Janurary-June, 2020



President Trump often claims that he is a "Victim of a witch hunt".

Is this true?

Technically, no.

A female practitioner of the Black Arts is known as a "Witch" while the male version is known as a "Warlock".

Thanks to the abundant testimony of numerous frightened women, we know that Trump is definitely a male, (Albeit a most disreputable one) so if found guilty of sorcery, he would be a "Warlock."

"Warlock"! You explode "This is the Year of Our Lord 2020!

How can you possibly claim the existence of witches and warlocks in this Enlightened Age? Do you claim that Donald Trump, 45th President of our nation, is also "Warlock-in- Chief"? Preposterous!

Hush now, lads and lassies! We do not claim that witches and warlocks are real! Or that Donald Trump is in league with Satan! Mercy no!

However, we do claim that BELIEF in witchcraft and the Black Arts is alive and well on every continent (With the possible exception of Antarctica, and there only because the sensible penguins outnumber the people)

Is this a problem?

Indeed it is neighbors; a deadly one.

Every year, according to United Nations statistics, hundreds if not thousands of people are murdered on suspicion of practicing witchcraft or some other form of sorcery.

A smaller number of people ARE actually practicing some form of "Black Magic" that requires obtaining body parts from unfortunate victims. There is a belief among certain "witch doctors" that the body parts of albinos have powerful magical properties. These practitioners will go to great lengths, including of course, murder, to obtain these parts. This causes albinos to flee to the United States, Canada or Europe to seek asylum on the well-founded belief that their lives are in danger.

Belief in witchery is wide spread through the Caribbean, (famously, Haiti) Africa, India, Indonesia and parts of Brazil.

The Moslem world is not exempt from sorcery; their particular form of evil spirits is "Djinns" (As in "Genie in the bottle or lamp") and many Moslems, even the most enlightened, believe that these spirits have the power to influence human destiny.

Therefore, with an almost universal belief in some sort of "Black Magic" in most cultures, one can be excused for thinking ill of Donald Trump. He has an almost uncanny ability to project evil.

There is something wicked about the man; an imagined whiff of sulphur and brimstone when he enters the room; a threatening growl from your normally friendly dog when Trump tries to pet him. (Ominously, he is the only dogless president in over 130 years.) So when Trump indignantly protests that he is being subjected to a witch-hunt, you would be correct in thinking "Yes, and with good reason!"

Has there ever been a witch-hunt and trial in modern times? (Your Republican friends and relatives might be excused if they indignantly direct you to recent Congressional proceedings against President Donald J. Trump.)

No, we are not talking about a figure of speech. We are talking about an actual witch-hunt, trial and conviction.

Interestingly enough, there has been.

During the Second World War in the year 1941, the 35,000 ton battleship HMS BARHAM was steaming at flank speed to intercept an Axis convoy crossing the Mediterranean to supply General Irwin Rommel's Afrika Korps.

It was deadly important for the Axis that the convoy get through. To achieve this goal, the Germans placed a picket line of U-boats along the projected route of the convoy.

One of these boats was the U-331, commanded by Oberlieutenant Hans Von Tiesenhausen.

As bad luck would have it, HMS BARHAM crossed the bow of U-331 at almost point blank range. Von Tiesenhausen fired a spread of four torpedoes. The first one missed; the other three did not.

The BARHAM took on a serious list and was in danger of capsize. BARHAM'S commander, Captain Geoffrey Cooke, gave the order to abandon and the crew began to assemble in columns for the slide into the Mediterranean where they would be picked up by the destroyer escorts.

Unfortunately, the BARHAM'S bad luck continued.

One of the torpedoes had touched off a fire in the anti-aircraft ammunition magazine, which soon raged out of control. The resulting explosions set off the 15 inch shell magazine and killed 862 men, more than two thirds of the crew. The explosion of the BARHAM provided one of the iconic photographs of World War II.

Thunderbear.1941 was not a good year for the British and they could be pardoned for not immediately announcing the loss of the BARHAM and much of its crew. (The U boat commander's medal was held up was held up until it could be proved that he really did sink the battleship.)

Understandably, the relatives of the BARHAM crew were concerned about the lack of mail and information about their loved ones. They and the general public were told that the BARHAM was on a "secret mission". The survivors of the BARHAM were sworn to silence and reassigned to other ships.

