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Life Begins at 80...on the Internet
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We are delighted to find that this unique e-book, written in Australia and published in South Africa, is read in places as far apart as North Pole (Alaska), Wawa (Canada), Buffalo (New York) and even in tropical Guatemala, Central America. Readers from all those place sent us encouraging emails last month, as you can see by inspecting our Guest Map.

From North Pole, Alaska, Margi U wrote: "Come see us in North Pole (just 13 miles southeast of Fairbanks) - winter and summer, it's beautiful."

We accepted her invitation, and paid a virtual visit to Margi's hometown. A weather website told us that the temperature at Fairbanks Ft. Wainwright, at 9.55pm was -6 F / -21 C

Braving the cold, we visited North Pole Cabins. "Come visit our country's last frontier - Alaska," says its website. "Nestled into a private, wooded, waterfront setting is a taste of Old Alaska with the comfort of hot water and indoor plumbing. A stay in this lovely log cabin retreat offers the chance to get away from the rush of modern life without having to go too far into the woods.

"We are located just 20 minutes from Fairbanks International Airport in the heart of North Pole, Alaska. Once you settle into 'cabin comfort' you are in the woods and yet only five minutes from conveniences such as groceries, restaurants, or movie rentals."

North Pole Cabins' Nancy Petersen says "We are lifelong Alaskans, the children and grandchildren of pioneer Alaskan adventurers. My father drove the Alaska Highway as it was being built. In 1943, his trip started in Seattle April 1 and finished in Fairbanks on November 3. It was a tough but memorable seven-month trip.

"My mother was a flight instructor in 1943. She married her 'star pupil' and by 1949 my Dad was supporting his bride and baby son as an Alaskan bush pilot. He flew the SR10 Gull Wing Stinson on wheels, skis, and floats as well as the Norseman, DC3, C46, F27, and for the last eleven years of his career he flew the Boeing 737...

"My brother operated a flight school and fly-in fishing service for many years. I myself am an 'inactive' private pilot, and busy mother of two growing sons. I enjoy being at our home in the woods. I especially enjoy watching the waterfowl that spend their summer along our waterfront reserve."

Living near a small Australian town called Woy Woy (famous comedian Spike Milligan once - unkindly and wrongly - called it "the world's only above-ground cemetery"), we were intrigued to find we have a reader, Kaireen Morrison, in Wawa, Northern Ontario, Canada. We asked her about her town's strangely similar name.

"Wawa means 'wild goose' in Ojibway Indian language...and we have lots of wild geese," said Kaireen. "There's a huge steel one at the entrance to the town. My husband likes to say 'They liked it so much they named it twice!' (He's a hometown boy)

"Population 3800 now that the underground iron mine closed down five years ago after 100 years existence...used to be 4800 but several families moved 150 km south to Sault Ste. Marie to the jobs provided by the parent steel company there.

"We have a golf course, Wawa Lake, hunting, fishing, Lake Superior a few miles away, beautiful scenery, and lots of fresh air, plus clean water. Fresh fish for supper tonight, caught a few miles away, ice-fishing."

Then there's Wee Waa, "The Cotton Capital of Australia," a town of 2000 people in north-western New South Wales. Its name is aboriginal for "fire for roasting," says the town's website. It adds:

The birthplace of Australia's modern cotton industry, the area, in April, transforms into snowy white profusion from horizon to horizon as the cotton harvest gets underway.

The town has 2 motels, 2 caravan parks 4 schools, preschool and 2 hotels as well as fine eating places. A swimming pool, picturesque 18 hole golf course, bowling club, tennis courts and a modern sporting complex.

As for Buffalo, New York, Gary Fisher, an IBM programmer, challenged a statement in our February edition that his city was named because buffaloes used to live there. "Having grown up there, I also always assumed that it was named for the American bison," he says. "I even have a c.1900 edition of The History of the Niagara Frontier which claims that. However, most authorities confirm that buffaloes never roamed that area, due to the difficulty of the deep winter snow and fairly dense forests.

"A far more likely, and often suggested, alternative source for the name is a mispronunciation and misunderstanding of the French Beau Fleuve meaning "Beautiful River." That area had been mostly visited by French trappers prior to the English setting up (or taking over) forts in the area."

Moving south, from freezing North America to sweltering Guatemala, we found this message posted on our Guest Map by "Capt. Kangaroo": A great find on the net for an Aussie stuck in a crazy Latin American country. Thanks Eric.

We asked the captain how many other Australians lived in that country. He replied: "I have regular contact with about half a dozen here in the city and I guesstimate there are approx. 15-20 resident in the country. The number fluctuates as embassy and non-gov. organisation people come and go. I have 12 years here... Life here is nothing if not interesting.

"Only had time to browse your site, hopefully will have more time to read a little soon. Saludos."

Webmaster Barry Downs, in Kimberley, South Africa, and I, near Woy Woy, Australia, say Saludos to all our readers - and thanks for all your interesting messages.



Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

Story first posted March 2004

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