Charlie Chaplin once said our greatest enemy is time.
As time goes on, more and more of the great people that we’ve come to know and love in our lives are leaving us. The sting of loss hit again yesterday with the passing of an all time great Raider fan, Raider Gloria. She had struggled with an infection with complications from a recent knee surgery. Gloria Malvaez was quite a character that no one will ever forget.
Gloria began dressing up as Raider Gloria in 1987. She became quite well known and was always ready with a quick wit and a willingness to take pictures with anyone who wanted a photo opportunity. She was feisty, but kind and passionate and loved by all.
In 2013 she was asked by ESPN to be a part of their ESPN magazine spread with other iconic fans being featured. Eventually she was told that she was not only going to be in it, she was going to be featured on the cover. Below is her story on ESPN.com. She was also mentioned in People magazine in 2003.
She often told people that it took 2 ½ hours to get ready to become Gloria Raider; but only 90 if she wasn’t drinking. Even though he did not dress up, her beloved husband Gabriel would go to the games to represent his Raiders as a regular fan without ever asking her to tone it down. “He let me be myself”. She dressed up and he didn’t and they were a great pair. She was married to him for 21 years until he passed away in 2010. There were some close to her that said she never really got over the loss. They are now together once again.
Gloria was a character with many funny stories. She often talked about going to the Raider games as a kid before the Oakland Coliseum was built. She talked about her father and godfather being huge fans and they took her to the games. At 14 y/o they would bring pillows for her to sit on and she often would drive home because they would be “blitzed” and couldn’t drive. She would wear a hat and they were never pulled over.
In probably the biggest Raider fan wedding in history, she was a part of the over 1000 people who attended the wedding of Gorilla Rilla. Super fans Marc (Gorilla Rilla) and Marilyn (Jungle Jane) Acasio had a wedding with famous Raider fans in full makeup and Raider dress. Gloria proudly was a part of her friends Marc’s nuptials which even the Raiders themselves covered.
As with many of the “characters” that dress up, they have very warm hearts. Gloria was quick to help others and was an encouraging force in many peoples lives. Here she is below feeding the homeless without much fanfare. A selfless, kind soul who’s actions were often for the benefit of others.
In the last few years that I’ve gotten back into writing it’s been both rewarding and heartbreaking. I’ve written about several amazing people and triumphs but all and all the tragedies are hard to take. One fan said I was their memory. I guess I just don’t like us to forget good people. The losses lately have been great.
Other Raider fans like Social Media Raider Icon Tim Casto was lost in a tragic house fire at 49.
I hope that no one forgets these great people and their love and contributions to so many. The friendships we create through meeting such unique people are more important than any win or record.
So again sadly we have to say goodbye to another amazing person who represented her team so well, but more importantly represented humanity even better. In a country so divided and angry and lost, remember the spirit of people like Gloria. Have fun, enjoy life, help others and don’t take yourself too seriously. Live life with a wink in one eye and a twinkle in the other. And don’t worry Gloria. It’s ok to wear full Raider gear when you get to heaven. God and Gabriel will totally understand.
I’d like to thank all of the families associated with YukonMen who have shown me nothing but patience and kindness in our interactions. I hope that all who read this will support them in all of their projects and passions, including Stan’s amazing book above!
I hope that everyone that has enjoyed the show and read my articles will feel the great sense of family that these fine people show us week after week. I hope that it also teaches us that even though we all have different backgrounds, races and beliefs, what truly makes us a great nation is the respect and sense of kindness that we show one another. We all count, and our importance in our families and social circles are most felt when we are giving of ourselves unconditionally with a pure heart and an open mind.
Jim Jax: What is the coldest temperature you’ve been in and what did it physically feel like?
The coldest temperature recorded in Tanana was -76 F on January 27, 1989. From my memory I have experienced -60 F in the month of January. I was getting ready to drive somewhere in my car and it would not start even though it was plugged in. I didn’t want to push the car’s limit so I just let it sit until it warmed up and then the car started. My friend didn’t turn his car off, and just let it run for a whole week. Yes, even during the night, because he knew it wouldn’t start again if he turned it off.
I walked outside to take an iPhone picture of the frozen frosted trees and my phone immediately shut off and froze. It physically starts to cause pain and your skin starts to hurt and you run back inside. I basically wear ski pants for the entire month of January even when I’m inside because I like to dress up and keep myself warm. During this time you don’t go outside often unless you really have to, like to go get water from the Laundromat. You spend a lot of time inside with friends and family when it’s this cold.
Jim Jax: How difficult was it to go from living in Alaska and then all of a sudden being in the public eye?
I don’t consider myself being in the public eye; now Joey and Stan; my brother and dad are more in the public eye. When my dad leaves Tanana and goes to any city, he constantly has people coming up to him wanting a picture or just to meet the Yukon Man. If someone knows who I am, I’ll say “wow you must be a very big fan”. My name Zuray is more recognizable than my face, which is completely okay with me though. For example, if I go to the post office and they see my name on the mail they know who I am and usually ask “how’s your dad doing?” or “I love Joey”. I kind of got scared during season 1 of YukonMen. I remember going on my Facebook and I had 500 friend requests in just a couple days. It kind of scared me and I ended up deleting my Facebook for 3 years or more. But I love when people come up to me and talk to me about my family or the show. I’m always friendly and open to conversation.
