Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Survival and Courage in the Alaskan Wilds

Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Survival and Courage in the Alaskan Wilds

by Norma Cobb

In 1973, Norma Cobb, her husband Lester, and the their five children, the oldest of whom was nine-years-old and the youngest, twins, barely one, pulled up stakes in the Lower Forty-eight and headed north to Alaska to follow a pioneer dream of claiming land under the Homestead Act. The only land available lay north of Fairbanks near the Arctic Circle where grizzlies outnumbered humans twenty to one.

From the beginning, the Cobbs found themselves pitted in a life or death feud with unscrupulous neighbors who would rob from new settlers, attempt to burn them out, shoot them, and jump their claim.The Cobbs were chechakos, tenderfeet, in a lost land that consumed even toughened settlers.

Bears prowled the nearby woods, stalking the children, and Lester Cobb would leave for months at a time in search of work.But through it all, they survived on the strength of Norma Cobb---a woman whose love for her family knew no bounds and whose courage in the face of mortal danger is an inspiration to us all.

Arctic Homestead is her story.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.98
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: February 24th 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin
  • Isbn10: 0312283792
  • Isbn13: 9780312283797

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"Arctic Homestead" is technically written by Norma Cobb (the homesteader) and Charles Sasser (co-writer). From what I can gather, Cobb didn't actually write the book (although she claims to have done so on her blog). It's written as more of an adventure tale, highlighting how the Cobb clan came to Alaska and managed to build a homestead near the Arctic circle. Norma Cobb is technically the last woman to have staked a claim via the Homestead Act, although her claim was backdated due to her husband's poor choice of land initially, so we never know who the real "last woman pioneer" might genuinely be. Her husband's poor choices are a theme throughout the book, although Cobb and Sasser do quite an interesting mix of passive-aggressive insulting and hero worshiping of Lester Cobb, Norma's husband. (What the book doesn't mention: They eventually divorced, Lester is now deceased and Norma lives in AZ.) The adventure tale goes a bit like this: Lots of near-death misses with guns and snow and bears, heaps of struggle (Cobb rails against "sissies" in the lower 48 taking handouts and being victims, fully ignoring the hypocrisy of her constant sense of victimization by others. She passive-aggressively insults her husband's children frequently (the Cobbs were a blended family. After reading one too many near-death misses and yet another tale of some jackass screwing them over, I decided to do a bit of poking around on the 'net. Dunno why that happened, but apparently Norma felt the need to tell the tale of the dogs' deaths without tarnishing the hero worship/passive-aggressive insults around her husband. Essentially, Norma Cobb presents herself (or is presented by Sasser) as a stereotype, which might explain why she only presents others in the story as stereotypes.

Started this to get the facts about homesteading in Alaska, not expecting to be drawn in. She was twenty nine, divorced, with three sons, and going nowhere in Wichita when she married Lester Cobb, seven years younger, divorced, and with twin daughters, headed to the same destination. Nevertheless, the seven, plus two dogs, six rabbits, and a cat pushed on to the Minook Valley nineteen miles south of the Yukon in central Alaska.

I was very eager and excited to start reading because this book contained two of my most favourite subjects to read about: homesteading experiences and living in Alaska. Their homesteading decision came about from Norma Cobbs dream, which she claimed to be Gods guidance throughout the book. I was not so much bothered by her unwaveringly blind faith in God, which I believe people need living in the backcountry, but more disturbed by just how irresponsible the parents were to venture into a completely strange territory with five young children on a whim. Throughout the book, I was constantly reminded of the Cobbs poor decision to pursue homesteading in a haste. I think there must be better books about homesteading in Alaska out there.

I was into Ms. Cobb's story and enjoyed reading about the issues that faced the family as they journeyed to settle in the wilds of Alaska. A little research on the internet and I found that some of the people mentioned in the book also had alternate accounts of their time with the Cobbs.

The first thing that attracted me to the story was that it was told by a woman which is unusual for outdoor, non-fiction risk-taking and adventure type books.

This could have been a fantastic story but was ruined for me by four things. I was disappointed that a story with so much potential ended up being a lesson on how to be a jackass in the wilderness.

Like some other reviewers, I too had some difficulty rating this read. I probably wouldn't read it again.

They were on their way to Canada with all their kids when someone mentioned that they weren't allowed to homestead there.