The September news is brought to you from the Elk Farm in Minnesota, where recent rains and cool temperatures have made the transition between Alaska and Minnesota seamless. September was very warm in Alaska, with temperatures touching 70 frequently, but wind and rain showed up at the end of the month making the airplane trips to close up the cabin and and transport the plane to Willow for a major overhaul challenging. For example, expected turbulence in the mountains forced a high altitude flight to the cabin to close up, and that created headwinds of 40 knots going in. That was before it got windy and the tail winds hit 50 on the way home. Surprisingly, both flights were smooth, and the lake was calm.
Closing the cabin was complicated by a fire earlier in the month that destroyed the four wheeler which is used for the heavy work around the cabin. The fire was scary. Son-in-law Ben was helping transfer gas from a 55 drum to a 15 gallon plastic container. He used a siphon hose that requires some pumping to start. The tank was sitting on the rack of the four wheeler to gain enough height to start the siphon. The plan was to drain the drum of about 15 gallons, using a filter funnel on top of the plastic jug. While holding the siphon hose and directing the gas into the funnel, the elder member of the gas crew noticed a small flame ignite right in the funnel. Even elders can move fast at times. A warning was shouted and a hasty retreat was accomplished. A text to Andy alerted the troopers, and a water pump was put in the lake with a long 1 ½ inch hose, operated by a generator. Approaching the fire right away was not safe, but after a few minutes the flame went from 20 feet high to less than 10. Three nearby trees were burning, but the very dry tundra bushes were not catching. A cautious approach was made and the water quickly doused the flames, and later effort ended all smoke, just about when the trooper arrived by plane from Dillingham.
The flame obviously started from a static spark, something that most gas handlers have heard about but don't fully understand. This event caused a bunch of research, and still the issue is not totally clear. People who handle gas regularly need to read up on static caused fires, cause doing so might save your hide. Here is what the fire scene looked like shortly after it was out.
The long season ending flight to Anchorage was rewarded with this scene minutes after landing at Lake Hood. Andy and Liz named her Ada June Anikkan Angstman, Annikan being her Inupiat name. And yes, she is every bit as cute as the last grandkid, who was of course the cutest baby ever. As for that last flight, it is always tough to pull the plane out of the water. Nothing matches the freedom and adventure of a summer in the wilderness with a float plane.
There were a bunch of new cases that showed up at ALO during September, and three of them involved police shootings. All three involved fatalities, and after close review, two of those cases were accepted as civil claims against the police departments involved. ALO has been involved in a bunch of police cases over the years, actually defending police on a couple of occasions, but usually the cases have involved claims of excessive force without a fatality. Police conduct has come under much closer scrutiny in recent years, much of that attention based on the number of incidents that were recorded either by police cameras, security cameras, or public witnesses. Those videos have revealed what many involved in the industry have known all along, that police don't always act properly when they use force against a member of the public. In Alaska, police have special rules protecting them from civil liability for their actions, so it takes far more evidence of poor conduct to win a lawsuit against a policeman than it would against a private security person, for example. Stay tuned.
With summer concluding at the cabin, there are a number of photos and videos to pass along that are well worth checking. If you came to this site from the Facebook link, you have already seen these two Grizzly bear videos. These shots came from a trail camera near the cabin. The bear numbers have been down recently around the cabin, and it was disheartening to see a trail cam video of two bear hunters who were hunting that larger animal at the same location. This photo catches the spectacular morning light from the deck of the cabin,
and this shot shows the evening light from the same spot.
Another Princeton graduate Krissie Mason visited a nearby lodge and posted this video of a thrilling ride up the Allen River, which is near the cabin. Google her name and find numerous other quality shots from her visit to the area.
Neighbor Mark Schwantes is the winter caretaker at another lodge about 20 miles from the cabin. He spends a lot of time exploring the area after commercial salmon season in Dillingham. He posted this picture from a nearby lake, and this video of the enormous salmon run, the largest on record. He also posted a shot of the dead salmon that clog the beaches after spawning.
There are also black bears in Alaska. Here is one in a hospital lobby, and another eating berries in a tree. This month's mandatory moose features two cows fighting over a big bull. Dolly took this photo of the ALO wild flowers that grow in the abandoned dog yard. And who says Bethel is not photo worthy? This shot from the Angstman back window.
Finally a look at a Native elder. For years Henry Deacon of Grayling has been a friend of ALO, helping out with hunting trips, dog racing and legal cases from his village. His native corporation put out this video to celebrate his life. For folks from far away who have had no contact with the Native way of life, please watch. Henry was a good friend and contemporary of long time Dog Farm helper James Nicholas who was also from Grayling. For anyone who wonders what keeps a Minnesota guy in a far away place for close to 50 years, its people like Henry and James.
Of course there are stories about Henry. One time a researcher with a PHD from Harvard said he was coming to the Bethel area to study Athabascan Indian village life, and contacted ALO for help. It was suggested that Henry Deacon would be a good person to talk to. Listening in to that introduction was classic. "Henry, this is Joe Blow from Harvard and he wants to ask you a few questions about life in Grayling." Henry responded "Why would a smart guy from Harvard want to talk to a dumb Indian like me?" The Harvard guy thought Henry actually meant what he said and spent minutes assuring Henry that his answers would be helpful.