Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down

Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down

by Kaylene Johnson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780980082562
Publisher: Epicenter Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Kaylene Johnson is an award-winning writer and author who lives with her family on a small farm near Wasilla, Alaska. In addition to two other books she has written, "Portrait of the Alaska Railroad" and "Trails Across Time," Johnson's work has in numerous magazines and newspapers ranging from Alaska magazine to the LA Times. She received an MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Honesty became a non-negotiable family standard.
There was an expectation, too, that if you wanted something, you earned it.

Sarah Palin's childhood home faces Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains. In the spring, purple violets, Indian paintbrush, and wild geraniums carpet the mountains' alpine tundra in a bloom of color. In winter, the snow-covered mountains take on a rose blush in the soft alpenglow. Sarah could see these mountains from the front porch of the family's little yellow house near downtown Wasilla.

These mountains would become, like other wild places in Alaska, a place of sustenance and renewal for her boisterous and busy family.

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho on February 11, 1964, Sarah Louise was the third of four children born in rapid succession to Chuck and Sally Heath. The family moved to Alaska when Sarah was two months old. Chuck took a job teaching school in Skagway. Her older brother, Chuck Jr., was two years old, Heather had just turned one, and Molly was soon to come. Chuck Jr. vividly remembers the days in Skagway when he and his dad ran a trapline, put out crab pots, and hunted mountain goats and seals. The family spent time hiking up to alpine lakes and looking for artifacts left behind during the Klondike Gold Rush.

"Dad never stopped lining up new adventures for us," Chuck Jr. said. The kids caught Dolly Varden off a nearby dock. Chuck Jr. loved to catch the Irish Lord, an ugly, creepy-looking fish, for the pleasure of holding it up to his little sisters' faces and making them scream.

In 1969, the Heaths moved to southcentral Alaska, living for a short time with friends inAnchorage, then for two years in Eagle River before finally settling in Wasilla. The family lived frugally. To help make ends meet, Chuck Heath moonlighted as a hunting and fishing guide and as a bartender, and even worked on the Alaska Railroad for a time. Sally worked as a school secretary and ran their busy household.

In 1974, Wasilla incorporated with a population of barely four hundred people. The Heath house sat a few blocks from the center of town, north of the railroad tracks and south and east of woodlands of birch, willow, and spruce. The woods were a wilderness playground—the kind of place where kids play out the imaginative adventures of childhood. They had a white cat named Fifi and a German shepherd named Rufus, a canine sidekick to the kids who shows up in many family photos. The children often hiked the "Bunny Trail" to the home of a distant neighbor who had kids the same age.

In both summer and winter, most of the family's activities took place outdoors. Sarah said that she appreciates the many outdoor adventures she had as a child. Fitness was a big part of family life. "My parents jumped on the bandwagon of the ‘70s running craze," she said. The whole family ran together, competing in five- and ten-kilometer races throughout the summer.

When the family wasn't running or hiking, it was hunting or fishing.

"We could literally go hunting out our back door," Chuck Jr. said. Sarah shot her first rabbit at age ten not far from the back porch. In her teens, she hunted caribou with her father.

The family's freezer was always full of fish and game. Chuck Jr. said he didn't eat a beef steak until he was a senior in high school. Gardening helped fill the family larder.

In summer, Chuck Jr., Heather, Sarah, and Molly spent long sunny days building tree forts, riding bikes, and playing with friends. They took swimming lessons in Wasilla Lake—a pond with water so cold that they huddled around a campfire on the beach afterward to silence their chattering teeth. During the summer, their father put away the television. For entertainment, he put up a basketball hoop with a dirt court in the back yard.

The Heath kids and their friends spent many hours playing ball.

Once a year, the family accompanied Chuck Sr. on a weeklong class field trip to Denali National Park, where camping in view of majestic Mount McKinley left indelible memories with the Heath children.

The family often packed up and drove fifteen miles to Hatcher Pass, a scenic expanse of alpine tundra tucked between jagged peaks in the Talkeetna Mountains. In summer, the family hiked, picked berries, and followed the trails. In winter, they skied and hunted ptarmigan, an Alaska game bird.

At home, Sarah shared a bedroom with her sisters in the upper level of their wood-frame home. Chuck Jr. slept in a closet-sized room next to the kitchen. The three sisters loved listening to the patter of rain on the tin roof above their heads.

