Joe Redington Jr. - Tape #ORAL HISTORY H2011-19-05
Joee Redington was interviewed on June 2 & 3, 2011 by Robert Drozda and William Schneider at Joee's home in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. Joee is the son of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder, Joe Redington, Sr. He grew up on the family homestead in Knik, Alaska and got involved with dog mushing at an early age. In this interview, he talks about his family history with dog mushing and dog racing, raising and training sled dogs, breeding dogs, living in Unalakleet, development of his own racing career, changes in dog racing, the importance of family support for a dog musher, and the future of dog mushing. Go to first recording. Image Gallery
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Introduction and his brothers' involvement with sled dogs
Ramie Redington leading dog sled rides at Iditarod Headquarters in Knik
Ray Redington Jr. running his own dog team
Ryan Redington doing dog sled tours in Skagway
Trying to keep up interest in the Fur Rendevous Dog Sled Races in Anchorage
His children's involvement with sled dogs
Mushers staying connected with each other and breeding their dogs
Why he loves training and racing dogs
Knowing which positions to put dogs into in the team
Attributes of a wheel dog
Good lead dogs he's seen during his career
The cost of running a kennel
For the love of dog mushing
ROBERT DROZDA: Today is June 3rd, 2011, and here again with Joee Redington doing a little bit of a follow up. And Bill Schneider's here, and I'm Robert Drozda. So Joe, we kinda wanted to ask you a little bit more about your family and, you know, like maybe when you boys got old enough and you -- you went your separate ways, you know, who went into mushing. And I know we see the Redington name a lot these days still, so -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, my brother Ramie and Timmy, Ramie has a -- Ramie still has a kennel. Timmy has -- I don't think he any longer has a kennel. ROBERT DROZDA: Where are those guys located? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, Ramie is down in Knik, and Timmy is over in Copper Center area, Kenny Lake. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And Ramie continued with the -- with his kennel, and he works at Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla giving rides to the people that come to the Iditarod Headquarters. And I think he's been doing that for, like, maybe the last 15 or 16 years, and it's a seven -- seven days a week, he goes there from nine o'clock in the morning until 5:00. ROBERT DROZDA: Summertime rides? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: In the summertime, rides with a cart. This is small -- this is a little -- or actually, a short trail. And it was designed, I think, to show the people when the Iditarod first started how mushers treat their dogs and -- and it gives the people from the Lower 48 or from different countries a little idea of what dog mushing's all about. And I think at one time he was -- one year there I think he did up to, like, 15,000 people, so he gets to meet a lot of different -- different folks. And I think that as far as I know, he's gave every ride. He hasn't had a substitute driver or anything, he's gave every ride that's been given there, you know. So he really works hard at it and I think he enjoys it. It's something that he likes to do. He might get a little burnt out and want to run dogs a little less in the winter than some of us, but his wife helps him, sometimes his boys, but his boys now have got their own kennels. Ray Junior and Ryan each have a kennel of their own. Ray's been running in the -- Ray Junior's been running in the Iditarod, and last year he came in, I think, tenth or something like that in the Iditarod. And -- ROBERT DROZDA: Is he out in Two Rivers? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, he was, but then he moved back down to my -- he was living on the land at my mother's -- my mother's place on Knik Lake and he has a kennel there, him and his wife Julian. And then Ryan is working in -- with him and his wife is working in Skagway. They've been off and on for quite a few years working in different tourist places giving rides also to tourists. ROBERT DROZDA: Do they do the glacier stuff or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, Ryan was doing some glacier stuff, and now they're doing in town in Skagway there with the dogs, also with the cart. But Ryan also was running in the Iditarod, and last year he ventured out and went to -- down to run in Wyoming in the stage stop race. And then -- He was kind of interested in the Rendezvous, so I leased him some dogs and -- and he ran in the Fur Rendezvous last year and had a really good time. I'm trying to get him interested in Fur Rendezvous. I'd like to see the Fur Rendezvous continue to -- to go, so we need new mushers coming on because some of us are getting a little older and we're -- we're losing -- losing mushers. But the Rendezvous's really been working hard at it here to get the money up and so there's getting to be a little more interest in that. Hopefully, some of these distance mushers and stuff will start putting their younger dogs in the Fur Rendezvous and training them there, and we'll get the number of teams back up to where there's 30 teams or something like that. And Timmy, I think he sold his dogs a few years ago, and I think he's into trapping, so he doesn't have any dogs anymore. And my -- my kids, Joee Ray, he ran in the Fur Rendezvous and in the North American, and my daughter did some racing also, but it's just kind of hard. There's not a lot of money in it, and when you have a family, it's pretty tough to -- to make a living doing it, you know. So -- ROBERT DROZDA: You bet. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- they've kind of went in different ways and doing their own thing now. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. One thing that I think is interesting is how the whole mushing community is kind of connected and networked, like you had mentioned this morning that, you know, having somebody come over that wants to breed one of their dogs with one of your dogs, can you talk a little bit about that, and how you guys keep in touch and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I think a lot of it is done with, you know, how -- how you -- how well you do in races. People -- people look at the results of the races. And then Jeff Conn puts out a pedigree of the North American, a pedigree book, and I think people look at that. A lot of guys have their stuff on the Internet, and there's a lot of people even in the villages and stuff that do a lot of looking on the Internet. And -- and people are trying to -- to -- people that are winning are up there close to the top, always have people interested in maybe breeding to their dogs trying to better their kennels, you know. And the thing that's been working out for me is that I have more of a Husky line of dogs, so some people are looking for a line of dogs that is doing well that have the old -- older Husky type blood lines, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: A little less Houndy. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: A little less Hounds, you know. So there's some that -- some of that going on as people are wanting to get a little more Husky in their dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: Well, Bill kind of touched on this yesterday, but maybe we can finish up with this question about, you know, if you could boil it down, what is -- what's the thing that keeps you most interested in -- in working with dogs and dog mushing, and what's -- what's that special thing for you about dogs today and over all these years? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. To me, what I really enjoy, and I think it's kind of like all this kind of stuff relates to other sports. You know what I mean? Like you wonder sometimes why some of these managers and ball teams and stuff, why are they still there, you know. I mean, I like taking a bunch of yahoos and trying to make something out of them, develop them, try to put them in the right positions. And to me, in dog racing, there's a lot of -- you've got to know -- if you're going to be good at it, you've got to know which one does the best in certain positions and stuff, you know. And the lead dog is like a pitcher of a ball game, if you don't have a good pitcher, you don't win many games, you know. And it's the same way with that lead dog, you know, it's like a quarterback or it's a very important thing, you know, but you've got to have the rest of the team to go with it, and you've got to know how to place them, you know. And that's the part that I really enjoy. I enjoy training dogs. I enjoy raising them and working with them. And -- and I don't know, they're just like a family -- they're like, to me, my kids are gone and stuff, and these dogs have always been like family to me. My wife and I work at it together. She does a lot of the training, like I said, of the pups. It's a family -- it's a family thing, and I think you -- in order to be successful, you've got to be driven. You've got to really enjoy what you're doing, and you've got to work hard, you know. And it's getting harder all the time to go to these races because you've got more guys that are really working hard at it now, and it's a lot of full time, guys are doing it full time, you know. But -- ROBERT DROZDA: Do you have an example, maybe, of, you know, of -- of a particular instance or a dog that you put in a position with another dog maybe in lead, and you didn't really know what would happen, and it turned out to be like a crackerjack