Ashley Selden

An Alaskan Migration

A Day in the Life on the Trap Line

I’m working on a few  pieces that require quite a bit of thought and tact, which is a time consuming process for my monkey brain. In desperation to offer something interesting to read while I work on the more difficult pieces I finally came up with an idea. Since our lives are so unconventional, I thought readers might be interested in reading one of my journal entries from last winter. Tyler has always kept a detailed journal since we started life on the trap line. Preferring to read rather than write, I never kept one until the last two years. Last winter, cooped up in the cabin with the baby most of the time, finally allowed me time to write. The following is a mostly unedited copy of an entry out of my journal – written in a wide rule, spiral bound notebook.

1/25/18 Hans (one of the DJ’s in Ft. Yukon) is on the radio playing music from the 90’s, right now the song is ‘I Get Knocked Down’, by Chumba Wumba and I’m surprised to find I still kind of like it because of it’s odd lyrics…”Pissing the night away, pissing the night away”. I’m busy processing the last moose quarter from the fall. I hear a noise at the window, the Downy Woodpecker has come to visit the feeder. I made it a couple weeks ago so Sydney and I could lure the birds in for some close-range viewing. She loves to look at the woodpecker so despite having bloody hands I go over to her where she is dancing around in her bouncy chair and lift the whole contraption up so she can see. She is mesmerized. As soon as I put her down she protests, disappointed to have left sight of the woodpecker and loosed from her mothers arms. I ignore her complaints and go back over to the giant hindquarter dangling from a tie log that supports a shelf at the front of our cabin. I dance around and act goofy while I work, trying to entertain the baby and buy more time to get the job done. I’m not a trained butcher. I just hack off a large section of meat from the quarter, trim what needs trimming and make cuts from it that I want to cook with. Some of the larger sections with lots of tissue I will dedicate to roasts, the more choice meat I will cut into steak. I’m not going to grind any of the hind quarter. The front quarters are best for that. When I have my roast trimmed or a set of steaks cut, I drop the pieces into zip lock freezer bags and put them outside to freeze and store. The baby is being demanding so I’m tempted to rush through my job but this is the best moose we have ever had, a very tender young bull whose quarters we smoked. I want to take good care of it. The meat is as tender as filet mignon and as good as Kobe beef, actually I’ve never had Kobe but I bet it is. It smells of alder smoke – just beautiful. Only a quarter of the way through with processing the meat I have to take a Sydney break. She wants to nurse and I change her cloth diaper. While my hands are clean I decide to have a little lunch myself, a leftover moose burrito.  As we have our lunch we watch the chickadees at the window feeder eat lynx fat. Tyler’s been busy handling lynx skinds lately, which generates plenty of the Selden brand of suet – lynx lard, and during this frigid time the local birds are crazy for the calorie boost it offers.

I put Sydney down in her play yard and go back to work. As I cut meat Sydney and I are gabbing at each other and playing her favorite new game  –  fake sneezing, Ah!  Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Chooooooo! I trim another piece and wash my hands again so I can put a big pan of clean water atop the stove to heat up. This job is going to require a mopping when I’m done. Surrounding the stove are a couple dozen pairs of underwear drying on the line from the mornings’ laundry. Sydney has taken a liking to pulling laundry out of the basket and appears to have an affinity for our dirty underwear so I thought I ought to get them out of the way. It’s cloudy outside – windy and 5 below. I look out the window at a dog left in the yard and he is looking towards the river, the direction from  where Tyler will be coming home. I gather from Larry dog that he’ll be home shortly. The babies gone quiet so I turn to have a look at her and she is doubled-over with a toe in her mouth, attempting to poop. I scoop her up as quickly as I can, rip off her diaper, and set her on my lap over her pail. I am rewarded for my quick observation by not having to scrub a soiled cloth diaper. Bless her heart! I’ve saved scrubbing many a poop diaper by watching for Sydney’s crude bathroom cue. The radio station starts airing a high school basketball game which I’m not interested in so I put on a podcast, which I download onto hard drives when I’m in town. It’s nice to have the option of another form of winter entertainment other than the radio. I pick a story and hack off another chunk of meat to dissect. The Radio Lab podcast is sad. It’s about a one year old baby who gets a rare cancer and dies later at 4, something completely inconceivable to me. I am so sorry any person has  been forced to endure the loss of a child. I look at mine with eternal love. I get the butchering done and start mopping the floor as Sydney whines to be let out of her pen. Tyler gets home just as I finish cleaning. It took me 5 hours to process one moose quarter. Three times longer than it would have before Sydney came along but  she is worth every extra minute. For dinner we have the last of our blanched and frozen broccoli from our garden and the last jar of pesto, also made from our garden, served over pasta, topped with thin slices of tender moose meat. It’s a special green meal to remind us of summertime. Today Tyler came home with 2 lynx and a wolf. A good catch. We are fortunate people.

3 Comments

  1. Hello Ashley,
    Your baby girl is so adorable! I just read and enjoyed your blog. Please keep it up. I love your stories and the way you write. I’ve never missed an episode of “The Last Alaskans” and watch all the re-runs over and over. It’s amazing to me. I think the hardest thing would be to endure the cold for so long!
    So I just wanted to say hello and I look forward to your blog and new shows to come!
    Thank you for sharing your life and family with us.

  2. Rick MacDonald

    May 8, 2018 at 4:25 PM

    I really enjoy your commentary about daily life on the trap line. I also noticed that you are in the new cabin this winter. It’s my favorite cabin build I’ve seen on the show. The workmanship is amazing and the fact that Tylers’ family came out to help put it up makes it even more special. Charlies cabin is a close second. I look forward to the new series of TLA this fall. I am amazed that you have the baby with you on the trap line and you handle the chore of cleaning cloth diapers without a whimper, and without running water in the winter. You are a rare person to be able to manage a household such as yours in these modern times, and my hat is off to you for being able to do so. Keep the blogs coming (amazing you have time to write them) as I really enjoy reading them. I hope you, Tyler and Sydney have a healthy and successful winter on the trap line…..Rick

    • admin

      May 15, 2018 at 10:21 AM

      My ego enticed me to write you back!….I know it looks like it on the show, but the truth is Tylers family only helped put up the 1st 4 courses of logs before they flew home. A huge help, don’t get me wrong but I do want some cred as I have worked for 10 years as a construction grunt! I finished that cabin, pregnant, and alone with Tyler!

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