O the rapture nature sends
Racing the spirit of the winds
Mundane trappings of life transcends
Vibrantly alive in cold mountain air
Left behind in the smog mortal care
Racing the wind sweet and purified rare
Part of the wild and free beast
Rollicking mid natures grand feast
Rooted in primeval past
Sensualistic pleasure aghast...
Joyous pleasures greet the senses
Filled with ice and fire all being incenses
Breaking free of mankind’s enslaving bonds
Flowing through icy fields of crystal diamonds
Very being sparkling exuberant
Spiritual marrow effervescent
Feeding off the dogs enamored excitement
Happy thoughts swarm
Elysian delights savage heart's charm
Leaving spirits glowing warm
Following sleddogs moving without sound
None but footfalls drumming the ground.
The dogs love to run. Are born to run. Live to run...
Sled runners slicing over frigid hill and dale
Slicing frosty morning alpen pale
Chill wind frosting your face
Thrilled with nature’s poetic embrace
Dogs and wind rushing
With gusto’s rapid beat racing
Helter skelter heart gladdening
Over forested trail dashing
Behind dogs running free
Where they most want to be...
Team and driver as one
The pack alive on midnight run
Blast through the stillness
Exploding snow crystals crispness
Flying feet barely touching worldly element
Propelled through zephyred firmament
Running in calm cacophony of noiselessness
Silent in throes of supreme happiness
Catapulting behind dogs before you plunging.
Through icy mists stretching
Listening to rhythmic panting
Alive in wonderment the carnal breast bursting
Surrounded with nature’s intoned sound
Earth Mother’s beat all around...
Feel the power through the hand bow surging
Leather sinews on sled joints creaking
Vaulting dogs every muscle flexing
Every nerve, fiber and tendon to you dedicating
Thrilling chills my being instilling
A chess master chargers guiding
Riding on the back of speed to a musher amazing
Winds on your face sensually caressing
Shepherding dogs accepting you as leader of the pack
Racing the wind down virgin snow’s crystal track
A pristine path thru nature’s white flakes packed
Over tundra’s silver crack.
The dogs their all for you unabashedly giving
Feeling the love strong between you showing
Prickling the team’s very being exciting
Past hummocks snow-covered beside the trail
Appearing in fabled fairy tale...
In aspen glow soft pink and pale
Answering the call of the wild
Gone all care but of the child
Sprinting under archways of snow bent trees
Fairy caricatures formed still in the freeze
All care of the world far behind you leaves.
Bounding upon deer and elk unannounced
Alive with muffled joys unpronounced
But for the sluish of sled
Slick runners breaking trail on silk ribboned thread
Northern lights a runnin’ wild
By spirits of the trail of moonbeams beguiled
By the ethereal captivated
Mesmerized! Totally enthralled...
O keep on mushing
Keep on the good life living...
Grateful to dogs who let you come along with them
Cavorting over snow and ice bluish white
Through hoar frost race to see the grand sight
Hold fast to these moments priceless as gold
In your heart you'll always hold...
O what a vibrating thrill this feeling sends
Just you and your best friends
Blasting through life's misty, paradisiacal fogs
In my mind I'll forever be there
Racing wind cold and clear in frosty air so rare
The heart within beating
Intense relaxing frosty brisk
Life doesn’t get any better than this!
All pictures of Gary Jacobson's Nomad Kennels Racing Team...
A few anecdotes...I worked four teams of 14 dogs each for four months every year, starting in September when it was cool enough for the dogs, before the first dog sled race in January. This was to get them in hard rock condition to run hard for twenty miles per day, running close to their maximum all the way, and hitting it hard with a sprint over the last half mile to the finish, at a 20 MPH average clip over the twenty miles. Sled Dog racing is competitive, often with the top ten teams seperated by only a few seconds after twenty miles...and as many as 200 teams at a race. To get this result I accumulated 300-500 training miles on each dog each year before the start of the season. Now sled dogs love to run with every fiber in their being, but needless to say, one of the main drawbacks for our training regimen was taking the fun out of it by working so hard...what we in the business called souring attitudes. I had a great rapport with the dogs, because my main tool for getting them to do what I asked, for me, was love, and that is the reason I also put up with all this, because of the immense affection I would get back.
I mention this because out on the training trails I often would stop the team, and go up beside the team, dog by dog, cuffing them, hugging them lovingly, and doing a doggy dance of joy, dancing and whirling to get their lagging spirits back up. I really made a fool of myself, whooping, hollering, rolling in the snow, my body wriggling in ecstacy, and yes...howling all the way up to my leaders...looking around often to make sure nobody else saw my clownish antics. That got rid of the sour attitudes, in them and me! I'm even sure a saw a few canine smiles too! They loved it! I loved it! Love was in the frosty air! It made the run fun again! I just had to pick up a harness in sight of them, and you should have heard the ruckus, each of them reminding me not to forget them. When we came to the starting line I would have to go up along the line (often 70 foot) and speak to them calm and reassuring to get them to not expend all their energy jumping and screaming lunging and howling to run at the starting line.
