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  • Writer's pictureMyron Angstman

March 2020

After more than a month in isolation, its time to write a few things down.  ALO is mostly shut down, and the isolation is carried on at two locations, with the house and office a short 30 yard walk apart.  Some modest legal work is done, the phone is answered, and a few emails are exchanged.  The highlight of every day has been five miles of walking, in two installments with Jack.

ALO managed to settle one case during the lock down.  A bad piece of flying at a nearby village resulted in bumps and bruises for four ALO clients, including two children, The case settled without the need to file suit.  It is worth noting that the air carrier involved was not Ravn, which recently filed for bankruptcy.   When Ravn settles cases , the company always demands that the settlement remain confidential so as not to harm their reputation.  One wonders what a bankruptcy will do for their reputation? 

It is clear that the shelter at home factor in this pandemic has brought out some trends that are not all that bad.  One is an increase in writing of original stuff and posting online. Another is a tendency toward nostalgia in online posting.  With that trend, a trip back to the 70s in Bethel seems in order.  The Angstmans came to Bethel in 1974, to set up the first Public Defender office.  That was a tall order because there was no supervision, no available offices, no available housing and a young unlicensed lawyer without a clue in a wild outpost town.  But there were cases, lots of cases.  First on the agenda was a murder case that had been brewing for a while and was ready for trial that fall.  It would be handled by an Anchorage public defender Ben Esch, who later became judge in Nome.  Ben of course was supposed to use this trial as an opportunity to enlighten the new guy on the fine art of trying a case.  It was also expected that the new guy would offer some assistance during the trial, which perhaps could best be accomplished by staying out of the way.

The facts were gruesome.  A young man in a Yukon river village bludgeoned his elderly mother to death, then donned a pair of homemade snowshoes and walked several miles down the frozen river to the family’s fish camp to await his fate.  When the troopers arrived in the village most everyone knew what had happened and told the cops where to find the suspect before they got in their ski plane to track him down.  The testimony at trial made it seem more like detective action, as the witness described checking the snowshoe tracks at the house and following them to the river.  He noted that there appeared to be fresh snowshoe tracks headed south.  After becoming airborne, the witness said it was easy to follow the large tracks, the only marks on an untraveled portion of the river.    In a few minutes the tracks left the river and disappeared at the front of the fish camp, a small cabin used mainly in the summer by people catching and preparing salmon for storage. There leaning against the cabin was a large pair of snowshoes.

The troopers landed on the river and approached cautiously.  With guns drawn they ordered the suspect out of the cabin, he complied, and he immediately confessed.  Obviously this would be a tough trial to win.

The defense was based on insanity, and that seemed like a viable position to take.  The defendant was unable to establish any reason for killing his mom, and expressed his love for her.  The experts for each side disagreed on the extent of his mental issues and the jury convicted him. He got a very long sentence,

Years later after an appeal the troopers were attempting to clean out their evidence room, and the snowshoes they seized and used at trial were taking up lots of space.  They contacted the remaining family and there was no interest in recovering them.  By then the troopers knew much about the resident public defender and recognized that he was an avid outdoor person, so invited him to take the snowshoes off their hands.  They have hung high on the wall at ALO since that day.

Like many Native crafts these homemade items are becoming rare as fewer folks use them and even fewer know how to make them. That article is from many years ago, so today there may be no one actually making these items. Former Dog Farm helper James Nicholas knew how to make them before his death five years ago, and there is still some of his special birch in the barn that he used for sleds and for carving. Speaking of nostalgia, mentioning James brings back countless memories. Read this account for some idea of the place he held at ALO.

Son-in-law Ben wrote this nice piece to pass time in isolation. Isolation causes many different reactions in family groups.  This cute kid has a quite common reaction.

This month’s mandatory moose is actually a screen shot of 13 moose captured in a video by Mark Schwantes, who spends a fair amount of time in the area around the Angstman cabin. It is very rare to see that many moose in a bunch. 

Other animals also  made the cut.  Here is a squirrel having a good time. And a couple of lynx avoiding corona virus. These caribou sort of define the phrase “hunker down”.

There are also  cartoons that must be seen. Here is a current take on American Gothic.

This one posted by Conor Roddy asks the age old question human lives or money?

Of course, a new twist on poker.

And a final cartoon for folks who read a lot. Why is it that the book guy is usually depicted as a wimp?

March usually wraps up the basketball season but this year’s action was ended early.  A couple of Angstman relatives had some noteworthy success.  In Vermont,  Cousin Baker Angstman was shooting around 65% for the season on three pointers during his high school senior year, after this amazing game.

In Minnesota Cousin Michael Angstman shot about 50% for the season from long range, and his  Princeton team qualified for the state tourney before it was canceled.  He gets another chance next year. Incidentally, the national average percentage among college three point shooters is about 37 percent, and the all time career leader shot 43.5 percent.

Dog  racing ended early in Alaska and  faces an uncertain future with funding being a major issue. This article from 2013 about the Iditarod is worth reading for a flavor of what racing is all about in Alaska. The title is catchy--"A lot of Ways to Die." Here is another short video from Mark Schwantes exploring some of the spectacular country in the area of the Angstman cabin. Mark has been kind enough to allow his photos and videos to be used frequently here, and folks should check them out for free before he figures out a way to charge for them.

For the first year in a long time, there will be no spring trip to the Minnesota farm.  Neighbors have been posting videos of wildlife from Long Pond to celebrate spring, and nephew Eric Gruhlke sent a list of 50 birds spotted on a recent walk around the farm. This video is a creative effort to go skiing when trapped at home.   And finally, here is what the roads look like in Bethel,  which makes it easier to stay at home.


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