at that position, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. Sometimes, you know, I ask my wife when these pups are growing up -- growing up about which -- how good are they and all that, and she'll say something like, "Oh, wait until you try this one," you know. And a lot of times they turn out to be good. We try to give all the pups an opportunity to be leaders. And just certain ones, it's like people or anything else, there's just certain ones that don't want to -- don't want to be leaders. I mean, they'll do it for a few times, and then they don't want to do it anymore. And then you get some that are just naturally, they want to be up there, and they can handle the -- the speed and they are not scared about the rest of the team running over them and they're focused. You know, you can train about any of them to -- to run up there, but whether they'll stay ahead of a race team and take the pressure of every day race training, you know. I don't know, I've never had any that just really surprised me that much. I guess -- I guess I shouldn't say that. I have taken some that I've ran in the team, for a long time back in the team, and put them up in the front, and all of a sudden realized that maybe I should have been using that one for a leader that, I mean, does well up there. But I don't know, it's -- and I think the other thing with the dogs is they all got different personalties and you've got to learn the personalties. They're just -- they're like people and they -- you can really -- I mean, I can tell a lot about how they bark whether what kind of animal's around, whether it's people or whether it's bears or different things, you know. By -- and a lot of -- you can learn a lot just from their body language, how they act, how they move around, what's going on with them. It's just a thing that I think experience and being around dogs for a long time, you -- you see that kind of thing, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: It's probably pretty hard to put that into words. You just -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, it is, but when you're around them a lot, you can just see how -- I can tell a lot of times when they're not feeling good, or -- or yeah, I can definitely see a lot of times if there's a little something, like if they have a cut on their foot or something by the way they walk, or if they're a little lame, or -- I mean, after you're around them a lot, you learn a lot of things about them, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: We always hear a lot about leaders, so what about the rest of the dogs in the team? Do you -- there are some special attributes that you really like about, say, a wheel dog or a team dog? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like when I'm dealing with wheel dogs, I need something that's fairly durable, one that can take a lot of -- when you go around corners. And it especially used to be that way. Nowadays with these modern sleds and stuff, you can steer a lot of the corners and stuff with the sled, you don't have the problem of jerking the dogs around as much as you used to. You know, you used to have to have a pretty skookum dog to be able to handle all of the sliding around of the sled and all that kind of stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: A good wheel dog can -- can -- like if you're coming on a turn in the trail, he can anticipate that and jump over the line, and pull. That kind of thing? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And, yeah, they can -- if they get tangled or something, they can jump over the line fairly easy and all that, but they just -- they get pulled around a little bit more than the rest of the team, you know, so -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. Physically it's a little tougher on them because they're right there. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Okay. Bill, any more questions? BILL SCHNEIDER: No, I think -- I think this has been great. Unless there's any particular dogs you want to point out and talk about that stand out in your career. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, there used to be a lot of Native mushers that used to come in. And there used to be some of them dogs that were exceptionally good, like Nellie that Lombard had was an exceptionally good leader. I think she was running when she was, like, 10 years old. That's one that Lombard had bought from George Attla. There's a number of -- like a dog called Yogi that Isaac Oklaesik had. An Eskimo guy from Teller. A dog called Yogi was a very good, exceptionally good leader. I know there's been a lot of good leaders over the years from a lot of these guys. Lingo of George Attla's was really an exceptionally good leader. There've been numbers of really good, outstanding dogs that a guy always wished that he had, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: Maybe one final question. We haven't talked about how much it costs to run a kennel like this. And maybe you could just outline some of the costs, not in terms of dollars, but in terms of expenditures of time and energy. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't really -- I don't understand what you -- what you mean about expense. I mean, the expense, you're not talking about how much it costs to take care of them, or -- BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. In terms of feeding 40 dogs and getting commercial dog food and then fishing and straw and vet bills and that sort of thing. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like -- especially like if you live, like, in the villages, I mean, you've got to figure if you go to town and you buy a bag of commercial dog food, it'd probably cost you almost as much to get it to the village as it does to buy it. I mean, it's extremely expensive for them people, so naturally, they're going to have to do a lot more with fish in their diet. And they probably have to go cut grass or use spruce bows or something like that for some of their bedding. Some of them that are really dedicated to it possibly might have straw and stuff shipped in, but it's very, very expensive for them people, you know. They -- the price, the freight of getting it there. Like a lot of times here, with us, we have the road system so we can truck some of it in to here. And also the mushers nowadays are all using a lot of frozen meat mixed, maybe, with a little bit of fish, and they're using commercial. And I don't know, a bag of commercial now is probably at least $40 a bag or close to it. ROBERT DROZDA: A buck a pound. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: So -- and then I think it's 60 cents a pound or more to mail it, to send it. So I think that's why you see a lot of the villages and stuff that just, it's just too expensive. The price of gas and everything, the price of dog food, to get it there is probably why there's not a lot of kennels there, you know. So some of us are lucky to have the road system and stuff to do it, but still it's a very expensive deal. You've got to really love this sport, you know. I get some of these goody good people that, you know, think that we're not taking care of our dogs very well, and all that kind of stuff, but when I think about when you spend $50 a day, just start laying a $50 bill on the table every night when you feed your dogs and see how long you'll be in the dog business. No, you've got to really love this. It's got to be part of you to continue to do this, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And some of us, we've -- you know, we've dedicated our whole life to this type of style. And I'm hoping that people will continue to do it, but I don't know with the price of the thing. You know, every time gas goes up, the fuel, everything goes up, groceries, people are bitching about grocery prices and all that. And it's the same thing with dog food, you know, prices keep going up. But I don't know how long people will be able to -- I think it already has reduced the size of a lot of kennels. They're probably not near as many young pups, you know, pups being born, people raising pups as there was years ago, you know, so it's definitely cut down some. Some people, you know, got sponsors and stuff so they are able to continue to go on, you know. Definitely an expensive hobby. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And you've got to -- you're not in it -- I'm not in it for the money. If I was in it for the money, I would have been broke a long -- out of it a long time ago. I mean, I love it. I like doing it, it's something that -- you know, they have places for people to dry out from booze and drugs, but they don't have one for dog mushing. Not yet anyway. BILL SCHNEIDER: That's a good place for us to quit. Thanks. ROBERT DROZDA: Thanks a lot, Joe. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah.
William (Bill) Demoski was interviewed on June 15, 2011 by Robert Drozda, Karen Brewster, and Marla Statscewich at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska. Angela Linn, Ethnology Collection Manager, and Briana Brenner, her student intern, were also present at the interview. Bill Demoski grew up in Koyukuk, Alaska and along the rivers, living a traditional hunting and fishing- based lifestyle. His father, Aloysius Demoski, was a dog team mail carrier in the 1920s and 1930s. In 2007, Bill Demoski built a traditional style wood freight sled for the Museum. In this interview, he talks about how he learned sled building and how he built this particular sled. He identifies parts of the sled, compares modern and traditional sleds and materials, and compares models of different sled styles. This recording has been edited from the original.
