Chilly weather has been the story for November and early December in Alaska, and just now it seems to be breaking. It is troubling to hear folks use a little cold stretch to challenge the science of global warming, even as tornadoes rip through the rest of the country at a time when tornadoes just simply don’t happen. People have forgotten in recent years that -40 temps in Alaska have been uncommon in early winter but in earlier times were quite common. In a 1975 December visit to elder John Deacon in Grayling, Alaska, he complained that he missed the cold weather of his youth when it was common to have 60 below zero temperatures before Christmas. His complaint was based on the lack of safe ice on the Yukon River because it didn’t get cold enough before deep snow covered the river. The weather extremes that now appear regularly around the globe are not caused by the media or by crackpot political commentators, they are caused by a significant warming trend which has been confirmed by science with the near term potential of disrupting many facets of life.
ALO brought a little heat of its own against another opponent recently. This Anchorage Daily News story “More students allege abuse by former Wasilla elementary teacher in lawsuit against school district” describes new claims filed by ALO against a school district and others alleged to be responsible for allowing a teacher to abuse his fourth grade students for many years. As noted in the article, four of the original claims have been settled and three new families have made claims. This is a major piece of litigation, and if Facebook comments mean anything, folks are mighty upset with the school. To make matters worse for the school, their young lawyers are weak at returning calls and emails. In the legal industry, ignoring your opponent is always considered a bad idea, but especially so when your opponent is an elder who is obsessed with returning calls and messages. Keep an eye on the ALO news for developments in this case.
Never Back Down
This posting on Facebook has generated an immense amount of comment since it was posted in 2015, mainly from rural Alaska. It has been shared 736 times with 238 comments and 1.3K favorable reactions. Every few months it gets started up again and generates a new set of responses. It points to a fact about rural folks that has been a key to success for ALO for a long time. Rural Alaskans have become accustomed to folks from urban areas traveling to the bush and explaining how things should be done, usually with an attitude that displays some level of disdain for the collective wisdom of the rural populace. With that background, a guy like Joe Garnie from the village of Teller who is able and willing to go nose to nose with a man who was a US Senator, Alaska Governor, and father of a current US Senator becomes a hero to his community. Joe has been a fast friend for 40 years and his view on how to attack a problem is shared at ALO. Never back down from a legal fight just cause the other side comes into the fight with a fancy suit and shiny shoes.
As for the photo, it was taken by Diana Haecker who edits The Nome Nugget newspaper, one of the best weekly papers around. She and her husband Nils Hahn own the Nugget, which is Alaska’s oldest newspaper. The Nugget thrives because of its quality, and does so despite the fact that Diana writes weekly editorials that tend to have a liberal point of view in a town that has a decidedly right wing majority. Her writing is well thought out and researched, and makes it hard for her critics to gain much traction. The fact that the news reporting is top notch makes it even harder for the locals to criticize the paper.
Speaking of writers, long ago Princeton High School classmate Mike Dardis published his first novel recently entitled Dark Side of the Sun.
It is a piece of historical fiction, which is a style of writing that causes the average reader some questions in deciding when the history stops and the fiction begins. The basic premise of the book is recounting the experience of several people during US wars and their aftermath. Because of the long time period covered, the book would have to be called an ambitious effort for a first time novelist. But Mike pulls it off with an interesting read. He is a Vietnam vet, and that war is likely presented as he recalls it and the other historical events appear to be well researched. Fair warning for the modest reader, the sex scenes might make you blush a bit. One must assume those scenes are fictional.