What part of your life living in Alaska isn’t shown on the show?
So much isn’t on the show, we do a lot of cool fun things as a family and with friends. However it shouldn’t be on TV, because it wouldn’t be entertaining or shocking enough. I’m presently a student. I have been a water treatment operator for the past three years. I am an activist for subsistence hunting & fishing and attend meetings about the health of the salmon run on the Yukon River, I’ll be going to Canada soon to learn about the salmon communities on the upper Yukon River. I am a member of the Tanana Traditional Dance group where we wear our native regalia and sing traditional Athabascan songs. It was filmed a couple times but never went on the episodes, which is fine. I totally get that the viewers want to see guns and wild game.
Jim Jax: I’ve enjoyed watching your brother mature on the show; what type of relationship do you have with him?
Joey and I are very close. We are two years and two days apart in age, so we spent a lot of time growing up side by side together. I sometimes say when he is happy I’m happy and when he is sad I’m sad. We always text and keep up with happenings in each other’s lives. We have similar personalities, beliefs and political views so sometimes I’ll just speak to him about frustrating things and we back each other up because we think the same.
As children I was the boss, but as adults he has acted like an older brother to me and even corrected some mistakes I’ve made. Once he even heard I was dating a certain person and put a stop to it because he didn’t believe the person deserved me and I’m thanking him now. Joey is courageous and I learned this through hard times in our family. Sometimes I will keep my mouth shut and not tell people to be better because I don’t like confrontation, but if Joey loves you, he will tell you to be better and to stop bad habits, be a better parent, and to me that’s courage.
He will also stick up for himself or his family at any time. He has taught me to be stronger and not just hide in the dark when things get hard.
It seems like many people in the show have very deep relationships with their family. It must feel good knowing what a familial bond you have especially in times of trouble and need.
I’m a very independent person and I like to spend time by myself, but I need my family and i appreciate their support & love.
My parents did a lot of things to keep us close. A simple thing was, we always ate dinner together sitting down at the table every night. It takes a lot of work to make any relationship or family unit work though. It’s not always perfect and we have disagreements but work through them. Another way we stay close is communication. We are always contacting each other to see how everything is going and we tell each other I love you. I’m very grateful for my family and I have to remind myself to not take them for granted. In Tanana, everyone belongs to a family, and if you don’t have a family, someone will adopt you into their family.
Jim Jax: What would you like people to know about you that isn’t portrayed on the show?
That I’m a happy fun outgoing person who loves to laugh with my family and make jokes. We are not constantly in turmoil and pain. Yes it’s a hard life, but it’s also healthy and a lifestyle we choose to live. I’m really excited for summer because we all head up to camp and in the morning we make a huge pancake breakfast while talking about our ancestor’s oral history and traditions. We will work all day and then eat a big salad from our many gardens and a salmon dinner, usually grilled by Joey.
Jim Jax: What are some of your future aspirations?
I haven’t filmed a lot because I’ve been going to school and working. I’ve been very focused on my goals. It didn’t happen over night and its been many years of staying motivated and I want to continue reaching my goals. I recently got a great job that will allow me to be in Tanana more so that’s really exciting. I want to repair our fish camp, because a lot of things are aging. I also want to build a huge kitchen shack, and eventually build my own house in Tanana. I feel like it’s been so much hard work to get where I am today and now I just want to start enjoying life, doing things that make me happy. I want to do things like buying a four wheeler, boat & motor and spending time on the river and mountains. Some hobbies/aspirations I am interested in is film and continue concentration of the health of the salmon run in the rivers.
Jim Jax: What are you most proud of in regards to your family being on Yukon Men.
When this show first came out there was a lot of backlash and jealousy. I even told my dad that I didn’t want to associate myself with the name, but we learned to not let that bother us and just kept working & filming. When people come up to me and tell me “your dad is my hero” or “you’re brother is an amazing young man who takes care of his family”, it almost brings me to tears because everyone is seeing what I’ve seen all my life. I’m so proud to be their sister/daughter. So I’m most proud of the strong family values that people can see because it’s something we work hard on to have.
Part 2 will be released next Friday. Thank you so much for reading! Please like & Share & Subscribe to follow my articles here as well as my Twitter!
Last week during an interview I did on a Podcast, someone asked me what I thought of today’s television shows. I told them I didn’t watch much television anymore due to the lack of quality, but that I did like a handful of shows. Of course one of those was Yukon Men on the Discovery Channel.
I wrote about Stan (above) and I so have enjoyed him showing his points of view and his talents. The two people though that interested me was Stan’s wife Kathleen and his daughter Kate. Most of us growing up know that the grunt work often is done by our fathers, but the glue to the families are usually the mom’s. Kathleen is the glue of the Zuray’s plus being an Alaskan woman, she is a tireless worker as well. She is not a big fan of all of the attention or fame and I respect that. As most of us can attest, Kathleen is the classic mother who’s strength and heart solidify what a great family is all about. Another person has shown that same kind of familial spirit that solidifies and guides Alaskan families such as the Zuray’s and that person is Kathleen & Stan’s daughter Kate. In the few times that we get to see her, Kate has shown that same kind of passion for family. Her maturity and kind nature was easy to see. I asked if Kate would do an interview with me and she graciously accepted. Here is part 1. I hope you enjoy her comments as much as I have.
