Paws Along the Trail with Oral History
While in Nikolai, I met the chief of the village. He shared with me words of wisdom: “When people tell their stories, listen. That is the way to become smart.” I have tried to put that into practice on the Iditarod Trail as I’ve met many people and listened to their stories.
Noah Pereira pulled into Anvik this afternoon. He spread straw, giving his dogs individual attention. He said he’s still having fun, which is good since he paid so much to do so! He shared some stories of the trail. Between the time Andy Pohl and Kristy Berington left, and when he left 20 minutes later, the trail disappeared because of blowing snow for about 5 miles. Getting into the woods was a bit better. He estimates it took him about 21 hours to travel 79 miles because of white-out conditions with lots of blowing wind and snow. He credits his good team of dogs for getting him through. At one point, several mushers were stopped at Don’s Cabin between Ophir and Iditarod. Three mushers started off, but then came back and warned the rest to wait; it was too bad out there. He estimates that 10 of them waited it out until morning light.
http://iditarod.com/about/the-iditarod-trail/ophir-to-iditarod/ [more information on Don’s Cabin]
I met several of the folks who live in Anvik, a community of 79. They have been very welcoming. Wilson Mailelle has been a checker for the Iditarod teams (checks to make sure all their mandatory sled items are present) since the first race in 1973! He and Ken Chase, an Iditarod competitor from Anvik, gave me lots of history on Anvik and the Iditarod.
In 1997, Ken was mushing in the Iditarod, running along with Jerome Longo. He knew he was running toward earning the last place Red Lantern award. However, Jerome also wanted the award. Iditarod mushers sometimes like to pull pranks, so he decided to hide behind a cabin for 8 hours. Jerome went past, not realizing Ken was hiding. Ken won the Red Lantern Award in 1997. He also told of a long-ago race where another musher was having trouble getting his dogs to drink enough. The guy was going around to veteran mushers asking questions. When he asked Ken if he knew why the dogs weren’t staying hydrated, Ken quipped, “It’s water worms.” Everyone around got silent. The musher believed him and asked, “How do I get rid of the worms?” Then Ken laughed and the musher knew he’d been fooled.
Wilson mentioned how the village of Anvik works together to get things done. It’s the way it needs to be. None of the “Stay off my property” works here. It’s a good village where people help each other. “We work as one,” he says. They have even kept a museum full of artifacts from the village and surrounding areas!
I don’t know if I’m any smarter from hearing these stories, but my life has definitely been enriched by listening to these great storytellers. I challenge all of you to listen and learn!