Damaged barn on Coplee Ranch in Pasagshak. Photo by Chris Flickinger
High winds damaged a historic barn on Coplee Ranch in Pasagshak on Wednesday. According to the NOAA daily climate report, the highest wind speed that day was 45 and the highest gust speed was 62, which was enough to bring at least part of the aging structure down.
Ranch co-owner Chris Flickinger says a few of the ranch’s 235 head of cattle were in the barn when it fell, as were some other livestock. He says the winds pushed the barn over in the early morning.
“That was about 3:05 in the morning when my dogs woke me up, I think when the big crash-in happened, because that’s when I looked at the clock and was like, ‘What in the world was that?’ But then you could hear ‘em and they would hit the one mountain across and you could hear a roar, and then they would hit. It was just going in all directions that night.”
He says the animals all managed to escape the collapsing barn unharmed.
Flickinger, who has co-owned the ranch since 1999, says the livestock are mostly grass-fed and raised without growth hormones.
“We sell mostly a two-year-old steer, which is an altered bull, as a beef animal. Folks come out and harvest ’em. I weigh ‘em up on a scale and follow the market, and there is a fresher aspect to it. It hasn’t been through freezing and millions of miles or hundreds of miles travel to get to destination.”
Flickinger and his father plan to rebuild the historic barn on the ranch, which once belonged to Joe Zentner.
Barbara Hoedel says her father, Norm Sutliff, came to Alaska in 1939 and became friends with ranchers in Pasagshak, including Zentner.
“My dad loved to hunt, and so when they started hunting bear, my dad was one of the ones that went with ’em and hunted bear. In the very earliest days, I can remember the stories of him hunting with Tom Nelson and they hunted on horseback with dogs.”
In the 1950s, Zentner purchased a plane in order to hunt the bears that were killing his cattle. Hoedel says in those days, hunting bear from the air was legal.
“They actually had hired hunters – state hunters – that came in and hunted the bear. But my dad was oftentimes the gunner, and Dave Henley was the pilot, and they went out and shot bears that were in the herds of cattle in the spring and in the fall.”
But the Kodiak wind took its toll on the plane in Pasagshak. In a period of particularly bad weather, the wind ripped away at the aircraft’s wing, tail, and fabric, and Zentner took those sections to the Kodiak Baptist Mission shop for repairs. The plane needed long-term protection, so according to “Now It Can Be Told” by Wanda Marie Fields, Sutliff went to work in his shop and built the beginnings of what would become Zentner’s hangar, and which would later become Flickinger’s barn.
And while the hangar protected Zentner’s plane from the rain and wind for 20 years, there hasn’t been anything to protect the hangar itself from the weather. Flickinger says they patched the building up over the years, but he was too late in attending to the rotting sections.
He says they’ll rebuild the structure, and it should take about two weeks with added help. That they’ll get from the Kodiak Baptist Mission, the same organization Zentner turned to for his repair needs all those years ago. Zentner says they’ll probably start rebuilding sometime this month.