Oral History Interviews:

Mickey Foster

Like most guys who lived in Dillingham during the middle of the 1900's, Mickey Foster lived close to the land. He fished a little. He hunted a lot. But most of all, he trapped.

Mickey killed his first moose when he was a young man. He was very excited. His hunting companion was resigned to the hard work that lay ahead. Before they were finished butchering and packing the meat, Mickey learned that the hard work begins after the animal is on the ground. Mickey also fed his family on ptarmigan and snowshoe hares. He still remembers the first time that he shot one of the giant arctic hares. He slung it over his shoulder and the ears dragged on the ground behind him.

Mickey admits that he learned most of his trapping skills from older trappers. From his perspective as a novice, he wanted to learn from the best guys in the area. He learned those lessons well and became one of the most successful trappers in the region. A Native elder taught him the technique known as "pulling hearts," which is used to dispatch marten. Mickey also learned a few lessons from the animals themselves. When a wolverine stole all of his trapped marten for three days in succession, Mickey learned to pull his traps. "I was just feeding that wolverine," he says now.

Mickey has a sense of humor, too. One time he fooled a new game warden by inserting a muskrat in with his stack of beaver hides. He told the warden that it was a baby beaver. Once the warden accepted the ruse, Mickey could not convince him that it was all just a joke.

Mickey fondly remembers the famed "Beaver Round-Up" of the 1950's and '60's. All of the trappers in the region brought their beaver into Dillingham to register and sell them. Fur buyers set up shop in the various hotels. Trappers would visit the various buyers until they got the best price. Trappers visited and partied through the night.

Mickey's low-key personality and self-deprecating sense of humor make this an entertaining recording for every listener.

Click here for excerpt from Foster interview (MP3)

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Mail: P. O. Box 82177
Fairbanks, Alaska 99708
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