On the Road Again #9


Rookie by Jason Barron

Part 2

Both my Dad and my older brother Laird had left Ophir about the time Joe and I had gotten in, and this was on my mind as I saddled up in the last part of the afternoon. Things had been going poorly since the beginning of the race back in Anchorage, and now looking at my sad little team curled up in their straw beds with their food dishes overflowing with uneaten food, I wondered if I would ever see those two again before we reached Nome. That’s the funny part-it still had not entered my mind that since I was already down to ten dogs, and that year the Iditarod had adopted the 50% rule, in all likelihood I would not be reaching the finish line. Especially given the fact that I was still prepared to pull the hook and make a straight through run that would probably take at least 14 hours with a team that was sick, demoralized, and not eating.

There was great deal of rivalry between me and my Dad, and also my brother to some extent, back in those days. Even though this was my rookie run to Nome, I had been racing shorter races for years and putting over half the miles on Dads team since I was big enough to hold onto a set of handle bars, and to be honest, I had grown up to be very frustrated with my Father for not cracking into the elite group of drivers at the top of the Iditarod pack. This year, I was finally going to show him and my brother how this shit was supposed to be done. Or at least that’s the chip that was on my shoulder coming into the race. A lot had happened since last Saturday.

Finally, the sun sagged against the horizon and the heat of the day began to bleed off. There were over twenty drivers in the checkpoint and everybody was thinking the same thing: time to saddle up. I kicked the uneaten food away and started the process of waking my guys up, massaging limbs, stroking faces, and putting on booties. I was cued up to leave right on Joe’s heels when Jerry Austin sauntered over and tapped me on the shoulder. He wanted to know what my big hurry was. I told him matter of fact that Joe and I were making our move.

He just shook his head and said ‘Look kid, your already down on dogs-you need nine to finish with or they’ll pull you out of the race. I’m telling you as a friend, you need to back off or you’re not going to make it. If your Dad was here, he would tell you the same thing.’

Bringing Dad into it didn’t help me to see how genuine and altruistic Jerry’s advice was meant to be-the legendary driver taking the rookie aside and telling him what the facts of life were. I politely informed him that I would take his advice under advisement and proceeded to depart the checkpoint.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

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