Naturally, it didn't take the public long to figure out the reason for the absence of the HMS BARHAM and crew. This did not prevent friends and relatives from wishing to contact crewmembers, even in the "Here After".

Fortunately, or unfortunately, there was a Scottish witch who claimed she could solve their communication problems. Her name was Helen Duncan and she made a modest but comfortable living acting as a "medium" between the living and the dead or so she claimed.

For a price, of course.

As is usual in these affairs, the "séances" were conducted in near total darkness in a room controlled by the "Medium.' (Ghosts, for some reason, being rather shy.)

After some crude special effects, the dead crewman of HMS BARHAM made their appearance.

How did we know they were from the HMS BARHAM and not some ghostly imposters?

Well, it had long been the custom of the Royal Navy to stitch the name of a sailor's ship on the sailor's cap, presumably to aid in identification should there be an altercation in a foreign port.

Helen Duncan had obtained some luminescent "glow in the dark" paint and inscribed HMS BARHAM on sailors' caps that she had acquired. Confederates hidden under a table in the darkened room wore the caps. The confederates would emerge into the darkened room upon verbal signal from Ms. Duncan.

The ghost sailors reassured relatives that they were happy and content in the next World and not to worry.

The problem was that the "ghosts" started answering questions and commenting about the progress of the Second World War.

Most of the information was educated guesses based on information supplied by the BBC and available to anyone with a radio or ears, but some of the predictions were uncannily accurate.

As the bloody months wore on, the Soviet Union began to demand a second front.

They had borne the brunt of the war; of every ten Germans killed, eight died on the Russian front. This was not without cost to the Soviets; an estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians perished in the war, and that's the low ball figure.

Understandably, Stalin wanted some relief from these grim casualty figures. Indeed there were rumors that Russia would seek a separate peace, as had happened in the First World War.

Fortunately, things were getting brighter day-by-day and the Western allies felt they could promise Stalin a second front sometime in 1944.

The question was: Where? Italy had not proved to be a useful substitute as German General Albert "Smiling Al" Kesselring was a master of defense and slowed the allied advance in Italy to a crawl.

The obvious choice for the second front was right next-door: France.

Thunderbear.The problem was it WAS the obvious choice: The Germans had fortified much of the Atlantic French Coast, particularly Calais where The English Channel was only 20 miles wide.

Rather than face the almost impenetrable defenses at Calais, the Allies elected to land their 156,000 men in Normandy, where the fortifications were not quite so thick. It was literally of grave importance that the Germans not learn of the Normandy Plan.

But how? The Normandy Invasion would be the largest engineering project in the history of the human race. How could you keep it secret? It would be as if Teddy Roosevelt had decided to build the Panama Canal -- and keep it secret from the rest of the world!

So, as Churchill so nicely put it "Truth must be protected with a body guard of lies."

This was Operation Fortitude, a massive plan to convince the Germans that the main attack would fall on Calais: Tent cities sprang up around Dover, opposite Calais. Hundreds of incredibly realistic inflatable tanks were positioned near that old British port as if ready for embarkation. Newsreel film of an imaginary 3rd Army commanded by General Patton near Dover were shown to an expectant audience; newsreels and newspapers talked incessantly of the great build up at Dover for the "Trans-channel Dash."

Best of all. Every secret agent that the Nazis had parachuted into England testified by short wave radio that Calais would be the invasion point.

What the Germans didn't know was that every one of their agents had been caught and given the stark choice of either working for the Allies or facing a firing squad in the Tower of London: most made the logical choice. They then sent information to Berlin that their British handlers wanted heard.

A double agent named "Garbo" for his superb acting ability was able to convince the German High Command that there would indeed be a June landing in Normandy -- but this was only a diversionary attack, a "feint"; that the "real" invasion would be at Calais.

"Garbo's" deception was critically important due to the presence of the German 15th Army. This was the mobile reserve that the Germans could send in like a fire brigade once it was determined where the invasion would land.

The Supreme Commander Dwight D Eisenhower later wrote "Should the 15th Army have arrived in Normandy at the same time as the Invasion, we would have been defeated."

There was considerable doubt on the part of the Allies on whether Operation Overlord, the Normandy Invasion would succeed.

Eisenhower famously wrote a note to himself for distribution to the press in the event the invasion failed, thanking everyone and taking full responsibility for the disaster; "The responsibility was mine and mine alone."

