Monday, September 3, 2018

Something Different

Training my team on the beach at Pistol River.

This post is indeed “something different”—an indulgence, an experiment. A few days ago I was looking in my file of past published writing (I keep a copy of everything that gets published and usually a copy of everything I thought should have been published) and I found a series of poems about sled dogs and racing published in various sled dog journals (International Siberian Husky News, Northern Dog News, Mushing, Oregon Outdoors, 
Cascades East). As background, Anne and I raced a sled dog team of AKC registered Siberian huskies throughout the northwest for twelve years in the 1970s and 80s. Our kennel was as large as 14 dogs, but I raced in the three, five, or seven-dog classes and Anne raced in the three dog class.
The poems don’t pretend to be of high literary merit, but they were good enough to contribute to my writing being nominated for a national award from the Dog Writers’ Association. Nominated is the operative word. Since these poems have only been seen by a limited audience in the 1970s, I thought it was time to allow them a fresh viewing.
I’m sorry to say my library of dog photos is quite limited. For this post I’ve tried to use what images I have from those days and to fill in with others that will fit the poems. As this post is such a departure from my usual travel blog, comments on the poems, the photos, the concept, or for that matter any other subject (except the current American political scene) would be highly appreciated. 


Running through the dunes near Florence.

My leader looks back
from the brink of the dune
like a small child
about to cross a road:
excitement moving him nearer and nearer the edge.

I tell him, “Okay,”
and he leaps down the face. 
My voice echos
my own trepidation: 
of when I am unable to
provide the needed reassurance.

Tired dogs, Amorak and Myko.

for Pete and Keno

Evil Eyes

The husky lays, eyes shut,
on his side at my feet. 
The rancher caught him, 
laid him down with a single shot
as he toyed with the freightened sheep.

“No, no,” I tell him, 
“It’s okay. You did
the right thing.
He was where he shouldn’t be.”

I hold inside the scream.
How he got out I haven’t figured.
That he did
his cold body attests.
I can’t say how long he was free,
but he paid dearly
whatever roaming he did.

It’s natural for a husky to run.
It’s natural for a husky to run
He was shot.
Civilization seeks its pound of flesh.

“No, no, it’s okay.
If it happens again
do the same thing. 


Waiting for our turn to run.

My team starting a seven mile race at Beaver Marsh.

The trail, 
packed hard by teams
that had passed before 
is crossed by myriad paths 
never covered by 
dog team or driver.

In a long flat meadow
the trail is crossed by
the tracks of a field mouse
which ends in a patch of snow
ruffled by the wings of an owl.

Around the bend
the packed trail
bisect dots and dashes
left by a coyote
with a hare fleeing before it:
the end must be guessed at.

On a ridge
the highway is
almost bare,
swept by the track 
of wind going south.

When the trail turns to dust
the sled tracks will have melted
and been blown away.
Only the occasional tracks
of mouse, owl, coyote, and hare 
will disturb the sweep of wind.
Darrell Stewart racing at Painted Hills.

Anne with the team at Beaver Marsh with Mt Thielsen in the background.


My team running across the lake at the Diamond Lake race.

get out of the truck
icy winds slap at me
ripping away warmth of the truck heater
hat pulled down gloves put on
get the dogs out of the truck
they like the cold
least they don’t mind
harnesses stiff from yesterday
struggle to get them on
ganglines unkink with static-like staccato
dogs harnessed hooked high on cold
team starts cold intensifies with speed
numbing cold
too cold

SQUIRREL: After Being Run Over by a Dog Team in Training

Dave Hoiland (brother-in-law) runs one of my teams in Medford summer race.

“I was scuffling, shuffling in the forest duff
hunting for delectable edibles.
I was warm in my fine winter pelt;
dapper in the damp.
I knew the day was fine for frolic
with Jay and Junco.
I had a great game of car dodge going; 
could see a good ways away.
I heard the wheels a long way off;
could see it coming slowly.
I flit from behind tree to under bush,
from stump to ditch.
I waited until the last moment possible —
the thing across from me.
I dashed out to do the difficult ‘complete under’
so slowly was it going. 
I was in the road leaping to get under
just past the front. 
I was in mid-stride when the thing stopped,
started snarling and snapping.
I dodged teeth, feet, heavy boots, 
fled from fangs and flailing ropes.
I twirled and jumped, twisted and flew;
finally free to run.
I hid in a tree, heart in throat,
wet from mouthings.
I saw in the road masses of mouths, tails,
feet, hands, and boots, too.
I left them there, stomping and swearing;
trying to put it back together.
I think that next time I’ll look more carefully
at what comes down the road.

for Ian and Meadow

She lay in my arms; 
a quivering, frightened bundle,
hot as an August afternoon in Barstow, 
her breathing shallow and irregular, 
eyes glazed, fluttery, and caked at the edges.

It was only days ago
she ran hard in her traces
while the sickness raged unknown.
It was only weeks ago
she romped in summer fields
chasing tails and butterflies.
It was only months ago
she marched mile after mile, hill after hill,
pulling steady at my behest.

I cried
when winter came early this year
to the Meadow.

NEXT: Most likely something from Scotland.