Slim Randles is here today to kick the weekend off with a reminiscence of a special time in his life. I think it is good, and important, to look back on experiences that meant so much to us. In remembering, we are living it again in a sense, and that brings joy and contentment and a smile.
Before moving on, I want to share two pictures of daffodils that have been blooming beside an abandoned house that I pass most days when taking my dog for a walk. Seeing them reminds me of the meadows filled with daffodils I used to pass on my drive to town when I lived out in the country. That is a memory that brings a smile.
Now here’s Slim.
This coming Saturday, I’ll probably be right here in New Mexico. Well, most of me will. But my heart and my wishes and part of my soul will be many miles from here, up in Anchorage, Alaska.
Anchorage. First Saturday in March. Dog trucks with freight sleds lashed to the top of the dog boxes.
For 46 years now, this has meant only one thing to me: the start of the Iditarod Dogsled Race. A thousand miles. Anchorage to Nome. There will be screaming dogs, lunging into their harnesses at the start line. One team released every two minutes to prevent what would certainly be a world-record dog fight. Six or eight men and women holding the dogs and the sled.
And in a flash the team and the musher are gone, silently, rounding a corner and being lovingly consumed by the birch forest.
In 1973, for the first race, I was lucky enough to be one of those mushers. I didn’t finish, sorry to say. Crushed an ankle about 300 miles in. But I know what it’s like for those men and women out on the trail with those dogs. I know about the snow and cold, and sometimes the wind. And getting that evening fire going, and melting snow for dog water, and heating up a frozen piroshki for your own dinner.
Then sinking into sleep, wondering what tomorrow will bring.
That part, you see, hasn’t changed in 46 years. In fact, that part hasn’t changed since the gold rush of around 1910 when the trail was first established.
So, I may still be here in mesa country on Saturday, but I’ll also be there, with the men and women and dogs, hearing the roaring of the crowds and then the hush of a thousand-plus miles of silent, frozen country.
Packed trails and healthy dogs, mushers. That’s the wish from Seven-Dog Slim. It’s a very long way to Nome.
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Brought to you by “Strange Tales of Alaska,” by Slim Randles.
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For a little background on Slim’s first race and why he’s called Seven-Dog Slim, here’s a link to an article he wrote in the Sunnyside Sun in 2014.
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I remember when I first heard about dog-sledding, I thought that would be such a fun thing to do. I never made it to Alaska, and the closest I ever came to “mushing” was several years ago when I hitched my dog, Poppy, to a small wagon to haul gravel that had washed from my driveway part way down the road. She actually worked pretty well at that, and it beat having to carry buckets.
Do you have memories of a special time or event in your life? Please do share in the comments.
That it for me folks. I’ll see you on the other side of the weekend. I do hope yours is a good one. Be safe. Be warm. Be happy.