While it is certainly more work to spend the winter on the North Fork – packing wood, shoveling snow, blowing/plowing snow, keeping fires going and trying to outguess road conditions – we also have activities that make it more fun.
Recently there was curling at Halsey/Wilsons, with an outdoor fire and snacks and laughs. No real curling stones but close enough to add to the fun.
Another fun event is snowshoe softball. Again, lots of fun and laughs. Today’s residents are not as good on snowshoes as early homesteaders since they don’t get as much practice, but technological advances do allow more mobility and speed. WWII-era bear paw snowshoes are much more difficult to run while wearing them than the modern metal tube snowshoes. Long, narrow trail shoes are my choice for open ground and bear paws for navigation in brush. Of course, fresh powder makes for tough going but a packed trail is pretty easy. Anyway, if you want a good laugh you don’t have to actually attend the game. Just imagine your favorite North Forker trying to run on snowshoes. Spectacular falls are normal when people’s footwear is twice the size of a football.
In addition to exciting outdoor activities there are also the year-round indoor activities. North Fork ladies, and some men, have been known as excellent cooks for a hundred years. Best male cooks that I have known are Matt Brill, Joe Novak and Tom Holycross.
Matt was a basic meat and potatoes cook who also did a mean trout either with a wood stove or over a campfire. In addition he did a really awesome peach cobbler in a Dutch oven. He and his wife Mata created the Kintla Guest Ranch and their home-style cooking created a customer base that returned year after year from the early 1930s until after WWII. Even well into the 1950s Matt and Mata would return to Kintla Ranch to visit old friends and would often prepare a feast of roast beef and fried fish. My dad would always try to hire Matt for pack trips just because of his cooking and we all loved his famous “belly gaskets” designed to stick to your ribs until lunchtime.
Joe Novak is an all around good cook as you can tell when meals he prepares for his wife are featured on Facebook. My personal favorites are his gravy, which he prepares by the gallon for feasts at Sonderson Hall and his desserts that he often feeds to neighbors.
In recent years I have been honored to enjoy meals prepared by Tom Holycross. His is a more formal style and Tom actually goes to cooking school in the winter and then shares with friends and neighbors in the summer. I had never heard of a chilled soup let alone tasted one until I experienced it at the Holycross table. Better than good! In fact, a real taste sensation.
Of course, in addition to guest meals there are a variety of evening card games. Tom Ladenburg used to consider it his duty to enlighten dudes on the mysteries of five-card stud and Ma Holcomb was a canasta fiend. Anyway, we will no doubt survive another winter, but boy, am I looking forward to summer.
What do you think?
Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.