Larry Scribner Had Friends He Could Count On

The Wilderness Near Glennallen  A Story From Rescue Me. All Rights Reserved.   Copper River people swung into action in the winte...

The Wilderness Near Glennallen 

A Story From Rescue Me. All Rights Reserved.  

Copper River people swung into action in the winter of 1987 when a  Glennallen High School history teacher, Larry Scribner, headed out into the nearby woods one day for a short jaunt with his dog team. 

Bill Bowler (Photo, Linda Weld)
He lived in “downtown” Glennallen, and wasn’t going far – just on a well-traveled, casual run with his dogs. When he didn’t return, his friends, Bill Bowler and Leonard Viersen (and Larry’s son, Stephan) set out into the night on snowmachines to look for him. They didn’t come back, either.

In this world before cell phones, Bill Bowler’s wife, Dorothy, finally decided to call a pilot friend, Scott Strauss, who worked with Bill at Parks Place, the local grocery.

It was 3:30 am, and a windy morning – too windy for Scott, an amateur pilot.  Scott called another, more experienced pilot, Dwayne King, who flew for Central Alaska Missions.

At 7 am, the two pilots set out looking from the air for both the rescuers and Larry. Only two miles west of Gulkana Airport (and around 5 miles from Glennallen) they spotted a huge bonfire, and beside it were Bill, Leonard and Stephan.

But Larry was still lost, right in his own backyard.

By 8 am an Alyeska Pipeline helicopter had joined the search. Rumbling over the small spruce trees, the chopper finally spotted the lost musher, half a mile from the bonfire, lying on the trail and waving.

Larry Scribner had a broken rib, a bruised spleen, and serious hypothermia.

It was all hands on deck. Bobby Hartman, an EMT from Nelchina, had come 45 miles to Glennallen, where he attended to Larry, who was later taken to Anchorage for medical help.

Scott Strauss said the incident drove home a valuable lesson to him. “He just went back behind his house for a couple of hours. That’s when stuff happens. You always have to be prepared in this country for the worst.”

In 2016, thirty years after the incident, Larry's son, Russell, explained in more detail what had happened that night. Larry had started out from their house on Terrace Drive, near the High School. He had gone out on a looped 20 mile long trapline trail.

Usually he took the right fork. This time, though, he took the left fork. When Bill Bowler, Leonard Viersen and Stephan Scribner went out looking for Larry, they went right – the direction Larry usually went. "He probably had 8 dogs," Russell recalled decades later. "He was just mushing along, and the dogs saw some caribou and got really excited, and took off." This flung his dad off the sled. "There was a stump that he landed on, and he broke ribs, and his spleen, and was bleeding internally. He ran down to the lake and untangled the dogs, and started feeling weak. He began walking toward home, and got under a tree." One dog came over and stayed with him, protecting him.

When they found the search party and its big fire, it was only around a mile away. Larry Scribner had been lying there all night. "You don't have to be in the middle of some glacier to have an accident," Russell noted. "Just close to home."

ABOUT THIS STORY: This is a Copper River Country Journal original story.  This story is a chapter of a book about Copper Valley courage, Rescue Me: Life & Death In Rural Alaska.  This story was an incidental one, in which local people went out in the winter to find Larry Scribner. He had gotten seriously injured and lost in the woods right near Glennallen in the winter of 1987. Russell Scribner, who by then was teaching at Glennallen School himself, came back to the story with more information on April 7th, 2016. The story is the property of the Copper River Country Journal and Red Truck Printing Company of Gakona, Alaska. Copyright © 2020, All rights reserved.


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