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Learning how to build sleds
Father's mail carrying route
Father's dog team
Life in camp
Bill demonstrates how he bends pieces for the sled
Bill shows how he connects the pieces of the sled together
Purpose of the brush bow and parts of the sled
Bill explains more parts of the sled
Brakes on sleds
Voice commands to control the team
Differnt styles of dog sleds
Using a Gee-pole and the dangers associated with it
Amount of weight a sled can haul
Finding materials for the sled
Bending the wood for the sled
Steam bending method
Runners changed over time
First dog team and his father's mail carrying job
Looking at sled models from the museum
Sled without a place for the musher to stand
Small sled without a handlebar
Toboggan style sled
Grandfather's trading business
Eskimo style sled - no brush bow
Lining out dogs in pairs or single file
Sled building process from start to finish
ROBERT DROZDA: [Today is June 15,] 2011, and I am Robert Drozda and I am here with Bill Demoski and also in the room are Karen Brewster and Marla Statscewich from the library -- UAF Library and Angie Linn and Brianna Brenner from the UA Museum of the North. And today we are going to be talking with Bill about sled building and his experience as a sled builder. We have a nice sled here that Bill built and is part of the museum's collection. So, Bill, I thought maybe to start with we could get a little bit of your personal history and -- BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. ROBERT DROZDA: -- with both dog mushing and sled building and we can start from there. BILL DEMOSKI: Ok. You know, my dad was a mail carrier back in the 30's and 20's, you know, and he had a sled about maybe 14 foot, you know, long. Haul about 500 pounds of mail, you know. And he built his own sleds and by the time I got old enough to start working, about twelve years old, I started on one about that big one -- kid's sled. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And I completed it by myself. And it was a rule where my older brother couldn't help while we watched my dad to work, you know, how he does it. He would never tell us what to do. You do it yourself. If it is your project, it is yours, you know. And so I started my sled. I got the birch and I bend it, I planed it, all handwork and a handsaw. And a hand drill, you know. No electric. Chiseling you know. Knife and a little hand plane, sandpaper, you know. Did all that by hand and when I got going and I was putting together this piece here, you know, and you have to cut a slot here and then cut that with a knife, you know. When I was doing this, you know, and I got that knife and I poked my leg right there. That is why I got a scar there, blade about that long, went all the way down in there. Opened up my -- man I couldn't walk for about a week, but I still finished it, you know. And then the next one was a racing sled, bigger than this one, about half size of this, you know, for racing. I finished that and my older brother used it for dog racing and then all that I picked up, you know, from the old man, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Were you using his tools when -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: He let you use his tools? BILL DEMOSKI: My own tools. Because first thing you had to do, he always had to check his tools because he kept his tools sharp, you know. Taught us not to cut our hand, you know, and stuff. All that -- we had to split the birch, you know, and steam it. Split the birch and plane it, you know. Then steam it -- put it on the bender. I got a bender about 50 years old that is made out of -- it is made out of stump, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Big stump and I hewed it out and formed it. It's down in Galena. I still got it. It's about fifty years old. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that made out of driftwood stump? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, I think I showed it to you.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, remember that?
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, when you were in Galena.
KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. It is still down there. And other than that I picked up a lot of new -- new style from my uncles and watched people at work, you know. Sidney Huntington was a good mentor of mine, you know. My uncle Sidney, he's married to my auntie. I'll watch him work and he did good work like this, you know, on big boats, you know. I picked up building boats and all that stuff, you know. And when I got old enough to do it by myself, you know, my dad didn't need to build. He just went out to cut the birch and bent the -- bent the runners and I put it together. And he rather had me put it together. He says, you are quite a craftsman, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Where my other brothers, you know, they make short cut and the lazy way, he said, you know, but me everything was even, you know, and that's the way I learned from him, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So he appreciated your work? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. It is not any old way job, you know. He said if you do half -- half decent work that the sled wouldn't last, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: So, you were down in Galena around that time? Is that where he was running his -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, Koyukuk and Koyukuk and I went to school in Galena. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Did he run the same mail route or -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, he went to Kaltag from Koyukuk to Kaltag, Nulato. Then from Galena he went up far as Galena and back down. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Ninety mile run, you know, every week. KAREN BREWSTER: What was your father's name? BILL DEMOSKI: Aloyluis Demoski and my -- my great grandfather, my dad's grandfather, he was originally from Ottawa, Canada or some place but he was a French Canadian, Russian, you know. And his name was Demoski Mollsea (phonetic) so when he came up to the Hudson Bay Traders long ago, you know, he started a trading post in Nulato. They had a big fort there, Russian fort or something. And then he had a trading post there and they built a mission and he got baptized. So they put his name Mollsea Demoski. So our name was supposed to have been Mollsea instead of they put it backwards. How we wind up with Demoski, yeah, yeah. And other than that, as far as working, we had a big family. We had about ten in our family, you know. There was all boys in our family, one girl and the last two -- two kids was girls. There were seven boys and my dad used to say, we need two more to have a baseball team. Anyway, we all had to do our own laundry or like if we make a hole in our boot, we mend with the threads. Mom taught us how to use needle thread and knit, you know, sew, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And then we all have chores to do, you know, but I was the one that, out of the seven, I was only the one that ever got to get to do the job, you know. My mom called Morris or Val or Junior, do this. Now they wouldn't move. They only tell me one time and I get the job done, you know. So I was kind of backbone of the family and my dad used to say, I would be the best worker that I wasn't lazy, you know, because I had to do it, you know and -- KAREN BREWSTER: So that was growing up in Koyukuk? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, Koyukuk in that fish camp, spring camp, where we winter camp, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: How many dogs did your dad keep? BILL DEMOSKI: Well, he drove 21 dogs. He had -- he was -- carrying mail for contractor and this contractor he had about over 150 dogs, you know and he leased them out to the government. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And they hired these, like my dad to carry the mail, you know. And they had a roadhouse and then, he had part wolf dogs, you know, probably one-third or a quarter breed wolves, you know, bred to Malamute, you know, big dogs. My dad used to say, those dogs you couldn't get nothing out of them in daytime but the nighttime boy they could move. They -- he said you know, you go out, fix that tangle he said you got to watch the dog behind him otherwise they are going to grab his leg or something, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: That's the kind of aggressive dog they were. ROBERT DROZDA: They liked to scrap.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. And they were really strong at nighttime you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So the dogs were kept at the roadhouse in the dog barn? BILL DEMOSKI: No, my dad kept them at home. He picked them up in the fall time, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: On the boat, and they furnished the dog food and there used to be a lot of fish in the river those days. Dog dried food, you know, and then rice. And then, people never run short of dog food or food in them days, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Was caring for the dogs one of your jobs, too? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And then, we -- we were up river above Galena, in winter camp, because my dad used to go out trapping way out the Yuki River across the -- from the camp called Beaver Creek about six miles above Galena. That's where our winter camp was. We'd go there in the fall and stay there the fall and trap all winter. In the springtime, they go muskrat hunting behind the lakes. And then after breakup, we cut all the fishwheel logs, poles, load up the dogs and all the poles and make a raft and put the tent on there. We float down the river about 60 miles, 70 miles down river between Nulato and Kaltag to fish. We fished there all summer and come back up in September. We go to school for maybe a month or so, you know, two weeks. Then the teachers give us our books and back to camp we go. ROBERT DROZDA: That sounds like quite a good life. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. That's where I pick up all the stuff how to work, you know, but most of this new idea here that, like this plywood. There were no plywood them days or planks, you know. I just made benders out of my own idea, you know, bent those runners and stuff, you know. Here you can see I laminated, you know, like I did over there. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And I glued it and this is the -- turn it over -- this is the side rails see. See how I designed this thing to bend it. That's my own design to build the side rail, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: That would be this piece here? BILL DEMOSKI: No, the middle --