The room was unheated except for a wood stove that their father installed when he built an addition onto the house. The kids had to feed wood into the stove to keep the room warm but often they decided it wasn't worth the effort to get out of bed. Instead, they snuggled deeper under the covers, watching their breath condense in the cool air.

The three sisters had a code phrase that helped ward off the chill and the scary shadows of the night. "Do you want to play Sleeping Beauty?" one of them would ask. That was the signal for Sarah, Heather, and Molly to pile into one bed for the night.

"I was afraid of everything," said Molly, the youngest. Even after Chuck and Heather left for college, Molly and Sarah slept in the same room. "I would push my bed next to Sarah's and we would hold hands, even in high school," Molly said.

One of the girls' favorite pastimes was to form clubs to organize field trips. On one occasion, for example, the group hatched a plan to hike at Bodenburg Butte, where a recreational trail overlooked the Knik River Valley. Because the Butte was too far away to bike or walk, an adult had to drive them. Sarah helped broker deals to do chores in exchange for a ride.

"One time, I remember we stacked firewood so that we could earn a ride to the fair," Molly said. But when they finished stacking an enormous pile of wood, the whole stack toppled to the ground. "We just looked at each other and got back to work."

The domestic scene in the Heath family was not without its squabbles. The children fought fiercely over the usual sibling issues and had no qualms about physically taking their differences right down to the green shag carpet. When things got out of hand, however, they agreed on one thing.

"We had a pact," Heather said. "If any of us got hurt, or if we broke something, we promised not to tell."

"We learned to toe the line at an early age," Chuck Jr. said. "If we had a problem with Mom, she'd usually just say, ‘wait ‘til Dad gets home.' " Molly agreed. "Mom was like June Cleaver. I rarely remember her being upset. But when Dad came home, we stood a little straighter and turned down the volume."

Sally Heath has a kindly face and a voice that sounds like a song. Even as adults, the Heath kids enjoy listening to her voice.

Sally quickly puts strangers at ease, and with smiling eyes she expresses genuine interest in everyone she meets. She is a woman of deep faith and strong convictions.

Whenever possible, Sally joined her husband in his outdoor pursuits. When he guided big-game hunts, she traded babysitting with a friend so that she could go along as camp cook and allaround assistant. She hunted, fished, cross-country skied, and ran a marathon.

Today, Sally Heath still plays an integral part in the busy households of her children, all of whom now have children of their own. When needed, she supports the working parents, volunteering as chauffer, tutor, nurse, and cook for her grandchildren. All twelve of them live in Wasilla or in nearby Anchorage.

Chuck Sr. is a wiry man, taut with enthusiasm and highvoltage energy. As a high school cross-country and track coach, he brought out the best in people around him. And he expected nothing from others that he didn't also demand from himself.

During his years coaching the track team, he ran at least a dozen marathons, including the Boston Marathon.

Chuck Sr. brought his passion for the outdoors into his classroom. His classrooms then—and the Heath home now— look like exhibits in a natural history museum with pelts, skulls, and fossils adorning the walls. He continues to hunt and fish and has taken up gold mining. He often takes grandkids on a two and half hour four-wheeler ride to an old friend's mine near Gunsight Mountain.

Even in their so-called retirement, Chuck, sixty-nine, and Sally, sixty-seven, work summers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Program. They've trapped fox in the Aleutian Islands, contributing to the recovery of bird populations decimated after the fox was introduced by Russians in the 1750s. They've used pyrotechnics to scare birds off runways in the Pribilof Islands. And they've helped eradicate rats from Palmyra Atoll, one thousand miles southwest of Hawaii. Chuck and Sally even accepted an assignment from the federal agency that took them to Ground Zero in New York City to keep rats away while investigators recovered remains after 9/11. Chuck also substitute teaches and enjoys bringing specimens from home to conduct workshops on wildlife biology.

The Heath children agree that their parents provided the right combination of affirmation, encouragement, and tough love. No infraction was more egregious to either parent than lying. Honesty became a non-negotiable family standard. There was an expectation, too, that if you wanted something, you earned it.

"We always worked," Heather said. "We never had anything handed to us."

Molly agreed. Whether weeding an enormous garden that they shared with family friends or stacking firewood, everyone pitched in. From age twelve on, everyone had a job to earn spending money—picking strawberries at the nearby Dearborn farm, babysitting, or working as a waitress at the local diner. The Heath kids knew what it meant to work.

"We knew on a teacher's salary that we would all have to pay our own way through college. We knew we'd have to be independent," Heather said.

