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  • Writer's pictureMyron Angstman

November 2019

A promising start to winter evaporated in a hurry with temps above forty in the Bethel area.  It was part of  a major storm that featured high winds and temps across a big swath of Alaska.  A plane ride from Anchorage to Bethel took under 50 minutes with a stiff tail wind and severe turbulence. It was so bad that the jet had to get special clearance to return to Anchorage while on the ground in Bethel.  Two short episodes of turbulence were the worst ever encountered in 45 years of jet flights, causing loud screaming in the cabin.   Winds topped 100 mph in the Anchorage area with heavy rain, and the temperature hit 50 degrees in the Denali Park area.

These types of winter storms have returned year after year in Alaska and are becoming the new norm, except they are not normal.   Meanwhile our government issued a bleak climate assessment that Trump says he doesn’t believe. Take your pick---hundreds of scientists who work for Trump, or Trump himself.  It is entirely possible that Trump has secret sources that provide him his information. Or it is possible he has no clue.

The long trip back from Minnesota was more eventful than normal.  When making a return reservation for Jack the dog, it was learned that Alaska Air established an embargo on hauling dogs starting before Thanksgiving  for about a month.  Several unhappy calls later, it was decided to send Jack with another airline and with storage the bill eventually approached $1,000.  As a long time Alaska Air customer this was not well received. Imagine the shock to learn after Jack returned to Alaska that the embargo actually was intermittent, and there was a window for travel a day later than originally planned at the normal $100 rate which was not communicated.    Thanks.

Al Beiswenger was the first of many lawyers lured to Bethel during the past 45 years.  During a visit to the University of Minnesota law school, Al stood out as a decent guy with a Peace Corps background  who would likely fit in the Bethel community of that time.  It also helped that he was tall and played basketball.  Al showed up and spent a few years here and ended up practicing in Soldotna for much of his career.  He died recently from brain cancer.   Asked  to recall memories at his memorial service, one story came immediately to mind.  Al rented a very small basic house from Roy and Ida Alexie right across from the old police department.  He was part of a scruffy two lawyer staff at the Public Defender Agency.  He decided to invite his boss and wife Sue over for dinner one cold winter night.  He was making chicken curry.  The house was chilly, rather poorly lit, and somewhat messy.   There were three rooms, and Al was going to serve his guests in the living room.  While carrying the one dish meal into the living room he tripped and spilled the entire contents on the less than pristine carpet.  Al was speechless.  His guests, hardened Bethelites after a couple years in town, suggested a solution.  Find a spatula, scrape it back into the bowl, and eat dinner.  Perhaps a couple glasses of wine contributed to the overall success of that plan, but the meal was wonderful. 

That era, in the mid 70’s, was when the rapid expansion of government services brought many new folks to Bethel. Most were young and ready for adventure.  The new comers latched on to each other like family members to replace the families that had been left behind.  Potluck dinners were held many nights a week, and crazy antics usually followed.  Many of those  antics would likely not be well received in the current Bethel scene. Al was a big part of that era and was a truly good guy.

Last month’s news mentioned a final criminal hearing in Nome court, causing some readers to ask whether ALO was out of business.   No new criminal cases are being handled, but civil cases continue. In fact a new civil case was file recently in Nome, and the local radio station made a report on it which was picked up by the Anchorage paper. Since the suit was filed the other passenger in the truck has also joined the suit.  All three are lucky to be alive. The comments after the ADN article are interesting as always.  One critic of lawsuits suggests the vehicle had to be going 70-80 mph.  The accident was recorded on video, and the speed appears to be 30-35 mph.

This article popped up on one of the dog racing sites as one of the early national articles about now famous racer Susan Butcher.  It appeared in the New Yorker, and it explores her first win in the Iditarod race in 1986.  It is an in-depth article, but not deep enough to report that a few weeks before her big Iditarod win she got second place to an unknown rural racer in a record setting Kuskokwim 300 finish. She finished second by an hour.

Lamont Albertson found another good cartoon.

The month’s mandatory moose is a handsome youngster.

A local business changed hands recently when Kuskokwim Wilderness Adventures was sold by the Hoffman and McDonald families to Iditarod champion Pete Kaiser.  The business consists mainly of boat charters around the Bethel area and is a perfect fit for Pete who has operated boats in the area since he was quite young.  Having a seasonal summer business is ideal for a dog racer,  and it is fairly obvious that Pete is not designed for a desk job. 

A flight from Nome to visit Little Diomede Island in 1975 was a real adventure.  On that trip, the airplane flew past King Island where the recently abandoned village was still clinging to the rocks high above the ocean.  Those buildings are still there.  How the residents survived is still a wonder.  Take a look at a recent photo. Toddlers beware.

One Alaskan elder who knows what it was like to survive harsh conditions is Dolly’s gramma Virginia Johnston. Dolly got a chance to spend some time with her in Anchorage recently.  Virginia is 92 and has survived many health issues but is still quite active in her village of Galena on the Yukon River.  Here is a brief account of her early life.   And here is a photo of her with Dolly on Thanksgiving.  What a woman!


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