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Jury Duty (part 2)

Traveling by bush plane is nothing like a regular airline.

As you may have guessed from the picture in part one, I did find Ferdinand and, with him driving, I rode to the airstrip sitting on the side of the ATV. Like the airfield the road to it is dirt, but with hundreds of pot holes, mud, water, ice and gravel. I’m always glad when these trips are over—my butt is sore and my pant legs are splashed with mud.

The pilot of an eight seat Cessna 207, like the one in this earlier picture, was heading back to Bethel so we climbed on board. The plane is cramped and all the seats were full, but the flight was only 20 minutes long.

Upon arrival in Bethel I walked up to the Grant Aviation ticket counter and gave the lady my name and said, “I’m here for jury duty.”

She asked for my juror number and then thanked me. While no paperwork or money changed hands at that time I’m sure the taxpayers of Alaska got the bill. Still, one of the things I like about Alaska is the casual informality.

After checking in at the courthouse I did a fair amount of reading, waiting and talking to a couple of other people from Eek. My friend Loni was one of them, but she was excused that afternoon. I’ve got to ask here how she did that.

Hours later as the northern sun was dipping low in the sky the Judge said we were all excused for the day and to come back tomorrow at eleven.

Really? Eleven? Most people go to lunch at that time, I thought.

After a good night’s sleep and a large breakfast, all paid for with tax dollars, I reported back to the courthouse and waited and read and waited. I filled out a questionnaire, answered questions from both the prosecutor and defense attorney, but eventually I was excused.

In Eek there is only one tiny general store so, I took the opportunity to shop for groceries at a full size store in Bethel. I walked from the courthouse to the store and, after shopping, caught a taxi to the Grant Aviation terminal at the airport. I walked up to the ticket counter and without showing paperwork or ID said, “I had jury duty, but I need to head home to Eek now.”

The lady said, “Sure thing.”  

Again I smiled at the casualness of bush Alaska. Five people, all excused jurors, ended up on a Cessna headed back to Eek that night. As the tiny plane lifted into the night sky I think we were all thinking the same thing, it was good to be going home.

Back in Eek

Yesterday I flew back to the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Eek.

Kyle Pratt points to himself

This will be my seventh year teaching in this remote Alaskan village.  Getting to Eek starts with a flight to Anchorage, but that is only the beginning.  From there you catch an Alaskan Airlines flight to Bethel, about 400 miles west of Anchorage on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world. 

This region is about the size of Oregon, but there are few roads in this marshy region and none where I am going.  This time of year, travel is by boat or bush plane.  So, after arriving in Bethel, I headed over to Grant Aviation, with a fellow Eek teacher Caitlyn James, to catch the next plane to the village.

Bush planes fly on a notoriously fickle schedule.  The departure time may be listed as 2:30, but consider that as only a rough estimate.        

Kyle Pratt with most of the staff of Eek School.

While waiting at the terminal Caitlyn said, “There’s a photo with you in it over there on the wall.”  Of course, I had to go check that out.  The picture is from about two years ago and shows most of the Eek School staff, including me, at the village airport with a Grant plane in the background.  It's weird to see a photo of me hanging in a random location.

We left not long afterwards on a Cessna 207 and arrived in Eek ahead of schedule.  I’ll be in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region until Christmas vacation.