After high school, much to her older brother's amusement, Sarah entered the Miss Wasilla pageant and won.

"I remember asking Sarah why she would enter a beauty pageant when that seemed so prissy to the rest of us," Chuck Jr. said. "She told me matter of factly, ‘It's going to help pay my way through college.' " Her family makes a point of saying Sarah was never the beautypageant type. Even though the scholarship she won did help pay for college, years later Sarah seemed chagrined by the pageant experience.

"They made us line up in bathing suits and turn our backs so the male judges could look at our butts," she said in a 2008 interview with Vogue magazine. "I couldn't believe it!" Sarah had two childhood traits that her family says played trajectory roles in her life. From the time she was in elementary school, she consumed newspapers with a passion. "She read the paper from the very top left hand corner to the bottom right corner to the very last page," said Molly. "She didn't want tomiss a word. She didn't just read it—she knew every word she had read and analyzed it."

Sarah preferred nonfiction to the Nancy Drew books that her classmates were reading. In junior high school, Heather— a year older in school—often enlisted Sarah's help with book reports. "She was such a bookworm. Whenever I was assigned to read a book, she'd already read it," Heather said.

Sarah's thirst for knowledge was nurtured in a household that emphasized the importance of education. There was never any question that all the Heath kids would go to college. With her love for newspapers and current events, Sarah majored in journalism and minored in political science. Her brother, like their father, became a teacher. Heather works for an advertising firm. Molly is a dental hygienist.

Sarah's other trait is what her father calls an unbending, unapologetic streak of stubbornness.

"The rest of the kids, I could force them to do something," Chuck Sr. said. "But with Sarah, there was no way. From a young age she had a mind of her own. Once she made up her mind, she didn't change it."

Sarah's siblings were astonished by Sarah's resolve in the face of a father whose decisions were the final word in their household.

"She never lost an argument and would never, no matter what, back down when she knew she was right," Chuck Jr. remembers. "Not just with me or with other kids, but with Mom and Dad too."

Later on, Sarah's father would enlist the help of people Sarah respected—especially coaches and teachers—to persuade her to see things his way. Yet he concedes Sarah was persuasive in her arguments and often correct. Later, when his daughter became governor, Chuck found it immensely amusing that acquaintances asked him to sway Sarah on particular issues.

He says he lost that leverage before she was two.

That doesn't stop him from speaking his mind, however.

During her campaigns he sometimes called to defend his daughter on talk radio. "Sarah finally asked me to stay out of it, and so I do," Chuck Sr. said. "But it hurts me when people rag on her."

Sarah's niece, Lauden, remarked that the closeness of the Heath family resembles a scene from the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." When the group gets together for a holiday gathering or a sporting event, everyone is loud, opinionated, and gets into everyone else's business. The one thing they all agree on is how hard it is to watch Sarah become a target of her political foes.

"One of her strengths is being able to hold her tongue when she's been unfairly attacked," said Chuck Jr. "By staying true to her beliefs, things always seem to fall into place for her."

Not that Sarah's journey to the governor's office was easy.

From the moment she began making her mark in the politics, she was criticized for being too young, too inexperienced, and too naïve.

Yet, time after time over the years, underestimating Sarah always proved to be a big mistake.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     7
Dedication     9
Introduction     13
Growing up Sarah     15
Heaven & hoops     24
Something about Sarah     33
Sarah takes on city hall     42
Playing in the big leagues     67
Pit bull in lipstick     75
Frank Murkowski's downfall     85
A family decision     88
A simple promise     93
Election 2006     101
For such a time as this     109
Epilogue     133
Appendix     139
Author's Source Notes     147
Index     157

