Daily Archives: October 10, 2012

Bear hunt draws crowd — Hundreds register for chance to bag Kenai brown bear

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With nearly 600 people participating in a fall brown bear registration hunt — the first in several years on the Kenai Peninsula — it may be an understatement to say those looking to bag a bruin were eager to take to the woods in something other than a drawing hunt.

“I knew we’d issue more than the last one, since it’s been a number of years, but 569 is a little higher than anticipated,” said Jeff Selinger, area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

As of Monday morning, Selinger said that 569 was the number of registered hunters, with the vast majority being peninsula residents. Only 95 hunters were from other parts of the state, and only two were nonresidents, from Nebraska and New York.

Although, Selinger added that people were still registering daily for the hunt, which has no limit to the number of people who can register, so the number of overall hunters participating could grow even higher before the end of what is scheduled to be, at its longest, a 60-day hunt.

The hunt officially began Oct. 1 and is scheduled through Nov 30, although Selinger said that registration hunts for brown bears rarely go the full duration.

“They tend to be short, generally between two days and a week,” he said.

The last registration hunt for brown bear in more than a decade on the peninsula was in 2004. The hunt only lasted two days and had 274 hunters registered. With so many eager to bag a brown bear, the hunt was closed by emergency order to prevent an overharvest.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Filed under bears, hunting

Barn raising: Eco-style — Extra labor equals extra insulation in large-scale construction project

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. An ongoing project to build a 20,000-square-foot straw-clay barn and workshop in Ionia is taking the community’s eco-building interest to new heights. The straw-clay material takes the place of more traditional forms of brick, wood and synthetic insulation.

Redoubt Reporter

The community of Ionia, in the heart of Cohoe Loop, south of Kasilof, is made up of roughly 50 people — from newborns to elders. Just as their generations are renewing, so, too, is their lifestyle on their 160 acres of land.

Renewable energy technologies — solar, wind and biomass projects — are well under way there. Organic gardens, greenhouses and grain trials help to feed them throughout the year. They’ve lived in tepees but more recently have moved to cutting and milling spruce trees to build log homes and furniture, and they replant and grow trees to renew their wood supply.

These days, an ongoing project to build a 20,000-square-foot, straw and clay barn and workshop at Ionia is taking the community’s eco-building to new heights — figuratively and literally.

“I’ve typically done smaller structures. To my knowledge this is the largest straw-clay structure in the U.S., and possibly the world,” said Lasse Holmes, of Homer, who has partnered with Ionia to complete the three-story project, which began four years ago.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Kasilof

Trial and air — Skate, bike culture taking off in area

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Gaden Ames does a backflip high over the Soldotna Skate Park during the third annual Soldotna Bike, Skate and Scooter Challenge on Sept. 29.

Redoubt Reporter

The math hardly seems worth it: Weeks, months to even years of hours-on-end practice where even the slightest hair’s breadth of a mistake can have painful, bruise-forming, skin abrading, bone-jarring repercussions. The expense of fixing, replacing and upgrading gear that is constantly taking a beating. Putting up with stereotypes presuming delinquency and suspect moral character, simply because of a chosen activity.

All in pursuit of a payoff that lasts a measly fraction to a couple of seconds — the time it takes to execute a spin, grind, tail whip or any of the other tricks a rider of a bike, skateboard or scooter can dream up.

But what a ride those few seconds entail, whether it’s the first tentative

KC Hordemann lays his bike sideways off a ramp during one of his runs.

attempts to dislodge wheels from ground, or launching 20 feet in the air to bend the bounds of gravity with a soaring superman or back flip. And landing, upright, ready to build up more speed and take off again.

The rush of speed, the whoosh of being airborne, the tight control over grip, limbs and wheels, the sense of accomplishment of executing a maneuver that’s taken tens, hundreds or thousands of wipeouts to achieve. Sometimes, that’s

Gaden Ames does a foot jam tail whip during one of his runs.

all there is — effort and achievement playing out as a solo soundtrack. But more and more often at the Soldotna Skate Park these days, there are other riders around to witness both the battle to learn a trick and the accomplishment of nailing it.

And on Sept. 29, a communitywide, all-ages crowd wrapped around the installation of rails, platforms and ramps at the skate park for the third annual Soldotna Bike, Skate and Scooter Challenge, with not only cheers of encouragement for the riders, but food, T-shirts, trophies and the clear understanding that what these kids do is as challenging as it is worth supporting.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under biking, skating, sports

Peaking interest — Settle preplanning before setting foot toward summit of Kilimanjaro

By JP Bennett for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of JP Bennett. Kilamanjaro as seen from the Kindoroko Hotel rooftop bar in Moshi, Tanzania.