Jim Jax: What are your first memories as a child growing up in Alaska?
One of my first memories was during winter time being bundled in a sleeping bag very early in the morning before daylight. My dad put a long cardboard box in his dog sled, where I would lay there for hours while we drove 40 miles to my dad’s trapping cabin. I would sleep and then wake up and I could hear the dogs mushing while my dad whistled or hummed a song. I feel like I was a good passenger.
Jim Jax: As a kid was there ever a chance that you thought what it would be like to live somewhere else?
Being hidden from the world, I didn’t know we were a poor family living in a small village. I was happy with my family and life as it was. When I became 12 years old I began watching music videos and MTV and I learned quickly that we were very different from people in the lower 48 states. The fast busy lifestyle wasn’t very desirable to me as a child, but I think I was mostly attracted to the ocean and sea life, so living near the warm ocean was desirable to me.
Jim Jax: As you got older did you ever think of leaving Alaska?
Yes! I was like, “I’m out of here!” I felt so ready to leave the village life behind and explore the world. I wanted to move to NYC or LA; typical small town dreams; I would talk all the time about how I was going to leave. I did live in Hawaii and Boise Idaho for a short time, but what I learned while living out of Alaska was that I’m actually a family person and it’s hard for me to leave them. I didn’t know how much I needed my families support. Also, people in Alaska are very nice and genuine people who would help you out if you needed it. It’s a great state to live in and I also missed the big green mountainside.
Jim Jax: As a teen how with a small population, how hard is it to socialize or date?
In Tanana or any small village, you have the same classmates from preschool to 12th grade. My classmates were more siblings to me and we would even argue like siblings. You didn’t want to date your classmate you’ve known since preschool. You almost have to be strategic and take advantage of your time when you traveled to other villages or cities. There was no going to the mall and accidentally meeting the love of your life. A good example was my cousin. She had no romantic prospects in Tanana. She is related to most everyone so she moved to Fairbanks in order to find a boyfriend which is really common for people here. It was just like Charlie Wright who went to the next village to find a girlfriend. As far as socializing and dating for me, I was able to become more social and meet new people once I went to the University of Alaska.
Jim Jax: What was the scariest event you experienced so far in Alaska?
My brother Joey was a wild kid. Once at fish camp, he built plane wings that attached to his back and jumped off a cliff to fly. So there were those scary moments when someone would get hurt and were 40 miles away from the nearest clinic. Once at camp, I was maybe 10 years old when a spooked dog bit my dad’s wrist which tore off his skin and he started bleeding heavily. I remember thinking can I drive the boat? What if he dies and it’s just Joey and I with no help. If you get seriously injured out in rural Alaska it would take half a day to get to a doctor. Afterwards my dad Stan taught me what to do if he died suddenly and it was just us kids alone. He taught me how to grab the rifle, and fire three shots at the bank of the river, and hopefully a nearby fish camp would hear the shots and then come help us. I remember he made me load the gun then unload the gun over and over until I got it right.
Jim Jax: You help your dad out with some of his social media activities; what are some of the things that you do to help him?
He handles his Facebook all by himself. I’ve never helped with that. I do help him with his twitter and Instagram pages though, and recently we have been making some YouTube videos. He has been making YouTube videos for years all by himself. All of the pictures we post from his social media, he actually took himself. He reads every single tweet or message and comment that is sent to him. With Twitter I’ll make sure the YukonMen promos are retweeted or sent out. Instagram was iffy and I wasn’t sure if I should make him a page. However what I learned is we get more likes and comments on IG than Twitter so I want to put more focus into that. I assist him, give him tips, sometimes he’ll call me and we will just discuss social media, Twitter vs. Facebook and how the fans/followers differ. It’s really fascinating to us and we have seen changes and tried to adapt to those demands.
We put a lot of effort and thought into what we post and we genuinely love the connections we make with people. I still talk to people that followed me on Twitter from season one. We remember people and even have become legitimate friends. One time I got a twitter message from a women asking to meet me for lunch. I was really hesitant but just went for it and it was one of the most fun lunch dates I’ve ever had. We talked and laughed the whole time! She and her husband & kids moved to Alaska for a better job and life. I would call her my friend today and I’m excited for them when they visit Tanana. This winter I made a few Youtube videos with my dad, and it was so much fun. We filmed for hours one day and it was just a blast! I really loved it and I hope to continue making videos. Maybe I’ll even be in some!
Jim Jax: You don’t see your mom much on Yukon Men; what type of a person is she?
She’s the strongest women I know, and so beautiful. She just wants her family to be happy and healthy. She doesn’t want fame or attention, but I think she’s so funny and makes everyone feel welcomed. If I introduced her to my friends she would hug them and welcome them to the family. Filming can be so awkward especially when you don’t know what they want from you. She doesn’t get that everyone wants to meet Stan’s wife and get to know her. She’s like “I support you filming but I’ll stay behind the lens”. She is an excellent salmon cutter, and puts so much work into it. At fish camp she’ll cut fish from morning till midnight, it will be dark and I’m getting cold watching her work, and we just have to force her to finish up for the day. Filming isn’t for everyone and you just have to respect that.
Part 2 will be released next Friday. Thank you so much for reading! Please like & Share!
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)
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.
