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Alvah Dunning

As guides go Alvah Dunning was the best. But Alvah was not that keen on guiding “sports” from the city.

However, he thought that if they were going to throw their money away he may as well have some of it.

Alvah will always be known as an “Adirondack Guide.” That was not Alvah at all.

Alvah was first of all an Indian.

Second; he was a boy who was taught the way of the woods by his father.

Third; he was a victim of crimes of the heart.

Fourth; he was, most of all, a hermit; possibly because of the third item.

Fifth; he was a freedom loving woodsman.

Sixth, last, and finally; he was an Adirondack guide.

So if anyone did not understand Alvah there was good reason for it. He was complicated.

Everyone in these North Woods had Alvah wrong. They thought he was a cantankerous old man. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Alvah enjoyed a good laugh. He just didn’t see much humor in what was going on in his Adirondacks.

Alvah enjoyed hunting but did not do it for the sport. He did it for sustenance.

Alvah enjoyed his solitude. But the “sports” from New York and Boston were moving in on his territory. Each time this happened Alvah would move to a new location; possibly squatting on some other person’s property.

Rules were put in place by New York State and a deer season was established. This was done so that the “sports” would have something to shoot “at.” This does not imply that they necessarily hit anything. The end result? The rules were useless. There were no more nor no less deer taken than before these new rules were instituted.

These new rules made Alvah a poacher. Alvah was not a poacher, he was a hunter of his own meals.

If there were any people who Alvah may have hated it would be Thomas Durant and his son William West Durant. These two ambitious men were behind the publicizing, popularizing, and populating of the Adirondack Mountains. They hired many others to do their work for them; writers, sketch artists, mappers, builders and railroad workers.

And Alvah may not have been too pleased with me either. My mother was Indian and I got my name from the Tahawas country. I am sure that Alvah thought I was just another Indian who sold out to the Durants.

Maybe I was. I built a lot of log cabins for them.

In the end Alvah may have helped the Durants by guiding the sports that they invited.

Alvah was close to ninety years old when he died by the hand of what he hated the most; progress.

He was in a hotel in Utica. Some say that he did not realize that the lights were gas and not kerosene. He blew the flame out and went to bed. They found him dead for lack of air; the gas overcame him.

Alvah’s fight against the progress that was invading the Adirondacks was in vain.

But because of it he continues to be my hero. Rest easy old friend, you deserve it.

Tahawas and Tomosky c

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