An unusually dry and sunny May greeted the returning Angstman family after a cool, wet and windy visit to the farm in Minnesota. There were still signs of last year’s dry weather upon arrival in Minnesota, including the sparse growth of native prairie grass in several fields that are normally thick with grass, but that started to dissipate with frequent rain. Ponds that were nearly empty since last year started to fill up, and wildlife was abundant. The Angstmans have occupied that farm since 1904 and it is safe to say there are record numbers of some critters now on the farm. They include Sandhill cranes, turkeys, geese and deer. For example, a flock of 35 cranes hung around the farm much of May, and a herd of 40 deer was seen one evening in a field. A group of 20 turkeys surrounded the house one day, and geese were loud and numerous in every pond. Here’s some proof. (Note the contest for food in the video.)
Some of the rain came in the form of early season thunderstorms. One produced hail that got quite large. Cousin Scott Angstman collected these hailstones, which seem like they could cause some damage if they bounced off your head.
Return to Alaska
Returning to Alaska, the lack of darkness is always a surprise at this time of year after a few weeks on the farm. Day after day of clear skies and comfortable temperatures makes it easy to get out for the required 5 miles of walking. On a recent stroll around the park strip, this unique camper was parked on the street, obviously a self-contained living unit. The guy posts his adventures regularly on YouTube under the title Truck House Life.
Last year a Montana guy named Sam Foley visited Bethel to see Ben and Sarah, and spent some time at the cabin with Jack the dog. He seemed to like Jack a bit, and proved it recently by sharing this photo of his new dog Hazel. He went looking for a dog that looked like Jack, and he was successful.
Speaking of dogs, this dog gets some kind of award for ingenuity.
Domestication & Cartoons
Mike and Jill Hoffman visited the Angstmans at home in Anchorage recently, and Mike was heard to say that it looked like his old Bethel buddy was becoming “domesticated.” The opposite of domesticated is feral, and it would seem likely that Mike meant his pal was feral during his Bethel days. That seems like a fairly accurate description. Surviving until age 74 without becoming domesticated should be a goal for everyone. Here's a Far Side cartoon that addresses that very subject.
This is a month full of cartoons, and some good ones. Everyone is aware of online chat rooms, here is the original form.
Here’s the famous Swiss Army rock.
You all have heard the message “your call is important to me”. If it is that damn important, then answer. Here’s the real message.
And the elephant breeding grounds have finally been found.
Front & Center
The gun issue is front and center once again. It never really goes away but it does flare up when a lot of kids die in a school. More and more people recognize that doing nothing about guns is the same as saying dead school kids are acceptable in America. There is a simple reason for the excessive gun violence in this nation, an excessive number of guns, and especially an excessive number of weapons with high shot capacity that are easily obtained. Those weapons are mostly of recent vintage, and are most often used in the mass killings. How did things get so out of hand? It can be traced to Supreme Court decisions from 50 or more years ago that decided the Second Amendment limited the government’s ability to regulate private gun ownership. Those decisions were wrong then and they still are. The Second Amendment says this:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
For about the first 175 years it was never suggested that those words stopped the government from regulating private gun ownership. Instead it was believed the amendment meant the government couldn’t prevent well regulated militias from being armed. The key words there are well regulated militias. Even back then, the drafters were aware that poorly regulated militias would not be acceptable and should be controlled. The Supreme Court completely ignored that reasoning and decided for purely political reasons that the Second Amendment applied to all gun ownership, and all hell broke loose. Now we have lots of armed militia organizations, including secret ones, and many more individuals with the same mindset. At this point, most everyone in America can own as many weapons of any type as they can afford. There are so many weapons around that effective gun control has become almost impossible even if there was an effort to do so, which is not likely. Today the gun lobby is so strong that it controls many elections and thus the Supreme Court even though a huge majority of Americans want greater gun control. Thus, school shootings will continue, and the ridiculous killing power of semi-automatic weapons with huge magazines will be readily available to most everyone who desires one. And America will stand alone atop the nations where mass killings happen, far ahead of the runner up. It is abundantly clear that the NRA’s vision for guns in America is not working and there is no plan to change it. Kermit the Frog seems to understand the issue pretty well.
This month’s Mandatory Moose hit the jackpot, and there is a bonus caribou if you like baby critters.
ALO did resolve some cases in May including a long standing dispute with an insurance company over payment to their own insured resulting from an accident with an under-insured motorist. Most folks think their own insurance company stands behind them at all times, but watch out if you get in litigation with your own company. Nasty dealing, but the case finally settled for policy limits. A couple of other car accident cases were also settled in May, but bigger news is expected in June.
In case you missed it on Facebook, this article by Laureli Ivanoff of Unalakleet is worth reading - "How cooking, eating and harvesting beach greens ties a family together" [High Country News]. She is a former news reporter for KNOM in Nome, and is a very talented writer. She used to cover dog races, and often came to Bethel for the K300.
Speaking of Nome, a story from there back in the 70’s has not appeared in the ALO news and is overdue. A basketball team from Bethel traveled to Nome one March night in about 1977 to take part in an early version of the Iditarod basketball tourney. The trip was made in a twin engine plane direct to Nome provided by a sponsor, and the passengers were excited to hit the famous Front Street bars in Nome upon arrival. But first, the team dumped their bags in the basement of a house one team member had arranged. At the time Nome was quite small and many of the houses dated from the early 1900’s and looked alike, and were closely packed because when built, most of the nearby real estate was devoted to gold mining. After a few minutes in the basement, the team walked to the bars. Because Bethel had no bars, it was a chance to live it up. About 2:30 am, one of the team members was feeling a little tired, and two other team members, Jim Plasman and Norm Cohen, escorted him to a cab stand, a heated building on the sidewalk near the bars. A cab was summoned and pulled up right in front of the Bethel lads, and the tired one got in the right rear door. His buddies saw him off and returned to the Board of Trade Saloon which remained open until 5:00 am in that era.
Nome, like Bethel, had the sort of cabs that loaded in several passengers and delivered them in some sort of order around town, rather than riding empty after a drop off. There were already a couple of passengers in the cab when the young lawyer got in, and when they pulled away he was asked where he was headed. That was a minor detail that had escaped the passenger in the rush to get to the bar. After informing the driver that no address was known, the driver said, “That’s OK, you’ll likely recognize it when we drive by.” That was an excellent plan, except the passenger fell asleep in about three minutes. It was -20 degrees and the cab driver likely had experienced this issue before, so he let his passenger sleep while he made his rounds. Remember this was rural Alaska and people acted differently, especially that long ago.
Eventually the bars closed and Norm and Jim headed to the cab stand to get a ride home. It can be assumed they were under the influence when the same cab pulled up to the very same spot, right in front of them. One opened the door, and their teammate who was sleeping against the door, rolled out of the cab onto the curb. They loaded him back in the cab and went home, and most of the town knew about the incident by the time the team showed up for breakfast at the Polar around midday. There is one follow-up story. Son-in-law Ben Kuntz and his buddies made the epic float trip from Whitehorse, Canada to Bethel via the Yukon River one summer 30 years later. At some villages, folks would travel out to greet them. Near Anvik, a boatload of men came out to say hello. Upon learning they were from Bethel one asked “You know Myron Angstman?” They said they did. “Did you ever hear about the time he spent the night in the back seat of a cab in Nome?”
And of course that story, like all the historical accounts on ALO news, is true. George Carlin, featured here last month, had some thoughts that complete this story nicely.