After little to no communication from the network, the hit show on the Discovery Channel is back. It will be shown on Fridays at 9 pm (8 pm Central) with the third episode of the season premiering this Friday.
Charlie, Stan, Courtney, Pat and all the rest will be back in the small town of Tanana, fighting the elements, outsiders, and the changing times in the small Alaskan town.
BELOW IS STAN’S NEW BOOK!
My Love for Alaska:
My uncle spent time in Alaska as a young man and the land was interesting to me. I also remember watching the amazing special with Dick Proenneke on PBS called, “Alone in the Wilderness”. While moving to a remote area in Alaska, Dick built a cabin, cache & other structures by hand without electric tools or chainsaws. He lived alone at Twin Lakes from 1968 to 1999, with only a few trips outside of the area and only occasional visitors. Dick also was a talented videographer and he filmed and made records and journals of his daily routines which are still used today by experts. His craftsmanship was amazing on his structures. Dick’s Documentary is one of the highest rated in the history of television.
Another love of mine was the show Survivorman featuring Les Stroud. Les filmed himself in a grueling series that is still the standard for survival shows. While the others admit some scenes are staged, other than film editing, Les showed the reality of survival and taught amazing skills in a truthful and straight forward manner.
I have to be honest; tv is brutal these days. I’m sorry but shows like the Bachelor and Naked & Afraid are so sophomoric and dumb and fake that I can’t stand it. And yes, they are highly controlled by the network. A while back I went out with a girl in LA that did the make up for a season of Survivor. After a few drinks she admitted the show was staged at times and that they did retakes. American television networks are mostly pretty controlling.
What I like about Yukon men though is that it’s as honest as a show can be. Are some of the situations enhanced for tv? Of course; I’m not naïve; but the everyday struggles, pressures, and situations they battle are very, very real.
I think people also enjoy that these are everyday people that they can relate to. Every woman isn’t 5’ 9” with blond hair and blue eyes and every man doesn’t look like Brad Pitt. These are good people looking to feed their families and create a life teaching the skills and cultures that they have been taught. We see ourselves in some of them and we appreciate their honesty and their work ethic and humbleness towards their everyday life.
Looking Ahead to This Season:
I fear that with the opening of the new road allowing easy access to the area, it will probably have a very negative impact on the Tanana residents. People usually bring greed, garbage, and a lack of respect for hunting borders, animals, and the environment when they get into new areas. The hope is that things like that won’t happen but I’m not really as hopeful as others.
I admit I was not a big Stan fan at the beginning. I think it was because of my relationship with my own dad. Like most young men, Joey was headstrong and opinionated without much experience. I related to him and felt his frustration when dealing with Stan. Just like with Joey, when you start walking in your dad’s footsteps, you begin to appreciate and respect them more and see how wise they are. Joey has now a great appreciation and trust towards his dad and it has allowed their relationship to grow. It’s made me like Stan a lot.
I really appreciate Stan’s passion towards his family and the land around him. I also love his skillset. He is known as the “MacGuyver” of Yukon Men. His Frankentruck is still talked about and his ingenuity and great talent is often seen. Stan was gracious enough to allow me to interview him. I felt bad because I know he’s so busy but I wanted to share the interview. I was going to release this next month, but the show was renewed and I’m so glad for it. Stan was forthcoming and open and I greatly enjoyed his responses. (I also found out Stan has been an ordained minister for over 3 decades).
Jim Jax: Before coming to Alaska, where were you raised and what kind of life was it compared to the life you live now?
Stan Zuray: I was raised in a part of Boston, Mass. called Dorchester. It was a very urban environment with very tight neighborhoods with many parts ethnically divided. Much has changed there since my childhood. While I was young, my parents would take us to beaches and drives in the country and a couple of times to my dad’s rural home area of Pennsylvania. That was the extent of my “wilderness experience” however.
I worked in a tire and mechanic shop all my summers and times off from school to make money. I was into hot rod cars and all the things boys get into including, when older, all the bad things. It was the hippie generation then and much was happening socially in the country.
Many of my friends came back from Vietnam a mess. Many friends were into hard drugs with some casualties, and Boston was becoming a very lonely place to be for me. I had a good home and good parents, but outside the home it was not good.
I went on the road to New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and the West Coast. I’ve been all over, including into Northern British Columbia where I experienced for the first time real crude, free, back to the earth native people living off the land so to speak. I loved it. It wasn’t real until I came to Alaska the next year and found myself without a lot of food and supplies that I fell into a similar way of being.
There are few similarities between Boston and Tanana, Alaska. People however are much the same everywhere it’s just that in Boston they don’t have the luxury of helping people and being as friendly because many are on the verge of losing their homes if they can’t pay the bills. One way I always think of comparing the two is I used to travel to Hampton Beach 50 miles north of Boston sometimes and I think of all the people and cars and buildings I would pass in that 50 miles. Then I think of all the trips to my fish camp I’m at now 40 miles up the Yukon River where I see just a few plywood fish camp shacks and often no people and no boats passing. And then you consider the Yukon is the main (and only) route of travel available.
Jim Jax: Do you think you were born to live the lifestyle you do now or was there something that inspired you to do it?
Stan Zuray: I think I am one of the lucky ones. I survived the crazy and dangerous things we did and did not die or ruin my brain or get lost in drugs and alcohol. I had enough drive to want out and get myself out and I was lucky enough to have certain people and events help me on my way. I don’t think I was born for it but I did find something of better value to me. I always say “perseverance furthers”.