MARLA STATSCEWICH: This one.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, this -- that's the -- ROBERT DROZDA: On the bed, yeah. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, and then this is plywood and I just took a plank and instead of using clamp, I make my own clamp, you know. This bolts, you know, I used --
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: Instead of using a -- ROBERT DROZDA: So you don't have to have a ton of clamps. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah and this is about the same for the little sled, you know, the kid's sled.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: I put the -- I put the front piece underneath here and bend it and I put this underneath there, clamp it down, you know, so it is straight, you know. If I can't get that thing through there, I just go like this, you know, and you can put that right through there, you know. And -- up here when I put this together I clamp this one together like this, you know, and then drill this holes. I like to use this kind of bolts because you don't need the washer. All you need the washer is on this side. And this piece here I bolt it down in here, that way the sled wouldn't bend back this way and it will stay that way all the time. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: So, and this is called a brush bow. Nowadays, you know, snowmobile they don't use this anymore because they use that hitch, you know, to goes to the Snowgo. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. BILL DEMOSKI: And it goes over this, like this, you got to fold it back. So all the sleds I built, they always take this off so they can fold that. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And what's that called? BILL DEMOSKI: Brush bow. KAREN BREWSTER: Can you talk about what it is used -- why it is there? Why do you put that brush -- BILL DEMOSKI: Well, when they used to go to portage and driving dogs, if you hit a tree or something, this thing would hit it and it will bounce off the tree. It wouldn't smash against -- direct, you know. And then this is the cross piece. This they call slats, you know. This is the slats, side rail, and top rail. They call this top rail. This is the stanchions. The stanchions are all these you know, and this is a handlebar, the crossbar for --and this lashing here, you know, is for, you know, like you put stuff in there and it wouldn't fall out, you know, with canvas. I just put a little star in there to make it fancy, you know. And -- MARLA STATSCEWICH: And traditionally what was this made out of? BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, this is nylon. MARLA STATSCEWICH: Nylon. BILL DEMOSKI: Nylon. You can buy it from any dog mushing store. I get a bundle of it, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: But before they had nylon what would you use? BILL DEMOSKI: Here. ROBERT DROZDA: Babiche. KAREN BREWSTER: The babiche.
BILL DEMOSKI: Babiche, yeah. I make this out of moose skin. This is -- are the cross piece and then I do this fitting in with the 3/8ths drill, you know. Make a tenon and down here the same way, you know. And then I use these screw eyes, you know, to tie this down. And I start from here, you know, and then you go around and you go around like this and then you turn, put it through there and you go all the way down until you get to this tie, you know, And that's not going to come apart. And right here where I tie the side rail is about even I do same zigzag, you know, around and I tighten this up tight so it wouldn't -- see how strong it is, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Do you want these to be, the mortise and tenon, to be a loose or so that -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, so it don't crack, you know.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, so it doesn't crack and these here I used sheetrock screws, you know, worked pretty good. We used to use nail years ago when they had no screws, but when you bounce off that, nails start coming apart, you know, start ripping up stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Used to bend them underneath? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, this worked pretty good. Only thing this does is, if you hit too hard, you know, it will snap or the jar or break. Never had trouble with it since I got this on here, you know, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Did the old sleds used to have a brake or is that a more recent development? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, no. They -- all the sleds have brakes. Some of them have bigger brakes than this. This is just one I did for temporarily, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, before they had rubber what would you put there? BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, spring, spring, you know, coil spring. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. And what about before coil springs? BILL DEMOSKI: Well, when they had -- before they had the spring, I show you. This goes all the way up to the front like this, you know, like a long one, you know. And they tie it in the middle and they make it so it can bend, you know, from there and then it just come back up itself, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: The natural bend of the wood? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. Yeah. They never had iron brakes, you know. They had -- I know my great grandpa he made brakes out of fork wood, you know. Yeah. Because they used to go so slow they don't need no brakes. They can say "whoa", the dogs would stop. They were trained for that. If they go down the hill, they would tell them "whoa, whoa". They stop easy and they can hold sled back. They don't, so the dogs don't run over. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And the famous word the dogs like to hear is "whoa". They stop and rest, you know. And when they get ready to go they say "hike", you know. Mush. ROBERT DROZDA: Mush or hike?
BILL DEMOSKI: Hike, yeah. And Bob Hope was demonstrating dog mushing. Old musher, Earl Norris was -- he was on the stage and he asked Earl Norris, what you make these critters to go? Earl Norris said, he was the owner of the dogs, he says, all you got to say is Mush, crack the whip and say Mush. And Bob Hope he crack the whip he says oatmeal. He said oatmeal. And this is here is for, you know, when you got --to not to slip off the, you know, it sometimes, it get icy. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: This keep all the ice off this --protect you from slipping off the sled, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. And you found some plastic that had some -- BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: -- texture to it? BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, what did you use before plastic? BILL DEMOSKI: Caribou skin or moose skin, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: With the fur on or the fur off? BILL DEMOSKI: Fur on.
KAREN BREWSTER: Fur on. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, the fur, the skin is on this side and the fur -- and that keep your foot warm, too, they say. You know, when you have -- it doesn't -- this would make your mukluks wet because it is rubber, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Do you think this particular sled, the design, same from the Hudson Bay style or? BILL DEMOSKI: Well, there's a -- there's all kinds of style that -- see like this one here. You could make this -- this, this one like that one, you know, like one bow all the way down to the, but I prefer that one. This one bow all the way down. There is another style. This -- this used to be higher, you know, to haul freight. It used to -- this used to come up all the way to here and then it sticks out about that far. And then you get another one like this and you bend that bow and tie this down. And you get another one that bows in like this and so you got -- and you got another -- another one that goes in like this and you tie them together, you know. And you could push that with the snowshoes, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: I think we might have a model that looks like that. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, yeah, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: You want to bring it out? ANGELA LINN: Sure, I think I can. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, that will be good for a visual aid. BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. ANGELA LINN: Is this the kind your -- like that? BILL DEMOSKI: No.
ROBERT DROZDA: Not quite. BILL DEMOSKI: This -- this is different. See look here. Look here. See this one here. This one here that goes sticks out like this, you know, this far. This is the right idea, but they don't use the bow. That's the one right there, yeah. Yeah, that's the one. But see they -- this is the one that -- yeah, this sticks out. They don't even use the bow, you know. They use this handle but they got another one that goes this way. This one don't have it. This only got this one, you know. And they make it long, you know, so they could walk behind it with snowshoes and push on the sled same time, you know. And then -- KAREN BREWSTER: And where is it that they do that? In Canada, did you say? BILL DEMOSKI: All over.
