Bethel is in a short deep freeze with lots of snow, (photo by Sunset Woods) as the 40th annual Kuskokwim 300 approaches. This delightful change in the typical conditions for the race may not last but it is interesting to note reactions to a little cold weather here and around the state. Even when the race started in 1980, old folks would note that the weather had changed since their early days, with less snow and cold weather. That fact was borne out by the weather records, but from that time until now things have gone bonkers in Alaska, and the race has been a good reflection of that. The incidence of icy runs has certainly increased, and the number of really cold runs has decreased. Not too long ago, long stretches of below zero weather were common, and 20 below was a regular event. Now Bethel folks post on Facebook if it reaches -20. It has been noted frequently that Alaska is far more affected by global warming than more temperate regions of the US. This article discusses that point. And with carbon dioxide emissions sharply increased this year under relaxed government regulations, that situation will become more of a problem soon.
ALO settled two cases in December. One involved a prisoner in a state jail who was assaulted by another prisoner. That normally would not be a legal case against the state, but it is often shown that the state allowed a dangerous situation to persist and thus created an unreasonable risk for other inmates who have no real protection. ALO has handled many such cases over the years, and there are two more pending right now.
The other settlement might be a real money maker for ALO. Sunset attends school at a state boarding school in Sitka. From her summer earnings she decided she wanted a new hair style known as an ombre. She was quoted a price of $140. Six hours later she left with this and a bill for $200. It was supposed to look like this . A phone call to the hairdresser went nowhere but a terse letter demanding $100 back produced quick results. Usually such letters leaving ALO have a few more zeros on the end of the demand, but the client was happy. Terms of her fee have yet to be resolved.
It is clear that political discussions have changed tone in recent years. Things that were not normally part of such discussions now seem common place. And political reporting is often confused with political commentary so that a listener can't be sure which is which. And then of course there is the issue of fake news. In order to really be safe from all of the above, it sometimes is important to go directly to the source, with direct quotes that can't be challenged as fake. This very short video explains it all. The country is in good hands, actually the best hands. Modest ones, too.
Of course Sunset wins the mandatory moose photo contest for this month with the photo above, but this video widely viewed in Alaska might be of some interest to folks elsewhere. It was taken in an Anchorage hospital lobby. Speaking of moose, some folks apparently follow them around to make money.. Former Bethel person Glenda Bach posted this grizzly bear photo that is worth looking at. The caption suggested that the bear spotted the trail cam and was posing.
On the farm in Minnesota, many of the former cropped fields have been converted to native prairie grass. There are numerous goals, mostly involving wildlife habitat, but this short article and photo demonstrate the difference between prairie grass and farm crops when it comes to ecology. It is very hard to kill prairie grass once established. It can survive drought, fire and floods. It has made the farm into a haven for wildlife.
Choosing words for this page is always a challenge, and this explains why. How does anyone learn this language?
One of the painful facts about growing old is the very frequent passing of folks who have been part of one's life for a long time. These last couple of years have certainly brought that home, and recent days were no exception. A hard task every day is to find out who might not have survived the night. The other day it was long time friend Cornell Runestad. Cornell was one of those people that was around in the early days in Minnesota and later showed up in Alaska. In addition to directing choirs which contained a few Angstman family members, he spent some time hunting on the Princeton farm. He later hunted deer with the Angstmans in northern Minnesota and finally it was moose and caribou in Alaska. Naturally there are a couple of stories. On one hunting trip to Alaska, he and his partner Roger Bohm were after caribou. On one cold windy September afternoon they head back to camp in late afternoon while others were still patrolling the tundra. It was possible to see them descend the hill into camp, but the tent was tucked against the hill and not visible from the top of the hill. About a half hour later a herd of 200 caribou appeared and was headed right for the camp, which was on a small bay of Heart Lake. The caribou traveled in typical herd fashion, a steady forward march about 3-5 caribou wide, and about ¼ mile long. After going down the hill, they went on the opposite beach of the camp bay, about 200 yards from the tent. It was the largest herd the hunting party had ever seen on the ground, and it was a thrilling sight. Those watching from the hill waited for shots to ring out. None did. After returning to camp, it was determined that Roger and Cornell, after returning to camp, elected to go in the tent with their brandy and perhaps warm up a bit. With the brisk wind they never heard the caribou banging rocks on the beach, and missed the highlight of the trip. They later harvested caribou, but also took quite some abuse for their cocktail hour.
When Cornell directed choir at Concordia College, he ran a tight ship. When rehearsal started, everyone was expected to be ready as he walked in. One day he came in, took his spot directly in front of the choir, raised his hands and revealed that his fly was wide open. The action of directing only enhanced that situation. The choir was distracted, to say the least. He stopped the song to tell everyone to pay attention. Well, they sort of were paying attention, just not in the right place. It was left to the only member of the choir who was a buddy of the director to take action. A quick departure was made from the rear of the rehearsal hall. A plea was made to the receptionist to interrupt the rehearsal with an intercom call. Cornell was met in the hallway with the news. He disappeared for a few minutes to compose himself and returned to rehearsal with a somewhat sheepish grin and a well received speech. He was reminded of that slip up frequently.
In his later years Cornell suffered a form of stroke that left him totally blind in one eye, with less than 5 percent vision in the other. This happened in mid summer and he already had planned a trip to hunting camp that fall. He called with the bad news. He was convinced to come anyway. At camp this conversation happened.
"Can you see the fire?" "Yep" "Can you feel the wind" "Yep" "Can you see the sun go down behind the mountains?" "Yep" "Can you see the moon come up over the mountains" "Yep" "Do you have to trudge back to camp carrying caribou?' "Nope" "Then you got it made"
At camp he told the story of his first walk around his neighborhood after his eyesight diminished. He strolled to the corner and saw a hefty guy standing near the corner and greeted him. No answer. He greeted him again. Still no answer. He moved closer and discovered he was greeting a postal drop box.
When he was delivered to the airport after that trip, it was obvious to all that he had completed his last trip to Alaska, a place he cherished. As he left he said "You were right, I had it made".
Happy trails, Cornell.