If we all had the self-sufficient knowledge and practical skills of Dick Proenneke there will be no need for us to depend on “The Powers That Should Not Be” for the necessities in life, and for our minds not to be enslaved to their illusory monetary system.
Read the following biography and then watch the documentary (excerpts only) filmed by this truly amazing man:
Richard Proenneke served in the United States Navy as a carpenter during World War II. It was during this service that he contracted rheumatic fever and was bedridden for nearly six months. According to Sam Keith, a lifelong friend from Duxbury, Massachusetts, this illness was very revealing for Proenneke, who decided to devote the rest of his life to the strength and health of his body.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Proenneke went to school to become a diesel mechanic. The combination of his high intelligence, adaptability, and strong work ethic turned him into a very skilled mechanic. Though quite adept at his trade, Proenneke yielded to his love of nature and moved to Oregon to work at a sheep ranch. He moved to Shuyak Island, Alaska, in 1950.
For several years, he worked as a heavy equipment operator and repairman on the naval base at Kodiak. Proenneke spent the next several years working throughout the state of Alaska as both a salmon fisherman and diesel mechanic. He worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service at King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula. His skills as a mechanic were well-known and extremely sought after, and he was able to put away a modest nest egg for retirement. Proenneke retired to Twin Lakes.
On May 21, 1968, Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Before arriving at the lakes, he made arrangements to use a cabin on the upper lake of Twin Lakes owned by a retired Navy captain, Spike Carrithers, and his wife Hope from Kodiak, (in whose care he had left his camper). This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin. The cabin itself is a hand-made construction. Proenneke’s talents as a carpenter are visible — the entire structure was made from materials in and about the site, from the gravel taken from the lake bed to create the cabin’s base, to the trees he selected, chopped down, and then hand-cut into interlocking joints to create the walls and roof rafter framing. The window openings were also pre-planned and cut to suit. The fireplace and flue were made from stones he dug from around the site and then meticulously placed to create the chimney and hearth. He used metal containers for food storage — 1 gallon cans were cut into basin shapes and buried below the frost line. This ensured that fruits and perishables could be stored for prolonged periods in the cool earth yet still be accessible when the winter months froze the ground above them. Proenneke’s bush pilot friend, Babe Alsworth, returned occasionally to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears.
Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next 16 months, when he left to go home for a time to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next 30 years, going to the lower 48 only occasionally to be with his family.
In 1999, at age 82, Proenneke returned to civilization and lived the remainder of his life with his brother Raymond (aka Jake) Proenneke in Hemet, California. He died of a stroke April 20, 2003 at the age of 86. He left his cabin to the National Park Service, and it remains a popular visitor attraction in the still-remote Twin Lakes region.