I have fond memories of our dogs competing in the races during the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, and of socializing with our fellow mushers once the dogs were in off the trail, fed and bedded down for the night, resting for the next day of competition.
We spent several months, in advance, training the dogs and ensuring the sprint sled was perfectly tuned. Weeks in advance, we worked on the decorations that would adorn not only the sled and dogs, but ourselves as well.
On race day, each team competitor would be decked out with beautiful blue and white pompoms attached to their harness, new booties on their paws and “peter heaters”, which my mother had patiently knitted, ready for the males.
The dogs knew this was different to just a training run; they were going for the “gold”. The three-day race started on Friday and ended Sunday, lasting for about three hours each day.
On Saturday afternoon I was just finishing feeding and laying bedding straw for my dogs when Bob, a fellow musher, drove his team up to mine. He yelled at me to jump into his sleigh as he wanted to show me something.
Off we went, in full run mode, heading toward the Edgewater Hotel. As Bob drove his team in the direction of the lounge entrance off First Avenue, I had no idea what Bob’s intent was.
Much to my surprise, the team was ordered to head for the open door of the lounge – at full speed! Bob was an expert driver, having no trouble squeezing through the smoke-filled doorway, the team never hesitating with the orders given.
As we bored through the open door, patrons flung their chairs and tables out of the way of the sled and the dogs. Over the racket of flying wood and sleigh runners on carpet, I could hear Bob yelling, “Gee! Gee!” (go right).
“Whoa!” Bob yelled to the team as they approached the bar. He yelled at me to grab the full keg of beer that was firmly balanced on the counter. It was too heavy to lift so I rolled it into the sled’s basket, jumped back in and yelled, “Let’s get outta here!”
Over the cheers of customers, Bob instructed the team to “Gee! Gee!” and, finally, “Haw!” (go left), then, “Go home!”, right out through the open door we had just come through.
As we headed for the doorway, I managed a quick look at the stunned faces of the patrons, locals and visitors, standing there with their mouth agape, chairs and tables lying on their sides. As we exited the doorway, I could hear clapping along with the dogs panting and Bob’s laughter.
I’ve recently talked to mushers from those bygone days, and they well remember this event happening. By the way, certain members of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association enjoyed refreshments down on the riverbank, but I’ll deny everything if asked.
This submission may be printed in the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival Program as part of the Legends of the Klondike series. Submit your story, by Dec. 24, to [email protected]