Jim Jax: Where did you meet your wife and how hard was it to date with so few people to socialize with?
Stan Zuray: I met my wife in the village of Tanana. She liked to dance at the village get-togethers and we started hanging out and traveling by dog sled to my trap line and fish camp in the summer. She is a proud, strong, full Athabascan woman. When the kids started coming along we got serious and raised our family. There aren’t many places to date in Tanana in the city type of ways and there are not that many people, but lots of things to do I say.
Jim Jax: You are very respectful of the people around you. How accepting were the natives to you when you decided to make this your home?
Stan Zuray: Some were very good to me right away and some were very opposite. The Traditional Chief of Tanana, Lester Erhart, gave me my first lead dog and much welcome while some didn’t like outsiders. Like I say I think people are very much the same everywhere (they are all different) it’s just the environment people are in often dictates their time for compassion and friendliness.
Jim Jax: What kind of amenities are in your home? Do you have the internet; wifi; etc…. Do you have television/cable/dish.
Stan Zuray: We have TV, internet, power from a local generator and a telephone line. Some areas of the main town have running water and cell service, but those things we don’t have. Our main heat source in Tanana is 9 cords of wood I cut each year but I have a backup oil stove for when it gets 40 below or colder. My trap line and fish camp is much cruder with none of that but we do have a satellite dish at the fish camp for communications.
Jim Jax: I think Fairbanks is probably the largest city in your area; Do you get a chance to go there much? Do you ever go to major stores or enjoy a dinner out some time?
Stan Zuray: Tanana is about 150 air miles northwest of Fairbanks which has about 100,000 people and is the second largest city in Alaska. I go there about 2 times each winter and also go every other year outside Alaska to Boston or somewhere else. When we do, we fit right in and we have brought the kids with us many times also. Definitely after a few days I’m ready for freedom, driving sled dogs and being in the back country again.
Jim Jax: The stress of the fire was really seen in the Yukon Men episodes. Please tell the readers just how bad it was on your end and how has it changed your life, especially with so much hunting grounds destroyed.
Stan Zuray: We lived with the fire right at our doorstep for almost one month. It showed us it could wipe us out a couple of times and consumed our summer with stress and work. Hopefully some of the country will recover stronger and richer than before as is often the case. I have lost everything to a fire before in the 1970’s. I have a respect and fear of fire for life I’d say.
Jim Jax: When Joe was younger there was the normal friction between an eager impatient young man and his father, but as he’s matured I’ve really enjoyed your relationship growth with him. I think the more he had to do, the more he respected what you have done and who you are. How did you feel seeing him becoming a man before your eyes?
Stan Zuray: Joe was always strong willed. I always said the best way to get him to do something was to suggest the opposite. That will hopefully help him out in life at times and it is good to see him want to be independent. It is of course often fun working with him when he was younger. Now that we are older I see many things in him like myself and the way my father and I were. We have a close relationship but as with all my kids they will always be something I am proud about and worry about. That always is and never ends.
Thank you so much Stan. I look forward to this season of Yukon men. May the fishing and hunting always be plentiful. Please get Stan’s book with the link above. A great read!!! Jim Jax
After the NFL draft, writers and fans LOVE post draft grades. For me, I don’t like them much. I feel that it takes 3 years to really know what a draft is about. I think if a player is drafted in the first 3 rounds, they need to contribute significantly in their second year or you are bordering on bust. This is the salary cap era and you can’t afford to have guys sit for 3-4 years before they are good.
Most grades for the Raiders from the media have been luke warm. From Mel Kiper Jr. and others giving them a C, to various others giving them up to a B-. Overall I like some of the things the Raiders did but was disappointed that certain things were not addressed.
I think the main problem is when you have the worst pass rush in the NFL and you are not good at stopping the run, why draft two DB’s in your first 2 picks? That didn’t make sense. Some say well Fosters health is an issue? Why. He’s coming off of rotator cuff surgery and will be cleared for all football duties before training camp. He never missed a game and rarely missed a practice in 2 years at Bama. The Raiders picked a guy that had late season knee surgery in Karl Joseph so that’s not the issue. McKenzie said they thought Conley was the better player. I watch a TON of college ball and I’m not seeing that at all. The SEC championship game MVP didn’t miss a game the last 2 years and was all over the field for much of the time.
Let’s look below at the mostly good, but sometimes bad things in the Oakland Raiders 2017 draft.
1st Round Gareon Conley CB Ohio St.
Positives: Excellent cover guy who can stick with his man especially going downfield. Fast; rarely gets beaten badly and is always around the receiver. He is a solid cover DB in either man, zone press coverage, or even against slot receivers. Not a spectacular player but very solid in all areas.
Negatives: Other than Marshon Lattimore, it was hard to watch the DB’s of Ohio St. tackle and play the run and Conley was one of those that struggled tackling. Conley is not physical and even though he’ll line up on guys at the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t like to jam them. He did give up some big plays against more physical WR and struggled in crossing patterns or slants.
Overview: A good pick but when Reggie Mckenzie said he went for the best player available and Reuben Foster is still there then I disagree. Foster was a perfect fit in the Raiders defense and is on schedule to be ready before training camp after his rotator cuff surgery. I take Foster all day but the Raiders obviously think the keys to a defense are DB’s and not the front 7. Go figure.
