Weird but true: Alaskan tall tales

Everyday headlines in Alaska can make you weep or shudder. Here's a small sampling, touching on Noorvik dancing, chorus frogs, moose meat, and druggy dogs. (Note: no Sarah Palin.)
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The Iditarod race: something funny about those dogs?

Everyday headlines in Alaska can make you weep or shudder. Here's a small sampling, touching on Noorvik dancing, chorus frogs, moose meat, and druggy dogs. (Note: no Sarah Palin.)

Civil libertarians and patrons of the dance will be happy to know, courtesy of an Anchorage Daily News link to The Arctic Sounder, that native dancing is no longer outlawed in the Inupiaq Village of Noorvik, on the far Northwest Coast of North America. The Noorvik Elders' Council and the Noorvik Friends Church announced the other day that Norvikians may dance their traditional dances for the first time since the the village was established in the early 1900s.

One small problem: Now that it's legal, nobody in Noorvik can remember how. Native dance instructors will have to be brought from other parts of Alaska to teach the right moves. The village governing board wants traditional dancing at a big party January 25, when Noorvik becomes the first town in the U.S. to be counted in the 2010 census.

That's the kind of story that makes a daily check of the Alaska papers a daily treat. The Anchorage Daily News links to small town papers and far north bloggers, for off-the-sled-track stories that may be mundane at latitudes 61 to 71 degrees north, but let you know without saying so that up there is not down here.

For example, if you're one of many Puget Sound residents who enjoy a frog chorus of chorus frogs in springtime, you may be dismayed to learn that such frogs are treated like enemies of the state, in Alaska.

"Wanted, dead or alive," the Anchorage Daily News headline read last week. "Frogs riding north on Christmas trees." Turns out some Pacific chorus frogs have stowed away on trees shipped from Orting, Washington to Anchorage. Fish and Game officials urged Alaskans to kill the critters on sight and turn their carcasses in at the office of a state zoologist. Nothing personal, but the chorus frog sometimes carries a disease called chytrid fungus, a serious threat to native Alaska amphibians.

A moose meat scandal from the Fairbanks Newsminer: So many hunters brought in carcasses to be dressed and frozen in the fall, that the only moose processor between Fairbanks and North Pole got behind in his work and let many of them rot. Angry moose shooters are pondering their legal options.

There seem to be countless accounts of bears attacking humans and humans attacking humans (another gunfight in the parking lot at Chilkoot Charlie's), humans attacking bears and losing ( including the group of French tourists hospitalized with trichinosis from eating bad bear meat.) Numerous humans attacking the booze and losing, like the guy in Bethel who stole a police car and went racing down the ice of the Kuskokwim River until they caught him.

The ADN runs story after bizarre story about Alaska's celebrated ex-governor. In the ordinary run of Alaska news her actions don't seem all that weird.

The Anchorage Daily News is owned by the McClatchy company, as are Washington papers in Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham, and Kennewick. It's the largest paper in Alaska with 81,711 subscribers, about the same as the Olympian. It covers serious stories seriously , including possible criminal charges against BP for its latest North Slope oil spill. Its editors don't seem to stretch for the picturesque, droll, and colorful — but what're they gonna do? It's Alaska, after all, where officials managing the 1160-mile Iditarod sled dog race from Willow to Nome announced a few days ago that for the first time they'll test the mushers in next year's race to see if they're using drugs or alcohol.

It was left to a three-time Iditarod winner and medical marijuana user to point out that it's a race between dogs, not humans, and it's the dogs who need to be tested.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Bob Simmons

Bob Simmons is a longtime KING-TV reporter who has been writing news for print and television for 65 years.