Molly Ivins loved to go fishing. She also loved to go fishing in Alaska.
Years ago when she agreed to speak to the Alaska ACLU, she made a fishing trip part of the deal. I got lucky and was asked to be her fishing guide. I took Molly and her good friend Ellen Fleysher fishing for salmon and halibut in Icy Strait out of Gustavus. To say that it was fun is such a weak description of the experience, sitting out on deck in the foggy early morning listening to one hilarious story after another. It was actually hard to concentrate on “pullin’ up those hogs” … a bit bigger than her Texas bass. She loved it.
On her next trip to Alaska, to speak at the ACLU banquet (one of her favorite organizations because its mission is to protect the Bill of Rights – and nothing was more dear to her than that!), she got to experience a little more Alaska magic (Talkeetna for the Moose Nugget Festival – she thought THAT was a hoot), floating the Tokositna River with Chancy Croft, viewing katmai bears with Park Supt. Deb Liggett and then a few days on the fish-rich Agulowak River … we had a blast.
What made those days so special was not just her great sense of humor and gifted story telling. It was having the opportunity to learn firsthand about the depth of her commitment to help awaken the spirit of America. Wake up America. Pay attention to the things that really matter to the future of this country, and that is NOT “American Idol.” Both her writing and her speaking displayed her passion for civil rights and justice, for opportunity for all and not just a few, for peace and an end to the war. And it did not stop just because she was on vacation. That was who she was, morning noon and night. I am sad to lose a friend but I am even sadder that we have lost that funny, smart, outrageous and compelling voice when we need it so much. Thank you, Molly Ivins!
Fran Ulmer, former Lt. Governor of Alaska, is the director of Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.