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“Part 2 of My Interview With Yukon Men’s Courtney Agnes; Girl Power the Tanana, Alaska Way”

courtney cuppy archie and carrie
Courtney, Cuppy, Archie & Carrie

Here is Part 1:

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/part-1-of-my-interview-with-yukon-mens-courtney-agnes-girl-power-the-tanana-alaska-way/

 

We all have a story.  It doesn’t matter if we think we are exciting or not; all of us have a story.  Courtney Agnes is no different.  People probably see Courtney as a tomboy who is just like one of the guys, but she is much more than that.

Courtney is a self proclaimed “girly girl”.  “I just don’t have any fashion sense” she admits.  Courtney is a good athlete as is displayed by her talents in sports.  She is also a highly skilled artist in bead work and crafting, creating amazing clothing and jewelry.  This skill was encouraged by her grandmother Carrie who always seemed to supply her with amazing material to work with.  How about Courtney’s Native Craft’s for an online store name?  Her love for her culture and the Athabascan way of life is embedded in her heart through generations of tradition and respect for the land and what it provides.  She works at keeping that way of life alive in the future generations to come.

Courtney and Carrie at the Tanana Chiefs Conference

Jim Jax: Describe your relationship with your dad Pat and how has it changed since you were a kid?

Courtney Agnes:

I was always my dad’s baby. I even told mom and dad that they couldn’t have anymore kids because I had to be the baby forever.  From the first moment I had him wrapped around my finger.  He was the one to get up with me in the middle of the night when I cried and he would spoil me rotten.  I am now getting paybacks with my two girls and my husband, Archie.  I find that Cuppy and Carrie pull the same tricks that I used to do when I was their age with their dad and I feel like my mom did back then. Nowadays, I get really upset when my dad leaves town without telling me.  He also really relies on me to help him around the dog yard, or to even ground him in his busy life. We really enjoy doing things together, like planting his huge garden that’s almost as big as the bottom section of my house.

courtney pat 7 braedon
Courtney, Braedon & Pat

Jim Jax: What type of amenities do you have at your house.  I.E.  Television, cable, wifi/internet, running water, electricity, etc…..

Courtney Agnes:

I lived my entire life without running water until I moved out of Tanana.  About half of the homes in Tanana finally got hooked up to the water system in 2006-07. My home has cable, wifi, and electricity; all of the comfortable amenities. The only thing I miss about city life are the readily available fresh groceries. We have to plan for shopping excursions and freeze, dry, or blanch veggies and fruits to make them last.

courtney little
Courtney Practicing her Guilty Look

Jim Jax: I always think about the normal every day things.  As a teen and a young woman, how hard was it to date with so few men around, and what activities as a young person did you have to do to meet people? 

Courtney Agnes:

When I was a teenager, I was kind of awkward and geeky.  I always had straight A’s and had my nose in a book (I have bad eyesight from it).  I wasn’t really interested in boys; nothing serious anyways; and I wasn’t really that popular.  That really didn’t bother me though. Living in a remote village, it’s kind of common to play sports or travel, or to date someone if you already hadn’t found someone to hang out with in your own village.  Most people are related to each other in our small rural populations, so it’s easier to date outside of your hometown. I always played basketball just to get out of work and chores, so I met new and interesting people that way.

Courtney is all smiles at a dog mushing race.JPG
Courtney is all smiles at a dog mushing race

Jim Jax: What is your favorite food to eat that you can only get in Alaska?

Courtney Agnes:

My family and I just got back from a vacation in Hawaii, and I have to admit the girls asked for moose meat as soon as we got home.  Luckily my best friend had moose roast in her fridge in Anchorage while we hung out there for allergy appointments to appease the girl’s cravings.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t ever live without moose soup either.  The only other food that I couldn’t live without is Yukon King Salmon.  I’m sure it’s because I grew up eating it, but no other salmon compares. All of the people that I grew up with here in Tanana are pretty picky about the salmon that we eat, and pretty much don’t really like any other kind.

