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Pioneer Potluck: About Bob's bonfires

We have so much fun around our bonfires. Bob started the tradition in our family many years ago while he was trimming trees and clearing brush so we could see the lake. But we had to watch him closely. Sometimes when he ran out of firewood or energy, he would go for the next best, closest, easiest thing he could put his hands on. I caught him carrying our neighbor’s kitchen chairs down to the fire. He stated that John needed new ones anyway. I rescued them! The garden hose did not fare so well. It sure made a lot of smoke.

Bob’s bonfires always brought out our neighbors (who no doubt saw all the smoke!!).

We would spend all night in the middle of the summer around the bonfire, singing, telling stories and jokes and watching the sun go down and the moon come up all in the same hour. Sometimes our visitor was a wandering moose, peeking in on us or a “hooty owl” letting us know that we were probably too noisy. And always a variety of food and drink was shared by all. We loved the spontaneous bon fires. They lasted for days and we never knew who would be setting by the fire when we got up in the morning — usually it was John!

One memory is about our friend John. His three-wheeler crawled up on a blade of grass and dumped him over backwards. When he finally landed and got back on his feet, he had a broken right arm. As we all know, if you are right handed, there is not a whole lot you can do until it heals. Setting beside a bonfire was pretty easy to do. He sat on a tall stool on the upside of the fire, with his arm in a crutch, that Bob carved out of a forked (or fork-ed) stick. He had a wool poncho on and his favorite fishing hat sat on his head, with his arm in the fork-ed stick. We all were singing songs, and telling the stars and moon and wandering moose, how “things” should be.   

Then in slow motion, John tipped forward, slowly plunging head-first into the fire. We quickly fished him out and tried to put out the little fires that were erupting on the wool poncho. We set him back on the stool and put his crutch back under his arm.  He never said a word, then he looked around and slowly said “Anyone seen my hat?” The very second he said “hat” it burst into flames in the middle of the fire. The rest of what was left of the evening was spent mourning the loss of John’s fishing hat.

Then there is the memory of Ditcher Dave and his shoes. He was among many guests who seemed to show up when they saw Bob’s bonfire and the smoke it gave off from time to time (But that is a different story!). Dave had his feet propped up on a rock that formed the ring around the fire. I looked up and yelled “Dave! The soles of you shoes are dripping into the fire!”

He slowly moved his feet, stating that his feet were getting a little warm. He stomped around in the grass, gravel and leaves until they cooled off, leaving bits of the grass, gravel and leaves embedded in the soles of his shoes.

“Darn! I just bought these yesterday!” The rest of that evening was a big discussion on how “they don’t make shoes like they used to!”

Dave wore those shoes for a while, but if he was on concrete or in his house, they would click and clack, because of all the gravel and rocks embedded in the soles. He gave them up finally with great regret, but bought new ones just like them. He was careful to not prop them up on the hot rocks of a bonfire.

What fun we had! What good memories!

The series is written by a 44-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends.  She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years.  Some are her own creation.  Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook.

She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at