May was split between Minnesota and Alaska, to get an early start on the float plane season in Alaska. That plan was thwarted by an engine overhaul which took forever. It started with a flight to Anchorage in early October, and finally ended with a flight back to Bethel in early June. You would think for as much money as they charge, folks who do overhauls would try to turn them out rapidly as possible. In this case they had the engine from October until April before even starting on the work.
Once back in Bethel, a quick trip to the cabin was planned for the next day and this sight was the rather rude greeting.
Immense spring snow reaching upwards of 10 feet deep collapsed the recently built shed into a pile of rubble, damaging many of the items stored inside as well. Having a remote camp that really can’t be reached in the winter without great effort can be a huge challenge, but the view off the front deck makes it all worthwhile.
Legal work never really ends at ALO. Trips away from the main office in Bethel are not really trips away from the cases that keep ALO running. Two significant cases were settled in May, including a major case against the State of Alaska. An ALO client was being held at the state jail in Seward, and became ill. He was seen at the jail medical facility but little was done. He situation got worse so that he wasn’t able to walk. Eventually he became partially paralyzed and was taken to a hospital. There it was learned that he had a serious infection that was immediately treated with antibiotics which stopped the infection in his spinal cord. But the damage was done and he remained partially paralyzed, which was determined to be a permanent issue. This case featured one unusual event. The state hired a pair of experts to study the case and prepare an Independent Medical Evaluation, which is routine for the defense of injury cases. Almost always the IME comes back favorable to the side paying for the report. In this case the report came back critical of the jail for its failure to provide basic medical care to the victim. With that report in hand, the State was eager to settle. To read more about the facts of this extraordinary case, read this Anchorage newspaper article.
The other case which settled involved a young girl who broke her arm at a decrepit playground in Bethel, requiring two operations to repair, and leaving her with ongoing pain. The out of state lawyers representing the defendant had hopes of keeping the damages down at trial until they met and questioned the young girl in a deposition. She was a star witness and settlement happened soon after.
One milestone was reached at ALO. A decision was made that no new criminal cases will be handled once the current cases are resolved. This ends 45 years of criminal defense work in rural Alaska. There were about 200 criminal trials during that time, mostly acquittals with some painful losses thrown in. Some of the cases were rural Alaska classics with fact patterns that would not likely happen elsewhere. Stay tuned here for an occasional recall of the best ones. ALO criminal clients probably didn’t have the smartest or best prepared lawyer on their side during all those years. They certainly didn’t have the best dressed. But few if any ever complained that their lawyer lacked passion for their case or backed down from a good fight. And when it came time for final argument, jurors were never bored. One woman juror in a recent case explained why she couldn’t remain on the jury. She told the judge she had urgent work as a nurse at the hospital, and also said she thought she would be biased for the defendant because his lawyer made her laugh. Keeping the jury entertained has always been a goal and in a close case it sometimes is enough to win. It gets harder every year to summon the energy and passion required to win. Trial is a draining experience and at age 71 battles have to be more carefully selected. Civil cases usually involve less stress, mainly because there is no jail time at stake and most of them settle before trial. So at this point, for criminal cases, the defense rests.
Another milestone is coming as well. The Elk Farm will be raising its last group of calves this summer. The herd will be dispersed over the next year or two depending on the market. New regulations regarding the industry are making it increasingly difficult to keep elk. The most recent change was a double gating rule. Each existing gate must have a second gate installed a few feet inside so that there is less chance for an accidental escape. That sounds simple enough but it is very expensive in that extra fencing must be done as well. Fencing it high tensile 8 foot wire, and the elk farm has several gates. Farming has always been a break even proposition at the Elk Farm and more fencing expense doesn’t figure in that plan. Raising elk has been an enjoyable part time pursuit for over 25 years. Arrangements are being made to allow Elk Farm customers to continue to obtain high quality meat from another farm in the future.
Regular readers of this page will remember a discussion of a pink suit that was part of the wardrobe for little Myron back in the 50’s. Sister Velma found an old slide that featured the Angstman family gathered for her wedding in 1956, and sure enough there is the pink suit, proudly displayed by a little farm kid who didn’t know any better. That's Uncle Jack on the far left, famous for the "Merry Christmas forever" line. Sister Harriet can't keep her hands of the pink suit, and Mom and Dad are next.
But then it was discovered that all the cool guys wore pink suits back then.
Speaking of cool guys, several of the Angstman boys from an earlier generation appear in this photo of District 31 school which still stands near the Elk Farm. Pictured are Dad, Uncles Jack, Ralph and George. This was in the early 1900’s. Dad’s career as a student ended in fourth grade at this school. His youngest kid attended first grade there in the early fifties, the last year the school was open.
Andy and Liz moved into their new little house high on the Anchorage hillside. It is very near the state park boundary and one of the many trails that access the park. This photo shows the mountains that grace their backyard, and coincidentally the little girl who graces their living room.
The Innoko River figures prominently in Angstman family lore. It has been the destination for significant adventure including hunting, fishing and dog racing. It ends about 100 miles north of Bethel where it joins the Yukon River. Despite being about 500 miles long, it has only one village on it and that place is shrinking. This article describes it well. Racing a team of dogs through the Innoko region in the middle of the winter in the 1979 Iditarod brought new meaning to the term solitude. Even today a fishing trip to the Innoko rarely involves seeing anyone, or even any sign of anyone having been there recently. Knee deep mud on the bank both discourages visitors, and makes it readily apparent when they have been there. Almost every beach has tracks of bear, moose and wolf, but no people. The 64 inch moose rack that graces the outside of ALO was taken there in the 70’s. The Innoko is wild country.
Spring is baby moose season and there are some good shots that make this month’s mandatory moose list. Few creatures match a baby moose for charm. These two photos are prime examples. And bears have babies too.
Despite those wonderful shots of wildlife, things are not well with Mother Nature. Large die offs of marine wildlife in Alaska are reported regularly, suggested something is amiss in the ocean. Lack of food is the most likely explanation. Ocean warming is one possible cause, but scientists are looking closely as a variety of species show up on the beaches in alarming numbers. It's not just Alaska, as this story shows. Meanwhile our government discards environmental rules as if the environment needs no protection. Not all people will police themselves when it comes to the environment. When it comes to making money, companies often overlook the cost to Mother Nature. The world crisis created by humans fouling their nest is exploding. Meanwhile the US pretends it doesn’t exist.
Mother Nature still looks pretty good from a distance. This shot taken by Greg Lincoln in Bethel at 12:02 am on June 2nd is splendid.