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December 2009

December was a busy month at ALO, with a civil trial in Dillingham, and a couple of settlements. The Dillingham trial was a business dispute concerning the operation of a remote fishing lodge near Togiak. A former owner and the current owner could not agree on the terms of their deal, and a Dillingham judge and jury were asked to sort it out. ALO represents the current owner, and the jury sided with him on most of the issues. Two of the most important issues are still to be decided by the judge.


Meanwhile Matt settled two traffic accident cases in Bethel, both involving ALO clients who were injured in fender benders. A major case involving a death in Mountain Village was also settled. In that case, ALO represented a young man who was convicted of homicide for a shooting in that village. While working on that case, it became apparent that before the shooting, the defendant and his friend had traveled up the Yukon River and purchased a huge amount of liquor at the two package stores operated in the Galena and Nulato area. Neither purchase was legal, in that ALO's client was underage, and the other purchaser had an ID which showed he lived in a dry village. Together, the two men bought more than 80 bottles of hard liquor and the younger man was highly intoxicated when the shooting happened. The murder victim's family contacted ALO and wanted to sue the two liquor stores for their role in the shooting. That case was referred to another law firm which filed suit. ALO's client was brought into the suit as well. One of the liquor stores settled the claim against it recently, and the other store has defaulted, meaning there was no attempt to defend. ALO's client received a settlement for legal fees.


A recent obituary in the Anchorage paper brought back memories of former ALO client Fred Hess. Fred was a traveling handy man and electrician, who worked in western Alaska for many years. He would travel by snow machine or boat and often would stay in a village for weeks or months after his work was finished. On one such trip, Fred boated into Kuskokwim Bay enroute to Quinhagak on the coast. He had a wooden boat, some gear and no radio. Near the mouth of the Kanektok River, Fred's engine quit. To his north and east there was coastline, but to the south and west was the Bering Sea. The wind and current pushed him west. He drifted for days, out of sight of land much of the time. He had meager supplies which were not going to last very long. Fred knew the country well enough to know that he was in big trouble. After a few days of drifting, he saw land ahead. He could see that his current path would either take him to the very southern tip of the landmass, or else he would miss by a bit. He had a paddle on board so he worked hard to move into a position to make land. As he neared the shore, he could see he was going to make it, but the new problem was heavy breakers on a beach that had some boulders. Fred secured his gas can to his body with either tape or rope both for floatation and for fire starter, and stored his matches in a jar inside his coat. The surf busted his boat but he made it to shore. He used driftwood and the remains of his boat to start a fire. He had beached on the southern tip of Nunavak Island, around the first of October. The nearest village was on the far north shore of the island, and there are few visitors. He kept his fire going and waited. After a few days, a US government plane happened by on a late trip to pick up supplies on the island, which was a wildlife refuge. They spotted him and he was rescued. It was their last flight of the season. No one even knew Fred was missing, because no one knew where he was supposed to be. Fred responded to his ordeal with a sort of a shrug, not thinking it was any big deal. The details of the story are recited here from memory, and readers who have more details of the story to report are encouraged to contact ALO.


December was quite the month for weather on the Delta. JoeJoe Prince takes lots of pictures around Bethel and he that deserves publication. Check out JoeJoe's facebook page for dozens of pictures of the area.



The month brought two record setting warm days in the mid 40s, which ruined trail conditions for dog training and other winter sports. The records weren't just broken, they were shattered by about 6 or 7 degrees each day. And of course the records were previously set within the past few years. All time record high temps happen often in Bethel, new lows almost never. For much of December, there was no snow at all.


The ALO Christmas party offered a new twist this year. It was catered by Ben and Sarah. The menu was Indian food, and the reviews were spectacular. It wasn't the only gala event for Ben and Sarah last month. They also attended a wedding in San Francisco, which made the internet. Ben's cousin was the groom, and to best appreciate the situation, Google the name Marissa Mayer, who was the bride. Ben was a groomsman, and had several events where urban attire was needed. Ben of course suffers from afashionosis, an affliction common to men living in rural Alaska. It requires serious searching for something suitable to wear when going to events in the big city. Ben was hard pressed enough to visit ALO for possible loaner attire. Several jackets hang in the hallway, ready for court use. Those items didn't fit, so he settled for a sport coat from Lucas Salzbrun. (his only one, purchased by his mother, used once) Ben's relatives who attended the San Francisco wedding will have a chance to compare that event with the upcoming Ben and Sarah wedding on Mission Road in Bethel.


Finally, what Christmas season is complete without the Nutcracker? ALO medical consultant Don Lehmann takes part in Sitka's production of the Nutcracker every year. The director takes certain liberties with the script, and Don usually ends up with a character somewhat modified from the original. Don is a dancer of sorts.

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