Oral History Interviews:

Earl Callihan

Earl Callihan looks the part of the classic sourdough. His face is ruddy from years spent out in the weather. His hair and beard are white as snow. He prefers wool pants with red suspenders. Most importantly, he still has a twinkle in his eye which reflects the wonderful life that he's led.

Earl grew up in the lumber towns of Idaho and Montana. During the Great Depression, he landed a job driving a lumber truck for a local company. The fact that he hadn't yet graduated from high school didn't deter Earl from taking the job. He knew many older men who would jump at the chance to take the job away from him. From Earl's perspective the job was more important than high school. After a few weeks on the job, his boss learned about the situation. He forced Earl to return to school and promised to re-hire Earl as soon as he graduated.

Earl gravitated to the lumber industry of Southeast Alaska. During the winters, he lived a bare-bones existence in a cabin or on a boat. Earl and his wife trapped for many years from a 28-footer. They would anchor in a likely bay and use their skiff to trap the nearby coastline. They also took advantage of their "floating trapping cabin" to move around whenever the fur populations dwindled. Food was always close at hand: marine life from the ocean or deer from the land.

Earl has fond memories of the fur buyers who would visit the area. Word would spread that the buyer was staying at one of the local hotels. All of the trappers in the area would bring their catch for evaluation. The normal "give and take" of the negotiation process would sometimes lead to smiles and other times to hard feelings.

Earl never became a rich man in terms of money. However, he lived a lifestyle which was closely connected to the land. Most importantly, it was the type of life that he wanted.

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