Gray death was the color of life, such as it was. The one hundred days surrounding the Fourth of July were the most oppressive ever in southeastern Alaska. The sagging overcast broke open only twice – just two days of sunshine in the entire summer of 1967. The rest of the days were long and gloomy as the unrelenting clouds soaked up the sun’s best energy.
Historically, rain was prevalent in the region. Along the southeastern Alaska Peninsula the annual precipitation ranged from 90 to 120 inches. The typical summer had enough cloudy days to give many inhabitants a mental affliction known as cabin fever. However, 1967 was extreme even by Alaskan standards. These clouds were smothering, a garrote on the human spirit.
By evening of each day, the air would cool sufficiently to condense the cloudbanks. That cooling compression forced the clouds down to the sea, creating a stupor of thickening mist. By , as the temperature imperceptibly would continue to cool those galaxies of water particles which then became rain. As the summer dragged along, many residents were unable to fall asleep until they heard the rain dancing on their rooftops.
No thunder and lightning attended the rain and that silence was enhanced by the absence of wind. The clouds had not blown in from the northern Pacific. They merely descended quietly from heaven to unload their limitless cargo.
Each morning, the pattern reversed itself. The raindrops returned to mist and then would vaporize under the ascending clouds. By , the bold pilots of Alaska Coastal Airlines would take-off as the improved visibility let them safely clear the Gastineau Strait Bridge. Their amphibious aircraft would skip and bounce off the water. The high-pitched shrill of the engines signaled the start of the brightest part of another gray day.
As the last of the planes disappeared into the clouds, the choppy water of their wakes would slowly relax into a wave-less slumber. The screeching of the hundreds of resident seagulls became muted as they settled back onto the shoreline with fluffed antipathy. All sounds, natural or man-made, were sucked away by some unseen force. Even the inexorable tide slipped in and out like a prowler. To many discontented residents, that unseen power was evil.
As the summer groaned on, it became clear that the eternal grayness had a death tone to it. The first fatalities were human attitudes. Joy and hope vanished without notice. Then came the physical deaths that in other years would have been accepted in a more normal process of grief. In 1967, every death rose to the rank of cruel, unusual and always shrouded in mystery. Even routine medical autopsies, with understandable conclusions, developed a sinister gray import.
June 27 was the first of the two sunny days of the summer. The droopy coastal peaks suddenly exploded into beautiful pieces of art. The brightness did more than just make people squint. It freed their souls to fly excitedly with the revitalized seabirds.
Contrary to the advice of his father, Thomas J. Aron became a lawyer and spent the next twenty-seven years proving that old Dad was right. A major accomplishment of his legal career was his collection of unusual experiences that have become the basis of much of his writing. He left the legal profession in 1994 to pursue fulltime his love of writing.
Aron began writing for newspapers at age ten and continued this interest as an avocation until his mid-50s. He was the primary contributor to a 1989 news series about Denver’s controversial Two Forks Dam. It was awarded Best Series by the Colorado Press Association.
For nine years he wrote Headgate, a monthly magazine column about water resources for agriculture. His environmental news reporting was highlighted by a 1995 story about pollution to a naturally pure underground water supply from a municipal sewage plan.
His first novel, The Dam, was used in manuscript form by a citizen-activist group to help expose the dangerous deterioration of a major dam in the West. A tribute to a childhood mentor was published in 1997 as The Legend of Ernie The Bear. His short stories have been published, beginning with Xanadu, the literary journal of Doane College.
Aron lives in the greater-Denver area and has three grown sons. Please visit Aron Best Sellers to read his new story of murder and intrigue called
Warning: Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.
He may be contacted by email at: < S T R O N G > t o m @ a r o n bestsellers.com