On the eve of D Day Winston Churchill showed up at Ike's headquarters in full Commando battle dress and toting a Thompson submachine gun. He explained that he planned to "go in with the first wave" and had come to say farewell.

Churchill had been responsible for the failed Gallipoli landing in the First World War and the equally disastrous invasion of the Dodecanese Islands in the Second World War. The old warrior apparently could not bear the thought of a third failure.

Eisenhower asked King George to order Churchill to stand down; He did.

In short, the Normandy Invasion or Operation overlord was not a slam-dunk.

Operation Fortitude, the elaborate deception, appeared to be working but who knew for sure? Did the British capture EVERY enemy agent?

Everyone on both sides of the Channel seemed to believe it would be Calais.

Except for Helen Duncan: In her séances with the dead sailors, she was predicting the invasion would be Normandy.

This could be a problem for Operation Fortitude and the D-Day invasion.

Now in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia such problems could be easily solved with a pistol shot to the back of the head; but this was Great Britain; one of the "good guys"

Helen Duncan could not be "disappeared"; at least not without a fair trial.

There was an even more sinister problem; Hitler was a great believer in the occult and astrology; he might be quite willing to accept the prediction of a fortuneteller over the advice of his own general staff. Moreover, he had a will of iron, great belief in his own intuition and, most important, absolute power: If Hitler thought the 15th army should go to Normandy, it would go.

What to do?

Perhaps it occurred to British counterintelligence to remind Helen Duncan that the HMS BARHAM ghosts were patriotic British ghosts and should get with the program to nominate Calais as the landing spot.

Perhaps not.

Thunderbear.At any rate, Helen Duncan and her séances kept endorsing Normandy as the invasion site.

The British decided to charge her under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which was still on the books.

She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to nine months in prison. No more séances for the immediate future. This got us safety past D-Day and Normandy.

Actually, this was quite clever of the British. Had they tried her for espionage under the Draconian Official Secrets Act, they might have raised the suspicions of the Germans.

Instead, she was tried for CLAIMING to be a witch under the Witchcraft Act of 1735.

The Witchcraft Act of 1735 was actually a very progressive piece of 18th century legislation.

Most importantly, it ended the hunting and execution of anyone for "witchcraft" in Great Britain. It remained in force, as we have seen, well into the 20th century; being superseded by the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951.

Now has Trump claimed that he possesses supernatural abilities; that he is "Warlock-in-Chief" in addition to all his other powers?

Well, not quite. He does point out that he is "A very stable genius" with very special gifts. He does modestly claim to be a Master of Potions; able to decide which drugs will work without extensive medical trials and so on. This alone would qualify him as a Warlock.

In addition, there is Trump's undeniable ability to cast "spells."

Cast "spells"?

Well yes. About 18,000 of them.

According to the WASHINGTON POST in 1,170 days, Trump told 18,000 lies falsehoods or misleading statements.

Now neighbors, you know that our president would never lie to us.

Instead of lying, the President casts "Spells" on his "True Believers".

The "True Believers" do not see these lies and falsehoods as untruths; rather they see them as The Truth.

It matters not if you believe in these "Spells." What matters is whether enough of his True Believers can get him past the magical 270 mark in the Electoral College.

So, using the "winner take all" rules of most the Electoral College, the Warlock-in-Chief can win with only 2 % of the popular vote (small states) or 27% (big states), depending on how you do the math.

Do you think Trump can raise enough True Believers in primitive states like my native South Dakota?

You bet he can, neighbors! You bet he can!

So what to do?

Not enough time to repeal the 12th Amendment (The one that activates the Electoral College.) but we can immobilize it, turning it into a harmless ritual to rubber stamp the national popular vote.

All you have to do is contact your state legislature and make sure they have put your state in the "National Popular Vote Interstate Compact" which pledges, under oath that their electors will cast their ballots in favor of the winner of the NATIONAL popular vote.

Please do so: It will eliminate the Warlock-in-Chief.



"As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents more and more closely the inner soul of the People. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of this land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright moron."

H.L. Mencken
July 26,1920

That inglorious day has arrived, neighbors and the eerie prophesy of a cynical, acerbic Baltimore newspaperman has come true nearly 100 years on.

Indeed there were those who thought the prophecy had come true with the 1920 election of Warren G. Harding. However, compared to Trump, Harding was a kindly, well-meaning gentleman, unable to say "no" to "friends". Harding managed to be placeholder for the title of "worst American President" until the arrival of Donald J. Trump.

