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1000 Americans: 8 Ball, Wiseman, Alaska


8-Ball, is one of the 33 inhabitants of Wiseman, Alaska. He had worked on the pipeline and has climbed some mountains in the area. He set us up with a cabin for 2 nights and even gave us some fresh lettuce, with dressing! He is the new owner of the Wiseman Trading Post, the old general store slash museum.

‘Yes, the General Store is mine. I bought it a few years ago, when the guy owning it moved out. I am not really using it, but wanted to prevent some tourist company buying it and making it into a tourist attraction.’

What is his real name?

‘8 Ball is how they know me and what I answer to, and it is how I am in the phonebook.’

Only when checking his store, I notice a small card saying to whom checks to pay for t-shirts and souvenirs can be written out to. Apparently the bank does not know ‘8 Ball’. Next to the card is a jar and a sign stating: ‘We use the honour system, please deposit the money for what you bought in the glass jar’. Below the packages of chewing gum that are marked with 30cts is a little note: ‘The gum is 30cts. Only got 25? Close enough’

‘Yes, I have no time to stand in the shop all the time. if people really want to take anything without paying for it, they can have it.’

Just when we were cycling out of town, we heard an engine behind us and 8-ball appeared on a small 4×4 vehicle that every Alaskan seems to have nowadays. 8-ball stopped besides me.

‘I forgot my manners. As you were going to Coldfoot for some lunch, I just thought, maybe I can make you some soup! Do you want some?’

The we did something that biketravellers normally never do: we turned him down.

‘Thanks for the offer 8-ball, much appreciated, but you already have done so much for us. We have to go.’

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