Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In a Previous Life...

I was a musher.  Not like awesome Susan Butcher, Iditarod musher.  Oh yeah, I had Iditarod dreams, but eventually reality set in and I knew in my heart that I wasn't tough enough to get serious about it.  That didn't stop me from loving the sport though.  My husband worked with the first man from Oregon to complete the Iditarod in 1977, Jim Tofflemire. Jim did most of his training on the dunes of the southern Oregon  coast with wheeled carts.  In 1978 he started the Oregon Dune Mushers Mail Run, a 70 mile run over the Oregon Dunes from North Bend to Florence, commemorating how the mail was delivered long ago and served as a fundraiser to help support mushers from Oregon who wanted to run the Iditarod.  Mushers would sell envelopes that they would carry from North Bend to Florence.

Jim recruited Tom to help with the run first, and of course I was painting signs and helping too shortly therafter.  Next Jim gave us our first lead dog Yaetna, who to this date was the smartest dog I have ever known.

She knew the dunes like the back of her paw! I am known for being a little um, directionally challenged at times, and Tom advised me that all I needed to do is tell her where to go and she would take me.  That was great until we had a chewer in the gangline who released the front 4 dogs when we were climbing up a big hill.  I knew I was having to do alot of pushing, but I didn't know why until I crested the hill and saw the front four were gone, including my leader Yaetna.  That was a fun trip back to the truck, but Yaetna and crew were sitting by the truck waiting for us when I entered the parking lot. Yaetna's expression said "What took you so long? We've been here for an hour!"  Tom wanted to do the Iditarod and so we began building up our kennels and eventually breeding our own dogs.  Puppies were a lot of fun.

All tuckered out from playing Mom!
Tom and company after a snow run
Here is a picture crossing Tahkenitch creek

Here is me coming down Heartbreak hill.  This hill scared the bejeezes out of me and I was so happy to make it down without crashing as it was a lookout where people would hike out to watch the teams come in. Trust me, I wiped out many times and my best scars are my mushing badges of courage (or stupidity)!

Life has a funny way of changing and you move on to other dreams.  We eventually got out of the dogs and a part of me misses our mushing days.  I'm really grateful for the experience because it taught me many things. That's what lifes all about, isn't it?


Unknown said...

Wow, Mary! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing the story and pics!

Shannon said...

This is so neat!! What an interesting tidbit to share with us. Oh and the puppies...ahh, the puppies...sooooo sweet...puppies!

gMarie said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I had to read your email to my hubby last night and gasped.

Beautiful, beautiful dogs. I bet it was an amazing experience. thanks again for sharing it. g

The Slapdash Sewist said...

How very interesting! Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

Sara said...

This was a great post, Mom. I have so many great memories from my childhood that have to do with mushing. I loved the Saturdays where we'd go out early and come home wet and tired, then after a warm shower spend the day lounging. And who can forget The Ants Go Marching?? Best dog-motivator ever. :)