It’s official. Right before adjourning a few weeks ago, the Alaska Legislature passed SB175, giving the state its very own firearm: the pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle.
Now, I’m not a gun owner. I don’t hunt — I’m more of a gatherer — and I prefer to defend myself as nature intended: with a Taser. So I can’t rightly weigh in on choice of official make and model, although to me, nothing quite says “Alaska” like shooting a halibut in the face with a .44.
Some wonder why we need an official state firearm in the first place and question spending public time, effort and money enacting a bill to name one. To this I say: Did we really want to be shown up by all the other states with official state firearms, by which I mean Arizona, Indiana, Utah and West Virginia? Come on. We’re twice as gun-crazy as they are — or anyone in the Lower 48, for that matter, except maybe Texas, and they don’t even have an official state firearm.
Well, we do.
You hear that Texas? Consider yourselves officially “messed with.”
Sadly, however, the 2014 legislative session closed with the job only half complete. What good is an official state firearm without official state ammunition? The way they left it, Alaska’s shooting blanks up here. Is that really the message we’re looking to convey? I, for one, hope our lawmakers begin next year by ignoring all other business until they can resolve the issue of state ammo. And also, can that ammo be slung across an official state bandolier?
Of course, some Alaskans feel uncomfortable with the very notion of symbolizing the state with a weapon, and part of me — the part that grills tofu and wears sandals — admittedly agrees.
Those preferring a less deadly icon, take heart! Peaceful Alaska state symbols abound.
Every Alaskan knows our state tree (Sitka spruce), state sport (dog mushing) and state flower, the Forget-me-something-or-other (wait a minute, it’ll come to me…). And who doesn’t walk around all day singing our state song, “Alaska’s Flag”? Well, either that or the theme from Disney’s “Frozen.” Same difference.
Alaska boasts not one but two state animals: the moose (land) and the bowhead whale (marine)—in your face, grizzlies and humpbacks!
And of course, there’s our proud Alaska state fish, the king salmon. But if we really wanted to be honest with ourselves, we’d change that to a half-eaten herring plug, which, in the process of getting nibbled but not actually hooking anything, has wound back around itself causing a 30-minute line tangle.
But the symbols don’t end there.
Did you know Alaska’s official state insect is the Four-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly? What about our official state soil, Tanana? Part of me — the part that listens to NPR and receives the LL Bean catalogue — thinks that’s just the kind of face we should be putting forward. Where are all the “I Dig Tanana” and “I Soiled Myself in Alaska” T-shirts?
And how’s this for official state trivia: while Alaska doesn’t have an official coat-of-arms — we don’t even have an official performance-fleece-vest-of-arms — we do have an official state tartan. Finally, the excuse you’ve been waiting for to wear your kilt in public.
Four years ago, the Legislature anointed an official Alaska state dog breed, the malamute; five years ago, it said “thanks, but no thanks” to federal rodents, officially replacing Groundhog Day with Marmot Day.
Why not ride that official state momentum?
Many others in the U.S. have official foods and beverages; ours remain glaringly open. My suggestions? Alaska state food: caribalmigan (salmon stuffed inside a ptarmigan stuffed inside a caribou, smothered in fireweed gravy). Alaska state beverage: oil (we’re all drinking it, every last one of us, every last drop).
Friendly amendment to that proposal: Alaska’s state utensil shall be bear claw salad tongs, and its official state condiment, Ranch dressing. According to a recent NPR story, Ranch was officially named the nation’s number one salad dressing. We better snap it up before another state does.
Some in the Lower 48 also have official state musical instruments. I propose Alaska’s be a fiddle, completely un-played and hanging on the wall between a whale baleen and a Rie Munoz/Barbara Lavalle print.
Other states also have state amphibians, state reptiles, state dances and even state grasses. Why doesn’t Alaska have a state grass? And what would our state grass be? Come to think of it, let’s table this one pending the outcome of Proposition 2 this November.
Further symbols I think the Legislature should consider: state tape: duct; state tarp: blue; state fossil: Don Young.
Lastly, Mississippi has a state toy, the teddy bear, as does Pennsylvania, the Slinky. I propose Alaska’s state toy be whatever’s on super-special at Fred Meyer (for instance, this week it’d be the Air Hogs Foam Stunt-Glider — I bought four).
On second thought, the official Alaska state toy proposal would probably stand a better chance of passing if we changed that to the pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle.
But those I think you need to buy at Wal-Mart.
Note: special thanks to “Slack Tide” reader Mike Fox for emailing me the idea starter.