2nd Round: Obi Melifonwu S Connecticut
Positives: Some say he’s the best athlete in the NFL draft since Vernon Gholston who the NY media called Adonis. Obi is 6’ 4”, 220 lb. and is extremely fast. He’s excellent against the run leading the team in tackles in some games and breaking records for tackles by non LB’s . His draft stock sky rocketed during the NFL combines. Very long arms that he uses well when tackling. He has a long neck and looks a little like a bigger Merton Hanks from 49er’s fame.
Negatives: As raw as it gets in pass coverage. Tentative, and lacks instinct. He has a lot to learn if he’s going to be good in the NFL in coverage. It will take a year or two to see what the Raiders really have in him. UCONN was outscored 130-16 in their last 4 games last year and they weren’t exactly playing Alabama so you wonder about his elevated stats, because their defensive front 7 was not good.
Outlook: A raw talent who’s athleticism is hard to pass up. I always worry about NFL combine warriors though. Karl Joseph is good against the run but just ok against the pass so right now they have a bigger Karl Joseph in him. I think this is going to be a great pick or a pure bust; no in between. Time will tell. With Raiders Safeties struggling to stay healthy we may find out quickly.
3rd Round: Eddie Vanderdoes DT UCLA
Positives: He is a powerful, athletic DT. He had a bad year last year coming off of ACL surgery. He gained a lot of weight and didn’t seem very motivated. The good news is that he’s lost 30-40 pounds and seems much more into football. He was a top ten 5 star recruit out of high school.
A tough guy to block against the run who can handle double teams and keep his ground. If he keeps his weight down, he has the possibility of being a solid DT in the NFL. When he’s motivated, he’s fun to watch because of how physical he plays.
Negatives: Most experts had this pick being too high, which was similar to Jihad Ward last year (I hated the Ward pick last year). Some had him going in the 4th and even 5th round. Even with his top billing out of high school, Vanderdoes is not a good pass rusher. He has only 4 sacks in 3 years and is more suited to be a rotational DT run stopper. McKenzie said he wanted the DL to get more athletic and they’ve done that with Vanderdoes but he’s not going to help their pass rush.
Overview: This is far from solving the Raiders DT issue but the pick isn’t a bad one. Again, DB’s rule the day in Oakland and the Raiders reach for a guy that isn’t a pass rusher. I think he can help the DL but a third rounder with question marks isn’t going to get you to the next level when you are last in the NFL in sacks.
4th Round: David Sharpe OT Florida
Positives: HUGE. He’s 6’ 6” tall and 350 lbs. and that might be before meals. He’s a monstrous tackle. If he can get his hands on defenders, he usually blocks them. Surprisingly good pull blocker on occasional running plays and has strong hands. A hard worker that showed up every week.
Weaknesses: He plays like a statue in pass protection. Anyone that watched a lot of SEC ball knows he’s not quick and he struggled with the speed end rushers of the SEC. Florida was only 10th in allowed sacks in the SEC and at times defending the pass rush was a big problem. Already some are saying he’s a guard trapped in a tackles body. Think of a little bit stiffer and slower Robert Gallery who also had to be switched to guard after struggling at tackle.
Overview: Raiders like them big at OL and this wasn’t the worst pick but after watching him struggle at times in the SEC with speed edge rushers, it’s hard to think he’s quick enough to play tackle in the NFL. They will try him there but guard may suit him better, and I like him there.
5th Round: Marquel Lee LB Wake Forrest
Positives: Had great numbers at Wake Forrest. He’s lean and athletic and has the speed to make plays on the outside. Not bad in pass coverage but not great. He is a pretty good tackler in the open field using his speed and length to take down runners. A smart player with good leadership abilities, who was well liked by his coaches. Consistent player who will always give his best effort and is good to have on your team.
Negatives. More of a speed/finesse player than a physical player. Not a physical tackler. He has great numbers but on a bad team with a bad defense that went 13-24 the last two years. He’s lean and only weighs 235 so his skill set and body type are more for an OLB and not an MLB. Again, not really an attacking play maker but he gets the job done.
Overview: I think he has potential to be a starting OLB, maybe even this year. The Raiders LB’s have holes in their game and he has a chance for playing time. Some Raider writers have him starting at MLB already and that is ridiculous in my mind. They are writing with their heart and not their head. He wen’t in the 5th round for a reason. He’s a nice 5th round pick but if he’s your starting MLB, you’ve got issues.
7th Round: Shalom Luani S Washington St.
Shalom played on a team that used him mostly in zone defenses. He’s a high effort guy but is a bad tackler and at times WSU actually hid him in their zone defense to allow him to roam over guarding players one on one. The Cougars aren’t exactly into defense to be honest. Mike Leach teams are about one thing; offense.
7th Round: Jylan Ware OT Alabama St.
A long term project. He is 6’ 8”, 290 pounds. He has to add bulk. Scouts say he needs more speed and a lot of coaching to improve his technique. Hard pressed to make the team.
7th Round: Elijah Hood RB North Carolina
Hood was a star coming out of high school. He’s had good years at NC but last year he had somewhat pedestrian numbers. Most thought he would go back to college for one more year to improve his stock.
