Years ago the Betster visited West Palm Beach, Fla., for a wedding of a friend. A couple of friends from Los Angeles also visited. Bob and Steve had been through a long drought back in Tinsel Town. We were driving around before the wedding when a classic Florida afternoon thunderstorm swept in. We’re talking buckets of rain, not the soft summer rain we have here in Alaska. You would have thought Bob and Steve hadn’t seen rain in decades the way they hung their heads out of the car, drinking in the rain and whooping.
Yeah, that’s kind of how we felt on Tuesday night when it finally rained. Normally we Alaskans grump about rain, unless you live in Ketchikan, in which case you get all stoic about it and accept your lot. Not this week. With a 180,000-acre fire burning on the central Kenai Peninsula, everybody prayed, shook rain sticks and pleaded to their friendly local deity for rain. If somebody had invented a Rain-O-Matic and sold it on late night TV, we would have bought case lots. We really wanted rain.
And we got it. Oh, it’s been modest, and the fire protection gurus say we need a couple of days of rain to make a difference in the Funny River fire. But hey — rain is rain. It’s also been flat calm, too, which has to help. If those puddles full of pollen are any sign, the rain also seems to have washed a lot of crud out of the air. Whew.
Not that we’re out of the woods yet, not with a fire still smoldering. If the wildland firefighters can hold the line, hopefully they’ll protect Soldotna, Kasilof and Sterling, and the fire can burn into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge until it gets to the Harding Icefield. If you want to stop a wildfire, nothing works better than a glacier. In the ice vs. fire wrestling match, bet on ice.
Bet on firefighters, too, the teams that support them and all the citizens who rallied to get people safely evacuated. From Lower 48 smokejumpers to village hot-shot crews, we’ve had the best protecting us. Whew.
The weather forecast calls for rain through next week, but for once we won’t complain. The rain will dampen the fire but not our spirits. Celebrate pulling through another Alaska adventure with some good times, like these Best Bets:
BEST FIRST FISHERS BET: Long before tourists started slammin’ salmon in Alaska, the Dena’ina fished our rivers and oceans — and still do. Learn about the role salmon fisheries play in Dena’ina life when Kenai Peninsula College anthropology professor Alan Boraas presents “Dena’ina: Last of the Indigenous Salmon People” at 6 p.m. today at the Pratt Museum. His talk is in conjunction with two Pratt special exhibits, “Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living” and “Putting By: Food and Identity on the Kenai.”
BEST EVERYONE RUN BET: You don’t have to be male or female, young or old to do the Girls on the Run Community 5k Run-Walk. Anyone can join this event to celebrate the program. Registration starts at 5 p.m. today at Homer United Methodist Church followed by the race at 5:30 p.m. Stick around for games, food, music, door prizes and more fun at 6:30 p.m.
BEST BE READY BET: The annual Homer Garden Club plant sale sells out quickly — like a 50-meter dash quickly. You’ll want to be there at 11 a.m. sharp Saturday at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center parking lot. Homer time won’t cut it, because if you snooze, you lose your pick of amazing annuals and perennials.
BEST LITTLE PARK BET: Up at the top of Main Street at Bayview Avenue is one of Homer’s sweetest little parks. Help spruce up the white picket fence park from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Bring shovels, wheelbarrows and other tools. Oh, and bring a picnic lunch and the kids. The clean up is sponsored by Best Beginnings Homer and the Public Works Department.
BEST MAKE IT BET: If you’re not into the Maker Movement, well, heck, you’re just not hip. From high-tech to low-tech, anyone can be a Maker. For youth 8 to 18, you can learn all about it with Maker Monday from 10 a.m.-noon on, well, Monday, at the Homer Public Library.