Climbing Kilimanjaro wasn’t the primary reason to visit East Africa, but since I was to be on safari in the mountain’s neighborhood, the challenge seemed self-evident. When would I be in that part of the world again? After a summer of hiking many of the ridge trails on the Kenai, would I ever be this prepared again?

The summit of Kilimanjaro is 19,745 feet, more than a mile higher than my previous top-of-the-world experience. At that elevation there is considerably less oxygen and atmospheric pressure than at the highest peaks of the Chugach range, some two miles lower.

Other than slowly trying to acclimatize to the thin air, there are no physical preparations to reduce the possibility of succumbing to acute mountain sickness and its two most acute and potentially fatal varieties — high altitude cerebral edema and high altitude pulmonary edema. Age and fitness levels are not reliable predictors of who might succumb to AMS, and I was more uncertain about how my body would react to the rarified air than I was about almost anything else in my life.

There were nine in our group that set out to climb Kilimanjaro early on

A support crew loads up a Land Rover for the trip to the mountain.

a Sunday morning this past September, although only two of us were paying clients, the other being Judith F. from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Included in the entourage were the head guide, William, and his assistant, Adonis. There were also five porters. The ever-smiling Edward doubled as the cook. As we were introduced, he declared, “I am the stomach engineer; my meals will get you to the top.” Leonard was the steward who served meals and made sure our bottles were filled with boiled and then filtered water. Bernard, Ziggy and Ebeneez completed the crew. All were from the Chagga tribe, the third largest in Tanzania. The Chagga still primary live on the lower slopes of Kibo, their name for the mountain.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under outdoors, travel

Ghostly good time — New play gets fright right with scary stories

By Jenny Neyman

Graphic courtesy of Chris Jenness

Redoubt Reporter

Playwrights toiling away on a script do so in hopes of a response from the audience. They dream of a tear, live for a laugh or — in the case of “Haunted: Tales from Beyond the Grave” — die for a scream.

“There’s something about being able to elicit a big reaction from an audience that’s almost irresistible for a playwright,” said Joe Rizzo, author and director of the new play opening this weekend at Triumvirate Theatre in Soldotna. “When we do a comedy it’s great to see the reaction from the audience when you know you’ve hit the right chord, you landed that joke just right and the majority of the audience breaks out in laughter. You get the same sort of rush from writing something scary and listening to the entire audience scream.”

He’s got a special place in his dramatist’s heart for stories that get pulses racing. Several years ago he wrote and directed “The Doll Collection,” a scary story about a young woman who inherited her recently deceased mother’s doll collection, and the terrifying secret that came with the dolls. And for the past several years Rizzo’s drama, debate and forensics team at Nikiski High School has put on a haunted house around Halloween at Triumvirate as a fundraiser for the team.

“For years we did this haunted house, and it got to be the same thing over and over again, when what we do as a theater is performance. So I thought it would be great to do some kind of scary show and translate the haunted house onto the stage,” he said.

But how to do that? Hands snaking out of the darkness are all well and good for a quick scare in a haunted house, but don’t have much ability to develop characters, build suspense or carry a plot.

Instead, Rizzo turned to a favorite genre — ghost stories. It’s a long-standing tradition for him to entertain his debate team during bus rides to or from meets with his suspenseful tales.

“One of the kids said, ‘It would be cool if you did a show like this where you tell ghost stories.’ It was hard to imagine an audience sitting down and listening to Joe Rizzo tell ghost stories for an hour, so these are told by different characters in the ghost stories,” he said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, theater

Almanac: Fresh young Kenai not immune to dirty deeds

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Murder in Alaska these days seldom fails to garner attention from the press and the public. Headlines and broadcasts, social media and rumors pump life into the story as the search for the truth plays itself out. Sometimes, the “truth” is a nebulous affair; other times, the facts are more clear-cut.

Back in 1960s, when the population of the central Kenai Peninsula was growing but much smaller than it is today, a murder was apt to make a bigger splash because it was likely that a larger percentage of the population knew either the person murdered or the accused, or both. And the reputations of those involved could keep the pilot lights of interest burning for weeks or months, as can be seen in these two October tales — the first from Kenai, the second from Soldotna.

