When I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska during the summer of 1990, with $1000 in my pocket, I needed to find a cheap place to rent that I could afford with my $7.00 per hour job at a local carpet store. I stayed with a friend for a month, while searching the newspaper daily for an efficiency apartment to rent, until I eventually landed a semi-secluded, dry-cabin less than a mile outside of the city. Dry, means that it had no indoor plumbing or running water, and I knew it was going to be a tough adjustment making it through my first winter. But at $125 per month, the rent was too cheap to resist, as was the electric bill, which enabled me to afford food, pay bills, and save some money. It was perfect for me at that time of my youth! I also quickly learned that many other folks in the area rented dry cabins as well, and I quickly found their favorite local laundromats to wash my clothes and take daily showers at.
However, the size of the cabin was very small…roughly twelve by twelve, which barely gave me enough room for my personal belongings, or to stretch my legs; especially with a shelf, refrigerator, TV, electric stove, microwave, loft with a mattress on top for my sleeping quarters, and an old drip-stove that was supplied with heating oil from a fifty-gallon drum outside, as a source of internal heat. The carpet floor was always cold during the winter, and the heat from the stove seemed to linger from my chest and higher, which made the loft my favorite hangout whenever I ate or watched TV. It had a sink as well, but since no running water was available, I hardly used it. If I had to wash my hands, I would dump drinking water over my hands, rub soap in, and then rinse them off by pouring more drinking water from the fridge over my hands. I carried drinking water in with a five gallon jug that I filled at a nearby water supply business, called The Water Wagon. Even today, my wife and I bring in drinking water from the same business, despite the fact that we now have running tap water from a well. The water is very hard and full of iron in North Pole, along with many other places as well. Hard to imagine the interiors’ water being bad, and we refuse to drink our tap water. Even with a water-softener, the bottom of our washing machine is discolored with an orange color, and the tub and toilet need constant cleaning, to prevent the same condition. Imagine drinking that water.
Back at the cabin, I relied on paper plates and plastic utensils whenever I ate, but confess that I rarely cooked, and mostly ate out. What about a toilet? I’m glad you asked, and let me tell you about it. I had an outhouse approximately twenty-five yards behind the cabin, and it had a Styrofoam covered seat for warmth. Nothing worse than sitting down on a frozen seat at 40 below! You use the toilet as quickly as possible in those conditions, after you can no longer hold it in. It was vital to keep a clean path shoveled to it during the winter months as well. Wouldn’t want to wade through the deep snow, should a midnight emergency arise. Not only this, but I shoveled snow by hand from my long driveway as well, which took me over an hour, depending on how much snow had fallen. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so tight with my funds, and should have bought myself a snow blower. If I could have bought a cheap four-wheel drive truck, I should have done so. It would have saved me from a lot of work, or getting stuck in the driveway, making the winter slightly more tolerable. Some co-workers and friends during those days, would scratch their heads and question my sanity, when wondering why I chose to live that toughly. In hindsight, I can’t believe it myself. The first winter nearly broke my spirit. I guess I was tougher then, but I wouldn’t do it now. But back then, it was affordable and the right fit for me. I guess you can adapt and adjust to nearly anything, if you put your mind to it. It wasn’t all tough times, for the summers were easier living, and In time, I got used to it, and lived there for eight years, until I was married in 1998, and moved my wife and I into an efficiency apartment with running water. In a few years’ time, we were able to save more money and purchase a house, where we still reside today. God has been good! Compared to those days of lore, you can call me a big softy now.