T-shirts from Alaska have three themes: death, natural beauty, and beer. Sometimes one shirt has two themes, or even all three. But that’s Alaska for you.
Alaskans are proud that their state is full of wildlife and natural beauty — and dangerous. They enjoy joking about the “dangerous” part, and graphically. The t-shirt above is late-70s vintage, from the neighborhood of Katmai National Park and Preserve. At Katmai you just might see timber wolves, brown bears, coyotes, wolverines, and moose — and at much closer range than you’d planned on.
I do wonder how long this t-shirt took to sell, and who it actually sold to. Tourists don’t generally enjoy jokes about their own demise.
And yet that kind of t-shirt isn’t rare in Alaska. From a few years later comes the famous “Snacktime” t-shirt graphic from Alaskan nature artist and t-shirt entrepreneur Ray Troll. Later on, the legend on the t-shirt was simplified to “Alaska.” But you got the point either way. There are a lot of bears in Alaksa.
And a lot of moose, too. Think of a moose as a six-foot-tall 1600-pound deer. Or, up close in the snow, as an Imperial Walker on the ice planet Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Either image is daunting; moose loom. They’re not something you’d want to meet in a dark alley.
Except, you might. Or in your back yard, in a parking lot, laying down in the middle of the road, or coming up out of the trees while you walk your dog. Moose are all over the place in Alaska, and many of them hate dogs and might try to kick one on general principles. While moose are not vicious, they can get cranky.
Because they do get cranky, and because they don’t avoid civilization, moose injure more people in Alaska than bears. But give them a wide berth and all will be well. Usually
If one of them does charge you for any reason just run; it’s likely a bluff meant to drive you off; and if it isn’t a bluff, the moose still won’t chase you far. If it catches you, though, curl up into a ball while it stomps on you a bit before moving on.
So much for death. Alaskan tees also trade in the the state’s beauty. Alaskan artist Ray Troll, mentioned above, has a winning formula for tourist t-shirts: a beautiful, sometimes surreal graphic of Alaskan fish, combined with a corny insider joke.
Troll’s rockfish tee above beautifully shows all the species of this interesting fish that are found in Alaskan waters. The joke is on the other side: the slogan, “Long Live Rockfish!” You’re supposed to know that some rockfish live for 150 years,
But classic Troll is a t-shirt sky full of singing salmon wailing “Salmon Chanted Evening.” Sadly, I don’t have a tee of Troll’s “The Perils of Nude Fly Fishing;” but you should look it up.
Of course there are other kinds of natural beauty: like, beer. You find beautiful scenery on this tee for Alaskan Amber Ale, Juneau’s finest. And though former governor Sarah Palin is not my idea of natural beauty, some brewer over on Kodiak Island disagrees.