June 04, 2014
June’s object of the month is a book: “Two in the Far North,” the biographical novel written by the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement” Margaret Murie. It’s a story of Margaret’s adventures in more northern parts of Alaska.
So why is it Lake Clark’s object of the month? Because this particular copy of the book was given to Dick Proenneke by Murie.
In June of 1975, while NPS planners were looking at areas that could potentially become National Park units, they traveled to Twin Lakes with Margret Murie. Dick was not at home at the time, and missed meeting her. An excerpt from his journal tells of the missed connection:
Had anyone been to my cabin. Someone had, the locking lever had been turned and I never lock the door. A couple notes on the table plus a business card. Keith Trexler of the Park Service and a Maudy Murie. “We’re going ahead on the filming and will get in touch with you soon” wrote Keith. Maudy (who evidently works for the Park Service of Wyo.) wrote that she had “read the book three times, lives in a log cabin and thankful to see this one.” Wish I had been here to greet them when they arrived.
A month later, he would get the chance. In July, Margaret and NPS planners came back to meet Proenneke. Dick’s journal tells of their meeting:
We made it and no more than on the beach when here came Charlie Allen’s orange and white [Cessna] 180 with the Park Service and Mardy Murie that old sour dough lady aboard…. Mardy, and it is Mardy, not Maudy, greeted me as if she had known me all her life…..I had hotcake batter ready to go…. Mardy had a couple with peanut butter, honey and onion, try anything once she said. She liked the combination. Bob [Belous] couldn’t see the onion and Ted [Swem] didn’t dare.
After this meeting, Proenneke and Murie corresponded thru letters; Murie sent him a book on animal tracks her husband had written—Dick used it often. Proenneke also read her account of Alaska in her book “Two in the Far North.” In the late 1970s, she added additional chapters to the book. From Dick’s journal entry in February of 1978:
So – it was noon and I had a sandwich and I thought of Mardy Murie. She wrote that she had just finished the first draft of the additional chapter for “Two in the Far North” – then added “I may as well tell you now that you and your sourdough pancakes with honey and onion are in there”. She had tried that combination when here for a few hours visit. I must write and tell her “don’t forget the peanut butter”.
Murie did include a passage about Dick and the pancakes—she didn’t forget about the peanut butter—in one of the new chapters. On April 8, 1979, Dick noted in his journal:
Light on letters this trip and a couple packages. An autographed copy of Mardy Murie’s new book. A nice thick paperback and by Alaska Northwest Pub. Co. Two in the Far North the title as was the previous book by her but this one continues on from where the first one ended. A little bit about me and my sourdough sandwich with onion “and it was good,” she wrote. “A couple sissies in the party who wouldn’t try it.”
This signed book now resides in the Lake Clark National Park Museum collection.