Partisan detractors of the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and both Bushes have dusted off the Mencken Prophesy. However, compared to Trump, they were statesmen of towering wisdom, honor and probity; a model for us all.

Trump has fit the bill for the millions of Americans who are cruel, self-centered IVY leaguers. (Ignorant Vicious Yahoos). Fortunately for the nation, there are tens of millions who are not IVY Leaguers. Hopefully, they will prevail in November.

And what became of H.L. Mencken, perhaps the most popular columnist of his time?

Unfortunately for his reputation, he was a rabid anti-Semite and vicious racist as well as a bit of a snob, he intensely disliked the American middle class, organized religion, Jews, Negros, representative democracy, chiropractors, and The South (particularly Arkansas, which he regarded as "The Apex of Moronia").

Despite these little faults the NPS advisory board suggested that his house in Baltimore be declared a National Historic Landmark under the Literature theme.

In spite of Mencken's curmudgeonly ways (or perhaps because of them) Mencken has a robust presence in most anthologies of quotations. Here are a few:

"The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore."

"Adultery is the application of Democracy to love."

'In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for. I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

"God is a comedian playing to an audience afraid to laugh."

"It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry."

'"Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence."

"Faith may be defined as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."

"If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl."

Mencken departed this vale January 29, 1956.



Gros Morne National Park is the most spectacularly beautiful national park in Eastern North America.

Its stock in trade is 1,000-foot cliffs and likewise waterfalls that drop into sapphire blue fjords that wind through some of the world's oldest mountains.

Gros Morne is definitely worth seeing before you die (and indeed is worth a special trip if you ARE dying) it is located on the west coast of Canada's island province of Newfoundland.

It is a large park (697 square miles, compared to Sequoia's 631) and there is much to see.

One thing you should not miss is the boat ride on Western Brook Pond. (You must realize that Canadians are masters of understatement: The body of water in question is not what we Americans would call a "pond". Rather it is a rather formidable fjord, ten miles long, 1.6 miles in width and an average depth of 238 feet.)

To get to the boat dock, you will traverse a wheel chair accessible two-mile botanists' dream of a trail through a wild flower garden.

After passage through the "pond" (visualize a boat ride through a flooded Yosemite Valley) we came upon a particularly spectacular waterfall.

Now neighbors, waterfalls are a bit like snowflakes. Every waterfall has the same simple ingredients, running water and a near vertical cliff; but as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, due to the configuration of the cliff face, no two waterfalls are exactly alike.

Thus, if you were in the need of a hobby, you could travel the Earth photographing the world's great waterfalls and never have a repeat image.

(My wife thought this to be one of my dumber ideas.)

"That's the highest waterfall in the park," said the naturalist "It's 1,150 feet high!"

"What's it called?" I asked, innocently.

"That's PISSING MARE FALLS," replied the naturalist with only a hint of a smile.

Now friends, I was expecting something dignified like "Queen Elizabeth Falls" or "King George Falls" or a time-tested cliché like "Bridal Veil Falls".

I had not reckoned on the earthiness of Newfoundland's early European settlers who enjoyed calling a spade a spade when it came to conspicuous water flow.

Reminds me of a geological feature in Southern Utah that is commemorated in an interpretive plaque at Bryce Canyon National. It is of course, the famous "Mollie's Nipple."

Apparently, the girl got around quite a bit; because, according to the Department of Interior's Board on Geographical Names, there are no less than seven "Mollie's Nipples" scattered around the Southwest.

Neither the Board on Geographic Names nor its Canadian counterpart was prudish enough to wish historical names bowdlerized to "Mollie's Mammaries" or "Micturating Mare Waterfall".

Thunderbear.This was not always the case with other governmental agencies.

The Bureau of Land Management was horrified to find that one of its meadows in its Steen's Mountain Wilderness in Oregon was listed on government maps as "Whorehouse Meadow".

The reason for this geographic description was that enterprising girls of good fortune would set up tents on the meadow to insure that the lonely Basque sheepherders would not be too lonely.

In the 1960's, BLM brass changed the name to "Naughty Girl Meadow".

However, the amateur historians of Oregon felt that "Naughty Girl Meadow" didn't quite catch the flavor of the Old West and petitioned the Board on Geographic Names to return "Whorehouse Meadow". This was done in 1981.

