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  • Writer's pictureMyron Angstman

April 2020

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

This edition of ALO news is brought to you once again from isolation in the Bethel office.  The office remains closed to the public, but the phone is answered and some business is conducted by Internet. A few cases settled.  A rural village was attempting to collect past due sales tax from a company doing business in the village, and enlisted ALO's help in doing so, with success.  A similar case involved a raft company that failed to pay for its flying services last summer out of Bethel. That case resolved as well. One injury case settled out of Palmer.  A woman rented a car and drove while drunk, killing herself in the process. She also seriously injured a person in another vehicle. The deceased driver had insurance on the rental, and that policy paid its limits to ALO’s client. Still pending is a claim against the rental company’s policy on the vehicle. The existence of that policy is new information for ALO.  Apparently state law requires rental car companies to maintain a liability policy on every rental vehicle, regardless of the status of the driver’s insurance, and apparently without telling the renter about it.

An abundance of high water caused by a massive snowpack upriver from Bethel created a risk of flooding on the Kuskokwim.  That risk materialized into bad flooding with major damage at the village of Napaimute about 200 miles upriver.  Several cabins were destroyed, some of which were simply washed away.  Floods on the Kuskokwim are caused by ice jams, and this year the ice flowed by Bethel smoothly, and no major floods happened. There was some minor flooding in Bethel.  Some readers may recall the road to Hangar Lake where float plane adventures begin. This photo shows that road during the recent high water.

In keeping with the recent trend to revisit old times, it is likely worth recalling the biggest flood in ALO history which was 1976.  At that time, the Angstman family lived in what is now the ALO office, and that flood became the bench mark for later construction in the neighborhood because the water reached the bottom of the front step to the house. Neighbor Don Mitchell arrived by kayak for a visit and tied his craft to the corner of the cabin, and waded to the steps in hip boots.  It was possible to drive a boat right past the front entrance of Swanson’s store, and Charlie Guinn put a message on KYUK to please slow down driving by his house on Brown Slough because boats were causing waves in his living room. John White’s house was located near what is now the Zen Pho restaurant and had water about a foot deep throughout.  Observers noted that it was the first time his floor had been washed in many years. Visitors during the flood saw a honey bucket floating in John's living room. Some might have to google that one.

Perhaps the highlight of that flood was the dramatic rescue of Betty Barton and her roommates.  Betty lived in a Quonset hut behind Kilbuck school, a place she shared with Jack Easterbrook and Steve Gaber. At about 9 am on the first big day of the flood, the Angstmans started a tour in a small boat, and the first stop was Betty’s where the water was part way up the side of the structure.  The boat was parked by the door, and entry made.  There in the rather small  living room Betty and her roommates were greeting the morning flood with a smile and generous glasses of Scotch. The water was about a foot deep in their house.  They asked about a possible boat ride to higher ground which of course was forthcoming. But the rescue couldn’t be made until a camera was retrieved from home.  Sadly, no photos from that event can be located. John McDonald did record photos from that flood, and they are worth checking. Betty's house was known as Ma Barton's Home for Wayward Boys, and she rented from Joe Mendola. The Mendola stories make up another whole chapter in the ALO saga, so stay tuned.

There were some old time legal cases that generated stories worth telling as well.  Of course criminal cases usually involve allegations of bad conduct and defense lawyers are expected to work with facts available to get a favorable outcome for clients.  So this next story has some allegations of bad conduct, and a defense lawyer working with the facts available to  get a favorable outcome.  A Bethel guy was charged with sexual assault of a neighbor lady and he hired ALO to defend. The facts were mixed and it was mostly a she said / he said situation until mid-trial when the defendant’s wife pulled her husband’s lawyer into a private room and explained why her husband could not be guilty of this horrible crime. She explained that it couldn’t have happened because that very evening her teenage kids had gone to the high school basketball game and she and her husband took advantage of the privacy to engage in sex.  She went on to explain in some detail that she knew for sure that her husband wasn’t able to perform sexually two times in the same night, because they had tried to do so many times unsuccessfully.

