Friends – Rusty Heurlin Writes to Ced – An Arctic Bum – March 25, 1944

This letter is written to Ced from Rusty Huerlin, probably received after he had returned to his job in Anchorage after his lengthy stay in Trumbull and his quick visit with Lad and Marian.

Rusty Heurlin

Nome, Alaska

3—25—44

Dear Ced,

Word by mukluk telegraph informs me that you are back in Anchorage. Fine guy you turned out to be not to write to your dear old pal. But perhaps you’ll get the pin out of your tail now and drop us a line to let me know how Al (Grandpa) is doing and how you enjoyed your trip outside.

Since arriving here have been tied up with ATG (Alaska Territorial Guard Association, Inc.) work but going to start painting in a couple of days. The Major (Major Marvin “Muktuk” Marston, https://alaskahistoricalsociety.org/muktuk-marstons-five-point-plan/ and I have located a cabin for ourselves. Real cold weather here and have never seen as much snow. Twill be a late break up this year in case you would like to know. I should say between the fourth and the eighth.

On visit down from Palmer I emptied your pent-up mailbox and left mail with Bob Hall. Hope I did the right thing and that he contacted you or left it where you could get it before he went outside.

If Ted Kogan got luggage left in my wake, kindly get it back from him. Hold everything for me if you are not going into service. May write for frames in a couple of weeks. Keep stretchers and jib sail bag together. If you have no room for them, best place may be at George’s. Expect to be in Nome until break up time when I will go north with years supply of grub. But if you should happen to know of anyone traveling to Nome by CAA it would be all mighty swell, if no trouble to that person, to load on my frames, bag and stretchers. If Dale or Dell, the fellow who brought us out, is making the trip this way soon, I am sure he would be glad to do me this favor. You might be driving by his place sometime and can drop in to see him on this. Had I come the way planned for me, I could have handled everything.

Sorry I did not get to see you before I left. Confidentially, as I do not want it to get about, I pulled a fast one on Governor Gruening. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Gruening It resulted in him commandeering an army car and paying me a visit at Palmer. But it wasn’t exactly a fast one and it took me one month of careful planning. It is too long a story to go over at this early hour of the morning. I only want you to know that it was honest. Or should I not say to a trusted and tried friend that he, the Governor, fell for my rubber salmon egg. Two days later he was in Fairbanks, then came a telephone call from Fairbanks for me to proceed to Nome on next Army transport. At Fort Rich a week later I got my traveling orders but no planes to Nome were available. To wait longer for transportation was like waiting for the invasion. I finally decided to put tongue in cheek and go by Star. That was why I had to cut down on baggage. But trip here is not known to Star officials so I am now one jump and the hop ahead of them.

Water is $.10 a gallon here. Whiskey cannot be had. When you see George again tell him I really like my scotch cut with water. I think he will understand. Ha ha!

Contact Ted Kogan through weather Bureau or Juanita at OPA. Drop out of an evening and see their nice home which they bought. Also see Maurie and Helen. Best to you and Hans and Ruth and all good Scandahoovis. Sorry I cannot or it’s sad I cannot add the name of dear old Kjosen,

Thank Ted for his trouble and will write him soon. Let’s hear from you soon Sonny boy… Till we meet again,

Yours to be an Arctic bum —– Rusty

During stop-over at Nulato I pissed in the Yukon. Did it the hard way too— if you know what I mean? Aim to do the rest the hard way to— if I can— and I have shot and killed a bear.

I believe the following is Ced’s memory of this trip, although he may have incorrectly remembered the approximate dates. I don’t know if we’ll ever know the complete story. This is taken from the childhood memories I recorded with my Uncle Ced on one of two occasions.

About 1940-41, things were getting red-hot. Major Marston was up there in charge of the Alaskan defense command. He was based in Anchorage. Rusty made friends with him – he made friends with everyone he talked to. He met the Governor of Alaska through Major Marston. Rusty came home one night and he said, “Know what they’re going to do? Major Marston says that the Governor wants to go around the whole perimeter of Alaska and try to develop a reasonable defense system for Alaska. I guess it was Major Marston’s idea. Major Marston said, ’None of us know anything about Alaska, the Eskimos, the Indians. We should go around and meet these native people. They know the land and if any problems develop with the days coming, we’d be lost. We wouldn’t know what to do.’ He said, ‘We want to get an Alaskan defense going with native people.’ Governor Gruening says, ’Well you know what? I don’t know any. I’m the Governor of this territory and I’d like to go around with you and meet these people that I’m supposed to be Governor of.’ “ So, Rusty sat and listened to all this talk and he said, ”You wouldn’t want to take me along, would you? I’ve had this in the back of my mind for years, that I would like to do a series of pictures on the discovery of Alaska.” His whole goal, idea and the love of his life was Alaska. He said, ”I’d like to have a chance to go around to all those places, and make sketches.” “OK, come on along.” they said. That’s where he got this series of 18 pictures, starting with the fellow who came from Russia, sailed to Alaska and took it for the Russians. That was the first painting, he did the Gold Rush and 16 others. This was after he moved to Fairbanks.” (Rusty Heurlin’s large panels depicting the history of Alaska are visible at Pioneer Park in Anchorage. http://fairbanks-alaska.com/pioneer-museum-big-stampede.htm

Tomorrow and Sunday, more Special Pictures and Memories of our Family Island Retreat know as “Liquid Heaven”.

Judy Guion

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