Updated: Sep 30, 2022
August rains balanced off the lack of rain in the early summer, putting out all of the fires in Alaska and turning everything a deep shade of green. That made for some difficult flying weather and limited access to the mountain cabin. A quick trip to the 100 degree plus temps of Fresno, California made those cool rainy days seem pleasant by comparison.
Cool and rainy has always been common for much of Alaska in the summer. Despite that Alaska people tend to get outdoors and enjoy themselves. Daily walks on the Anchorage Park Strip and nearby trails reveal lots of folks enjoying the outdoors. In almost two years of walking that zone, the level of happiness encountered is astounding. Despite Covid and a myriad of other pieces of bad news, almost 100 percent of the people encountered are obviously enjoying themselves. They greet Jack warmly, even though he is in clear violation of the leash law most of the time. They smile, they wave, they greet strangers, and they never complain about the weather. It is amazing that the original Anchorage airstrip, hacked out of the woods in the 1920’s, was converted to the Park Strip when Merrill Field was built in the 1930’s. At that time, the former airstrip would have made for easy expansion of housing opportunities in what was then mostly a wild area on the outskirts of Anchorage. But someone had enough foresight to envision a need for a park. At one time, the park strip was used for a small golf course, the first in the state. Now it is used for walking, running, biking, soccer, rugby and ultimate frisbee, among other sports. Many folks train their dogs, and a few find a place to spend the night under a tarp. But even those folks have a greeting for Jack when he checks them out, and some have even learned his name.
Happy Trails & Heavy Green
August saw the passing of two old time Alaskans, both in their 90’s. One of them, Eva Ryan, was the matriarch of the huge Ryan family that owns Ryan Air where Andy Angstman works. Eva’s obituary is long and conveys a story that should be required reading. She did everything, engaging in activities that are common in rural Alaska with gusto. Read the obituary while remembering that she lived all of her life in rural Alaska where daily life can be challenging due to harsh weather, high costs, limited housing and tough transportation. She also spent much of her life as a widow with a raft of kids. Happy Trails Eva.
Hugh Short also passed. He was an early client of ALO while running a cab service in Bethel and later in Nome. Hugh’s business model consisted of him trying to manage his cab company, dispatch cabs and drive a cab pretty much all day. He was famous for trying to sleep and dispatch at the same time. Each call would wake him up, he would dispatch the cab and quickly go back to sleep. This went on for years, until the advent of phones that rang into the cab which allowed him to drive and dispatch at the same time. He had a colorful crew of drivers, some of whom were rumored to be a handy source of booze and pot. Hugh had a standard warning for those so inclined – “Don’t get caught.” His office visits were always entertaining. He would describe his immediate problem as a “can of worms” and his lawyer was his “mouthpiece.” Cab wars were common in that era, with a bunch of tricks used to gain an advantage over the competition. One such trick, calling the competitor's dispatch line and leaving the phone off the hook for an hour or two, was especially effective. Dispatching was done by radio and an enterprising company could have a second radio in their cabs tuned to the other company’s frequency, resulting in a race to the location where the call originated. Cab drivers had their own radio lingo, red was empty, green was occupied, and heavy green meant lots of customers (and cash). Blue meant off duty for bathroom stops or a cup of coffee. Because privacy was sometimes hard to find in Bethel, perhaps tolerant readers will understand that a not uncommon radio call was “blue to screw.” Perhaps the best cab story comes from a bright sunny morning in June, about 1975. A gentleman flagged down a cab near the Kuskokwim Inn, where he had apparently consumed a bit of booze. The polite gentleman sat in the back and asked the driver “Could you tell me the time of day please?” The driver advised him it was 11:00. The passenger responded “Would that be AM or PM?” Hugh spent his last years in Anchorage after driving cab into his 80’s. One can only hope he went out “heavy green.”
Book reviews are an occasional feature here at ALO News. This month readers are directed to A Most Wicked Conspiracy: The Last Great Swindle of the Gilded Age by Paul Starobin. It relates the story of early gold mining in Nome, and the pure corruption that was a big part of it. And it wasn’t the miners who were corrupt, it was lawyers, judges and their cronies who established a plan to rob the miners blind. It’s a good read of a little known story. Here is a review from ADN.
Mandatory Moose, One Tough Rabbit & Cranes!
The month’s mandatory moose is a large bull still in velvet and resting up for the fall breeding season.
And this rabbit is tougher than some.
This Sandhill Crane and her colt posted by Sharon Winner deserves a place in the news as well.
Cartoons & Other Interests
This month’s cartoon features Attorney General Garland engaged in a contest with Donald Trump. It is widely reported that Trump can’t find strong counsel for his many legal challenges because of his past history of demanding his lawyers file silly legal arguments and then refusing to pay them. And if ever a guy needed good lawyers, it’s Trump.
And in case anyone forgot, this is Lindsey Graham in 2015 talking about Trump.
Trump obviously has some dirt on Graham to cause him to act the way he does today. He will be another in a long line of Trump allies to take the fifth in testimony. And just a reminder what that means. A person can plead the Fifth Amendment if expected testimony would be self-incriminating. In other words, it would describe criminal conduct. Trump took the Fifth a few weeks ago, for those who missed it.
In a state controlled by oil interests like Alaska, it is likely inconvenient to point out that the oil industry is on the dole - "24 States Share 560 million from Feds for High Priority Cleanup of Abandoned Oil and Gas wells" (ADN). The same people that complain about giving college students a break on student loans never say a word about handouts to big business.
Finally some election thoughts. Several elections recently indicate that the anticipated red wave for the midterms may not happen, and there are two major reasons for that. First is Trump. His influence is still effective in winning primary elections within his party, but in general elections he scares too many moderates, especially because he supports flawed candidates like Sarah Palin in Alaska and Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania.
Add to that the abortion decision that has awakened many voters to the notion that electing right wing candidates can lead to bad results, and we have a vote like Alaska where voters picked a little known Bethel person over Palin even after a crazed Trump rally for Palin. Alaska is a red state and Mary Peltola’s win has folks taking notice around the country. Quickly Republican candidates have modified their positions on abortion and election denial for fear of losing otherwise winnable seats in November. Thankfully good campaigners have all those statements carefully preserved and they will show up in campaign ads soon. It makes for a pretty good debate question. “Didn’t you support a total abortion ban until two months ago? Here’s a screenshot of your website in case you forgot.”
As for Mary Peltola, the Kuskokwim 300 race in Bethel is proud of the fact that she took part in a 30 mile kids race about 35 years ago, racing against Dolly Angstman and others. Any one with pictures of that event is encouraged to send them to ALO news where they will be used for the September news.