Now with the scatological and the sexual taken care of, The Board on Geographic Names could move into the minefield of Political Correctness.

It seems that upon reflection and revision, some of our heroes were not always so heroic nor were they always on the right side of justice.

Some of our "heroes" were down right homicidal maniacs, which is one reason Andrew Jackson is in the process of being kicked off the $20 bill in favor of a woman of color, Harriet Tubman.

Now one of the inexpensive ways of honoring someone is to name a geographic feature, usually a mountain, valley or canyon, after the honoree.

This works just fine, unless and until the honoree proves to have feet of clay.

For example, the highest point in South Dakota was formerly Harney Peak named in "honor" of a genocidal terrorist of a general, William S. Harney, who massacred some 86 Lakota, half of them women and children. The peak's name was quietly changed to Black Elk Peak in honor of the great Lakota medicine man and philosopher of that name.

And then we have Mount Doane and Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park.

Lieutenant Gustavus Doane was an active participant in an 1870 massacre of 217peaceful Blackfoot Indians, mainly old men, women and children on the Marias River in Montana.

Later, he provided the military escort for the highly successful Washburn-Doane Expedition in what was to become Yellowstone National Park. It seemed only fitting that a 10,000-foot mountain should be named after the lieutenant.

Unfortunately for Doane's posterity, the Blackfeet have long memories and have recently wondered why a 10,000-foot mountain in a national park should be named after a war criminal.

The Blackfeet (They prefer their own name Pikuni) would rather the mountain be renamed "First Nation Mountain."

Thunderbear.The Pikuni and the politically correct would like to see Yellowstone's Hayden Valley changed to "Buffalo Nations' Valley" as they believe Ferdinand V. Hayden, leader of the Hayden Survey which did much to establish Yellowstone National Park, had advocated the genocide of any Indians who did not assimilate.

The evidence for such a charge is not conclusive. Another member of the expedition may have added the genocide "suggestion" to the Hayden Report At any rate, unlike the Marias massacre, it was not acted upon.

The publicity has embarrassed the NPS, but the solution is beyond the mandate of the NPS, geographic names being the province of the Board on Geographic Names, which will decide the matter at a later date.

Few heroes have been devalued so quickly and so totally as George Armstrong Custer.

Few people in the West had more things named after them and few had more people clamoring to have the name removed than George A. Custer. Some 6 counties were named after him in the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. In addition, there is Custer-Gallatin National, Custer Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as Custer State Park and the town of Custer, South Dakota.

However, the times they are a changing.

Even his battlefield was changed from "Custer Battlefield National Historic Site to the more neutral and even handed "Little Big Horn Battlefield."

As for renaming Custer State Park may we suggest Red Cloud Tribal Park, which would simultaneously honor the Great War chief and achieve the Lakota goal of recovering the Black Hills, their sacred land.

Now the Lakota have not exactly defined their boundaries of the Black Hills and exactly what they would want in real estate. It is unlikely they would require tribal ownership of every Jim crack tourist trap that has sprung up in the Hills since Colonel Custer's demise. Nor, presumably, would the tribe be interested in acquiring Mount Rushmore. (The statue of Crazy Horse, a work in progress, might be another matter.)

Speaking of Crazy Horse, the town of Custer, South Dakota in the heart of the Hills might consider changing its name to that of the iconic Indian warrior. (Though the fact that Custer County went for Donald Trump 3,290 votes to Clinton's 1,120 would argue that outcome would be very unlikely.)

What's in a name? Quite a bit, apparently.



According to the philosopher PJ O'Rourke:

"You should always walk a mile in another man's shoes."


"Because you will be a mile ahead of him... and you have his shoes.

Spoken like a true Republican.

It is actually a good idea to seek out other people's opinion for no other reason than to try to understand their logic and even their prejudices.

For that reason I subscribe to a variety of magazines and periodicals espousing a variety of political faiths. They range from THE NEW REPUBLIC and MOTHER JONES (both rather left of center) to THE NATIONAL REVIEW and THE NATIONAL EXAMINER, (both of the Conservative persuasion) and so on.

Then there's RANGE magazine.

RANGE is sort of a reverse image of THE HIGH COUNTRY NEWS.

RANGE purports to be "The Cowboy Spirit on America's Outback."

