Last month featured cops who behaved badly, so this month the focus should be on the many cops who do it right. One such officer was Paul Bartlett, a trooper who served in Bethel during the 1970's. He had reason to encounter the Evan brothers from Stoney River from time to time, and took one opportunity to stage this picture in front of the Bethel jail.
Pictured are four members of the Evan family from Stoney River with Trooper Paul Bartlett taken in the 1970's. Elya, Wassillie, Paul Bartlett, Evan and Deacon. Special thanks to Roxanne Evan for sharing the photo with ALO
The picture captures much of the flavor of the Kuskokwim from that era, a flavor that for the most part is now long gone.
The picture shows a trooper who had many dealings with the Evan family, obviously not always pleasant. Despite that he had enough appreciation for the brothers to have his picture taken with them. They appear as they were a colorful, handsome, capable group of young men who truly grew up in the woods. All four spent most of their early years at Deacon's Landing on the Kuskokwim, their grandfather's spread. Their family was among the last in the area to abandon the migratory pattern of living that existed in all of Alaska at one time, when groups went where food was available in each season. The formation of the village of Stoney River roughly coincided with that change, and that happened in the 60's when the government started a post office and school there. But the Evans only partially accepted that change. They spent much of their time at the Landing, and their lifestyle was closer to the eras that went before them than they were to the modern era.
Several hunting trips with the brothers, especially their leader Evan, proved to be an enlightening glimpse into an earlier life style. Hunting often started at dusk and lasted much of the night. Moose calling was the preferred method. Camping was spartan, but always included a giant campfire. The sheer joy of wilderness freedom was obvious
The brothers have not fared well over the years. Evan died first, on his return from a hunting trip with Myron, when he fell in the Kuskokwim. Wassillie shared a similar fate. Elya, who is pictured elsewhere on this site as one of the builders at the Angstman cabin in the mountains, died of a heart attack recently. Deacon is currently in jail, where he has spent much of his adult life. Alcohol figured high on the list of problems for each brother. When sober, they really had no match in the bush. Powerfully built, tireless, and smart, they could tackle any job that involved hand skills. Three of them worked on the log building that now houses ALO. In addition to those traits, they all shared engaging personalities that shine through in the photo. No one ever said they were dull or uninteresting. A full recitation of the Evan brother's stories would take too long for this forum. One classic involved Wassillie, on trial for shooting into a cabin door in Stoney. At the trial the trooper introduced the actual door taken from the cabin, where he had circled in red the three bullet holes allegedly placed there by Wassillie. A closer inspection of the door during a break in the testimony, which hadn't been done by the lame defense lawyer before trial, revealed about 60 other holes, which all appeared similar to the circled holes. The trooper was asked if they indeed were all bullet holes. He said they were. "How did you decide which ones to circle?" His answer, "They were the only fresh ones" Wassillie won that case.
Break-up on the Kuskokwim is always a big event because of the dramatic change is brings to the lives of everyone along the river. This year the drama was increased when a massive flood appeared suddenly at Crooked Creek in a year when no major flooding was predicted. In fact, most of the rest of the river had almost no flooding which is unusual. But Crooked Creek got nailed with its biggest flood in memory. Several houses were ruined, and many had to evacuate the village.
Good weather in May allowed a few airplane outings. The most interesting was a trip to Flat, an abandoned gold rush town near another ghost town of Iditarod, which is a checkpoint on the race trail. Flat still has many houses standing, although they are fading fast. Compared to a trip there in the 70's, more than half the dwellings have disappeared. It's still an interesting tour.
The death of Harmon Killebrew called for recollection of how things used to be in sports. Harmon was an actual gentleman, on and off the field, who reportedly complimented umpires when he thought they got a close call right. He was the first real baseball hero for the Twins, and his towering homeruns are still talked about in Minnesota. Two foul balls caught from his bat in the same game somehow got misplaced, but would be keepsakes now. His top salary came after he hit 49 home runs in a season. He got $100,000.
Finally, life is not always fair, even for a dog.