Murder of Jackson Ball (1968)

On Saturday, Oct. 12, 1968, in the North Kenai cocktail lounge known as Larry’s Club, officer David Ulfers of the Alaska State Troopers arrived at about 3:30 a.m. to find one man moaning near the entrance and another man lying face-up near the bar.

The man near the door was Larry Edwards, and he was fresh from a fight. The man on the floor was Jackson Ball, and Ulfers reported that Ball had a hole in his neck and was bleeding heavily. Within a short time, Ball was dead.

According to the Cheechako News, Ball was 46 years old. According to the online Social Security Death Index, he had been born Aug. 24, 1921, which means that he was 47.

At a hearing Oct. 31, diver Phillip Howard Cook testified that on the night Ball was killed, a fight “with a pile of guys involved” had started at one end of the bar. Cook said that he tried to help the bartender move the men and their skirmish outdoors; he also said that he heard the accused, Jerry Thomas Edwards, say, “Don’t hurt my brother!” and then threaten to get his gun.

A few minutes later, Cook reported, the door flew open: “I saw Jerry first. Within seconds I saw Larry (Edwards) come in with his shirt off, and he fell down by the entrance. … Jerry paused and said, ‘Where is the fat guy (Ball)?’ Jackson Ball raised up from the stool where he had been seated, took three or four steps towards Jerry with his hands raised up and said, ‘You can’t.’ Jerry pivoted and shot him.”

Cook further testified that bar owner Larry Lancashire then managed to take the gun (a .38-caliber revolver) away from Jerry Edwards and attempt to calm him down. Cook said that Edwards had been “in a rage, yelling, screaming, cursing and staggering, saying, ‘I’m going to kill that fat man!’”

An inquiry into the character of Arlon E. “Jackson” Ball is likely to draw as many different opinions as the number of respondents. Most of them, however, will mention Ball’s penchant for drinking in bars, for talking loud and rough, and for his clear streak of bigotry.

Soldotna’s Al Hershberger, who knew Ball, said that Ball’s aggressive talk was “definitely more bark than bite,” but he admitted that Ball, who hailed originally from Connecticut, could be mean and had a low tolerance for people with an ethnicity different than his own.

“I think his notoriety was somewhat embellished,” Hersh-berger said. “He did not like newcomers and frequently told them to ‘go back to America.’ I did enjoy talking to him, as he always made me laugh. He definitely was opinionated. I guess it would be fair to call him a bigot, or at least very outspoken and vociferous. A lot of people thought of Jackson as more of a clown than a terrorist.”

But Ball’s opinions and attitudes occasionally led to confrontations: “(In the mid-1950s), he hit a guy over the head with a bar stool and was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon,” Hershberger recalled. “The jury found him not guilty, saying a bar stool was not a dangerous weapon.”

According to an obituary in the Cheechako, Ball had been a member of Pile Driver’s Local 2502 and was survived by a wife and four young daughters, all of whom apparently lived in Anchorage. Ball, the paper said, was an Anchorage resident who had a North Kenai homestead near Salamatof Lake and was the owner/operator of the fishing vessel Iron Mule.

Services for Ball were held at Green Memorial Chapel in Anchorage, and he was buried in Angelus Memorial Park.

Shortly after the incident in Larry’s Club, Larry Edwards was transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, where he was listed in “fair condition.” His brother, Jerry, who had only recently arrived in the state, was arraigned later that morning and then transferred to the state jail in Anchorage to await a preliminary hearing.

The state initially recommended $100,000 bail, but Dep. Magistrate Jess Nicholas Jr. set the bail at half that amount. In the hearings and trials to follow, the state was represented by Anchorage attorney Stan McCutcheon, while Edwards employed court-appointed counsel until he acquired Wendell P. Kay as his own attorney. In mid-November, an Anchorage grand jury indicted Edwards on first-degree murder.

Murder of Jack Griffiths (1961)

Very little about this killing was straightforward, except for the fact that Jack Griffiths, co-owner of the Circus Bar (the current location of Good Time Charlie’s) wound up dead.

The Cheechako News, in the same Oct. 13, 1961, edition, stated that the body was found by two different men, apparently not at the same time. Arvin Diggs, a customer, reportedly discovered Griffiths when he went looking for him to have Griffiths help him install a heater in his car. And Steve Henry King, the other co-owner of the bar, reportedly found Griffiths at 12:40 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8.

