I love reading and watching stories about survival. I've seen all the Discovery Channel's crappy reality shows about city slickers trying to make it in the wilderness, I've read Into The Wild time and again, but none of that can even come close to the pure and beautiful demeanor of the film I watched last night.
Richard (Dick) Proenneke enlisted in the Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, honing his skills as a carpenter during WWII until contracting rheumatic fever and being discharged in 1945. He hopped around the Northwest US working at a diesel mechanic and carpenter until heading to Alaska in 1950, where he was highly sought after for his mechanical and wood-work skills. Over the next 18 years working in Alaska Dick was able to save enough money to plan out his ideal retirement.
At age 51, Dick headed to Twin Lakes, Alaska to begin his retirement on a slightly different trajectory than most would associate with "retirement". He built a cabin. Well, first he built the tools he would need, then he built the cabin, all while meticulously filming almost every single step along the way. His nature shots phenomenally capture the majesty of the Alaskan wilderness.
First I was mesmerized by Dick's voice, for one because he's got a smooth kind of old-timey cadence, and for another because he sounded a bit like my late grandfather. Then I was blown away by the level of skill Dick employed to build his cabin. He makes it all look so easy, and all of his logs fit together so nicely. It really made me think about the differences in the world today, and the rarity of such skills in the 2014 landscape of internet ADD and toddlers with iPads.
Almost everything Dick used to build his cabin came from the direct surroundings. The wood from a stand of trees about 300 yard away, the gravel foundation from a nearby stream, the stones and sand for a fireplace and flue from the lake he built next to. Really impressive.
So in short, this guy is my new hero. Let me reiterate the fact that he built a cabin. Alone. In Alaska. At the age of 51. What a fucking boss. Oh yeah, and then he lived there for the next thirty years, surviving off the land and absorbing all of the gorgeous nature around him.
I highly recommend checking the documentary out, even if you fall asleep; I don't blame you his voice is so damn soothing.
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