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  • Writer's pictureMyron

May 2020

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

As Covid-19 marches on worldwide, the easing of restrictions in Alaska has resulted in an increase of positive cases, including in the Bethel area. That hasn’t changed the daily routine at ALO where direct contact is limited to mainly family members and one goofy dog. A few escapes to the mountain cabin provided a pleasant change of pace and unmatched Covid safety with the one closest person located 15 miles away. He is the caretaker at Tikchik Narrows Lodge which is not open this summer. He was surprised to see two Angstman boats arrive with grandkids and a dog, but was happy to chat a bit after being alone at the lodge since September. Here is a sample of the spectacular fishing experienced during these early visits. As always the location and guide’s name are secret, but rest assured both are easy on the eyes. The first two are lake trout, and the rest are dolly varden, with the two largest at 12 pounds.

ALO - Case Updates

A couple of significant civil cases concluded recently. The last stage of a car accident case in the Palmer area ended when the injured ALO client settled with her own underinsured motorist carrier for policy limits. That made three separate settlements for the driver deriving from an accident with a rental vehicle that was operated by a drunk driver who was killed in the crash. Of special note in that case, the ALO client was initially charged with a homicide for causing the crash, but excellent legal work by Palmer attorney Josh Fannon cleared her of that charge and revealed that the deceased driver was at fault, leading to the settlements. ALO has worked successfully with Josh on several recent cases, and there are more in the works.

The other case which resolved was a wrongful death case that resulted from a drowning in a Yukon Delta area village. A young man working on a barge used for receiving fish fell off a ladder while climbing to the top of the boat’s cabin. Crew members heard the splash but were unable to assist the man when they saw him struggling in the water next to the boat. The deceased man lived with his elderly parents and supported them. The picture below was a key to the settlement. It shows the ladder with a couple of life rings located nearby. It was determined early on that there were no life rings present at the time of the drowning, but were added shortly after the accident. The case was settled without litigation.

Mandatory Moose & Other Critters

This month’s mandatory moose is a hot weather scene. This mama moose found a sprinkler in Anchorage and made her babies wait while she took advantage of the cooling shower.

This bear maybe likes golfing.

This photo by Dave Cannon shows a huge grizzly on the Aniak River. That animal apparently slept well last winter. Dave is a high-grade photographer who posts many shots from the Aniak area.

Photo by Dave Cannon

Ernie Baumgartner - Happy Trails (1942-2020)

Another old time dog racer left the scene recently. Ernie Baumgartner was an Iditarod racer in the early years, and also took part in the Kuskokwim 300 in the early 80’s. Most have forgotten about his involvement in the 1983 race, which featured the second closest finish in long distance race history. Ernie was the race marshal in that race, and was called upon to make the call at the finish line when the world’s most famous dog racer George Attla declared immediately upon finishing second that the first place winner had “broken every rule in the book.” George was advised to take it up with the race marshal, who was standing a few feet away. They huddled for a few minutes and Ernie emerged to announce that no rule had been broken. Attla stormed out of the area, and left town before the award ceremony, but not before the winner’s mother-in-law Marcie Gruhlke wagged a finger in his face and declared that he was just a sore loser. Ernie was a well-respected person in Alaska. He once mushed his team all the way from his home in McGrath to Bethel to race, covering several hundred miles of river with not much broken trail. You called it right Ernie, you always did. Happy Trails!

Ernie at the 1982 Iditarod Restart with his daughter Tammy in the sled – Photo by Frank Flavin

Race Issues Sweeping the Country

After 45 years of practice in Alaska courts it is hard not to comment on the race issues currently sweeping the country. There have been countless cases at ALO where race played a role in the outcome. The worst example was in the 70’s in the Bethel court. At the time bootlegging was a common crime and the Bethel city police would make busts of various types on sellers, most often some guy who sold a few bottles to pay for the bottles he drank. It was a misdemeanor offense, and often resulted in a sentence of 10 days or less. A repeat offender could expect 30 to 60 days. Local Native folks often got the lighter end of that range, and the occasional Gussuk (White guy) that got caught would typically get the heavier end. That was justified by the notion that the White guy was exploiting his Native customers with alcohol issues. But the one time when a Black guy got busted, a unique situation developed. On that day, three men were sentenced for bootlegging. Two were Native, and got typically modest sentences. But the local judge, a Native person, sentenced the Black fellow to the maximum one year in jail. He immediately called ALO for help. A sentence appeal was filed, and before bail could be arranged, he had already served a couple of weeks. Eventually the sentence was vacated and the case was sent back for re-sentencing in front of a different judge, this time from Anchorage. The judge was a former public defender and well acquainted with defense counsel. He had a reputation as a very fair judge.

The hearing was quite involved and well attended. The District Attorney was under some pressure to justify the long sentence so as not to embarrass the local judge any more than had already happened. But the defense lawyer had quite a bit to work with, needless to say. It was assumed that promoting a rather stiff 30 day sentence for this first offender would be well received by the judge. It wasn’t. He sentenced the man to 4 months in jail. It seems the judge recognized the facial expression of displeasure on defense counsel’s face as the defendant left the court room. Later that same day, for the first and only time in a 45 year career, the judge found a phony reason to call the unhappy lawyer into chambers and apologize for the sentence – “There was a lot of pressure to make it appear the first sentence was not so far off the mark,” the judge said.

That is the worst of many situations where race played a significant role. Not many criminal defense lawyers would suggest otherwise. ALO has also handled many civil suits for police misconduct, and those too involve a lot of racial situations. It is a simple fact that white folks have a better chance of a positive outcome when dealing with police and courts. This fact has been raised throughout America’s history, but recent events reveal that a greater number of people are noticing and agreeing. Videotaped police contacts have made it obvious to many who previously would have doubted that police sometimes act badly.

There are a fair number of races represented in the extended Angstman clan, so racists are not tolerated. The one thing that is rapidly changing is the response to subtle racism. The American trend is toward speaking out against racism when it is encountered rather than walking away. That policy seems to fit here at ALO, so be warned.

Mother Nature

Finally the environment. Mother Nature is a favored topic here, and preservation of what remains is a priority. The degradation of the environment that has happened in the past 50 years is breathtaking. That has happened with many successful environmental rules in place. And then along came Trump. He has already eliminated 66 such rules, and is trying to gut 34 more at this time – “The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List."

The richest one percent of our population love him for cutting their taxes and for making it easier for them to trash the planet to make more money. And they are funding his campaign. It’s a disgusting display, and one that should offend anyone who values the outdoors. Unfortunately fewer people get outside to enjoy nature, and they don’t care. Still a heavy majority favors strong laws to protect the environment, yet they don’t seem to notice when those laws get voided.

Speaking of Mother Nature, here is the best display of the Alaska state flower Forget-me-not observed in a long time, located near the Angstman cabin,


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