Slim Randles' Home Country
On the trail at the beginning of March
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It was the first
Saturday in March 1973, and more than 40 dog mushers were ready to
leave the semipro baseball stadium in Anchorage and drive their
teams more than 1,100 miles to Nome.
Could they really do it? Well, they did it that year and every year
since, of course, in the monumental Iditarod Sled Dog Race, but that
first year? The mushers themselves kinda looked at each other and
shrugged and wondered. No one alive had ever driven a team that far.
I was there and was privileged to have driven a team in that first
Some top-name mushers referred to guys like me —
homesteaders who used dog teams to get back and forth to town —
as "recreational mushers," meaning not serious racers. That was
true. Our dogs were valued members of our families, just as your dog
is in your family. We just had more of them and they pulled a sled
for a living.
Iditarod is pronounced eye-DIT-a-rod. The men and women who drive
teams in this long, cold camping trip pronounce it IDIOT-road, with
I had seven dogs, the minimum allowed, and I had to borrow a dog
to make seven, giving me the nickname "Seven-Dog Slim."
[to top of second
The dog I borrowed had kennel cough and I had to stop every
couple of hours and dose him with cough syrup, which he hated and
caused him to run all-out in panic when he saw me coming with the
bottle. I still think I'd have won that race if all my dogs had
Our race ended ignominiously with a helicopter ride after I
crushed an ankle 300 miles into the race.
But there's something about the first Saturday in March for those
who have been there. Wherever we are and whatever we do now, each
year on that day we say a prayer for the men and women on trail and
wish them good weather, packed trail and happy dogs. It's lonely and
cold out there, and it's a very long way to Nome.
[Text from file received from
To buy Slim's updated e-book version of his
1975 book, "Dogsled, A True Tale of the North," email