A straight ahead runner with not much speed. He might be good for short yardage but he’s an excellent pass blocker and not a bad pass catcher so that may help him get time too. A banger who isnt’ going to outrun anyone.
7th Round Treyvon Hester DT Toledo
He will have a hard time making the team but they could keep him on the practice squad. He has potential. He had a nice senior year and works hard. Has a lot to learn and is a long term project. May have the potential to be a run stopping DT in a rotational system.
Do I think the Raiders had an awesome draft? No. But I also think it wasn’t bad either. Conley is a good cover guy and should be a good player at CB. The Raiders DB’s have struggled with injuries so he will see playing time I’m sure. With Sean Smith and David Amerson’s contacts coming up next year without a cap hit, the Raiders are counting on Conley to learn quickly because he will probably be starting next year. And if Obi can learn how to play safety in the NFL, they may have a great player on their hands.
Since 2001 the Raiders have amazingly drafted a DB in the first round 7 times! Only 1 of them panned out but that includes Joseph who we don’t know about yet. That’s a ton of busts. Time and time again the best defenses in the NFL can do 2 things; stop the run and rush the passer. The Raiders struggled doing either last year. Vanderdoes might help out against the run but the pass rush will pretty much be the same.
As I said in week one of last year; this defense is not a championship defense and I say the same now, but roster moves could still be ahead. MLB’s and DT’s are becoming a rarity in the pro game so passing up on Foster was the wrong thing to do in my mind especially when next years draft so far also seems to be void of them both. That could change obviously but the Raiders said loud and clear that their DB’s right now aren’t good enough and they want an upgrade. Meet you back here in 2-3 years to see how they did.
As I wrote yesterday, hold onto your hats, this NFL draft would be a crazy one. It didn’t disappoint.
With the QB position being at maybe it’s worse position in the modern era, teams were trading up to gamble on prospects that some feel are reaches at best. Let’s face it though. In the modern NFL, if you are tall and can throw far, they will look at you. I think in 10 years you will look back on this draft and ask what some teams were thinking while they made their picks.
The controversy was also seen in Oakland. Raider fans for the most part were divided when Ohio St. CB Gareon Conley was chosen by the Raiders with the 24th pick. With MLB Reuben Foster falling into their laps, the Raiders chose to pass and picked Conley who is being investigated for rape allegations made against him. Let’s answer all your questions about him.
Why Draft Conley When He’s Being Investigated & May Be Guilty:
First off, name the long list of athletes that have done jail time for sexual assault or battery in the last 10 years…………………..
After reading a lot on it, I don’t know if anything happened and neither does the police. I think the case will be dropped and nothing will happen and it will be forgotten. Some fans say, “well he was seen with her so he didn’t do anything”. Ridiculous. The Stanford swimmer that was convicted of rape was also seen with that girl. Just because you are walking around with one another doesn’t mean a rape wasn’t committed.
Fans love their athletes and most will defend them. It’s a little sick but some people are no longer into right and wrong anymore, they are into if that player is a member of the team they like or not. I deal with the facts.
Even when athletes are guilty they usually get off due to good lawyers. And even if they are convicted, jail time rarely if ever happens. Conley should be cleared soon and this will soon be forgotten. Again I’m not saying he’s innocent or guilty, I’m just saying you have to have evidence and it’s not there.
But Jim, I Thought the Raiders Wanted High Character Guys?:
Anyone trust Aldon Smith to house sit while you are on vacation? When you read about all of his felonies and misdemeanors over the years you wonder how the guy is still walking the streets let alone being previously signed by the Raiders. I saw one Facebook post last night saying there was a conspiracy to keep Smith in trouble so the Raiders can’t get him. And people were agreeing with him!! OMG! Stay away from drugs kids.
The Raiders DO want high character guys, but they also want to win. With Carr & Mack being the main leaders and high character guys, you can live with others not being that. Some NFL players are not angels by any means so you take the good with the bad. Conley probably didn’t do anything and overall he’s not been a trouble maker, but the real reason you draft him is because he helps you win. Fan’s shouldn’t be naïve about this stuff anymore.
Don’t Listen to Draft Rumors:
I heard a lot of people saying people are worried about Fosters injury. Let’s look into that. NFL teams and the people that report them over the years have lost a lot of people millions of dollars with school girl rumors. Some turn out to be true, but some don’t.
False rumors swirled that Dan Marino was into drugs and he dropped in the draft like a stone. And remember Aaron Rodgers? He went from being a possible overall #1 pick to waiting 4 hours to be picked. Why? Because 2 draft “gurus” said that he held the ball too high (remember that?) and that he was a system QB under head coach Jeff Tedford. All of a sudden everyone worried about him. Just because of silly rumors. So who was the #1 pick? Alex Smith who was from the biggest system of all, the spread at Utah. Can’t make this stuff up folks.
Ten minutes before the 2015 draft, ESPN was reporting on their radio show that DT Leonard Williams may have a severe shoulder injury that might keep him out for the year. Well, Williams has played 31 of the 32 games so far in his career but the damage was done. Some thought he was a top 3 pick but he dropped to the Jets at 6. Star Lotulelei was an amazing drop when he was drafted. He had a virus that made some of his heart tests abnormal so teams just forgot him. He eventually was proved to be ok. For this year think Reuben Foster and all the drama with his injury, especially when doctors are saying he will be ready in time for the July camps.
