The Neighborhood Mushing
The storm has passed and we once again have blue skies. Yesterday, in the early evening, we went out to watch some mushers come in. The kids played in the finish line chute which was protected from traffic (not that we have a lot of traffic, but with toddlers, it seems like cars are everywhere) and after playing under the burled arch announcing the finish of the Iditarod, we met my husband and went down onto the ice to watch a 71-year-old musher arrive.
Jim Lanier has been mushing for a long time. He's taken to wearing knee pads and protective gear in his older years, and I imagine that some of the younger mushers envy that extra padding. When he came by, we hooted and hollered and my husband held out our boy for a high-five. Jim smiled and reached out from his seat on his sled. (The younger mushers in the front stand and run with their dogs, but they're running a different race.)
Jim was out in this beautiful winter land with a team of dogs who were both his friends and partners. They were running a pretty good race, as well, time-wise, and I can't help but think they enjoyed the scenery a bit more.
They had great temperatures, clear days, a decent trail and beautiful northern lights. The dogs ran by with their heads up and their eyes alert. They looked over at me with their tails wagging as the lead dog began turning towards the path that would take them up into town.
Once in town and at the finish line, the helpers take off the booties and throw them out to the kids and adults hoping to gain a souvenir. The mushers hug their dogs, scratch their ears and give them some chunks of fish or meat. The dogs follow their people with twinkling eyes and when it's time to move on from the finish line, they begin to yip and strain to get running again.
My dog is a stray who has mushing dog roots. He's a runner through and through. Like a greyhound or whippet, he is amazingly mellow inside the house, content to lie on the sofa and lie next to the kids when they're eating, but once outside, he's offfff! And he's a joy to watch with his long stride and his pure love of running as fast as he can as long as he can. Luckily, we have the frozen ocean which stretches far enough for him to run great lengths before hearing, "That's far enough!"
He didn't get to go out yesterday, nor anytime this week because of all the visitors and mushing dogs in town, but he'll get to go out next week. The kids and I, however, did get to go out.
After a wonderful morning snuggle on the sofa, we bundled up and went down to cheer in a woman musher. Her dogs were wearing blue jackets and looked great. While they waited for their musher, they rolled on the ground and scratched the sides of their heads on the ice. We waved and talked to them through the fencing.
Little boy and little girl walked together along the sidewalk Very Carefully instead of riding in the stroller. They did great. There were moments that Little Boy thought about not being so amazing, and then he just was. Cleaning up before lunch was the normal pleasant everybody chip in process and then we went up for naps....which was/is the normal sometimes-great and sometimes-not-so-great process. He took forever to fall asleep, but sleeping away he now finally is.
This afternoon we will bundle up again and go play outside with the sun shining brightly, snow dripping off the eaves and a great only 20 degree chill to the air.
(Image Credits: Elise Davis.)