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The True Last Alaskan

July 29th, 2017 by Magdalena Tabor

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Those of us familiar with the reality documentary series, The Last Alaskans, are already aware Bob Harte, a particular favorite, succumbed to cancer on Saturday, July 22nd.

For forty years, Bob made the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge his home, living in the tiny log cabin he built for himself and his family. But what set Bob apart from the other six cabin dwellers the government has allowed to remain in this remote corner of Alaska, was his aching loneliness without the company of another human being, mainly his ex-wife Nancy, whose heart was ever bound to hers. This wistfulness remained, as if he lived with the memories still tacked to the cabin wall, the photographs curling at the edges. They were never really gone, his wife and daughter, and when the radio announcer brought any news of them, he was always visibly touched.

But the story of Bob delves deeper than a lonely man living in the Alaskan wilderness with his husky Ruger. To hear Bob speak was to afford a glimpse into the soul of the man; soft spoken, unhurried. The intonations brimming with a kindness and honesty uniquely his. To hear Bob speak was to fall instantly in love with his boyish nature but with a man’s resolve and resiliency to overcome every obstacle he encountered.

Bob was self-reliant. Yet, he invited us in to sit at his table with the oil lamp burning, hugging every syllable in the rounded yellow light. It could have been a hundred years ago, but it was just the other day. We trudged through the crusty snow behind his heavy boots and trapped with him. I don’t even like trapping. I suppose most of us watching don’t and yet we followed him everywhere. Even in Grizzly country. Safe in the confines of our living rooms.

Bob afforded us the opportunity to live vicariously, a life we wouldn’t dare realize beyond our flat screen TV’s. This dangerous and hauntingly beautiful world was ours with the flick of a switch we could turn on and off at will. Bob didn’t own a TV. He wanted for nothing, and took nothing that the earth cannot reclaim but his essence will mingle in the remains of his cabin long after it crumbles into nothingness.

For me, personally, the series has lost its magic. The magic that wasn’t in the Northern Lights, but in Bob Harte, the true last Alaskan.

Once upon a time there was a cabin. And in it lived a kind and gentle man.

 

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