Norman Wilkins and Slovenia-born Ladislava Kolenc (Sylvia to those who know her) met in postwar Gorizia Italy in 1946, marrying there in 1948. They moved to Iowa where Norman grew up, and farmed in several communities until 1957 when they moved to Motley, Minnesota and built the Tamarack Dell dairy farm. There, they raised their family and farmed until the late 1970’s.
Norman had long felt the pull of the north, drawn to the mystique of Alaska—“The Last American Frontier” many said; and once the children were on their own, that desire to go north grew stronger. He made more than one hunting trip to Alaska before the 1978 expedition included in this book, and as the trips unfolded, so did Norman’s desire to make Alaska his permanent home—to be a part of the expansive wilderness and yes, explore for gold!
Sylvia was not so enthusiastic early on. (Bear in mind, those first few years they lived in a one-room, 12’x16’ plywood cabin with no indoor toilet, no electricity and no running water.) Once, after they settled in Nelchina, Sylvia was asked how she liked Alaska, to which she replied, “I really like the people here, but you can take Alaska and give it back to the Eskimos!”
They did find gold in Alaska. They found it in the air, the mountains, the wildlife and especially in the people—the people they worked shoulder to shoulder with and shared their table with, each one weaving an independent piece of the tapestry of everyday life in the 1970’s and 1980’s along the Glenn Highway.
The contents of this book have been transcribed from Norman’s notebook-style pages as originally written with the exception of occasional edits and insertions for clarity. Book two, the second half of this story is already in the planning stages.