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Kate is helping guide a group of big game hunters out of George Perry’s obsolete gold mine just south of Denali, and rapidly discovers that some in the party may have more than four-legged prey on their trophy list.
Think “The Most Dangerous Game” crossed with And Then There Were None here. Kate and Jack get down and dirty and the ending is guaranteed to make you cry or furious or both.
Hunter’s Moon is set on a piece of property owned by my father, just south and west of Denali National Park at the confluence of the Kichatna and the Nakochna Rivers, constituting the grounds and equipment of a now-defunct gold mine (the gold was too fine to get it out profitably).
I spent four days there in September 1997 with my dad’s wife, Jeannie. Bear and wolf tracks everywhere, bald eagles roosting in dead cottonwoods, spawned-out kings stinking up the creek bank.
We fished for trout and picked rose hips and highbush cranberries and took the four-wheeler up to the beaver dam, where the beavers have been so efficient that the water is backed up halfway to the airstrip. The weather was glorious, bright sun every day, red sunset every evening, full moon every night. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Kate’s experiences there aren’t quite so serendipitous.
About the Dedication
For Sarah and Joyce, who taught me everything I know about loyalty and generosity, and for Lulu, who is gone but not forgotten
Sarah, Joyce and Lulu are Kathy’s sisters, and mine.
“What’s the Bush word for Renaissance woman?”
A handful of berries, glowing redly in the afternoon sun, showered into the plastic bucket. Kate looked over at Jack. “What?
“I don’t know,” Jack said. He was leaning against the water pump housing, arms crossed over his chest, a speculative look on his face. “You’re what, thirty-three?”
“Thirty-four next month,” Kate said. “What’s that got to do with the Renaissance?”
He grinned. “Nothing. It just seems like you ought to be older. You know too much for thirty-three.”
“Uh-huh.” Kate licked her reddened fingers. The juice was tart to the tongue. She made a mental note to buy more sugar on the way through Anchorage.
“Being a Renaissance woman means you’re good at more than one thing. If you lived in England in the fifteen hundreds, you’d be good at poetry, fencing and navigation. Move it up four centuries and west 180 degrees and what do we get?”
“Kabbibity-bobbity-boo?” Kate suggested.
He laughed, but shook his head. “You deckhand for Old Sam in the summer, you guide climbers up the Big Bump in the spring, you can skin a Cat, mine for gold, butcher a moose, fix an engine.” He gestured at the bucket dangling from her right hand. “Make jam. And now here you are, fixing to guide a big game hunt. You can do anything. You’re a Renaissance woman, Kate.”
“That’s not ability,” Kate said, disconcerted. “It’s not even talent. It’s just…geography.”
“It’s where I live. I’m not special, or different. Not from anybody who lives like me. When you live in the Bush, you do what you have to to get by.” She shrugged. “I live two hundred miles from the nearest town of any size. If the engine off a 747 falls through my roof, there aren’t any carpenters within calling distance, even if I had a phone. I do it myself or it doesn’t get done. Same goes for–what did you say?–butchering a moose, fixing an engine. If I want to eat, I get my moose. If I want to drive, I service my truck. No big deal.” She turned back to the berries.
“And that’s probably what is most amazing,” he said, more to himself than to her. “You actually believe that.”