RANGE claims to be the voice of stockmen who lease grazing rights from the Federal Government and RANGE definitely has a problem with Federal ownership of land in the West. They enthusiaically support the Bundy family and all the militias involved and sincerely believe that the county and its sheriff are the highest evolved form of democratic government and the only one the needs to be obeyed. (Despite the fact that "county" is not mentioned once in the U.S. Constitution.)

RANGE worries that federal law enforcement are allowed to carry pistols and other firearms. (Just like welfare ranchers.)

RANGE also worries a lot about wolves.

RANGE believes that wolves are the inadvertent, secret agents of the Federal Government; that they are a malevolent tool used to ruin and destroy hard workin' God fearin', G-droppin' ranchers who are the backbone of our nation.

Therefore, RANGE occasionally runs articles on wolves. Understandably they are not particularly supportive of the Canids.

In the summer, 2019 issue of RANGE, the editors ran a thought-provoking article by Chance Gowan, aquatic biologist with "more than 35 years experience and research in management of wildlife, aquatic systems and riparian ecology."

It seems that Chance is worried about wolves

"The problem with wolves, according to Chance, is that too many people are removed from nature and reality. Wolves are not carefree, furry little people as depicted in the fairy tale 'Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.' Wolf packs do not find lost children in the mountains. They do not protect humans. What they do is hunt in ferocious packs and kill and eat anything that moves. A pack of wolves needs a lot of meat day after day. They kill for a living; that's their job. They have already seriously depleted populations of their traditional game animals, and are refocusing their efforts toward livestock and pets. How long do you think it will be before they add humans to their diet?"

Thunderbear.Chance provides us with a timetable of when the local pack will start snacking on the local Kindergarten during recess.

According to Chance "Wolf Proponents are fond of saying 'There has never been a documented wolf attack on a human in North America.'"

"Not so" says Chance "There have been at least 145 documented wolf attacks in North America with 50 fatalities, 27 of those occurring in the last 20 years."

(Chance weakens his case by citing the "Wolf Truce" in which Russian and German soldiers on the Eastern Front in World War I allegedly were forced to make peace with other in order to fight off huge packs of wolves. This "urban legend" has been debunked.)

Now with all the vivid, ferocious wolf stories, one might get the idea that Chance hates wolves.

Not so!

He admires the species and can even wax poetic about them.

`'I would feel that my life was less fulfilled if I were never again to hear the howl of a wolf echoing across a canyon, Just as I would feel less fulfilled if I were never again to wake up on a crisp morning high in the mountains alone, far from civilization, with just the earth and my God. I believe most people in this country feel the same, even if they never leave their condos in the city. I believe people still want to know those things are still there and that primal life still exists because it is good for our spirits -- It all holds the earth together."

"It all holds the earth together." Interesting thought; sounds like an endorsement for a large national park or a forest service wilderness area. Henry David Thoreau could hardly have said it better.

Chance goes on to say that the problem with wolves is us! We have invited them back into our midst without proper management.


However, Canada manages its 60,000 wolves as a big game species and seems to do all right in the interface of wolves and people.

Perhaps Chance should look north for a solution to this problem.

Now we shall move to another interaction between wolves and men.

In this case, it is between wolves and criminals.

There has always been an almost mystical fascination with wolves and their ways by humans: To possess a wolf pelt was to possess a key into untamed Nature; to possess many wolf pelts sharpened the sense of wildness.

Unfortunately, one may not have the skill or the time to hunt wolves in Alaska.

No matter.

There were those who could meet the demand for illegal pelts. These were the wolf poachers of Denali.

The following is the story of how they were taken down as told by the superintendent of the park at that time, Clay Cunningham.


Alaska's traditional policies have always favored regulations to hunt predator wolves and grizzly bears as their management method to allow the increase of caribou, moose and Dall sheep. Many other states had regulations allowing the killing of predators by various means and often paid a bounty for the taking of a predator.

Early wildlife management in the 1930's and beyond believed that predators control prey and the removal of predators would allow prey species to increase. Modern wildlife management realizes the reverse is true. Policies that increase reproductive prey allow more predators to reach maturity, as there is more food available.

The state of Alaska and Denali National Park is an example. For years Alaska encouraged the taking of predators, especially wolves, by hunting and trapping.

