Thursday, November 12, 2009
You Just Gotta Wonder About People Sometimes
Maybe he's just crazy. I mean, that would explain it, wouldn't it? "The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod" is the subtitle of Gary Paulsen's Winderdance. I don't know about "fine," but yeah, I'd agree to the madness part. Racing with a team of dogs for 1180 miles across the Alaskan snow and ice. Gary! What are you, nuts???
But he did it. He finished the race, and went back to do it a second time. A committed dude, that Paulsen. And if he isn't, he ought to be committed -- to an asylum. I know, that's an old joke. Sorry.
He trained the dogs, and the dogs saved his life. This is that kind of story. And Paulsen is such a story teller.
"Without thinking I jerked at the skunk to pull it away from Devil. This was risky in itself. Devil considered the skunk to be food, was in fact trying to swallow the skunk whole, or so it seemed, and grabbing Devil's food amounted to suicide.
But worse, I grabbed the tail, which had the effect of swinging the rear end of the skunk around to aim the potent business end at me, at my face.
Whereupon the skunk let go.
His firepower was somewhat diminished, as he'd dumped some of it on the dogs, but there was still a hefty load and it blew, like the winds of death, directly into my face.
It was exactly that sound. I have never heard it duplicated by another person, and it was accompanied by projectile vomiting, walking in circles in the ditch, trying to rub it out of my eyes, and a sudden and sincere wish to become an investment banker, or any other job that would never put me close to a skunk's ass again.
It took a half hour to get some vision and ability to breathe right, and another half hour to sort the team and untangle them and get them ready to continue on.
It was bad, it was vile, it was in some way green and bilious, but we had overcome it and, I thought, could now finish the run -- stinking, perhaps, still queasy and sick, but none the worse for wear in other ways.
We hit the second skunk within a mile.
The results were almost exactly the same except that this time the skunk somehow got away from the dogs on his own and I tried to help it by kicking it down into the ditch, out of the way, so it could escape.
Rule one: don't grab a skunk by the tail and pull.
Rule two: Don't kick a skunk."
You know, I wanted to give you a little of the flavor of the book, so I opened it at random to that part. The whole story is that engaging. Think you might want to race the Iditarod someday? Even if you don't (You're not crazy, right?), Winterdance is great fun.