Alaska Was....
the BUSH Radio...


Mrs. Gruff and I used to not only use the "Bush Pipe Line" (KENI) and the "North Wind" (KHAR), but listen to the hundreds of messages posted on the two wonderful services. Al Bramsted provided the service in KENI for all the homesteaders, and Bill Harpel and his wife provided the North Wind on KHAR when it came on line and began and transmitting.

There were messages that evoked wonder, beauty, excitement, and joy, as the homesteaders, miners, hunters, and trap lines were sent messages by their families from Anchorage and even the Lower 48.

One that stands out in my mind regularly is "to John Ireland at Murder Lake..." Who was John Ireland at Murder Lake, we always wondered...well, it was 30+ years in the making, but we finally connected all the dots. Meanwhile, though, we'd wait with baited breath for messages to "John Ireland at Murder Lake."

Then there were messages like, "to the Jones' at Peter's Creek, you need to call your family in California...bad news."..... Oh NO, we'd all think...a parent?

Oft we'd hear something like, "John out on the Willow, you need to come to Anchorage, you have a job for a month...Love, your Brother, Jeff."....

"Could someone get a message out to Fred at Caribou Creek....get to a phone and call your wife in Anchorage, they don't have the parts at Carringtons for the International, they got the wrong ones..."

Or, "to the Erickson's at Flathorn Lake, we're meeting in town this weekend....come across the inlet in the next tide. It turns Friday at 3 PM...we'll all be meeting at the Summers' place for the weekend" We personally knew the Erickson's, an Alaskan Big Game Guide and true gentleman. He and his wife homestead out on Flathorn Lake.

"Bess and the Smith's kids on Montana Creek, its a BOY....9 lb, 3 thinking of a name...Mom's doing GREAT! We'll be home in 3 days....Wilbur's will fly us..."

And, of course, there were messages like " to Milo and Mike (aka Glacier Gruff) at the mine on Quartz Creek, had a bear in the garden yesterday, but everything is OK...."

We'd listen to them in town during the winter on our little AM-FM- TV (B&W - 3").

Here is our trusty 12 volt Crown also had AM and FM so we could listen to or use our beloved Bush Pipeline and Northwind messages

We used the D2 battery from our little Case Kitty-Crawler. The battery would get charged when I pulled in logs, or plowed the snow. There were messages to Glenallen, Kodiak, Lake Clark, Valdez, the interior.....and we'd listen to them in the evening at the mine cabin during the summers or winter check trips with a little portable transistor radio.


The first thing we knew about him came from Pam Randles. Here is her message:

Fri 04 Aug 1995 20:27:05

Subject: Re: Alaska Was...the radio days...

I knew John Ireland. I am Pam of Slim and Pam of Trinity Creeks (mile 239.5 on the railroad). John had a cabin on Murder Lake which was just south of Stepan Lake in the Talkeetna Mountains. Murder Lake was named after a feud that happened among the Indians of Chief Stepan's group long ago.

There was a gun, one of the first in the area. Somebody got mad and several people were killed. The people were so upset that they drove the gun into the ground barrel first, swearing not to let things like that happen. Two little kids survived and walked out (about 50 miles to Talkeetna). When John moved up there and built his cabin, he heard about the story. If I recall correctly, he found the gun, all rusted and lying in the dirt.

I remember he had marvelous, twinkling blue eyes and a wry sense of humor. He fed the jays from his hand just outside his door. When I left the area, I lost track of him. If he is still around, he must be in his 80s by now. Great guy. First time I ever used snowshoes was togo to his house.

Pam Randles

The next report I had about John Ireland came from the newspaper obituary column nearly 7 years later. John Ireland had moved to the Kachemak Bay area, and that's where his passing was sadly noted. His obituary reveals a typically unique Alaskan pioneer. Alaska was FULL of people who were savants of one kind and another, and John Ireland was one of them.

JOHN VINCENT HILARY IRELAND, 88, died April 6, 2002, at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer after a long battle against cancer. Graveside rites with military honors will be at 11 a.m. today at Hickerson Cemetery on Diamond Ridge Road. The Rev. Pat McDonald will officiate.

Mr. Ireland was born March 12, 1914, in Hempstead, N.Y., to Edward V. Ireland and Meta Steininger. His mother died when he was very young, but he always spoke kindly of the substitute mothers provided for him and proudly of his father, who was a theater poster artist.

After completing 2 1/2 years of college and working as a poultry farmer, Mr. Ireland joined the Army at age 26. He was in the U.S. Cavalry during the days when the Cavalry still had horses and mules. He was sent to saddle and harness making school by the Army and served in the Veterinary Detachment. He worked with the animals, feeding and caring for them, and as a muleskinner, the driver of a mule team pulling a wagon. After four years, his detachment was deactivated and Mr. Ireland was discharged. He received the American Defense Service Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, World War II Victory Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and Expert Rifleman Qualification.

In 1951, Mr. Ireland moved to Alaska, where he conducted a business in Anchorage for several years before taking a home site on Murder Lake in the Talkeetna Mountains. He built his cabin of spruce logs and was self-sufficient there for 21 years. At age 75, Mr. Ireland moved back to civilization and lived for a few years each in Homer, Seldovia and Haines.

Mr. Ireland wrote and illustrated a book, "The Friendly Wilderness," and was one of the last of the skilled leather crafters who used traditional hand-stitching methods, according to a close friend. The opportunities to pass this dying skill on to future generations was an important part of his later years.

A close friend said: "In later life, Mr. Ireland received a profound insight which he expressed thus: Wisdom is the ability to see truth.' Within this context, John was certainly a wise man, for he always strove to see and express truth. His many friends will miss him and remember him with love."

Mr. Ireland is survived by cousins, Jane Fleisher of Sequim, Wash., Jean Paisley of Garden City, N.Y., and Jay Baumann of New York, N.Y. He was preceded in death by a brother, Michael Ireland.

At the time, we shared this on ACA:

Reuben's more Harpoonin' with Harpel...The North Wind's died out and gone away, leaving only the Caribou Clatters off in the distance...and now more John Ireland, much less "To John Ireland at Murder Lake..."

'Ja ever sit on the beach and watch sand slowly sift out of your clenched hands when you were a kid...between your fingers...well, that is the way Alaska-Was is going...

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