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  • Writer's pictureMyron Angstman

January 2020

A continued cold weather phase has given Bethel a winter like was common  in the 1970’s and 80’s, but very unlike recent years.  It has been consistently below zero, and some days the wind has made it uncomfortable.  A decision to help a rookie musher train a small team

of dogs has resulted in a lot more outdoor time and it has been rewarding even in the cold.   A young woman named Twyla Elhardt is an emergency room nurse in Bethel and works a schedule that allows her enough time to care for and train 8 dogs.  She started this past fall without much guidance.  She has done remarkably well, and took part in her first race last week.   Look out Pete Kaiser.

Speaking of Pete, the US census bureau sent a photographer from far away to take his picture for a promotional effort, making it into a poster. They neglected to identify him which causes one to wonder why they would fly all the way to Bethel when a similar picture could be taken anywhere.  The caption should read “Iditarod champion Pete Kaiser trains near Bethel, Alaska” but instead people seeing the poster, which is widely circulated, are left to wonder who is pictured.  This year’s census begins in Western Alaska. ALO is proud that the first person to be counted is a former client, Lizzy Chimiuqak of Toksook Bay.  Her picture has been featured in many places since her selection for that honor, and with good reason.

Being outside more has resulted in a bunch of moose sightings.  One day just north of Bethel eight moose were flushed from a very small thicket.  The following day in a different area, six were spotted very close to town and they seemed to be different ones based on sizes and antlers.  The final sighting  was the best.   Coming off the river into a patch of willows there was a close encounter with a cow and calf munching twigs about 30 feet ahead of the snow machine.  They turned their heads slowly to check the intrusion, and then went back to eating without concern. Five more minutes of watching didn’t bother them at all.  The large number of moose in the area is a dramatic and welcome change.

With the moose come wolves, and many locals would like to eliminate the wolves based on some misguided belief that humans have more right to harvest moose than wolves do.  The dramatic growth in moose numbers in the area came about because the moose hunting season was closed for a number of years.  No one told the wolves to stop eating moose during that time, yet the moose population exploded. The notion that hunters with high powered snow machines and rifles should control the wolf population instead of Mother Nature is ridiculous. Wolves will outlast humans on this planet.

ALO settled two cases recently.  One involved a medical malpractice case for a family in south central Alaska.  A young married man with recent surgery to repair a broken leg went to a doctor complaining of several issues a few weeks later. Some of those issues were symptoms of a possible blood clot.  He also told the doctor that his family had a history of blood clots. Despite being very ill, the doctor sent him home with pain meds.  He died the next morning when a blood clot reached his lungs.  The claim settled for policy limits without filing suit. The other settlement involved a gash to the face of a  client suffered  at a local business in Bethel which settled for a modest amount.

On the subject of local businesses in Bethel, long time friend of ALO Jessica Klejka recently took over the local vet clinic. Jessica has been involved in dog mushing here since she was a young girl, and her return  here is a wonderful success story for the community.   She is saddled by huge debts from educational loans, but she is one of a dwindling number of independent vets in Alaska.  Large organizations have bought up many of the clinics but Jessica will provide personal care for animals in this area with no corporate involvement.  She has loved animals her whole life.

The Kuskokwim 300 pulled off a successful event in January, with some of the best race conditions in many years.  It was the 41st running of the race, and Pete Kaiser won for the fifth time.  Once again the folks who run the Sports Hall of Fame failed to select the race for inclusion in its sporting events category.  Having been involved with the race since 1979, it is easy to suggest there is some bias here in favor of inclusion.  But take a look at the facts.  Here are the current Hall of Fame events. Added this year was a boat race on the Yukon River called the Yukon 800 with under ten entrants.  The 300 has grown from a single small event in 1980, with a purse of $10,000, to a multi-event organization paying upwards of $400,000 a year in prize money.  Of the Hall of Fame events only the Iditarod pays more and not by that much.  While many dog races are struggling to stay alive, the K300 has boomed in recent years. It now features eight paying events with more than 50 mushers. Hundreds volunteer to help and it is all put together by one paid manager.  That a small town like Bethel can pull this off is amazing.    The Hall of Fame has no one on its selection committee from rural Alaska and it shows.

One of  the K300 events  is the Akiak Dash.  The start is quite the sight. This is another type of dog sledding. This is the best squirrel device yet. Lamont Albertson always supplies some good stuff. Here is a duck video worth watching.   And this cartoon points to an important historical mistake.

Finally from Lamont is this horse cartoon.

It has been really cold in northern Alaska recently, and Pam Redington posted this photo from an outhouse that might cause some to gasp.

Bud Smyth was an early mushing friend who recently passed away. To say he was a colorful man hardly suffices. Every encounter with him created a new story or two, but this one from the Iditarod in 1979 sticks out.  Bud was running a half wolf dog in his team, and mentioned several times that the wolf was acting up at times, causing him some concern.  He needed the wolf in his team cause he was down to only five dogs early in the race. He always cautioned other racers to give the wolf plenty of space.  That was hard to do when passing in deep snow.  Seeing Bud stopped just ahead on the trail meant such a pass was coming up.  As the dogs slowly struggled to pass in the deep snow off the trail, it was hard to miss that wolf had a firm grip on Bud’s forearm.  A quick offer to help was made.  “Don’t even think of stopping. I’ve been like this for 10 minutes and if you stop he will go crazy,” Bud warned.  It wasn’t till later that Bud related that the stand off lasted about a half hour leaving a couple of deep wounds in his forearm.  He wrapped his arm in  a spare sock until he found a vet to give him some dog meds. In that era it was not uncommon for mushers to get much of their medical care that way. Bud rubbed on some dog salve, wrapped his arm in gauze and tape and headed for Nome. There are few people in the world like Bud. His obituary barely begins to tell his story. It was a pleasure to race with him. Happy Trails Bud.

Another musher from that era,Shelley Gill, keeps folks informed about important issues on social media and other outlets. She has studied whales extensively.  This article is informative and scary.

Rush Limbaugh has never impressed the folks around ALO.  His rhetoric on the radio is  much to blame for our current state of political chaos. He was one of the first to make it possible to be open about racism and sexism, making lots of money doing it.  If there is any doubt, read these quotes which are a fraction of the many he has spewed. The fact that our president honored him with an award meant to recognize someone who has made meritorious contributions to our country is absurd.

And finally this item.  There have been mentions of attorney advertising in previous editions of ALO news. Most such references have expressed that ALO prefers not to read a bunch of lawyer ads, the same view held by most members of the public.  Many such ads are tasteless.  This one might have set a new standard. 

This ad appeared on Bethel area Facebook pages before the five bodies had been recovered from a horrible plane crash near Bethel.   From the comments sent to ALO by folks seeing the ad, it wasn’t well received.


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