Regardless who discovered the body, the signs of foul play were clear: Griffiths’ body, with multiple fractures to his skull, was discovered in his bed in his Quonset hut home behind the bar. Investigating officer Wayne F. Morgan of the Alaska State Troopers found no murder weapon and stated that Griffiths had likely been dead for at least six hours before his body was discovered.

The rumor mill cranked swiftly into motion, particularly after 21-year-old Soldotna resident James Franklin Bush was questioned and released and subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Many of the rumors concerned Bush’s alleged interest in Griffiths’ 15-year-old daughter, while others concerned the likelihood that Bush was merely attempting to protect members of the Griffiths family from the hard-drinking bar owner. A few gossipers even speculated that Griffiths’ wife, Alice — and not Bush at all — had finally had enough of Griffiths’ alleged abuse and had done the killing herself.

But in the end, it was Bush who was convicted of the murder and who received a 12-year prison sentence.

Griffiths, who was born in 1922 in Salt Lake City, was a World War II veteran and a five-year Soldotna resident who had first come to Alaska in 1946. He had worked initially as an autobody repairman and mechanic. He had married Alice E. McDonald in California in 1942, and together they had had six children (five daughters and a son).

Bush, who had been initially questioned after being picked on an unrelated charge in the vicinity of the Circus Bar, reportedly broke down later under questioning and admitted to striking the blows that killed Griffiths. According to the Cheechako, Bush said that he had knocked on Griffiths’ door and was told to enter. Griffiths, whom his co-owner Steve King claimed had been drinking that night, was in bed, and Bush said that Griffiths was pointing a rifle at him.

Bush stated that he grabbed a piece of stove wood, knocked the rifle aside, and then struck Griffiths twice in the head. After bludgeoning Griffiths, Bush said that he turned out the lights in the room, tossed aside the firewood, and left.

After his arrest, Bush waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was held in a federal jail in Anchorage on $30,000 bail. A “pauper’s oath” led Judge Edward Davis to appoint Anchorage attorney Wendell P. Kay to represent Bush.

In January 1962, Bush was indicted by a grand jury, and in June he was sentenced to prison.

The violence at the bar, however, did not cease.

About a year later, water-well driller Bill Hansen bought into the Circus Bar and later purchased the establishment outright and changed the name to the Hilltop Bar. In 1967, an argument over the payment for some hamburgers led to Hansen himself being shot and suffering serious injuries. (This story is available online in the March 25, 2009, edition of the Redoubt Reporter.)

1 Comment

Filed under Almanac

Plugged In: Managing lights, camera, action

Redoubt Reporter ‘Fall into winter on the Kenai’ photo contest

The Redoubt Reporter is holding another in its series of reader-submitted photo contests.

Photos will be judged and winners selected by a three-member panel. After each contest closes, we’ll publish and discuss some of our favorites in the Redoubt Reporter. Some of the selected photographers will be invited to frame and hang their photos at a Redoubt Reporter June 2013 group photo show scheduled at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Dec. 1, 2012. All submissions must be in high-quality digital format. Submit no more than five JPEG images by email to redoubtreporterphotos@gmail.com.

Entry rules:

1. Our theme is “Falling into winter on the Kenai” and submissions must fit this theme.

2. Entrants must be amateur photographers who are residents of the central Kenai Peninsula.

3. Photographs can be of any subject fitting the theme but must have been taken of the Kenai Peninsula on or after Aug. 1, 2012.

4. If you submit photographs in which people are recognizable, you must also provide us with their permission for us to publish any such photographs.

5. Please do not submit portrait photos. Do not submit photographs whose content would not be appropriate for publication in a family newspaper. Do not submit photos of illegal subject matter. All such photos will be deleted immediately without notice to you and at the sole discretion of the editor.

6. Photographers must include their name, telephone number, email address, town of residency and each photo’s date, location and description of subject matter.

7. Submitted JPEG images should be of the best possible technical quality. Good technique and technical quality are important, but originality, creativity, interesting subject matter, artistic merit and good composition are even more important.

8. By submitting photos, you agree to our publication of them in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper and on our website. The Redoubt Reporter will have the right of first publication of your photos. However, you will retain the copyright for all other purposes and your name will be listed if we publish any of your photos.

9. Our decisions about what’s published or selected for exhibition are final and are admittedly subjective. Space is limited, and the judging panel and editor reserve the right to choose photos at their discretion.

10. Retain your original digital files of all submitted images. We are not responsible for preserving copies of your digital images.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under photography, Plugged in