The 1980's were a tumultuous time as state regulations were often changing due to court challenges. Wolves were frequently hunted by air. Here hunters shot wolves from Super Cubs or other aircraft. This was a very efficient method of killing a lot of wolves, but the number of wolves available on state land had been reduced by years of unrestricted hunting and trapping. Wolf pelts averaged $600 a pelt. With fewer wolves available on state land, criminal poachers resorted to hunting where wolves were more prolific in Denali National Park and Preserve where both predator and prey species had been protected since 1917 and there were more predator and prey species available. That attracted wolf poaching.

In March 1983, a neighbor of Denali was flying his own two place Taylor Craft airplane with a friend in an area of Denali where he had previously seen many wolves. He was not hunting wolves but wished to show his friend the wolves he had previously observed. On their flight in, they observed a Super Cub coming out. It was white with orange trim equipped with yellow skis including a tail ski. When the neighbor reached the area where he had seen so many wolves what he and his friend saw now was skinned wolf carcasses.

When he got home, he called the Denali Chief Ranger Tom Griffiths and reported the incident. Tom immediately dispatched his West District Ranger, Bryan Swift to drive south checking the various dirt landing strips looking for a white and orange trim with a tail ski. It wasn't found but Swift copied all the license plates of cars parked at the various dirt airstrips, which he was later able to identify. Several were from Anchorage. One of which was a known poacher and burglar who had been previously convicted on state charges.

I sent East District Ranger Norm Simons to fly with Hal Terry who operated Denali Air Service flying out of the Denali Airstrip. Terry was a former Korean War fighter pilot who had a Cessna 180 equipped with skis. They landed at the site where the wolf carcasses were found. Ranger Simons measured the ski tracks that were likely those of the poacher's aircraft, took pictures of the wolf carcasses and found a collar of one of the wolves which had been collared by the park biologists ad retrieved one of the wolf carcasses which was placed in the park's evidence freezer.

The news media reported that shooters from aircraft were poaching Denali's wolves. As noted, the average pelt price for a wolf at the time was $600, so there was incentive among the lawless for poaching wherever they could easily be taken. The 1980's were controversial times for wolf hunters and those opposed to wolf hunting.

Hunters and the state game and fish regulations were consistently challenged in court concerning state policies on wolf hunting methods. Policies and regulations changed often until 1988 when the governor banned wolf control. Regardless of the state regulations, it was illegal to hunt wolves in Denali.

Terry Drinkwater, the CBS TV West Coast news anchor and his cameraman showed up at Denali to interview me concerning the poaching of Denali's wolves.

"What are you doing about this?" was his first question.

I explained that there was no way in hell the rangers were going to catch aerial wolf poachers flying their Super Cub aircraft while rangers only had dog sled patrols and the occasional use of a contract aircraft.

It was a long interview and I told Drinkwater we needed our own Super Cub to have any chance of preventing or catching wolf poaching in the 5.9 million acre park.

Drinkwater called me the next morning informing me that Dan Rather, who had replaced Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news, would report the wolf-poaching story on the evening news.

The next day, John Cook, Alaska Regional Director for the NPS, received a call inquiring if I was a Republican or a Democrat. Cook replied that he didn't know and didn't care.

I received a call from the White House asking the same question. My reply was that I was an Independent.

Apparently, that was an acceptable answer because the Reagan White House paid for the acquisition of a park Super Cub with skis and tundra tires and a Ranger Pilot position. It took several months until Ranger Pilot John Untrue and the Super Cub joined the Denali staff.

While the park was severely handicapped until their own aircraft and pilot were available, it didn't stop Denali's Chief Ranger Tom Griffiths and his District Rangers Brian Swift and Norm Simmons. Simmons worked with Alaska State Trooper, Roger Ellis, who was station south of the park entrance in Cantwell. Ellis was investigating a cabin burglary and same day airborne wolf poaching on Alaska State land that happened about the same time as the wolf poaching in Denali. It was illegal to shoot any animals on Alaska State lands on the same day of flight.`

Over the net several months, Trooper Ellis was able to obtain a warrant for the prime suspect in the cabin burglary from his fingerprint found in the cabin. Ranger Simmons was able to identify one of the poached wolves as the pack Alpha female from the collar. That pelt had a unique stripe down her back which provided a key link for the case A reward for information led to the identify of a hunter who was granted immunity to testify against the leader in the wolf poaching and cabin burglary. Ranger Simons traced the unique pelt to a taxidermy firm in California He than contacted the California Fish and Game where Warden Lisa Bauer was able to identify the uniquely marked pelt from among over one hundred wolf pelts,

The combination of state and federal evidence led to the arrest and conviction of a criminal who had previously been convicted and sentenced in a different case. His plane was confiscated in that case. To prevent another confiscation, he burned the plane he used in this poaching case. Warrants for arrest were issued to several hunters who fled the state. However, the leader of the poaching operation was imprisoned for three and a half years.

