Liz Writes Life 3-21-17
March 21, 2017
Liz Writes Life
At age 57, Alaska’s Mitch Seavey ran the race of his life winning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 14, 2017. Mitch shattered the previous time record to steal the title of the fastest Iditarod musher from his son, Dallas Seavey, who won the 2016 Iditarod Race at age 29.
“Old guys rule,” Mitch claimed, as he recounted the 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes race after arriving in Nome. This is his third win and he is the race’s oldest champion as well as the speediest. His win is certainly impressive as the mushers started the 1,000 mile race in 40 to 50 degree-below temperatures in Fairbanks. Ugh! When Mitch pulled into to Nome, it was a warmer minus 4 degrees. Ha.
Mitch beat his son’s 2016 winning time by eight hours and said he was surprised by his dogs, who acted like they wanted to move out. He said they seemed frustrated to go slow and he was concerned because he had never traveled that fast that far, but he “let them roll!” The team averaged around 10 mph! And Mitch took all of his mandated rests.
I am fascinated by the Iditarod race, which is now run as a modern-day challenge, I believe, to keep alive past traditions and importance of sled dogs, but also preserve the best of mankind – that of serving and sacrificing to save others.
In January of 1925, children in Nome were dying. The village was infected with diphtheria and the only physician, Dr. Curtis Welch, feared an epidemic would certainly put Nome’s population of 1,400 at risk. There was an antitoxin serum that could save lives, but it was 1,000 miles away in Anchorage. Ice choked Nome’s harbor making sea travel impossible and even the most current airplanes were open-cockpit and couldn’t fly in the subzero temps. The nearest train station was 700 miles away leaving sled dogs the fastest means of transportation.
Mushers and sled dogs were intricate to everyday life, including delivering mail and supplies, so there were significant trails between villages and towns. News of Nome’s dilemma reached Alaska Territorial Governor, Scott C. Bone, who quickly recruited the best mushers and dog teams. It was decided that a round-the-clock relay to transport the serum from Nenana to Nome would be the best way to achieve the goal. In the dark of January 27, 1915, a train arrived in Nenana with the precious package of 20-pounds of serum wrapped in protective fur. Musher Wild Bill Shannon tied the parcel to his sled, gave the signal and his nine Malamutes took off in what is called the “Great Race of Mercy”.
It was 60 degrees below zero and Shannon developed frostbite in the first leg of the relay of 52 miles, before he handed off the serum. Most mushers tallied 30 miles. One of Alaska’s most famous musher was Norwegian-born Leonhard Seppala, who departed Shaktoolic on January 31st on an epic 91-mile leg. He had already rushed 170 miles from Nome to intercept the relay. Gale-whipped winds sent temps to 85 degrees below zero, but Seppala’s lead Siberian Husky “Togo” fiercely led the 19-dog team through the Norton Sound where ice threatened to break apart.
Seppala handed off the serum to Charlie Olson, who after 25 miles met Gunnary Kaasen for the second-to-last leg of the relay. Kaasen set off into a pelting blizzard, but he trusted his lead dog, Balto. At one point, a huge gust of wind flipped the sled throwing the precious serum into a snow bank. A panicked Kaasen dug into the snow and was able to find the serum. He arrived in Port Safety early on Feb. 2nd, but the next team was not ready to leave, so Kaasen pushed on to Nome covering the last 53 miles arriving on Feb. 3, 1925.
It seemed fitting on this fine spring morning to share this harsh, freezing cold story of skill, determination and ultimate kindness. Happy spring!
Recently, I talked with Helen Lewis, who is a first cousin to Dwight Hammond, age 76, who is serving a second trumped-up sentence in prison. It was the situation of Dwight and his son, Steven, who were charged with starting a fire that burned from their property on to BLM-managed lands in Eastern Oregon (which was a cooperative burn with the federal agency) that brought Ammon and Ryan Bundy to the Malheur National Park Refuge in Jan. 2016. There, the Bundy’s occupied the refuge in protest of the atrocities levied on the Hammonds.
After the second unjustified trial, where Hammonds were found guilty of a terrorist activity, they were released and then were expected to report to San Pablo Prison in L.A. area. Their incarceration started in early Jan. 2016 and is for five years. They had already completed their previous prison sentences and then the “terrorist” charge was brought against them.
Several months ago, Helen and her husband, Alvin, and other family members were able to visit Dwight in an open family-type room in prison. Helen said he looks good, sounds good and is doing well under the circumstances. The judge did mandate that father and son were to room together in one cell and that is luckily the case.
Dwight grew up in Siskiyou Co. in Edgewood. When he and his wife, Susie, married they then moved to Gazelle. Then they purchased their ranch in Eastern Oregon and during the last 20 years had continual problems with federal agencies.
A fundraiser for Jeanette Finicum will be held on Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Miner’s Inn Convention Center. Jeanette is the featured speaker. She and her family are raising funds to bring a civil lawsuit against the wrongful death of her husband, LaVoy Finicum, who was shot and killed by FBI agents and snipers on Jan. 26, 2016 on a rural highway in Eastern Oregon. Tickets are $25. Call Grace Leeman at 530-598-1908 to get your tickets.
Elizabeth Nielsen, Natural Resources Specialist for Siskiyou Co., will explain the CA. Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, at the Scott Valley Protect Our Water meeting this Thursday, March 23rd along with our usual presenters. Time is 7 p.m. at the Fort Jones Community Center.
Liz Bowen is a native of Siskiyou Co. and lives near Callahan. Call her at 530-467-3515.
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