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You know, it didn’t really seem like the day was so auspicious. It was cold. There was snow on the ground there on the baseball diamond. But then, it’s winter in Alaska … Anchorage, actually, and it should be cold.

First Saturday in March, 1973. More than 40 dog teams were there, getting lined out and harnessed by mushers and their handlers. I was one of those dog mushers. We had a couple of world champions to race against and a lot of folks like me … called “recreational” mushers by the big shots in racing. In my case, my cabin was more than 12 miles from pavement, and dog sledding was how we got to the car.

We kept looking at each other and silently asking, “Are we really going to do this?”

Are we really going to drive these teams 1,100 miles across Alaska and end up in Nome?

Well, yes. Most of the teams got there. I didn’t. I crushed an ankle about halfway to Nome … and was flown by helicopter back to a hospital in Anchorage.

But at least I was part of it. “It” was the very first Iditarod Dog Sled Race. I had seven dogs, which was the minimum allowed, and I had to borrow someone’s house pet to get the seven. The next year the minimum was nine dogs, so my one distinction is being the only guy to start the race with seven dogs.

There are still some old people up in that country who’ll know who you’re talking about if you mention “Seven Dog Slim.” And this Saturday, as the teams leave Anchorage on that long, cold, camping trip, you mushers and dogs can count on good luck prayers from ol’ Seven Dog Slim.

Be careful and take care of your dogs. It’s a very long way to Nome.


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