Oral History Interview:
Bill Fickus grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. He trained to become a machinist, a skill which would serve him well later in life. Bill moved to Alaska as a young man and settled temporarily in the small community of North Pole. He learned to fly small airplanes and worked as a pilot for a small air taxi operation.
Fickus married an Athabaskan Indian by the name of Lil. The young couple moved their family to a gold mining claim in the Brooks Range, north of the small village of Bettles. Initially, they mined in the summer and trapped in the winter. The family also raised hay for horses and other food crops for chickens and hogs. This latter endeavor generated a name for the homestead: "The Crevice Creek Ranch."
Bill soon qualified to work as a hunting guide, an occupation which would become the source for most of his income and fascinating stories. Fickus freely admits that he loves grizzly bears. They are also his favorite species to hunt because they represent such a challenge. Bill describes several close calls, including one bear which took the hat off his head and cut his cheek with a sweep of its paw.
Dall sheep are another favorite species for Fickus to hunt. He shares details of several hunting trips, some of which were arduous and frustrating. Others were easy. Seemingly all contained a bit of humor, often at Bill's own expense. Fickus takes great pride in the fact that all of his sheep hunters were successful.
Moose and caribou also attracted hunters to Bill's area. Fickus describes moose as nothing more than "... a lot of hard work." He also explains his views on the changing population size and migration pattern of the Central Arctic caribou herd, which moves through his hunting area.
Bill Fickus did a little bit of everything in order to feed his family and thrive in the wilderness. He's proud of the family's accomplishments. He's a contented man who would "... do it all over again."
[This interview was recorded at the Crevice Creek Ranch. Noise from the family's generator can sometimes be heard in the background.]