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(Above: Some of Courtney’s Jewelry)

Jim Jax: What was your scariest moment while filming Yukon men.

Courtney Agnes:

The scene when I shot the black bear was the absolute scariest moment while filming.  It was slightly raining when I was stalking the bear, and I kept hearing him but I couldn’t identify where the sound was coming from.  We were walking through a small stream, so I had to also focus on being quiet when I moved. It is pretty hard to do with rain gear and rubber boots on. Ryan (camera man) had seen him first and he was headed straight for him, although the bear had never seen us. The instant that I saw the bear, I pulled my gun up to shoot, but he walked behind a huge clump of willows so I had to wait for the shot.  I got him with one shot to the neck and he was only 20 feet from Ryan. So in short, the bear almost ate Ryan.  Although he was packing, it still could have gone way wrong if I hadn’t waited for a good shot.

(Above: Alaskan wild blueberries and kippered fish)

Jim Jax: Your husband doesn’t get to be on camera much; explain what kind of person he is. 

Courtney Agnes:

Archie is a really quiet guy and he’s often gone for his job.  He works on an oil rig up north in Alaska.  He usually works 2 weeks on and then has 2 weeks off, but he has to add 2 travel days to the days he’s gone so we basically get him 12 days per 28 days. He sacrifices so much to provide for us to live here in Tanana.  It’s a really tough work environment that he has to leave us for and we really appreciate him.  He’s an avid outdoorsman like I am, but way shyer than me. He also lives for speed.  He used to race boats in the Yukon 800 race, and now races snow machines in the Iron Dog across Alaska. Both are physically brutal races, but he races them for the physical and mental aspects of it. He’s an amazing dad to our girls, he’s very patient and kind, but he’s also a pushover when it comes to them.

courtney the scarecrow
Courtney’s Scarecrow look

Jim Jax: What is the thing you like most about filming Yukon Men and what is the worst thing about filming it.

Courtney Agnes:

The thing that I love most about filming Yukon Men is that I am paid for doing things that I normally do anyway on a daily basis.  I mean, we always have to get food, wood, fuel, and get ready for winter, so it’s kind of easy to just do both at the same time.  It’s kind of like killing two birds with one stone.  The hardest thing about filming is being away from the girls. I’m a pretty hands on mama.  They really have a hard time going to sitters and not being in their own familiar environment, although we do have an amazing support system here in Tanana.

cuppy courtney and carrie
Cuppy, Courtney & Carrie

Jim Jax: With the new road comes a whole new group of people coming to the area.  Do you ever worry that things will never be the same and it may get harder to survive? 

Courtney Agnes:

I really worry about what kind of people the new road will bring in.  There was a straggler in Manley Hot Springs 20 years or so ago, (which is now 50 miles away from us on the road) who shot and killed 9 people and threw them in the Tanana River.

(Courtney is talking about the famous 1984 mass murders by drifter Michael Allen Silka in Manley Hot Springs.  He was a military marksman and he shot and killed 9 people.  One was a trooper who was flying overhead in a helicopter.  After murdering a neighbor he befriended people in Tanana saying he was a mountain man.  He often camped near the one of the docks.  People were impressed with his skills and he said he wanted to make roots in Tanana.  His victims included a trooper, a pregnant woman and a 2 year old child).

My husband’s family also has land not even one mile away from the road, and we worry about encroachment from trespassers. What people don’t really understand is how resilient Tanana people are, and we will fight for our way of life.

courtneyafdfadf

Jim Jax: What hobby or personality trait do you have that would surprise viewers of the show. 

Courtney Agnes:

I really hate being idle, so I’m always doing one thing or another.  I really love to play basketball, I grew up playing with 6’ or taller guys who had the mentality that you had to be tough to even try to play with them.  I remember getting elbowed or punched in the face and getting told not to cry when I was like in the 10th grade.  Being pretty short (5’5”) enabled them to practically jam the ball down my throat so I had to figure out ways to shoot and score around them. When playing in tournaments in Fairbanks in later years, teammates would tell me, “I don’t know how you get in there and shoot like that”.  Sometimes a ref asked me why I hadn’t ever played college ball (I was too shy).  The only other thing I can think of is that I really am quite girly.  I love make up but I have zero fashion sense.

courtney asdfasdfsdf

Jim Jax: What message do you hope to communicate about your way of life to those that enjoy the show. 