KAREN BREWSTER: All over.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yukon.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yukon. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. And then they used to call what you call a Gee-pole. They get -- you can cut down any -- any dry -- dry pole, you know. You tie it onto this and you tie it on to down here, you know, the pole sticks up like this and you got a little -- little sled like this, you know. And little lighter sled, racing sled, you put that Gee-pole, you hang onto to this and you steer the -- or you use skis, you know. Some use -- some used to use skis for a Gee-pole, you know. Stand on skis to steer the sled, you know, so it don't go off the trail like this. ROBERT DROZDA: So you're using that when you're on rough terrain or -- BILL DEMOSKI: No, no.
ROBERT DROZDA: Distance or something? BILL DEMOSKI: When you're --when you're on the trail, you know, you got heavy load. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And your -- your sled is not going to make quick turn like this with a heavy load. It'll just keep right on going and then it will bog in the snow, that Gee-pole will cause that from using the sled, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: And is the Gee-pole long enough that you are out in front of the dogs? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: Or are you next to the dogs? BILL DEMOSKI: No, the Gee-pole is -- the pole is about that long from the -- and the skis is tied to the dog, you know, the dog team. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Or this sled here, you know, you could use the smaller sled. The guy standing on his sled and use the Gee-poling. MARLA STATSCEWICH: So the Gee-pole is only about four feet from the sled? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
MARLA STATSCEWICH: Ok.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So you're walking next to the dog or skiing next to the dogs -- BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: As they're pulling? BILL DEMOSKI: Sometimes you use snowshoes when they go so slow, but skis are pretty dangerous though, going down hill. My grandpa got killed with Gee-pole, you know. He was on a Gee-pole and my grandma was on the back standing on the sled and it had 14 dogs. Had about three or four caribou on the sled. They were going down the hill and going so fast and up there a fox or something and they took off. And that sled veered off and smashed right against the tree. Killed him right there, yeah. It was pretty risky, yeah. My dad got runned over one time with a 500 pound -- he said 500 pound of mail but he left -- that was his fault he told me. When he left Ruby that's about fifty miles to Galena he left Ruby and he had a hangover. I guess they had a big -- he was a fiddler, you know. He played the violin and played for the dance hall and he had hangover and he fell asleep and fell -- fell underneath the sled and he said that sled was so heavy he couldn't move. So with all he got he tipped it up, you know, got out from under there and the dogs wouldn't move. He told the dogs to stop, you know. He had 15, 16 dogs I guess. Yeah, he got runned over -- under the sled. ROBERT DROZDA: Wow! KAREN BREWSTER: So how much weight can a sled like this hold? BILL DEMOSKI: This one here?
KAREN BREWSTER: Yep. BILL DEMOSKI: Three, four hundred pounds, but we used to have this big, big 14 -- I mean the sled was from about here to that end long, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Fourteen feet? BILL DEMOSKI: It would hold 500 pound, yeah. Five hundred pounds. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: How many dogs does it take to pull a sled that long? BILL DEMOSKI: They use 16, 17 dogs. My dad used to use 21 dogs. He was 17 years old when he first carried mail and he had 21 dogs. They were trained. There were good leaders, you know. And then when they used to come to villages, you know. They used to throw a line if the dogs couldn't make it up the bank and all the kids and guys get together and pull the sled up. They get a kick out of that, you know. That was their -- yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Bill, when you have a sled in your mind and you are going out in the woods to look for material, what do you do? What are you looking for? BILL DEMOSKI: First thing I look for a grain, you know, like see here. This is a good grain and I look at a birch. It doesn't have no knots, you know, straight and the bark is smooth, you know and you chop it with your axe and take out little piece and you split it, you know. If it split straight that's the one you want. If it split curved this way, no it is going -- it is going to warp, it is going to work all right. But later on your stuff is going to warp this way or the runners would warp as it dry, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Are you looking for a younger birch usually or? BILL DEMOSKI: No, you could get a big birch. Look for -- you -- mostly I look for birch is in the swamps, you know, where it is moisty, you know, in the lakes, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: But on the hill, like back there in the hills, you know, if you birch there it is kind of crispy dry, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: It breaks easy. KAREN BREWSTER: What time of year do you go look for it? BILL DEMOSKI: I can go any time I want to even now or fall time, you know, before snow, you know, yeah. Before freeze up I look for the birch. But you know this here, I use table saw to cut this out, you know. And then I use a sander, you know. Years ago, you had to use hand block and hand sand -- ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: Now you just use electric -- electric stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: And you're bending these bed pieces -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Without steam? I see you have a little kerf in the end here. BILL DEMOSKI: You bend that same way as inside this -- this in here, you know. Sometimes -- sometimes, I put them on green, you know. Like -- I think I did this that -- I didn't build the -- I put them on green. I just dry this one and the runners. MARLA STATSCEWICH: What does - what does that mean to put it on green? BILL DEMOSKI: It -- you don't have to bend it, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: When the wood is fresh -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right? BILL DEMOSKI: Sometimes I -- I put it on the bender, maybe one or two nights and then it's ready to go and when it has not been enough, you just get a clamp and clamp it down, you know, put this under, you know. This is the bridle this -- not actually the big -- biggest -- use bigger than this for sled, you know. You don't need that for Snowgo. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Are we going to talk about the bending the brush bow and the handlebars? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. The brush bow like this one -- I'll take this one just for this one right here. I take -- I take this part and I form it out, you know, but I steam this one with the, you know -- you see I notice I don't laminate it. I steam it and I clamp it one with the little block in here, you know, and put the clamps here. That is what these clamps -- things are here for clamp, you know. And then I bend it over and clamp it, you know and you do the same thing with this one. You use this part. This -- this first part here, you got to use a different type, you know, it is not -- it is for the bumper, you know. It is not shaped like this. So, you do the same thing with this, you know. You get -- you get the birch, you know, and you just clamp it and -- KAREN BREWSTER: And then do you steam it or do you just let it dry? BILL DEMOSKI: Sometimes I -- this here I don't usually steam. I just put it on green and it forms pretty good. Sometimes I have a little splinter but I fixed it up, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: And how long do you leave it on the form? BILL DEMOSKI: About ten days, ten days or two weeks, yeah. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you make those forms or did somebody -- BILL DEMOSKI: I did. I make all these. You know my brother-in-law is a dog musher and I make all this bow benders for him, you know, but he makes his runners out of steel. It is about four inch wide and then he heat it up and bend it and whittled it and then he used that for his racing sleds, Marvin Kokrine. He's a dog musher, you know. He raced in North American, Anchorage races, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: We hear he is the last one still using a wooden sled? BILL DEMOSKI: Right, yeah. Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: On -- on this one you said you did bend this, steam this though? BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. Yeah, steamed that, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: What's your steaming method? BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, I just get a tub about that long, you know, like a fish tub.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: And I boil the water real -- to a boiling and wrap this up with towel or cloth, you know and pour the water over and then work it -- work it like this, you know. Do that for about ten, fifteen minutes, you know. Boil the water again and go over it. When you put it on this spinner it just go over just like that, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Nice. BILL DEMOSKI: This one you don't have to do that because it is more easier to bend, you know, then this curve here. ROBERT DROZDA: And then on the bigger ones you laminate this? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you want talk about -- you have an example here -- BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that what this is? BILL DEMOSKI: this, yeah, that goes to that handle right there, the big sled, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that's for the handlebar. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: But it is the laminating --
BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh.
