January was filled with events. The biggest on the local scene was the Kuskowkim 300, of course. Warm weather for most of January almost derailed the race, but it was successfully run for the 35th time. This clip, and this clip taken by racers during the race tell part of the story. The Old Friendly Dog Farm team finished in the money, and Steve Olive won Rookie of the Year honors. That honor has come to OFDF racers several times, including both Sarah and Andy and a long time ago for second place finisher Bo Berglund of Sweden.
The Alaska thaw in January has been historic, with numerous all-time record highs being established. Bethel hit 49 one day, which is not supposed to happen in January. Meanwhile on the Elk Farm, fairly typical January temps in the -10 to -20 range have folks there in a tizzy. Just for the sake of perspective, it is worth noting that the all time record low for Minneapolis is -41, and to pick a recent time period before the move to Alaska, the January low for the years 1960-1974 in Minneapolis hovered between -20 and -30. Cold weather was never a reason to cancel school in those days, now it is common. Recently school was closed for a day with -7 temps and with a wind under 15 mph. Remember, the average low temp for January in Minneapolis is still -2, despite many recent years when it barely dipped below zero. Climate change makes folks less tolerant of the cold weather. Old John Deacon of Grayling, Alaska bemoaned the weather change in 1975, when Myron paid him a visit in mid-winter. He was complaining that it never got cold anymore in Grayling, noting that it usually hit -60 by Christmas every year in his youth, but rarely did when he was an old man. With that statement John, then in his 70s, headed out on the Yukon river with snow shoes pulling a small sled, to check his fish trap. It was -40. It was one of his daily chores, along with splitting wood and hauling water.
Former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond knew cold weather. Before his political career he was a trapper and guide in the Alaska range. Once he visited Bethel in his later years, and took part in a Sunday Fun Run with the OFDF dogs. Jay was a great story teller, and as he dressed for the race in the living room he recalled another time on a dog sled when a failed zipper caused some trouble. He was trapping in Rainy Pass on what is now the Iditarod Trail, when nature called. When he completed that chilly task, he couldn't get his zipper back in place but had no choice but to proceed. In the process he suffered frost bite in an area that can best be described as sensitive. As Jay told the story, he was anxious to get the area treated as quickly as possible to avoid any loss of tissue, because he admitted, he had precious little to spare. That story made his book "Bush Rat Governor."
Former Bethel guy Paul Basile performed a concert in Anchorage recently at a bar called Tap Root. It was a weekday event, and regulars there note that live music usually draws a fairly small crowd. But Paul has Bethel buddies, and it is well known that Anchorage events involving Bethel folks draw throngs of displaced Bethel souls. Sure enough, there was a packed house, so full that Tap Root had to open an unused portion of the place for the mostly Bethel crowd. Bethel's strong sense of community is the reason for this phenomena, a feature of small towns that is mainly missing in most places today. Folks who have lived in Bethel with its lack of amenities and isolation develop a bond that often stays with them when they leave. That bond attracts folks to gatherings where other Bethel folks assemble. As for Paul, in a recent Anchorage newspaper article, his story had higher billing than a story about Pete Seeger.
Bethel is famous for its cabs. Here is proof. And of course, the mandatory moose photo, sent in by Barb Redington.
Webmaster Rich Gannon and his wife Jen sent an interesting book about North Korea as a Christmas present. It was a somber account of life in what must be the world's worst place to live. Jen has served as the Asian consultant for ALO for years based on her part Japanese heritage. After discussing the book, "Nothing to Envy" in an exchange of emails, Jen, a master of costuming, sent this picture captioned "Kim Jung Jen".
Finally, this cartoon might hit a little close to home at ALO.