And you speak of howling...I call it singing...we really had a chorus in my backyard. They only howled two or three times a day, but always all at once, often when answering the coyotes that you could barely hear in the distance, or at dinner time. It was strange, almost as if they were following the signals of a conductor giving them the downbeat to start. There would be complete quiet, and then all of a sudden they would all start together, all at once, 60 or 70 strong, in full throat, heads lifted to the air, blending, harmonizing, singing plaintively to the moon (I think that "cliché" comes from the fact that the dogs when they howl, raise their heads as if to the moon...that is also the time the coyotes were out and about talking to each other...but they howl during the day to the sun as well). They would all continue for about 45 seconds with all their hearts, and then all at once, precisely together, suddenly, they would stop simultaneously, on the same beat, as if the conductor had waved his baton. It was beautiful!
Then there was the time we met the skunk AKA Peppy Le Pew on my training trail. Peppy was running away from us, just casually, kind of skipping, moving only his feet from ankles down, gliding...he hadn't seen us bearing down on him! But I saw him! And I didn't want to meet him up close and personal. I only had eight dogs hooked up to my 300 pound cart dragging three truck tires full of gravel, and when I stepped back on the tires with my full 200 pounds added to the dead weight, that should stop them...right, you say...then wrong you would be! We picked up speed, rooster tails of dust, dirt and gravel higher than my head billowing behind us in our wake. I was helplessly churning towards that skunk behind a pack of crazed dogs! I yelled, "Get out of the way you stupid skunk," as we picked up speed, barreling down on that infernally stinky animal, and there was nothing I could do about it but prepare for the inevitable. I could already smell the devilish smell he could and would bestow upon us if we caught him, and it looked like we surely would. Peppy Le Pew looked around ever so casually at the sound of me...there are few things that would dare back down a putrescine skunk, or excite him...but suddenly he took a second look, his eyes growing instantaneously wide and wild. He started to run in earnest, scuttling and scurrying his little skunk butt straight down the road, but now, that was a mistake! If Peppy had turned off into the field my dogs would not have followed, for they had been taught not to leave the trail, less they incite mine wrath as the wrath of God...so they wouldn't. So he would be safe. But running on their trail, well, he was fair game! So they lowered their heads, hot after the chase. When we caught him, the front two dogs picked him up and gave a tug-of-war yank, then dropped him, trying to scrape the putrid smell away with paws draped around their respective noses. The second pair then took up the game, then the third pair. By the time he was passed down to me, I wanted no part of him, thank you very much...and we limped unceremoniously home...sadder but wiser. Anyway, I like to think that!
Then there was the time I was completing a ten mile run on my training trail with my heavy cart, and we met the cat! We were fifty yards from my home driveway after the ten mile run, and I was already thinking of how I was going to set up the next team, not even thinking about this team which had all but finished their run. Then el gato, the cat, appeared out of nowhere, running straight across the road within inches of my lead dogs nose. Needless to say, the dogs and I were surprised, momentarily speechless...but only a moment! The cat had fallen asleep in front of my neighbors house, when all of a sudden he heard the racket my cart makes as it plummets down the street behind a gaggle of dogs dragging the three tires. Wisdom being the greater part of the sterling virtue of cats, rather than staying where he was safe, or running the other way, he decided to tempt fate by running across the road pel-mell in front of my dogs. Real smart! My dogs were after him like grease on a frying pan before I knew they were gone. Now, my neighbor had just purchased a new car, and parked it in a church parking lot across from his house to protect it. You guessed it, the cat, followed by my dogs who just wanted to make friends with that cat, because they love cats, really they do, headed straight for that shiny new car. I could just see my heavy cart slamming unceremoniously into that new chromed beauty, so jumped off to the side, pulling the cart on its side...but this didn't even slow the dogs down one little bit, as the cart bounced on its side a couple of times, then righted itself. So there I was on my knees, helplessly watching the rest of the action play out. The cat skittered under the car and out the other side, and the dogs veered at the last minute, narrowly saving the car. Whew, you would say, disaster averted, but then again, you would be wrong! The cat stretched through an inches wide space between the church gate and the fence, but that didn't slow my dogs down one bit. They blasted through that opening with the cart crashing behind them, sending the gate flying off its hinges, bending a length of fence on each side of the gate. The cat then skedaddled in haste up onto the front porch of the chapel, fleeing my intensely crazed yahoos, then doubled back behind the evergreen trees bordering the six foot high porch along the front of the church. My dogs tried to follow, but literally, dogs and lines and cart got caught up in the trees about six foot above ground. When I finally caught up to them they were sheepishly subdued, dangling rather embarrassed in the trees like demented Christmas tree ornaments. Also sheepishly, I plucked them one-by-one out of the trees, retrieved the cart, set the fence back up, looking around all the while with nervous and grave discountenance to see if someone had seen our comical journey, and we all headed home, wagging our tails dragging the ground behind us.
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Through pictures and poetry, take a walk in "the park" with the 1st Air Cavalry on combat patrol. Experience the chilling reality that will give the sweet and sour taste of Nam on your tongue, leave the pungent smell of Nam acrid in your nostrils, and imbed textures of Nam burning in your brain as though you were walking beside me in combat. Come on...you don't want to live forever do you?