KAREN BREWSTER: here? BILL DEMOSKI: I think this is about twenty-two inches. Let's see that. Let's see that tape, measure tape. Twenty -- I think that's 22. MARLA STATSCEWICH: It's at the bottom. Kind of buried at the bottom. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, I think that's 22 inches. Yeah, 22 inches, right on the money and this I -- this was I do, I think that's 15 or 16. Yeah, this is 16. ROBERT DROZDA: And this is a kid's racing sled or playing sled? BILL DEMOSKI: Playing sled, yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: Baby sled. Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: You know it is about six inch high. This one will be about seven inch, I think, eight inch, seven and a half. KAREN BREWSTER: You do this laminating but back in the old days when your dad and grandpa were building sleds -- BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Did they laminate or did they do that differently? BILL DEMOSKI: No, no.
KAREN BREWSTER: What did they do? BILL DEMOSKI: They just used a -- like the one up there. They just used a birch like this one, you know. They don't laminate, you know. This wasn't laminated. MARLA STATSCEWICH: So they just don't bend it -- BILL DEMOSKI: This came up when the glue come out because after you did this the pitch wouldn't -- they only had pitch for glue but the pitch would come apart, you know. The glue -- glue stays on there, you know, never come apart. KAREN BREWSTER: So would they steam bend them then? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, steam. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: What about the runners? On this sled they're plastic. BILL DEMOSKI: This one here? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, these are plastic runners. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, that's plastic. That's saved the sled from wearing, you know, wearing down and then that is just a new way of easy pulling, you know. And like, if you go over a gravel that it wouldn't tear up your runners, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So before that they were iron? BILL DEMOSKI: Iron, yeah, iron runners, yeah. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And before that? BILL DEMOSKI: Before that they just used -- my dad used to boil oil, you know, like beaver grease, you know, or bear grease, put it to a boil and paint this stuff and dry it. And he said that birch is like hardwood then. It is so easy running in the winter, you know. It don't ice up. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh.
BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Did you guys ever cover your brush bow with something? I've seen that with like caribou or hide. Have you seen that? BILL DEMOSKI: No, just the handlebar.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: They do that because their hands don't get cold from the -- knowing this and sometimes I used to use that twine, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: And make it a little tougher? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Now, I don't do that anymore. But nowadays, you know, they got all these plastic and they can put plastic stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: But this way look better, you know, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So how old were you when you first took out a dog team? BILL DEMOSKI: I don't know, I was about six or seven maybe. Used to handle two dogs. Of course, those days, you know, you could take out five, six dogs because they weren't fast, you know. They weren't rough or -- they were just trolling, you know, slow, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: How old were you when your dad made his last mail run? BILL DEMOSKI: I was about -- maybe about twelve. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. Did you ever go with him? BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-uh. No. Can't afford it because you got to take all the mail you can and we'll just be in the way, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Extra weight. BILL DEMOSKI: That extra weight, yeah. Yeah. He make more money if he'd haul 50, 60 pound of extra mail, you know, then hauling dead weight. He used to call us dead weight. ROBERT DROZDA: So how did that work him running the mail? Would he -- how many days would take him to get to his destination? BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, he goes about -- in one day he can go 30 miles, 20, you know. They don't rush, you know. So he make -- he make a hundred mile trip about four days, yeah. Twenty miles, 30, 40 miles a day, you know. Sometimes he -- sometimes take longer because they have to break trail, you know. All depends on the trails condition, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: And then rest up? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: And haul something back or? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Yeah. They rest the dogs a couple days and then they -- until there's more mail come in, you know. They relay, you know. And sometimes they got to wait for the other mail carrier -- it is so tough going then they got to wait for the mail. As soon as the mail come in, they relay another mail carrier turn back, you know. They had roadhouses all along the Yukon River, 20, 30 mile trip, you know, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: So they had comforts where they stopped? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah.
BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: And a dog barn. Did all the roadhouses have dog barns? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. They had -- my dad said they used to use poles for dog teams -- they had good dog barns, good kennel. Yeah, the contractor, the mail contractors, they built their sleds and they took care of about 150 dogs, you know, they owned, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: So they leased them all out to mail carriers. Some of them had their own dogs, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Maybe we can talk about a few of these models here and I notice, you know, some of them are identified as being from different villages on the Yukon. Maybe you could talk about some of the differences from village to village or that kind of thing. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, this -- this one here is most like a racing sled, you know. Because you got longer runner, you know. And this here like you use usual long distance races, you know. They make it light, you know. You notice this stuff is pretty light, you know. This is a freighter -- freighter and that's the one they use to get behind the snowshoes. See, they don't have a -- you don't stand in the back here, you know. They used to push that with snowshoes, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: But you still have dogs? ROBERT DROZDA: And these, too. BILL DEMOSKI: Where this one have, you know, you could stand on it, you know. You used to kick your or run behind, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So these two you're really working. They got the handlebars out here and you're pushing. BILL DEMOSKI: This here most like a wood sled, you know, freight, toboggan like, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: But do you have dogs pulling that one with the handlebars or are you just pushing it yourself with snowshoes? BILL DEMOSKI: No, we use this -- KAREN BREWSTER: This one, you have dogs out in front too? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, the dogs would, yeah. That's for snowshoes when there is heavy load, you know. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And where is the musher in this small sled? Is there a musher associated with that, no? BILL DEMOSKI: They just sit on the sled. They just sit on the sled I guess. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And go a ride? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Well, they don't go for a ride. They go hunting or trapping or they don't joy ride them days, you know, unless they're racing. They don't go -- you don't go out for nothing. No joy riding or no -- nothing. They have to be going fishing or hunting or trapping or hauling freight, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: So this flat one with no sides, would you be carrying something different on that? Like this, you said was for work, what would that be for? BILL DEMOSKI: This one? KAREN BREWSTER: That flat one. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, they -- you can use it for hauling wood or you know, it's like a -- they -- it's just like a -- you could use, they used to use this for -- you can haul -- pull it by your neck too, you know. And make it smaller and drag your tent and stove , you know. ANGELA LINN: Would you pull that across your shoulder? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah.
ANGELA LINN: And pull that strap across?
