By Chuck Carpenter
Living in Alaska during the sixties was a lot of fun for my two brothers and me. We lived out of town a few miles, and the road to the house would be snowed in quite often. Lots of snow and wind would drift the road in so we would leave the ole pickup out close to the main road and use our dog team to haul groceries and everything else from the main road to our house.
Living where we did we would make sure to have everything we needed before the holidays. It wasn’t easy just to run down to the store and pick up something that we happened to forget.
Mom and Dad had been to town and picked up everything for the holidays. They parked the pickup near the two-mile driveway to our house. Dad hiked home and harnessed up the dog team and mushed back to the pickup.
A dog sled is built so that the person running the dog team rides on the runners behind the sled. Everything that is hauled is put in what is called the basket. It’s the place on the sled where you haul things or passengers. On the back of the sled there is also a brake to slow down the dogs and to keep the sled from running into the dogs that are closest to the sled. The driver of the sled (the musher) runs the brake.
After Dad and Mom loaded the sled, the basket was full, no place left for ole Mom to ride. Mom decided to stand on the runners in front of Dad. Dad stood behind her and would reach around her and control the sled.
They headed out, making pretty good time, and started down a steep hill. Mom’s feet slipped off the runners. She fell between the runners and grabbed onto the side of the sled and was dragging along in the snow. The problem was that she was under the brake and Dad couldn’t slow the team down at all. The sled was picking up speed and Dad was telling Mom to let go, but she was hanging on for dear life. After about a hundred yards or so, her pants came down to her ankles and were packed with snow. She couldn’t hold on any longer and let go.
Dad was then able to quickly stop the dog team and tie them up. He helped poor ole Mom dump the snow out of her pants and get everything situated.
They unloaded the sled and changed things around so Mom would fit in the basket with the rest of the things. They made it the rest of the way home without any further mishaps.
We all had a wonderful holiday, with lots of fun and plenty to eat.
After the holiday and after my youngest brother returned to school, he shared the story of my mother’s dog mushing adventure during show and tell with his first grade class.
Chuck Carpenter, who now lives in Idaho, likes to hunt, fish and trap. He worked on a farm as a boy; then, as an adult, he took a job with the Department of Interior’s Animal Damage Control, now called USDA Wildlife Services. He ultimately became a district supervisor. He retired in 2011.