Pranksters & Fond Memories
The Gannon and Rearden families from the Great Falls area of Montana have had significant contact with Alaska in the past 40 years. Several family members still live in Alaska and a relative recently visited Anchorage which triggered a memory worth sharing. Rich Gannon lived in Bethel for a few years. He and his siblings are well known for pranks, and after becoming acquainted with them they decided that a prankster lawyer living in Bethel deserved to be pranked. So sister Doris Gannon called ALO on April Fool’s Day (sort of an important date on the Gannon calendar) to ask a few questions about dog mushing. She pretended to be married to a wealthy Microsoft executive and was interested in a total package plan for learning to mush dogs and race the Iditarod. Price was no object. Her April Fool's plan was to make a fool out of the country bumpkin who owned Old Friendly Dog Farm, who was called Marvin throughout the call. Eventually she settled on two dog teams for two Iditarod attempts for her and her husband. She thought $100,000 sounded about right, and was not accepting the suggestion that they might not be able to pull this off because no experience. At some point in the next day or two the ruse was uncovered, laughs were had, and payback plans were started. One plan involved procuring a dog pound animal in her town and having it delivered to her door with a note from Marvin that said “your first Iditarod trainee.”
That plan never worked out but the next summer, she showed up in Bethel. During that visit the Gannons talked about their home ranch in Sun River, Montana and regaled the audience with tales of the Sun River Testicle Festival, an actual event that celebrates round up time when young male cattle are separated from two of their precious body parts. At the festival, a queen is crowned and brave attendees partake of a delicacy known as Rocky Mountain Oysters, which you need to google. From that discussion a plan emerged. Doris and her husband along with others were scheduled to go fishing at a lodge managed by an ALO client. On the last night at the lodge, it was known that the boss had an awards ceremony where guests were honored with comical awards and honors after a week of fishing. The boss, a good sport, was contacted with a script and crown which he readily agreed to present to Doris. He called her up and presented this crown and noted that she was the only two-time Queen of the Sun River Testicle Festival. Doris didn’t have to think long to determine the source of her award. (The photo is a later re-enactment with additional costuming by Jen Gannon.)
Someone posted a photo of an old hotel in Princeton which contained a pool hall which holds special memories. At that pool hall, Dad taught his son how to play billiards, and also demonstrated the crucial role profanity plays in such sporting events. The pool hall was owned by Ben Hartman, and a cue cost 5 cents a game. When the game was over it was required that the players shout “Rack ‘em Ben” to assure payment. Ben sold hot dogs stored in a hot water vat for days at a time, which usually came out colorless and shriveled (10 cents). But one of the fondest memories was a little black and white TV on a shelf in the corner. Lacking such a device at home, that TV was the first chance ever to watch the Gophers play on the rare occasion they were televised. Dad would make it a point to play all afternoon on those Saturdays while I watched Bob McNamara and others play football almost in person, sort of like an early sports bar with no booze. In addition to teaching his kid how to play pool, Dad also demonstrated the art of profanity as it applies to sporting endeavors. Pool, cussing and Gopher football were early habits picked up there that have persisted.
Far side cartoons have long been a favorite here. These three are classic.
Mandatory Moose & Other Creatures
These mandatory moose might be planning something.
This is a cross fox which is a mutated red fox.
And these photos from Skip Ackerson’s yard of a possum, which he claims is cute.
Hot Issues & Snowy Mornings
A hot issue in Alaska right now is bycatch involved with the bottom fishing method known as trawling. In that method massive nets are dragged along the bottom of the ocean targeting pollock in a lucrative fishery, but also catching other species that are present which are called bycatch and are discarded. This method catches immense numbers of fish and many believe the numbers are not sustainable, both for the target fish and the by-catch. The rapid decline of fish numbers in many areas is linked to trawling and it has become a hot political issue. The trawling industry has powerful connections and large financing, while the opposition has lots of subsistence users and small scale commercial fishermen with modest financing. ALO obviously falls squarely on the side of the opposition. The oceans are in trouble. The idea of netting everything in sight over a wide section of the ocean is unthinkable. It is one more example of big money interests taking over policy making decisions nationwide.
Dolly continues to provide wonderful photos, mainly taken in her immediate surroundings as she walks back and forth to work at ALO. She posts them on Facebook, and her followers rave about them. This is her path to work on a snowy morning.