BILL DEMOSKI: Yes, right, yeah. ANGELA LINN: And then would you have something that you use for padding? BILL DEMOSKI: Right, yeah. My grandpa, he -- his dad was -- had a trading post in Nulato and he send them out to St. Michael with five dogs. He had a big 14 foot basket sled and he took off, fur down, you know, to trade for dry goods and he made it all the way to St. Michael with five dogs and he came back with 500 pounds. And it took him a month and he said when he came back from St. Michael he bought a two-man saw, you know. That was the first saw that ever come to Nulato and everybody came to see that saw and how it works, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So, he was trading Interior furs for Coastal fur, seal? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, dry goods, yeah, flour, sugar, dry apples and some -- ROBERT DROZDA: Oh, so he made some money and was able to buy that saw? BILL DEMOSKI: Right, yeah. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. KAREN BREWSTER: Did you guys talk about this curved one? ANGELA LINN: The toboggan? BILL DEMOSKI: The toboggan, yeah. They used that mostly up around Canada area, you know, Fort Yukon. That's -- that's all they use is toboggan. They make them out of -- they make the sides with moose skin, you know, and we used the and -- yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Are there certain styles on these sleds like you would see one and say oh, that came from Fort Yukon area or something like that or? BILL DEMOSKI: This one will and -- ROBERT DROZDA: Or any village, you know, like they have their own style? BILL DEMOSKI: You go up to Stevens Village or some place they got this style, you know. And this here is mostly downriver, like my sled, you know, Koyukuk River and that one there, looks like it is mostly Eskimo. KAREN BREWSTER: This one with the long handlebars? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, yeah. Uh-huh. Freighters. ANGELA LINN: That collection a lot of those pieces come from Rampart. BILL DEMOSKI: Rampart? ANGELA LINN: So, I wonder if that's. BILL DEMOSKI: Ok, yeah. Yeah, they used to use it for freighting probably. KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned an Eskimo sled. Do you know how the Eskimo sleds might -- are different from your sleds? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, they kind of look like this, you know. They're different, you know. Other than that they used to be longer but they had no -- just like flat, you know, flat sleds. KAREN BREWSTER: They didn't have a brush bar. BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-uh. And there they start having dogs, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Do you remember or do you hear stories about changes in the way that they used to line the dogs out behind the sleds? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, they used to -- they used to call it single file, you know. If you are going to use five dogs, they put one dog in single file, you know. That way they follow their track easier, you know, follow their snowshoe track. If you used a big team, they use double, you know. Double lead dogs, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: What do you do with your dogs when you run into overflow? BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, you got to get out of there right away and then first you go to the dry snow and rub their hand in dry snow and dry it out before they get frostbite. You do that same thing with your mukluks, you know. You go before they soak through, you run and jump and get that, you know, this crispy snow. Sink your foot and dry it off, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: So do dogs in dog sleds get stuck in overflow and open water like you do on a snowmachine? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Sometimes when it's cold winter they used to lose a lot of dogs by freezing their groin, you know, in overflow. KAREN BREWSTER: So the dogs don't know better to go around it, huh? BILL DEMOSKI: No, if you've got a good leader, they sense water because the dog can -- the leader can just come to a complete stop hear that there is -- they sense the open water, you know, or thin ice. They can feel by their hand and they stop and they ain't going to move until you tell them. They know that, they hear the water running underneath, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Is that something you can train a dog or they just some know and some don't? BILL DEMOSKI: Right. There are some are natural. They're natural leaders and they sense that, you know. And they can navigate around open places pretty good. Yeah, we had a good leader like that one time -- me and my younger brother. We were coming back from fishing underneath the ice with a fish net, you know. Had a big sled like that and had about forty green fish in there and we were going between two riffles water and I started to go down like this, the dog went right down in the middle just as fast as they can. We got on the beach. We look out there and the whole thing just caved right in, went underneath. Just saved our life. ROBERT DROZDA: Make your heart race, huh. BILL DEMOSKI: We would never have got out of it, yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: Sometimes the overflow you can't avoid it, too. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. ROBERT DROZDA: You have to go through it, right? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And then what? BILL DEMOSKI: The overflow? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. If you have to go through it, what do you do? BILL DEMOSKI: No, you don't go through it. You get out of there. Fast, best way you can. You backtrack or you don't go push on because you'll get in trouble, you know. Where the overflow is you can just -- you can just sink down to the bottom and you got to backtrack or get the dogs out of there right away, you know. You don't keep a going. Well, it's mostly the instinct of the dogs that save your life, you know. They can pull the sled out and sometimes you couldn't pull the sled out. You got to turn the sled loose and they got relay the load, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, if you got to stop and unload your sled your feet are getting awfully wet? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, yeah. You see what I was telling you about the birch that, that you have it dry green. You wouldn't wind up with this, see. See what I mean? ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: That one got warped because it was not a straight grain birch or something. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Or something happened there. Notice how it over like this, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Right. And then your sled won't go straight down the trail? BILL DEMOSKI: And where this one isn't as straight, its a good grain, you know. That is what I was talking about and the grain of the birch, you know. See you wouldn't wind up with that, you know. Now you got -- you can't straighten any more, you know. And when they get bowed like this, it is hard pulling. And it wouldn't steer good, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: You said you used to use nails? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But before nails did they just use wooden pegs? BILL DEMOSKI: No, yeah, wooden peg and then they lash it, lashed like I show you, lashed the babiche around like that, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Or I see where the nails are you'd use lashing. BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok. I guess their screws now. BILL DEMOSKI: Uh-huh. Yeah. I had a whole bunch of this but it is the only one I got left. I hadn't cleaned moose skin for about five years. MARLA STATSCEWICH: I have one question. What's the first thing you do when you are going to build a sled? I mean you get your wood and then do you build the handle and the brush bar. BILL DEMOSKI: Oh, you got to -- the old days you used to -- we split the wood, you know. Get a hammer and the wood is about that round and then you hit the hammer a little bit, you know, crack it. And then you split the birch and you split it in three corners, you know. And then you get one runners out of one corner, you know. And then you -- the next one you get this one, you know, all by splitting it, you know. And then you plane a lot of work, you know. Gotta have a sharp plane. And then after you get all -- get it ready you get the steamer, steam your handlebar and -- your bender, you know, you steam that, you know and you bend them, you know. And then let it dry for two weeks. Then you start cutting out your cross pieces and your stanchions, you know. And then you form it good, you know, like good -- sand them and then you start putting it together. You get knots in them, you know. MARLA STATSCEWICH: So in your first tree will be your runners. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And then -- BILL DEMOSKI: This one. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And then -- BILL DEMOSKI: This one, yeah. MARLA STATSCEWICH: And then those ones, ok, yeah. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. First tree - first is runners. Then you get this and then you get this, you know. MARLA STATSCEWICH: Ok. BILL DEMOSKI: This comes on green and you put it on green there and the bow -- the bow, this part here, it only dry about a week, five, six days maybe. You just cut your birch you can cut 14, 16 feet, you know, if it is straight and then you can figure you're going to use 10 foot of the -- for the runners and get another four feet for parts like this, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Do you try to get all your pieces from one tree? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. Uh-huh. And that for the bows, you know, you try to get the younger birch, you know, with more flexible, you know. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. BILL DEMOSKI: Some, yeah, some days you could go through about 20, 30 trees to get the right kind of -- but some people it look like they don't have the ambition to look for good birch, you know. They just cut down anything and they make it their own, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: In a hurry. BILL DEMOSKI: And like you notice here, you don't see hardly any knots on this one. This one has got one little one, you know, one little here but that don't hurt nothing, you know. Most of them is all good grain, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: What you look for, see this is good grain birch. Maybe some time you get a damp -- you see it picking dust, you know, you can get a damp cloth and wipe it you know. Or else it is going to look like that and get all the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Do you treat the wood? Do you oil the wood or anything? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah. I use -- I boil the -- I boil the linseed oil, you know, boil it and treat the wood with it, you know. And it make -- cure the wood good, you know. It ain't going to rot or get brittle. ROBERT DROZDA: You do it once or you repeat following years? BILL DEMOSKI: Well, you know, you -- like this one here it has been out in the yard and you have to redo -- re-sand it again and do it. But this one here you could just put another coat. All you have to do is wipe this off, this stuff here with wet rag and that's really moist, you know. Gather up dust here and there, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: So in the old days what would people do to maintain their wooden sleds? Would they oil them like that? BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, they use like a beaver grease or bear grease, you know. No, they used to -- you know what they used to get those rocks from the hills, it's -- and then you notice this color you know. KAREN BREWSTER: The red color. BILL DEMOSKI: Yeah, the red color. They use that like this, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: So that would help protect the wood too? BILL DEMOSKI: I think I use this -- want to do it for like paint, you know.
