They Call Me Fruitcake (film working title) is an inspiring true story based upon Reinette Senum’s 2 decade-long one woman show called Alaska Revisited: An unparalleled story of self-discovery 120 years in the making, spanning the last frontier, transcending generations, and revealing an epic twist of fate and the legacy it left behind.
Humorous and compelling in its telling, They Call Me Fruitcake is the true story of Reinette Senum, whose search for answers about the meaning behind her wandering life leads her to the Alaskan wilderness in 1994. Traveling over 1,500 miles and hauling a sled weighing 160 pounds with rescued sled dog, Diamond, this 27-year-old self-made adventurer battles sub-freezing temperatures, exhaustion, and the Alaskan wild’s vast loneliness. Ultimately, Reinette navigates her way down the frozen Yukon River, becoming the first woman to cross Alaska alone, filming the entire journey for the National Geographic Explorer Journal
Adopted as an infant, Reinette knew nothing of her biological roots and embarked on an extremely cold-weather journey to discover what she was made of.
WHY IT’S TITLED, “THEY CALL ME FRUITCAKE”
Two hundred miles into the journey, Reinette rescued a sled dog named Diamond (from being shot a killed), who would accompany and assist her the next 400 miles. However, less than halfway across Alaska, the only road Reinette knew, the frozen Yukon River, began prematurely melting below her feet.
Reinette would have to come to grips with her reality and that she had only two choices; give up or find a different way to continue.
Traveling with Diamond, pulling their sled together, Reinette became known, amusingly enough, as Wonder Woman by the local native Athabascans because of the distance she could ski in a day. However, when she announced to the Steven Village elders that she had decided to continue her journey in her own hand-built Athabascan-style canoe – they swiftly changed her name to Fruitcake -- hence the title of this film and a turning point in Reinette’s life.
Despite the chagrin of the elders, Reinette borrowed the necessary tools from the villagers enabling her to cut down three trees and hand-plane eighteen-foot-long planks of wood, assembling the canoe in three and a half weeks.
Once the Yukon River broke up and was free of nearly all its ice, Reinette would resume her journey paddling 900 miles and completing her 1,500-mile trek in four months and six days.
Following the completion of the Alaskan crossing, a hidden legacy began to reveal itself.
THIS IS WHERE THE TWIST COMES IN
Reinette initially pegged her solo winter crossing of Alaska as the proverbial heroine's journey. However, it wasn't until two years after completing her formative journey that she finally found her biological family. She thought she was ending a twenty-year-long odyssey, but it was just the beginning.
She would then understand that her Alaskan crossing was more than she had ever imagined - it had also crossed inter-generational and multi-dimensional boundaries.
Her biological great-grandfather, Frederick Funston, had embarked upon an Alaskan trek on her birthday, April 10th, and snowshoed down the frozen Yukon River. Along the way, he shot and killed a sled dog to eat because he was starving and built an 18 ft. long canoe to complete his 1,500-mile Alaskan crossing -- precisely one hundred years before in 1894 AND at the exact same age. Funston, like Reinette, was 27 and turned 28 along the way.
This was too coincidental to be ignored.
The discovery stopped Reinette in her tracks and permanently altered her perception of reality, ultimately forcing her to ask herself, “Who the heck was Frederick Funston?”
THE MOST FAMOUS MILITARY FIGURE YOU NEVER HEARD OF
Five foot four and barely 120 pounds, General Frederick Funston, was the highest-ranked military official in the country at the time of his death in 1917.
Famous for taking control of San Francisco and declaring an unofficial martial law following the catastrophic 1906 earthquake and inferno, Funston would order the controversial dynamiting of affluent homes to create a firebreak.
In 1917 General Funston had John J. Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Douglas MacArthur under his command while overseeing Pershing as he had him pursue Pancho Villa, the famous Mexican Revolution general. During this time, Funston dropped dead of a massive heart attack sending shock waves across the nation: Funston had been expected to be the future commander of the American Expeditionary Force to lead the US into the Great War, later known as WWI.
Funston would die an untimely death; two months later, Funston's subordinate, Pershing, would ultimately lead the nation into its first World War and an ever-enlarging military expansion.
General Frederick Funston would soon disappear into the shadows of the newly formed heroes of WWI. Yet the ripple of many of his oppressive acts and decisions at the turn of the century continues into present day.
THE REST OF THE STORY
While Reinette could clearly see resounding similarities between her and Funston's love for adventure, she knew for certain there was one thing she had that her great-grandfather never did: one hundred years of perspective.
With a century since the passing of her great-grandfather, Reinette could clearly see some of the devastating results of General Frederick Funston’s wartime tactics. His life would become a mirror for Reinette, reflecting her actions against the legacy of an imperial trailblazer, many times leading Reinette to consciously head toward his steps or diverge in a polar-opposite direction (yes, the pun is intended). Now fully aware of her place in the story, Reinette would set her sites to correct a course from long ago.
Reincarnation. Cellular memory. Family karma, or pure coincidence -- this story delves into the personal exploration of lineage & legacy and what one can decode and learn from a family's colorful history.
Crossing Alaska Short Montage
National Geographic Clip
The Rest of the Story