Paul Gebhardt was a former Glencoe, Minnesota guy who became an Alaskan dog racer. He died of cancer recently and a couple of his stories need to be written down before they are forgotten. The best one involved he and his wife Evy and their trip down the Yukon River.
Paul and Evy arrived in Alaska after accepting a summer job as helpers at a western Alaska fishing lodge. The urge to identify the lodge and its owner is high but will be resisted cause that person likely would claim his version of the facts is different, but those who knew Paul trusted him as an honest and straight forward guy. They arrived in the spring and their first task was to drive a boat, motor and supplies down the Yukon River to the lodge. They got on the Yukon near Fairbanks with a full boat, a supply of gas and some groceries. They also had all of their gear for the summer plus three dogs and three full size mattresses in a 14 foot flat bottomed boat. The ice had just gone out of the river shortly before they started their trip.
The scariest part of the trip happened in the middle Yukon. Paul was driving the heavily loaded boat, dodging ice chunks, when he noticed a place ahead where there seemed to be no channel. Having never seen an ice jam before, it took him a while to recognize that he was fast approaching one. For those unfamiliar with a jam, the current sucks the ice chunks under solid ice until there is no more room and then the river jams with no room to flow. It creates rapidly rising water, and when it breaks, things happen in a hurry. Paul quickly figured out he had to avoid the jam, so he turned the boat around. He soon learned that his small outboard would not push the boat upstream against the current so his options were limited. He spotted a group of willows sticking out of the water and went sideways to reach them. Once in the willows, he and Evy scrambled to tie off to the willows as tightly as they could. The willows were not huge, but they were big enough to hold the boat. There was no way of knowing how long they would be stuck in the willows so they grabbed some food and went to sleep, gently rocking in the current. They slept a few hours and they woke up to a different feeling. The boat was no longer rocking. Looking over the edge they realized the boat was hung up in the willows, 10 feet above the sand. The ice jam had broken and the water dropped quickly. Paul said it took him a while to lower the boat to the sand, and then more time to get out of the willows. When telling the story Paul suggested he knew they came close to disaster, as reaching that ice jam would likely have been fatal. The day they spent tied to the willows was Mother's Day, and their daughter was waiting for them down river after flying to the lodge. Without that incentive they likely would have abandoned the trip after their night on the willows. There were several other incidents before they reached the lodge, and Paul was somewhat upset by the fact that the lodge owner had turned them loose on this adventure without proper information. Things got worse at the lodge and the summer job ended early when Paul demanded a ride to the nearest airstrip for a flight out. The owner refused, but Paul made it clear he was leaving and the boss wisely complied when Paul made his position clear.
Paul eventually got in to dog racing and finished second in the Iditarod twice, winning the Kuskokwim 300 once. He spent time at the Angstman cabin and generated some stories there as well. One short story from the K300 is worth repeating. In 2008 an old time Bethel racer made his last appearance in the race, which featured 3 foot deep water in the last 50 miles. At the Tuluksak checkpoint, Paul approached and asked for advice on how deep the water might be ahead. There was a brief discussion about that and Paul announced he would go till the 32 degree water reached his balls, and then he would turn back.. Paul was not very tall, but he must have cleared the ice water cause he made it to the finish, and told that story at the banquet drawing a big laugh.
This photo of Paul racing the K300 on the river was taken by Dolly Angstman, and is a fitting farewell to a good guy, a good racer and a good friend. Study that photo, and you will likely appreciate how driving a dog team in the Alaska wilderness could become addictive. It sure beats driving a Chevy in rush hour traffic. Happy trails, Paul.
ALO settled one case in November. It involved an underage boy from Kodiak who was sexually involved with an older woman many years ago. The case settled without litigation.
Long time friend Casey McDonald has become part of ALO’s remote staff. Casey survived many stays at the Angstman house when she was little, during which time she referred to Sue as Sue-Mom. She has been an unofficial internet advisor during recent years, but is now serving as a remote office assistant. Between Casey and her Mom Bev Hoffman they know an incredible number of Alaskans, and that is a valuable tool for ALO. Welcome Casey.
Mandatory Moose & Other Characters
This month’s Mandatory Moose was encountered during a walk at Connor Bog dog park. Jack walked by about 10 feet from the moose without a response from the moose or the dog.
Did you feel like this after Thanksgiving dinner too?
In Other News
A neighbor lady likes to take bird photos. One day recently she parked out front for over an hour shooting photos of Bohemian Waxwings eating Mountain Ash berries from a neighbor’s tree. That is one serious lens.
Not everyone will recognize this replica trophy which came back to its rightful place after the Minnesota-Iowa football game. Winning was good but made even better by the loud whining of Iowa fans who somehow claim they would have won but for a bad referee call late in the game. Never mind that the call was considered correct by every rules analyst in the country, and also never mind that Iowa gained exactly 2 yards in the second half despite being ranked in the top 20 at the time.
Grandkid photos are common here. Jack enjoys watching float planes on a screen, announcing “Tikchik Narrows Lodge” every time he sees one. Ada appeared very briefly in the Nutcracker at the Performing Arts Center recently. Notice the Alaska style ballet shoes.
In politics, the US has a new Speaker of the House and he believes the earth is 5,000 years old, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it is several billion years old. Its troubling that the person third in line for the Presidency can be so easily fooled. There is not space here to list all of the other ridiculous beliefs he has which will affect his pollical decisions going forward, but the list is scary.
Meanwhile, the previous Speaker Kevin McCarthy had this to say about his fellow Republicans in Congress.
"And I look over at the Democrats and they stand up. They look like America. We stand up. We look like the most restrictive country club in America.”
How incredibly true that is. And the odd thing is that most of the people who vote Republican wouldn't be allowed in that country club unless they came to repair something.
One last thought. Exxon announced profits of over 19 billion dollars for the third quarter of 2023. Darn that Biden for increasing the price of gas…