By Gretchen Wehmhoff

Standing next to the Skagway News Depot, I watched a family of ravens teach their offspring the tricks of ravenhood. Today’s lesson covered how to hang onto a utility wire. 

A younger bird kept moving in on the parent, who kept cawing for it to pick its own wire. After a minute or so of testing mom or dad, the fledgling took the leap to the wire a foot away. It made contact at first, until it couldn’t keep its balance. The bird struggled to get its feet secure around the wire, but slipped and swung around in circles, much like a child spinning on their knees on bars on the playground. It found its balance again, trying to hang on to the much narrower wire then spun forward and found itself hanging upside down, wings awry with not many choices but to let go. It dropped and rolled mid fall, catching the wind to fly to the roof across the street where the rest of the family watched.

Life around the boardwalk never lets me down.

Sitting on the bench underneath the stairs to the news office has become a highlight for me. I love conversations. Almost everyone passing by has a story to chat over. I’ve met many locals, people from hot parts of the Lower 48 who came to cool off and families on reunion voyages. 

There is a solid sense of peace in this town. People say “hey” as they walk by and Athena has received an abundance of attention as tourists and locals alike stop to scratch her behind the ears and talk about the dogs they left at home. 

I love the wind, the rain, the sun and the people here. Next week my husband will arrive to work for six weeks and I hope he finds the same peace I do.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know locals over the winter, on Facebook and in passing. Now I get to see everyone doing their summer routine and it is exciting. Even walking down the sidewalk, excitement can surprise you.

A few days ago I took Athena out to do her duty, then headed back to the boardwalk carrying a clear plastic bag of her business. As I came close to Tayia Fine Arts, I saw Katie Kollasch setting up for the day, the door open for business. At the same moment, a group of tourists hovered near the Mascot Saloon. For a split second I weighed my choices — say hi to Katie with a bag of poop or get to the trash can before the visitors met up with me.  

It only takes a moment for your dog to read your intentions. Mine chose to visit Katie while I made the move to head for the trash can. I floundered over her in a dramatic roll. Katie saw me fall and later said it was in slow motion, like I knew I was going down. When you get to a certain age, you learn awareness of the fall. Don’t put out your hands (avoid broken wrists), tuck your head and try to roll to your butt, which in my case, gives me the most protection.

I must have called out in surprise because I found myself lying on the boardwalk surrounded by a dozen cruise visitors and Katie. A woman offered her hands, but I was afraid I’d pull her down with me. So, in a not-so-graceful move, I pointed my rear end up towards our guests and walked my way up with my hands. The helpful woman straightened the front of me, and as I turned around, Katie was gently pulled my hair out of my face. Concerned faces were everywhere. I’m pretty sure Athena was getting equal attention. I smiled and said thanks. It was at that moment I realized something was missing.

The bag of poop.

I looked around the ground between people’s feet, trying not to call attention to the fact that I was missing the very thing I was trying to hide before I met them. My eyes landed on it, it had flown into the street, just off the boardwalk. 

Suddenly, smart shoes and an elegant dress took commanding steps off the boardwalk, missed the bag by inches, and the owner of the shoes greeted the group of good samaritans on the other side of our small pod. It was Cooper, trying to retain her “Madame” walking tour that I had accidentally hijacked. 

“You ought to put some ice on that knee, Gretchen,” she confidently advised. 

With that she led her group of clients down the alley like the pied piper. 

By this time Melinda had made it down the stairs to see what had happened. Denise and Billi had stepped out of their storefronts to check on the commotion — or laughter. I was sure I would be sore the next day, but there was some slapstick humor in it all.

As I turned to talk to Melinda, the woman from the tour group who first offered help came up to me.

“I believe this belongs to you,” she grinned.

She handed me the bag of dog poop, holding it carefully with her thumb and forefinger. I think she saw the humor as well. I think. 

Wehmhoff is co-owner of The  Skagway News.