with long curly brown hair was also helping.  Norm introduced her as Roxie Wright.  Norm took me aside during a break with a – don’t you know who this is?- kind of proclamation about Roxy.  She was a multi-winner of the North American Dog Sled championship.   Having been in Alaska less than 72 hours, I don’t think I knew they raced sled dogs.  I know I never heard of a Roxy Wright.  All I knew is she was a hard worker in Carharts that took all the fish scraps home to feed her dogs. Well, she just won another championship 24 years after the last one.  I emailed Norm, who is a gym teacher and coach in Fairbanks.  He said when he saw Roxy in the news he thought the same thing – about us all working processing fish in Fairbanks when we were young.