In Alaska, livelihood for many is dependent on the industries that power the state’s resource-rich economy; fishing, mining of oil and gas, logging, and transportation of those resources are how most people support themselves. And while the Brown family has chosen to live a subsistence lifestyle — largely off the grid, hunting and gathering much of their own food. Still, chainsaws, rifles, and ammo don’t come for free.
So when the opportunity to haul cargo (a random assortment of items such as a washing machine, a dryer, and a rug) from the nearby port town of Hoonah (also on Chichagof Island), to another small Alaskan town, Gustavus (population: 450), 35 miles away, Billy wants the boys to seize the opportunity. So the eldest sons — Matt, Bam, Bear, and Gabe — step up to the plate and deliver for the family.
The boys take the family’s boat, The Integrity, and with Bam at the wheel, they load the cargo one-by-one onto the deck of the ship from the port in Hoonah. As they make their way across the inlets of southeastern Alaska, we’re reminded how breathtaking the landscape is — it’s Alaska after all — as wide-angle shots reveal pristine shorelines, and even a few wild porpoises swimming alongside the boat. The boys are in high spirits, but the journey isn’t all fun and games.
As they approach the docks at Gustavus, they realize that the space between the docks are meant for much smaller ships. As they attempt to squeeze the boat in on the side of a dock, they graze the side of the ship, nearly breaching the hull and sinking The Integrity in doing so. They decide instead to tie The Integrity to a floating dock off the coast, and use the little skiff to transport the items to shore, one by one. Getting Matt and Gabe onto the floating dock with enough rope to securely harness the boat is a tricky maneuver, but they’re able to pull it off and begin to bring the cargo ashore to their first customer.
Now that they’ve made it to Gustavus, they’ll need to complete the second part of the job — to bring cargo back to Hoonah. This time their cargo is way cooler; they meet an oddball local who has sculpted a wooden bear statue that needs transporting. However it’s not quite ready for transport yet; the quirky sculptor informs the Brown boys that it won’t be ready until tomorrow. But he does offer this consolation: He has a “problem tree” towering over his house that he will pay the boys to remove.
The extra work is another great opportunity; Gabe steps up to take the massive tree down. Logging is something he’s done plenty of times, and although he’s without the watchful eye of his father, he knows just the right way to go at it with a chainsaw so that when it comes towering down, it missed the sculptor’s house, landing on the path leading up the hill.
The cargo job still isn’t finished, though; the Brown boys will need to make it back to Hoonah with their quarry. Although we won’t see the return trip this week, we did get a better idea as to how the family has been able to make ends meet in Alaska with some of its primary industries — transportation and logging. That’s small-town Alaska.