Here is PART 2 of my interview with Yukon Men star Stan Zuray. Please follow Stan on social media, and buy his book (the link is above) on Amazon. It’s amazing and gives an insight into his journey through life into Alaska. (below is the link to Part 1)
Jim Jax: What are you most proud of in your life?
Stan Zuray: I ‘d have to say after some thought that I’m most proud of the possibility that I may have done more good than harm to people and things I have come across in life. On a more specific note I’d have to say most proud of our kids who are now adults.
Jim Jax: Did you ever think in your life you would touch so many people as you have on the show?
Stan Zuray: I never considered that ever. Even when it was happening it only seemed like a fleeting possibility. I try to recognize it as a good chance to do something right as I can, and not get to high on it. There is that saying (and I fully believe) what goes up can and will come down even easier.
Jim Jax: When you are out on a hunt or other excursion, do you sleep and eat with the crew? do they eat the same food? Sleep in the same cabin/tent?
Stan Zuray: Yes, Just like being out with any other friend. It’s no different. Very few shows are made like ours and the relationship between crew and cast is extremely close. There is no big production stuff; just real quality tv with a good touch of drama to make good compelling viewing.
Jim Jax: I like the honesty of many of the Alaskan shows; as you’ve said, the network has to spice it up a bit for television; was there anything that you have said no to or insisted on changing a scene?
Stan Zuray: We aren’t the editors at all but the crew and production guys do rely on us to say yes and no all the time. We are the ones who know what we are doing. Also sometimes there are understandings of what we did in a scene and we have to straighten people out all the time so it doesn’t get explained by the narrator the wrong way. It’s important to get it right.
Jim Jax: What aspects of your life in Alaska would you like to talk about that the show didn’t cover.
Stan Zuray: Probably the side of our existence where we really don’t worry about life all the time (but that might be boring). The other thing that is real hard to show on TV; but I would think is cool; is how hard some things really are. Many of the best dramatic moments don’t come close at all to showing true harsh reality of things. Like how do you “show” 40 below and a full day of hard travel/trapping. It’s easy to show that wolf in the trap but it’s not easy to show the great work that it takes to get to that point.
Jim Jax: We all feel the wear and tear to our bodies as we get older, are you ever fearful that you will not be able to do all you want to do and would you ever leave Tanana?
Stan Zuray: I Got it all figured out. I Just got an operation to a worn out knee (motorcycle crash, bear bite etc.) made worse because of all the no snow this winter and rough ground. So I’ll keep fixing those things till I really mess myself up and then I have to quit. I’ll enjoy some lazy time till it gets boring and then I’ll entertain ideas without much concern. You never know, it may not even get that far. I might not make it through one of them wind storms someday. My mother used to sing “Whatever will be will be” all the time while working and I do it to my dogs.
Jim Jax: I read where thousands are now trying to live off of the grid around the U.S. and leaving their city lifestyles. Many are failing miserably and losing everything they have. What advice would you give them in regards to preparations and even if they should do it or not?
Stan Zuray: First thought is maybe losing everything is just on the path to finding something of more value. There are no guarantees but you need to keep trying because it can be done.
Also every step towards civilization insulates you from the crueler realities of nature. Each step you give up puts you closer to what animals feel all the time. You might confuse failure with that “being one with nature” you have been looking for. Maybe it is not for some. You have to soul search maybe. There is a reason we have built the civilizations we have as people. Wish I could help more.
Jim Jax: You and Joey got most of the attention but Kate and your wife are obviously huge parts of your life. I really enjoyed Kate. She was tough, sweet, caring and very responsible. Alaska is a special place and creates special people. I want to interview her in the future; what would you like people to know about Kate?
SZ – Kate is a loving, strong-minded, hard-working, accomplished woman. I am proud of her. We will get her on some time. She’d love to talk I’m sure. She helps me do my YouTube videos and social media organization. She is my manager.
Jim Jax: Have you heard of Dick Proenneke? He was the man who the documentary “Alone in the Wilderness” was about.
He was a videographer, carpenter/wood craftsman, and bush pilot. He lived at Twin Lakes (west of Anchorage) for almost 30 years; mostly alone. He was the one that got me into loving Alaska. Explain your emotions when you are in the wilderness and things are going great with hunting, trapping, fishing and you seem one with the land.
Stan Zuray: Hunting, fishing, and trapping when done as a job are just like any other job. Most of it is often a lot of hard work, or steady work with problems along the way or things that don’t go as smoothly as one would like. Then one day the trails are not to blown in and the injured dogs are over their sore muscles and I’m feeling okay and everything is clicking along well including a good catch of fur. Those are the days we live for. I think it’s like climbing mountains. A lot of work and every now and then you make another peak. The only thing is it never ends. There is always another day and that’s not a problem at all.
Jim Jax: Many have called you MacGyver. You always seem to get things to work and people are still talking about the franken truck. In the states people just buy a new item but in Alaska you have to make things work. What is your favorite Stan Zuray MacGuyver story?
Stan Zuray: When we run fish wheels we use this big fence thing we call a lead to direct fish into the catching baskets. Some are small but we use monster leads that no way can be manhandled much. When I first started fishing around people on the Yukon River I had one of these leads flip on its belly on the wrong side. Eventually I figured an easy way to get it set in the current again using the current to do it. Fast forward years and one day on my wheel with another elder fisherman I flipped my lead again and he almost came unglued and said “Oh no! I’m so sorry. I’ll go get everyone and we’ll help you winch it out of the water and flip in on its side manually on the beach.” (they are huge, water soaked, heavy things). I said no big deal and I used the current and showed him how to do it. He said he’s been running wheels all over Alaska for many years and he’d never seen anyone do it like that. Now everyone does it like that! We all think up of ideas though. Our lives are an accumulation of all those who thought up good ways to do things. This one was cool though because it saved everyone so much time.
Jim Jax: Decades from now, how would you like to be remembered?
Stan Zuray: As someone who did a little more good in his life than he did harm.
Jim Jax: One thing that frustrates me with Networks is their lack of communication on whether shows are cancelled or renewed.
Have they contacted you about doing another season or told you that the show will be cancelled? What is your feeling on whether there will be another season.
Stan Zuray: We seem to be doing a little better than some years. We never know though and will never know until right when we get picked to run again or get cancelled. In all fairness to the Networks I don’t think they know much more about the future of the show than us. The TV world is brutal and competitive and unsure. Whatever will be will be.
Jim Jax: If the show is cancelled, what would you like to say to the fans of Yukon Men.
Stan Zuray: We will still be here living and putting out good pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube about the life. We are not going anywhere even if someone else may.
Jim Jax: What is the best way for people to connect with you Stan.
Stan Zuray: Facebook is maybe the best. I rarely miss any comments made to my Facebook posts in the few days after I posted. I try to answer all questions I can. On Twitter I read every one but because of the shortness allowed don’t try to answer often. I don’t check YouTube as much but I do answer all of the comments eventually. All media gets put aside for days or more when traveling so it’s all off and on.