Roseau Times-Region - Serving Roseau County for over 100 Years - The Official Roseau County Newspaper

Catching up with the good guys

 

Luke and John Tangen

Mike Wilebski, who lives up in Soldotna, Alaska, where the moose have the right of way on the crosswalks in the city of 4,659, sounded pretty chipper last Saturday when I called around 11 a.m. our time.

If I had called at 8 a.m., it would have been 5 a.m. in the Kenai Peninsula.

"I'm doing fantastic. How are you?" he said.

I was curious about the Swan Lake fire up in his neck of the woods.

"The Swan Lake fire is about 10 miles from where we live. It's between Sterling and Cooper Landing," he said, adding that he works for the Swanson River Facility in the oil fields.

All you need now, I said, is an earthquake.

"We just had one the other day," he said. "We had like a 4.7 or whatever it was. It was over by Kenai."

Any damage?

"Not that I heard. I didn't even feel it. I was outside and Sue was in the house and she said she felt it. Yeah, between earthquakes and fires, man, it's an adventure," he said and laughed.

"It's extremely dry now. We're so fortunate that we don't have any more fires from lightning strikes up here.

Lightning started that Swan Lake fire.

It's a big one," he said about the fire that started on June 5 in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

As of last Sunday, the fire had burned 92,657 acres and is only 14% contained. Fire authorities estimate a 100 percent containment date on Saturday, August 31.

It was in 2011 that Gary Przekwas and I spent at least a week with Mike and Sue up in Soldotna. They were terrific.

"Sue is doing really good," he said, mentioning that they graduated from Badger High School and later moved to Wannaska.

Then we talked about the Swan Lake fire.

"When the lightning struck and it got the fire going, they were letting it burn because it was out in the middle of nowhere. But when it started getting closer to the Sterling Highway and burned right up to the highway for six or eight miles, that was when they started fighting it so it wouldn't jump the highway. I think there are 500 firefighters and water bombers and choppers fighting it. It's quite a blaze going on. Some of the smoke plume is pretty phenomenal," he said.

I saw Mike and Sue, who's an RN, at Roseau High School on Memorial Day weekend. They were attending their nephew Josh Olson's graduation. As the saying goes up in Alaska, they had made it down to the Lower 48.

"A lot of the old-timers up here call it the Outside. 'We're going Outside.' That's what they say."

He laughed. Life is good if you don't mind frequent earthquake tremors and forest fires.

Next, meet Darvin Johnson, a likable chap who enjoys a cold beer on occasion and isn't afraid to pitch right in.

Last weekend, Debbie (nee Thompson) Osse, whose brother Craig has been recuperating in Deer River following open heart surgery in Grand Forks, was finally back at the old homestead near Hayes Lake State Park.

For years, Dewey's Store was a great joint to meet the locals - characters like the Mortenson brothers and Leonard Grugal, now all dead as is old Dewey, who ran a fine joint where you could buy suspenders, stocking caps, sundries, gas, smokes and snus.

The store is long gone, but Craig is very much alive and is back home.

What impressed Debbie, who lives in Deer River, was Darvin, 76, who spotted the high grass every time he drove back into the forest.

That didn't set right with Big D.

So, a week ago Friday, he loaded up his old riding lawnmower and mowed Craig's front yard.

"That was really nice," said Debbie, who met Darvin when he returned to mow their back yard.

"They don't make them like that anymore," she said appreciatively.

Damn right, they don't.

Scott Boroos, another forest denizen, doesn't mince words.

"Darvin is like the kindest-hearted man I've ever met.," he said. "We pick up a lot of garbage out here and at Bemis Hill, and we hate them god-danged weekend warriors that throw the garbage all over the forest roads. We're picking it up constantly."

Mr. Boroos, a good-sized bloke who never harbored any dreams of being a jockey, has known the good Samaritan for about 30 years.

"He's always helping and he can't sit still. He likes to move but he can definitely sleep in until around 10 every morning," he said. "So if you go over there at 9:30 or 10, you might find him walking around drinking coffee in his whitey nighties."

Scott is sold on the old gent.

"Oh, he's a good neighbor and is good-natured all the time," he said. "He'd give the shirt off his back to anyone. He's just one of them kind of guys."

The other day, his son, Donny, put it all in perspective.

"I just know I would not be the man I am today without him by my side," he said.

That says it all.

I visit all sorts of businesses in which the clerks play a key role in making it an interesting stop.

Can I remember names?

Hell, no.

It drives my grandkids up a wall. "I'm Gabby, not Cassidy, Grampa!" and "I'm Trevor!" after I call him Nolan.

So, I'm in Auto Value, which I still call Wilson Brothers, and these two young chaps are always smiling because I have to keep asking their names.

Meet Luke and John Tangen with biblical first names, and I have known their old man, Mark, since he was just a young lad.

He isn't so young any more.

Last week, since they don't wear name tags, I took a photo of them and had them identify who's who.

Here we've got the Tangens - Mark, Luke and John - and maybe there's even a Matthew.

John is older by two years while Luke just graduated from Roseau High School, and they're going to be successful in life because they come to work everyday with a great outlook and a smile.

On Monday, only John was in the shop and I blew it again. I called him Luke.

"Luke wears glasses," he clued me in.

It'll just be my luck that John will need eyeglasses.

 

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