Meet the Musher Dinner - Big Piney/Marbleton Stage Stop
by Terry Allen
February 2, 2017
We got a little lesson last night in how you get into the Musher business. You start at the bottom, as a handler. But being a dog handler has its hierarchy, too. The very first qualifier for life as a Musher is to pass the test as a Pooper Scooper.
Yes, sled dogs poop just like everyone else on the planet and after a race or a meal, dogs poop and someone gets to clean it up or the forest service is unhappy. You donít have to go the whole 50 miles of a race route, just the parking lot area.
But, before you can be chosen to pick up poop, you have to place well in the Blind Poop Picking up Contest. Yep, last night a bunch of kids put on blind folds and picked up poop. Luckily, appropriately colored tennis balls substituted for the real thing. Each little treasure nugget was deposited into a white 5 gallon bucket and the team with the most poop won.
Last night, Team Revelance came in 1st place with 10 poops, Team Vitars place 2nd with 9 poops, Team Artic Scoopers placed 3rd with 7 poops and Team Golden Scoopers lagged far behind with only 3 poops, but a 4th place finish. This may be why we seldom meet any grown up prima donna mushers, because they all come from humble origins.
Now onto the food:
Steaming Dutch Ovens (hot iron kettles) of meat, potatoes, beans, vegetable dishes and fruit are cooked over and under charcoals just like mountain men, pioneers and other explorers did for hundreds of years.
Over 200 people signed the guest register and pretty soon those near the end of the line were scrapping iron trying to get the last bits of food. But, that didnít matter; huge pots of spaghetti, salad and garlic bread were in ample supply as a backup.
Ashlyn was happy to load up a plate for the photographer who always seems to eat last, so missed out on the Dutch Oven food. She was volunteering with many others to make the event a success.
I sat with Katie Williams of Pinedale, this yearís Teacher on the Trail. Katie told me Alex Crittenden had come to her class and talked about what it was like to be a competitive musher and invited all the kids to come out to the race.
Frank Teasley, the founder of the tour said he was very pleased with the over-flowing crowd in attendance and thought that they outreach all the mushers did in the schools might have had something to do with it.
Dan Carter, the race director passed the microphone around to all the mushers so they could share their impressions of the race with the crowd. Lena Streeper said the thing she loved the most was the food served at the Marbleton Senior Center. The thing she like the least was the last few miles of the race in a blizzard. She gave the mic back to Dan, but then she grabbed it back and said she had to say her very very favorite thing about the race was her dog handler, Sydnie age 11 from Red Lodge, Montana who took care of her dogs as if they were her own.
Sydnie was very pleased to hear she had done a good job. "This is my second serious year," she said. "I like running the dogs out to the starting line the best. But I also like it when they finish a race and they come back all covered with icicles and snow and they are tired and they just let me take care of them, and they lick my face."
Georges Durrand from France was able to come and support his team again this year. If you remember last yearís story, Georges and his wife had a few discussions about spending so much money every year and traveling so far and being away from home so long. I asked Georges how his wife felt about things this year. "My wife said to me only, did you got your ticket?" "And I said to her, Iím not sure." "And she said to me, oh, you got your ticket."
Georges smiled and said it was all okay. He loves to come to America and be part of the team. "I am very tired after each leg of the race, but it is a nice tired. There was lots of snowing all day, and everyone smile today."
Thanks to Chris Havener, official tour photographer for providing some photos.
Follow the Pedigree Stage Stop Race results at www.wyomingstagestop.org.
Photos by Terry Allen