Why Conley Was a Good Pick:
Many fans have finally convinced me that many NFL fans aren’t exactly the biggest college football fans. Oh, they will watch the big games or the playoffs but overall it’s not their thing.
For those of us that are addicted to college football, Ohio States defensive backs had a big reputation last year. Other than CB Marshon Lattimore, the Buckeyes DB’s were very one dimensional. The dimension that they all excelled in was that they knew how to cover. Conley is an excellent cover guy with length and speed. He’s not as athletic or talented as Marshon Lattimore, but he’s very good. Ohio St. plays a lot of man to man and he handled it well rarely getting beaten badly. He always seemed to be near or on the ball.
He can cover in the slot, man to man and also in zone press coverage and that type of player is hard to find. I really like his coverage skills and feel he’s a guy that can start in 2 years, if not this year if Amerson and Smith continue to struggle. Some have said move Smith to Safety but I think that is a reach and it remains to be seen if that will happen and if Smith can handle it.
The Raiders are stuck with Sean Smith and David Amerson’s money this year but next year they can be let go without any dead money against the salary cap. Amerson was found out last year; he struggles against the deep ball and Sean Smith was much better when he had the Chiefs pass rush and safeties helping him. Conley will at least be used in nickel and dime packages and as a backup to the starters. His quality cover skills in the slot also help him get on the field. Again, I’m a big fan of Conley’s cover skills.
Why Conley Wasn’t a Good Pick:
There are TONS; and I mean TONS of CB’s and safeties left on the board that are very good. This draft is full of them. There are little to no DT’s and MLB’s left. Reuben Foster fell into the lap of the Raiders. It wasn’t as bad as Star Lotulelei and DJ Hayden but they needed Foster badly. The Raiders defensive front 7 is like a big donut right now. The 49ers gobbled Foster up like a Thanksgiving Turkey pulling off one of the best first rounds in a while.
Some say teams were worried about his rotator cuff surgery. Reports how have him ready before July training camp. In the last 2 years Foster played in every game and almost every practice. His stats are amazing, with most of his big numbers coming against the best teams in the biggest games. Some ill-informed people yesterday were tweeting that he was too injury prone. The facts don’t agree.
The NFL draft isn’t Costco. Just because you want salmon doesn’t mean they are going to have salmon. People say well now draft a DT or MLB. Well who? Foster was a near for sure thing and now you have question marks left. Jihad Ward was a bad pick last year at DT and he was not a big factor even though he started most games and played in all of them. No sacks & no tackles for losses. Their depth chart at DT and MLB doesn’t scare anyone.
As we said before, Ohio St. DB’s were mostly one dimensional. Good, finesse cover guys but not good tacklers who weren’t very physical.
I agreed TOTALLY with Jon Gruden. Ohio St. Safety Malik Hooker was very overrated and as a safety you can’t be that bad against the run. It reminded me a little bit like Michael Huff when he came out. Conley also struggled against the run and he isnt’ very physical.
The Michigan game also showed Conley struggling against the crossing routes and slants of the Michigan WR. He’s not physical with players off the ball at all and seemed to get lost with WR in front of him instead of chasing them down the field.
Clemson fans are still talking about 5’ 9”, 175 lb. WR Ray-Ray McClouds one on one obliteration block on Conley in the Tigers 31-0 playoff win against Ohio St. last year. So again, Conley is a good cover guy, and not a good run stopper with a lack of physicality.
With Washington CB’s Sidney Jones and Kevin King still available along with countless others, picking Conley over Foster hurts my head.
Raiders Day 2: What Will Happen:
Here are some guys that may be picked by the Raiders in their quest to fix the defense.
Chris Wormley, DT/DE Michigan:
This is my next pick if he’s there, which I think he will be. He’s physical, very muscular and can play inside and out. He’s a leader type who the coaches love. He was inconsistent at times so that has to change but let’s face it, every player left is going to have some mark against them.
Malik McDowell, DT/DE Michigan St.
Because there are so few DT’s that can pressure the QB in this draft, the Raiders may take a chance on McDowell.
I don’t think I’ve seen a guys attitude ripped on by more teams than with McDowell. At the pre-draft meetings with teams, he was ripped apart for his bad attitude and abrasiveness. At MSU the Spartans media talked about his bad temper and him seemingly more worried about beating up the player he was against more than playing football. There was also disappointment in his play and effort when Michigan State’s season began to go bad. I don’t think Malik will get many good references. A talented head case is what one media guy called him.
Zach Cunningham, MLB Vanderbilt
Zach has climbed up the draft ladder and though he’s not my favorite pick he would not be bad. He’s smart, a good leader and he’s consistent while making plays. He’s an amazing athlete which the NFL loves but he’s only 230-235 and he’ll need to put on some weight for MLB. He’s also not the most physical guy and MLB’s are usually physical studs. Again, he’s not Foster but he’s not bad.
Cam Robinson, OT Alabama:
If he’s still there I take him. I’m the first to say the Raiders need defense badly, but this is ridiculous. First Allen, then Foster and now Robinson falling? The New York Giants really screwed up by not taking this guy. Alabama players are dropping like stones. This guy has 10 year right tackle written all over him.
Day 2 and 3 are where teams GM’s really make their money. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders do from here on out with limited available talents in positions that they need, especially on defense.