Cordova Chronicles: News of the world with your morning coffee

On United Airlines deals, always be sure to read the fine print

Enjoying the bright side of the road, trumpeter swans gather at 8 Mile on a sunny spring morning.  Photo by Dick Shellhorn

Thanks to online news, the plop of a daily paper landing on the front porch is pretty much a thing of the past, but some of us still have a paper girl or boy delivering the Cordova Times once a week.  Heck, my career with the Times began back in 1954, when Harold Bonser was the editor/publisher.  I delivered papers worth ten cents a copy, and a dime tip was big money.

These days, with a single click, one can arise to read newspapers from all over the planet while sipping a cup of coffee from a digital Java Maker that already has it brewed.

Starting the day with news of the world can be somewhat disheartening, but with a little selective searching, there is usually a tidbit or two that will make your day.

For example:

From the Anchorage Dispatch News, 27 April 17, under headlines:  “Anchor Point woman allegedly strips naked and fights an Alaska State Trooper”, this gem:

“Dispatchers in Soldotna got a report about a disturbance at Dorothy Drive in Anchor Point at 9:41 pm Monday, troopers said.  A trooper responded and spotted Field outside a home.  She had not been invited and was refusing to leave, pounding on a door on the back porch, troopers said.  When the responding trooper asked Field to leave, she “stripped naked and challenged the trooper to a fight,” according to the dispatch.  “While the trooper tried to arrest Field she actively fought him and attempted to strangle the trooper.”  Then, Field commanded her dogs to attack the trooper and the homeowner, troopers said.  Both of her alleged targets sustained no life-threatening dog bites, troopers said.”

Kinda makes you want to jump up and run down to the police station to ask Chief Mike Hicks for a job, doesn’t it.  The arrest certainly didn’t have cause for a strip search.  Wonder if Ms. Fields will be starring on the next Alaska Reality TV Show.  It actually might be worth watching.

Or try this clipping from the 27 April 17 Oregonian Sports Section, which I read daily, being a OSU Beaver, Class of 66.

“Former Oregon Duck wide receiver Kirk Merritt has been kicked off the Texas A&M football team after two academic tutors accused him of indecent exposure last fall.”

“According to reports, the alleged exposure incidents occurred on consecutive days last fall.  In a statement to the Houston Chronicle earlier this month, Merritt’s lawyer said the sophomore had a “bad case of jock itch” and did not mean to offend the tutors.

The article mentions that Merritt played for the Ducks in 2015 before transferring to Texas A&M, and that the tutors both happened to be females.

Hopefully, ESPN Sport Center will have reporters lined up to be there when the former Duck pleads his case.  I’ll bet they battle Saturday Night Live script writers for seats.  One assumes there will be no re-enactment of the alleged crime.

In the meantime, Go Ducks!

Speaking of seats, for those of you that fly, which is most everyone in Cordova, by now the coverage of a passenger being manhandled like a 200-pound halibut off an overbooked United Airlines flight is old news.  However, United responses to the incident continue to make headlines.  For example, this one from the 27 April 17 Alaska Dispatch News, titled  “United Airlines will offer passengers up to $10,000 to surrender seats on overbooked flights.”

A Copper River sunrise puts news of the world on the back burner. Photo by Dick Shellhorn

“Under the airline’s new customer-first policy, travelers who voluntarily give up their seats will be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in travel certificates.  United employees will be give new authority to find creative solutions to get bumped passengers to their finals destinations – even if it means booking them on another airline or sending them to another airport.”

Ah, always read the fine print.  Note it says “up to $10,000.”  The dime I made selling newspapers back in 1954 fits in that category.

A day later United added several qualifiers, perhaps after realizing smart passengers would fight over being the last to board the plane, hoping to get bumped.

Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change from the mobs that crowd the gate in a rush to be sure their oversize carry-ons can be crammed into undersized spaces.

In the aftermath of the United incident, one of my favorite ADN columnists, Elise Patkotak, penned a dandy called “The Miseries of Flying.”  It appeared in the 27 April 17 edition, and included these jewels:  “If you are over five feet tall, you have less leg room than you had in your mother’s womb”, as well as “It’s hard to feel special when you are getting more intimate with your seat mate than you do with your spouse.”

Like I said, there are some printed gems out there.  Start your day by trying to find them, on the bright side of the road.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at