News reports of this Case and the fact that Denali National Park now had a pilot ranger making regular patrols ended any further attempts of wolf poaching at that time.


Yes! What you have been striving for! The all-important Safety Message!

As you know, Safety is our number one Job; a job that is complicated by the fact that the 45th President is the most unsafe President in the history of the nation.

How so?

The Constitution does not require that the President be a genius, but it does require that he/she be stable, or the 25th Amendment could be invoked.

This is rather unlikely; the majority of his party agrees with Trump that his greatest strength is his total unpredictability.

This is O.K. (if irritating) if you are dealing with rational politicians like Boris Johnson or Angela Merkel. It is not O.K. if you are dealing with a fellow stable genius like Kim Jong-un or the Grand Ayatollah who has direct hotline to God.

These two worthies may decide that Trump was not kidding with his bombastic twitter threats and try for a first strike knock out or at least go down swinging. All of which are unsafe.

Or, on the other hand, President Trump might decide to fire off a nuclear device just for the bloody hell of it; just because he can.

Now many Americans believe that there must be some intervening force that would prevent the President from doing just that: Say, An avuncular silver haired bird colonel who would shake his head and say '"DONALD! STOP PLAYING WITH THE NUCLEAR CODES! THOSE ARE ADULT TOYS! GO TO YOUR ROOM!"

No, there is no intervening "good guy" that would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear war.

The April 2020 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has an editorial that states this is really not a good idea.

It is not that SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN is prejudiced against Donald Trump (They are, but that's beside the point) the editors simply believe that "A highly impulsive U.S. President should not be able to single handedly start a global nuclear conflagration that could kill tens of millions of people."

The editors point to a study that reveals that nearly half of the Presidents from 1776 to 1974 showed signs of mental illness. (That should probably read "leaders" as we didn't have a president in 1776.)

The editors end with the solemn joint statement from Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought".

So at least let's make firing a nuclear missile a committee decision rather than an individual whim of a frustrated narcissist.

Then there is the matter of the election.

Let us digress a bit.

Most NPS units have contingency plans for various disasters, both natural and man made; floods, earthquakes, blizzards, wildfire, riots, tornados, etc. The individual parks do practice drills on response to these various scenarios depending on the statistical likelihood of the event.

One cannot help but notice that Congress does not seem to have a contingency plan for "what to do" if President Trump fails to abide by the results of the 2020 election.

This is a safety issue.

One could say that in that event, Congress might ask the head of the Secret Service to gently remove him from the Oval Office.

Unfortunately, there are complications. Trump is the only President who comes equipped with his own personal militia.

That would be the National Rifle Association. According to the WASHINGTON POST they number around 5 million. This is larger than the combined armed forces of the United States.

Also, according to the WASHINGTON POST, the NRA spent some 30 million dollars putting Trump in office and thus has a vested interest in keeping the lout in office.

The safety question is what happens when Trump calls upon the NRA to nullify a "fraudulent and rigged election"?

Fortunately American democracy has two things working in its favor:

  1. The NRA are a disagreeable rabble easily dispersed by the 82nd Airborne


  2. Trump is enthusiastically hated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff who regard him as a bully and a coward who has called the "losers" and "babies" and who taunted and ridiculed the heroic John McCain.

The only thing lacking is a contingency plan that would put control of the government and armed forces in the hands of Congress and out of the hands of the President until Inauguration Day and orderly succession.

This would seem to be a bi-partisan issue that almost every Congressperson could get behind.

Would you write a letter to your Congressperson and ask him/her to discuss possible Contingency Plans with you?

Remember, Safety is our number one job.

Return HOME

Image credits:
Crazy Horse Monument -
George Armstrong Custer -
H. L. Mencken -
Helen Duncan -
HMS Barham Explosion -
Mollie's Nipple -
Newfoundland -
Nuclear Liberty -
Range -
SafetyBear - P. J. Ryan and WebHarmony LLC composite
Warlock -
Witchcraft Act -
© Copyright 2020 by P. J. Ryan, all rights reserved.

PJ Ryan can be reached at: