“Alaska Raw” is a book that you can judge by its cover. The foreground is a menacing dark slash, which designates a dangerous crevasse in the alpine glacier. A few precarious feet away, a lone figure works in the fading light to balance the weight in a red Bush plane prior to take off. The promise of the imminent adrenaline rush is a fair representation of the degree of skill demonstrated by the author, Bob Lacher.
Flip to the back cover to see Lacher framing the elegant curls of one of the most beautiful Dahl sheep you have ever imagined. Alaska’s Fabio has a few hairs out of place on his tanned forehead, balancing the grizzled stub of a beard which covers his square jaw. A whisper of crimson on the ram’s left cheek is almost unnoticeable against the brilliant colors of the Brooks Range. They call him Sheepzilla.
Now flip passed all those seductive words to the center of the book for the juicy stuff – thirty color photographs that offer proof positive that Lacher isn’t making any of these stories up. They actually happened, and the tale is rightfully his to tell. We are hunting with a master, not with your brother-in-law.
Adventure stories of the Greatland don’t need the heavy shadows of a midnight campfire to add drama to their telling. They are bold. They are brave. They regale feats of strength and agility. There’s the fear of certain death by weather, predator, or foolishness.
Memorable on all these counts, “Alaska Raw” delivers the best hunting stories I have heard in my 50+ years of listening to Alaska hunting stories from some of the most talented storytellers in the business.
As a non-hunter, I appreciate that restraint was shown. There are no graphic and gory blood and guts moments, no eye glazing catalogue of guns and ammunition used, nor the distraction of favorite recipes for cooking up game when the neatly wrapped white packages hit the skillet.
There is, however, strong and liberal dozes of the verbal harassment that men who are not within the boundaries of being politically correct, or remotely sensitive, rain down upon each other with the wrath of gawd within the sacred space of “we express our love and admiration for each other through using our words.”
Hazing doesn’t define the witty, snarky, rib poking that occurs during these adventures. It reminds us that being self-aware, humble, and having an amazing sense of humor are survival skills in the north. Debbie-downers, blaming, and hard words can be life threatening.
That is not why I like this book. I found myself savoring each chapter instead of devouring it in one sitting. It was too rich for that, the tales too complex and delicate. The subtle nuances would have been missed that made for a much more pleasurable experience. It is a tantric-worthy novel.
For you see the author, Bob Lacher, is a keenly intelligent man who becomes self-aware through his hunting experiences. Taking that journey with someone so masterful is a privilege and not something you would zip through in one sitting.
Much better as the last thing you read at night, with a full belly, and a tired and relaxed body that is poised to dream – for this is the stuff that dreams are made of. Lacher’s fairy dust takes you to far away beautiful places filled with mystery and awe.
In Soiled Dreams, Lacher crafts a smile that creases around eyes so strongly that a year later the mere mention of the word “hipwaders” subconsciously pulls lips tight against your teeth. A few wing-and-a- prayer landings later, on The Wrong Side of the Edge, your heart stops as cold as the unsettling silence an avalanche brings after rolling over a space preciously filled with friends.
Months after finishing this book, “Alaska Raw” is still in my reading stack. I find myself going back and revisiting a chapter when the rain gets longer than the day, finding a quiet escape to a lifestyle that sadly has mostly disappeared.
Dorene M. Lorenz is a fourth-generation Alaskan from Seward. She hosts ABCs Good Morning Alaska and the Ugly Girls Book Club.