PUBLISHED: 4:57 PM on Wednesday, April 23, 2008
No time to hide in the dark
There are things that worry us. And things that concern us. And then there are the dark, hard realities that scare the dickens out of us and define who we are.

Such is the absolute reality that came in a landslide last Wednesday, when tons of snow wiped out the power lines from Juneau's Snettisham power plant.

That ensured that AEL&P will be using diesel instead of hydroelectric power for at least 90 days. And determined that every family and every business and every government agency in Juneau is going to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more per month for electricity.

We can't run, we can't hide, but we can decide how we go forward.

To paraphrase, with some liberties, Thomas Paine: "These are the times that test men's (and town's) souls."

These are also the times that prove what we are made of. This is not just a time for conservation and hand-wringing.

Certainly we can live with less juice. For less light, less electric toys, yes even less heat.

But the test is in not getting by. The test is in choosing to live well and to celebrate, despite the challenges - not in hunkering down in the dark and waiting for a solution from AEL&P, but in seeing how we can both individually and together become more self-reliant.

It's in keeping our spirit, our confidence and our respect for each other.

And it's in taking what would challenge us, and letting it make us stronger.

We still have a few small things to be thankful for - it's a lot easier to deal with this in May than it would have been in the cold dark of winter. And expensive electricity that you can turn off is far sight better than no electricity at all!

It's also a glimpse into what other communities in the bush deal with every day.

The electric crisis took my mind off the other big story that most of you have heard over the past few weeks from a little town in Southwest Texas.

For almost 20 years, my family has been hunting a sprawling rocky, cactus-choked ranch near Eldorado, Texas. It's hard country for anything except goats and whitetail deer, which we have in abundance.

It's also been a refuge for my family, as my brothers have moved to the four corners of our country from Georgia to California to Alaska.

Our ranch is within a mile of that other ranch, from which the Texas authorities removed more than 400 children from their polygamist families. Although we've never had problems with "the neighbors," we've watched their complex grow out and up.

Fact is, last November I shot a big 10-point buck within sight of that 80-foot temple.

We began hunting the ranch in 1991, long before the cult ever moved to Eldorado from Utah, and a few months before Federal agents got serious about another compound, where another group of religious zealots were closeted near Waco.

The world knows how badly that raid on the Branch Davidian compound ended in 1992.

So, as jumbled and confused as that raid on the Eldorado complex was, and as uncertain as the future is for those hundreds of children and families, one thing is certain: the outcome will be far better than that day in 1992 when so many died.

Lee Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire. Email him at