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Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First of all, a note regarding individuals on this site posting negative reviews: it is apparent they never read the book before writing their reviews. Had they done this, they would have been aware the author, Kaylene Johnson, conducted personal interviews for this book beginning in October, 2007, with the last interview taking place in January, 2008. The book was published in April, 2008 and, therefore, obviously was not rushed into print due to recent events, as others here have claimed. These basic facts are available in the Author¿s Source Notes at the end of the book. Now, on to the review. Even at only 152 pages, this book manages to provide an insightful, revealing look into Sarah Palin¿s early years, her relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues, and her entry into local and state politics. What is made clear here is that Sarah Palin did not become involved in politics for personal gain. She ran for office initially because she felt she had a duty to improve the lives of those in her community, and then later, the lives of all Alaskans. The impression that I have of Governor Sarah Palin after reading this book is that she is a strong, down-to-earth, principled woman with many God-given talents. She is fiercely devoted to her family and is unequivocally prepared to handle anything that comes her way, including the vice-presidency. As a final note, in the last sentence in chapter nine, the author refers to Palin as ¿the reform-minded maverick Republican who vowed to be an agent of change.¿ It is due to these qualities, among many others, that she was chosen to be John McCain¿s running mate. And thank God for that!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is well written, informative and enjoyable reading about an intelligent woman. Thanks!
Rick_Gregory More than 1 year ago
When John McCain picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, the liberal media snickered and started talking about Dan Quayle and Thomas Egleton. But they weren¿t laughing long: Plain faced down media smears, innuendo, contempt, and hostility to deliver a speech for the ages at the Republican Convention ¿ and polls quickly showed that she was more popular than both McCain and Obama. Even better, she¿s a solid, pro-life, small-government, anti-corruption conservative ¿ in sharp contrast to Obama¿s shady origins in the Chicago political machine.

In Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska¿s Political Establishment Upside Down, Kaylene Johnson introduces the reader to the real Sarah Palin: the governor who, according to none other than the New York Times, ¿is untainted by government scandal and unburdened by political debt¿ ¿ and the amazing woman who has put media darling, the Messiah; Lord Barack Obama ¿ thee most merciful - on the defensive while giving Conservatives new hope.

Johnson tells the story of a small-town mayor and hockey mom who followed her hopes and dreams in the face of a disapproving political establishment to become the belle of the Republican Convention. Johnson details what it was like to grow up Sarah, explores her personal life and early influences, and shows how she entered politics ¿ and almost immediately started fearlessly taking on city hall.

Sarah tells the full story of how Palin became the first woman governor in Alaskan history ¿ and enjoyed the highest approval rating of any governor in the nation.

Obama, Biden and the far-left liberals are looking over their shoulders, getting more and more nervous ¿ as Sarah shows, they have good reason.
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
Written by an obvious friend, the book is most decidedly one-sided and pro-Palin. And that's okay as that was the purpose of the author. However, if We The People, want to explore this amazing woman's angels and demons we will have to wait (and it shouldn't be long) for one of the big boys to write her story. In fact, I would be surprised if there are not several books released taking a positive and negative view of our next vice president.

The book is small and a quick easy read. If you just can't get enough of all things Palin, then you should buy it for your political collection. If you really want to "know" Sarah Palin,

I would recommend you wait a few weeks. Keyboards are smoking and advance checks are in the mail, I can guarantee it. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR
Guest More than 1 year ago
For someone who took five tries at colleges before graduating, who professes to be devoutly religious but belongs to no church, who espouses to be a politcal leader but can't remember what magazines she reads or give an example of a Supreme Court decision...she is a lesson on how to embarass a political party and a nation at the same time. The obvious ploy to get a woman on the ticket to 'steal' the Hillary vote is so transparent it is unbelievable. This psuedo 'politico' has less than no experience in anything but local politics and colloqialisms....'you betcha' and 'darn right' is the best she can come up with to battle a variety of tax evasion and party line problems that are already surfacing. Let's stay away from more of McSame in female attire.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so full of inaccuries it wants to make me cry. Sarah Palin is nothing but a fairly attractive woman who has the knack to charm the pants off of you. She is a manipulative, crafty, self serving person who thinks running a state with a population the size of lower Manhattan is somehow equivelant to running the United States of America. What a complete and utter fraud - what has this country become?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this and believe that I could trust this woman to do other women proud, but I could not. Although it is my belief that men and women can be equally qualified to do any job, like anything some people are cut out for things and others are not. Palin is not cut out to be VP and in the chance that a tragedy should a occur President. Sure a woman can be equal to a man. Just not this woman in this case. She is a great charmer but has nothig of substance to offer beyond that. She is relying to grealty on McCain's experiance to get her through. As much as I disagree with some of the things Obama and Biden say they at least have given us some policy and paper to show they have a plan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is obvious that the two one star reviews here are not reviews of the book, but cheap political slaps at someone they just do not like. Well, the book is not out so I can play the same game with a more fair 'recommend' review. The complain it that Sarah Palin has a 'thin' resume. Excuse me but getting elected as Govenor of any state is not 'thin'. You are correct in saying she is no Hillary. Hillary is certainly bright but let's be real. Hillary was given a gift: the New York senate seat because she was Bill's wife. Up until her election what did she do on her own? Sarah came from nowhere and built her own reputation. She may be unknown (which in Washington speak means unimportant and lightweight) but she has done more than Hillary. Having said that I do think Hillary would be better than Obama but I also think Sarah Palin is better than either.
SerpensLiber on LibraryThing 5 months ago
First, let me say that this review has nothing to do with politics. With that out of the way let me just say the reason that I didn't like the book was that there was nothing there. I didn't learn anything about Sarah Palin that I hadn't heard from CNN, NPR or Fox News. Her life may indeed be as story book as this telling portrays it, although I doubt it seriously. I don't care how her high school basketball team did. This book was written almost as a fairy tale. This has nothing to do with how I feel about her politics, this was simply a book thrown together in this political season. I am not sure what purpose the author intended to serve, but I didn't get it, and wasted valuable time reading this "pamphlet". I am sure she is a great person, and a real person. Having lived in Alaska and been to Wasilla, I understand her background, however, this book wasn't worth the purchase price or the read to anyone that is at least minimally informed about this election.¿
lillieammann on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Interesting background on Sarah Palin up through the beginning of her term as governor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timhalyna More than 1 year ago
Look at all the anonymous ratings on here that give a one-star rating. So we're to believe that all these people bought the book and hated it, without leaving a word? Obviously, someone or someones are trying to do everything possible to sabotage the truth about Palin being attacked, and there obvious attempts to do so here only serves to validate the author's premise. I wasn't even going to get this book but when I saw the obvious attack being done on it's ratings, I went ahead and purchased it. I think it would be an interesting psychological study for someone to really examine what motivates people who hate Sarah Palin, it's as if they can't even control their unbridled (and unearned) hatred of her. Suck it, haters!!
AnnieMAM More than 1 year ago
This book kept your interest clear to the end. Everyone should read, I enjoyed it!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Lacks in depth, reads like an infomercial for how great she is. A candy-coated lightweight like O'Reilly's books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just follow all her interviews and you know what to expect. To tell you more, just go to or and watch the interview with Katie Couric and you'll see what I'm talking about. Who care if she's a hockey mom, that's what everybody talk about all the time, her son is in Irak, my prayers will be always with him and with the other soldiers 'my brother came from Afghanistan save and sound, thanks to God, her baby boy has special needs, the baby is so beautiful,'saw picture in the news'God bless him. My point here is that if we going to elect somebody to VP using this qualification you, me, anybody can run ,not just for VP, anybody can be President of the USA. People let be wise at the moment to decide who we want to run this country, do your homework and God help us to make the right decission. May God bless us all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'SARAH' the book, ought to be required reading for all high school students. It is a story of a determined young woman that wouldn't allow anyone to 'hand' her anything she didn't earn. It is a story of dedication, truthfulness, faith in God, family and friends and mosty in herself. Her life growing up shows her as being honest, and very hard-working and hugely successful at setting goals for her future. Her devotion to her family both while growning up and then to her own children is truly awe-inspiring and such a prime example for young people that it should be read by everyone. As a die-hard conservative I have always been just on this side of the line when it came to thinking women could handle the job of President of the United States. It would have taken a ton of convincing to make me believe one could be found. But that search has finally ended for me and if others will be honest with themselves they will agree that Sarah Palin is probably the single most prepared person in all phases of requirements for the job and could manage the Presidency along with still caring and properly raising her own children with great ease. If called upon, I would jump to assist her in a nano-second, I have that much faith in her ability, desire and dedication. In the meantime I will add her to my daily prayers that she be protected and promoted to the office that she seeks. We will all benefit from her leadership, knowledge, kindness and friendship.
Guest More than 1 year ago
looks like we both need to read this one before voting in november
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thank God for Sarah Palin. Just when I thought there was no way I could vote for John McCain, he had the courage to pick a true CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE who believes that America is under God's protection and guidance. Her story is very inspirational and her faith is pure. She was saved by our lord and savior Jesus Christ, the king of kings. She will work to help steer America back to the fundamnetal teachings of the bible and make sure all follow the Lord's plan. I believe she was sent from heaven in order to guide us all closer to Christ. This is only the beginning!!! God Bless America!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story about an inspirational female leader. I feel awe at her professional achievements, her personal accomplishments, and her intense faith in God. Her story is both modern and a return to the ideals upon which America was founded.