A Day at the Races
These dogs were from Lincoln, Maine, and obviously took a lot of interest in checking things out. We'll get back to that issue a little later.
When we had races in the Star Lake area in the early 1960s, there was a fellow running pointers, and that's become fairly common -- they're long-legged, muscular dogs who love to run. The race marshall told me that there was a guy running ridgebacks a few years back, and he was quite impressed with their pulling power, but of course they can't take the cold and are only good for sprints. But he said there was also a guy with a team of Irish setters who had a wonderful time and apparently did stand up pretty well to the elements. You wouldn't use them for the Iditarod, but there may be some short-haired dogs at Fort Kent next week in the 250-mile race there.
As you can see, these are hardly the half-wild dogs of the Jack London stories. The two kids are strangers to them, just a brother and sister who had come up for the races and came over to play with them before they got into harness. This is Anthony's team, the more experienced gang.
And they're experienced with kids, too. This is Anthony's daughter, Delia, helping to hand out the harnesses. Anthony would ask her to get the red harness for such-and-such a dog and she'd pull it out of the pile. She had the right color but wrong harness a few times, but considering I think she was about three, she's a pretty capable partner. Anthony told me he was an avid racer some years ago, but since he's had the kids, he has cut back on the time commitment. Now he runs a dog sled tourist business in town, giving people rides or letting them see how the dogs work, and, as he says, paying for his habit. Obviously, Delia has picked up Daddy's matter-of-fact affection for dogs.
Not a bad crowd, as Lee, the fellow from Lincoln, takes off with his team on the 40-mile course. The teams started two minutes apart, but it didn't take long for Anthony to add some distance.
The course went through the woods and then came out on Cupsuptic Lake. This is Anthony's team in the lead. The dogs were aware of us, as they came up on the small crowd that had jumped into cars and gone up to the lake to intercept the teams, but they kept charging along with a little encouragement from him to stay cool.
Lee's rookie team, however, was much more distracted by finding people out on the trail. You can see the ears going up and the lead dogs slowing down to have a look, despite Lee trying to keep them on task.
Too late. The dogs have totally lost focus now, and it took him some effort to get them back into the race. On the way from the starting point to the lake, I had come across Lee's team at a road crossing and he was having trouble getting them to take the turn up into the woods.
All that curiosity that was so cute in the first picture I posted was killing him in the race -- he needs to find, or develop, a pair of lead dogs who know what's going on and will keep their heads in the game.
Anthony's team finished the 40 miles in 3 hr. 20 min. 1 sec., Lee's team didn't come in until 4 hr. 44 min 13 sec. This would not have been as noticeable if there'd been 20 teams, but it certainly showed this day. However, everyone had a good time and Lee and his dogs will learn, and will be back.
I went back to town and stepped over to Koob's Garage, where I had seen this cartoon original on the wall a few months ago, but Mike Koob wasn't around and I still don't have the explanation. If you click on it, I think you can read the caption, which says "We did everything modern science could do, but there are some things we just haven't learned."
More to the point, you can read the signature "Booth" in the corner, and the fact that this appeared in the New Yorker in 1971. There is a story here and I let you know when I find out what it is. Rangeley is a popular place -- William Wegman, the weimeraner photographer, has been coming here since he was a young lad and has a place up here -- but what George Booth was doing in town I don't know.
On the way home, I stopped at Small's Falls, which I had photographed last fall. Getting there was a little more challenging this time, mostly climbing over a nine-foot snowbank at the road's edge. The falls are only a quarter of a mile or so from the road, and a few people had been there, so I was able to walk in their footprints, but that didn't make it an easy walk -- just a possible one. And so I got a cover shot for the next issue of the Rangeley Highlander, where the dog sled race story will appear, too.