Courtney Agnes: 

When I was in high school, my late Grandmother Carrie used to always tell me to learn to live off the land.  At the time I really did not understand what she was trying to tell me, so I basically disregarded her advice.  It wasn’t until I moved back home and started to hunt, fish, and trap on my own that I learned what she meant.  She was trying to explain a simpler but rewarding lifestyle where she learned intrinsic life values from living off of the land.  This would allow me to be able to care for my family while living off the land.  It is an inherent value in keeping our traditions and culture alive that I will always appreciate.

Jim’s Jamz:

I’d like to humbly thank all of those in the Discovery Yukon Men family for the kindness and trust they have shown me in telling their stories.  Thank you to the fans of the show for their support.  I so enjoy their passion and dedication to the show.  Thousands of people have read these articles and I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I liked writing them.

Even with all of the amazing positive feedback though, I’ve also received negative responses too.  I’ve been contacted by various publications and websites speaking out against me for writing about Yukon Men.  I’m small potatoes I’m sure but there have even been petitions started to stop the show.

First off I’m not naïve.  Most reality shows are extremely faked and staged.  People always say they know that yet they act like it’s real.  Out of all of the shows though, Yukon Men is right up there with being as real as it gets.  Are some of the scenes enhanced?  Of course they are.  Ask hunters how exciting it is walking in the freezing cold for hours looking to hunt something.  Then you must ask yourself how real was it for George Roberts to lose his life in a snow mobile accident?  Ask if it was real when a young pilot Seth Fairbanks died after his plane went down?  A while earlier he helped find a stranded Joey Zuray who was slowly being surrounded by water and ice.  While the most popular network shows lie to no end; (yes I’ve talked to some of the actors and behind the scenes people and you have no idea), Yukon Men tries to keep an integrity that is rarely seen anymore on television.

The struggles are real.  And while many crews on other shows stay for short times and move on, the film crews for Yukon Men have spent significant time in the area and have tried hard to win the respect of the communities.

Like I said, I’ve seen petitions to try and cancel the show in the past due to the hunting and trapping scenes.  In reality these are not trophy hunters cutting off heads or antlers of animals and leaving the meat.  These aren’t people laughing and partying after killing an animal for show so they can take selfies so strangers will increase their likes on Instagram or Twitter.  These are people who for generations have respected their surroundings and gratefully used the land to survive in one of the most difficult places in the world to live.

As long as I write about Yukon Men I will continue to send the message that the Athabascan lifestyle tries to teach.  Respect and love for your family, with an appreciation and love for what the land provides and gives you through a subsistence lifestyle.  And lastly the constant reminder to never forget the great skills and pride that have been taught through previous generations.  Like I said, we all have a tale to tell so let’s always respect and appreciate where we come from.  And may we always respect each other’s story.

 

“Part 2 of my Interview with Discovery Channel’s Yukon Men’s star Stan Zuray; Behind the Scenes; His New Book!”

stan zuray photo

https://www.facebook.com/stanzuray/

https://www.youtube.com/user/stanzuray

https://twitter.com/stanzuray?lang=en

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)

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/my-interview-with-discovery-channels-macguyver-yukon-mens-stan-zuray/

 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.

stan and friends

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.

stan and dog

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.

Stan the minister
Stan has been an ordained minister for over 30 years.

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.

stan kathleen and joey

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. 

http://www.aloneinthewilderness.com/index.html

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.

stans wife kathleen
Stan’s Wife Kathleen

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.

https://www.facebook.com/stanzuray/

https://www.youtube.com/user/stanzuray

https://twitter.com/stanzuray?lang=en

 

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