His lawyer of course understood the importance of this revealing testimony, but had to be sure that the wife was willing to testify under oath in front of a local jury about those facts.  She said yes, and the husband agreed the testimony should be presented.  She repeated that account in front of the jury, and the defendant was acquitted. Even if he didn’t have to go to jail, the guy received some measure of punishment just from sitting through that testimony.

Lots of critters this month.  People spending a lot of time indoors must be thinking of things outdoors. Caribou calves are showing up and these two were just born. This grizzly bear likes to keep things in order. This baby elephant has a thing for birds. This lynx needed to get to the other side. And here are the mandatory moose:

Bethel has what is maybe its first ever high school All-American wrestler. Hayden Lieb completed his high school career by winning his fourth consecutive state title this year, and then this happened. The only other Bethel All-American anyone can remember was Franceska Fairbanks who earned that honor as a Division 1 college runner at Gonzaga.  That’s how young athletes define success.  There are other ways to measure success as well. Lamont Albertson said his son sent him this list.

Brent Sass won this year’s Yukon Quest, but he seems to get more enjoyment from taking his dogs to remote locations. This shot is from far northern Alaska where he goes every spring for late training and to unwind from a year of racing.  It was taken at midnight in early May. 

The recent shooting of an unarmed person jogging in Georgia has generated a lot of discussion.  Readers of this page will recall that gun discussions have frequently appeared here, always pointing out that guns are too often used for improper reasons.  A recent local gun discussion in Nome resulted in a request to write an article for the Nome Nugget about the use of guns in a home.  While it doesn’t apply directly to the Georgia shooting, it might be of some interest to folks who keep guns for self-defense.

gun op-ed
Download • 310KB

Our national leadership during the COVID-19 issue has been a disaster.  Basically the leadership has consisted of a batch of tweets and several arguments with reporters at press briefings. Those who carefully follow the news have a pretty accurate timeline of Trump’s statements that are devastating to his suggestion that he has handled this crisis well.   A group of Republicans have recently taken him on directly with ads and articles.  This one by George Conway is most on point. Conway has a unique position, being a conservative Republican married to one of Trump’s most loyal aides.   He is smart and articulate, and he gets under Trump’s skin frequently.  It must be difficult for a hardcore Republican to read Conway’s stuff and simply shrug it off.  Here is a longer article with a view from Ireland. America is losing its spot as world leader, and with good reason.

Mike McClure was the last of the Beat poets, and he passed from the scene recently.  His connection to Bethel was little known.  That connection became apparent one time during a dinner visit to Dr. Jane McClure’s home in Bethel.  During that first visit, there was a perusal of the living area including a review of the bookshelf, refrigerator door, and framed photos, which is a long standing habit appreciated by most folks.  Why else have stuff displayed if visitors aren’t supposed to look?

During that search, a book of poems by Mike McClure was opened and skimmed.  Inside the front cover was an inscription that read something like “To my wonderful daughter Jane.”  Then a few more McClure books were observed on the shelves, all inscribed in a similar fashion.

Upon inquiry it was confirmed that Jane was indeed his daughter.  Despite having known her for many years, that fact had never emerged.  Her father was famous as a poet and song writer for many years.  Many will recognize one of his most famous songs - "Mercedes Benz", a combined effort with Janis Joplin. In fact on a later rafting trip with Andy and one of Jane’s sons, it was revealed that a royalty check from that song was being used to pay part of the expenses for the trip.  Jane reports that her youth consisted of frequent visits from literary and music talents like Joplin, Jim Morrison, Dennis Hopper, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg. All that happened in San Francisco, which makes her move to a frontier town like Bethel where she has been a long time pediatrician remarkable. This obituary for her father is worth reading.

One final note concerns a subject of some importance to the folks at ALO. The city of Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, set a daily record low temperature in late April, the first such daily low record in 13 years. And before the climate deniers get all worked up, it should be noted the between those milestones, the city has recorded 112 record daily high temps, almost 10 per year. A big factor driving the increased temperature is the loss of sea ice.


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