ROBERT DROZDA: Uh-huh. BILL DEMOSKI: Like you use that for snowshoes too. KAREN BREWSTER: How long, I have one last question. Is all long does one of these wooden sleds last before you have to make a new one? BILL DEMOSKI: Well, according to one like I had this about twenty years. My -- I took care of it because only me use it and my Snowgo, you know, but years ago when -- yeah, about twenty years it could last if you really take care of it. Because you don't try to haul wood or heavy load in it, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: All right. KAREN BREWSTER: Thank you very much
ROBERT DROZDA: Thanks alot, Bill.
Joee Redington was interviewed on June 2 & 3, 2011 by Robert Drozda and William Schneider at Joee's home in Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. Joee is the son of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder, Joe Redington, Sr. He grew up on the family homestead in Knik, Alaska and got involved with dog mushing at an early age. In this interview, he talks about his family history with dog mushing and dog racing, raising and training sled dogs, breeding dogs, living in Unalakleet, development of his own racing career, changes in dog racing, the importance of family support for a dog musher, and the future of dog mushing. Go to second recording. Image Gallery
Click to section:
Introduction and family involvement with dog mushing
Living in Knik, at Flat Horn Lake, and using dogs to haul things
Listening to dog races on the radio and getting interested in racing
Feeding and caring for the dogs
Using a fish trap to catch fish for the dogs
Running dogs for the Army
Running the first Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 1974
Switching dogs from sprint to long distance racing
Things learned in those early years of distance racing
Moving to Manley and putting up fish to feed his dogs
How his father, Joe Redington, Sr., got the idea for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
His father's dog sled trip up Mount Mckinley
His father's influence on the mushing community
Marriage and children
Living in Unalakleet
Development of his dog line and breeding dogs
Special dogs that stand out in his memory
Raising his own dogs
Changes in dog racing, like the trails, size of the teams, dog training
Training and teaching Michi Kono, a Japanese musher
More changes in racing and technology
Running sled dog races in the Lower 48 and Canada
Future of his dog racing career
Importance of having a supportive wife
ROBERT DROZDA: This is June the 2nd, 2011, and we're visiting -- myself, Robert Drozda, and Bill Schneider, with Joee Redington, Junior, up in Manley, Alaska. And going to have a chat with Joe today about dog mushing and his experiences and history of his family. So I think you can start, Joe, by maybe just telling us, you know, from the beginning, your -- your experiences as a lad and with your family and father. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, my dad came to Alaska in 1948, and we moved -- and he homesteaded in Knik. And he got a dog in Canada, and then he bred up -- bred up some dogs and got some -- got a bunch of pups. And then I think he watched the Fur Rendezvous or something like that, and was interested in some dogs that a guy named Jake Butler had. And he told -- he told Jake if he'd ever get any extras of those dogs, "I would like to have some." So my dad was contacted by a guy named Jack Tyone who said that Jake had sent down some dogs. And my dad went over there and -- to get the dogs, and he says, "How much does Jake want for those dogs?" And the guy said, "$35." And my dad said, "Gee, that's a lot of money for a dog." He said, "No, that's for all of them." And I think there was five of them, and my dad got those dogs and they were really a good breed of dog. And we used to put up a lot of fish and stuff in Knik there. A lot of red salmon. And we had a, you know, a fish camp there and racks of fish and all that kind of stuff. And then my dad -- those days you could run right on Knik Road. There wasn't hardly any traffic at all, so you could run right on Knik Road and run dogs. And I think I was, like, only five, six years old when I first started learning how to run dogs. I guess you'd say that my dad was mainly interested in -- or he got a job working for Air Force for reclamation, going out and -- with downed airplanes and stuff like that. Back those days before helicopters and stuff came in, if somebody crashed a small plane somewhere and needed a wing or something like that, my dad would haul it in to them by dogs. And also if the Air Force -- if there was planes down or something. I know at one time he went to Mt. Susitna and recovered 11 bodies from a Navy Neptune by using his dogs because there wasn't, like I said, helicopters and stuff at that time. Just small ones was the only thing there was. But I don't know. As kids growing up, we stayed around Knik quite awhile. And we was fishing there, and then Fish and Game started frowning on us fishing there, so then we moved to Flat Horn Lake. And I think the first time that I ever went to a race, though, was, like, in 1956 or something like that, I went to the Fur Rendezvous Juniors, and it was held right down on the street like the Fur Rendezvous is today. ROBERT DROZDA: Whereabouts is Flat Horn Lake? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Flat Horn Lake's over Mt. Susitna. It's off of the Big Susitna. And I don't know, my dad always had lots of dogs, and he had us boys always taking care of them, as far as feeding them and that kind of stuff. He brought the feed in and he kind of expected us boys to cook the dog food and take care of dogs, you know. And we used them for everything at that time because, I mean, if we wanted to haul water, we used the dogs; if we wanted to haul wood, we used the dogs; or if we wanted to go visit somebody, like make a trip to Knik or something from Flat Horn, we always used dogs, too. So as boys growing up, we learned a lot from how dogs act and how to take care of dogs and all that kind of stuff because you depended on them. You know. And my dad was -- my dad was always interested in -- he wasn't so interested in racing it, but he used to -- it used to be a big deal for us living out in the woods, you know, we didn't have television and stuff at that time, mostly just the radio, you know, and when these races came about, like the Fur Rendezvous or the North American, we'd all get around the radio and listen to it. And then after the race was over, we'd tell our mom to get the stop watch out and us boys would hook up dogs and kind of more or less pretend that we was some of them guys. You know, they were guys like George Attla and Lombard and those kind of guys that were racing. It was like sports heros to us. You know, we didn't have all this live stuff like we have today, you know. So to us boys, you know, Lombard and George Attla and stuff was sports figures, you know, we wanted to be like them as we was growing up, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: You were teenage boys at that time? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, at that time we were, like, teenage boys, you know, running in the Juniors, and... But my dad was doing a lot of freighting and stuff, hauling out airplanes from different -- different parts of Alaska and things like that. He wasn't so much interested in racing at that time, but I think he was raising dogs or we always raised dogs with the idea of the Fur Rendezvous and the North American, you know. There wasn't no Iditarod and stuff at that time when -- when we were growing up. ROBERT DROZDA: Distance racing hadn't really come out? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, not really -- really caught on. Just some early races that we used to hear about in Nome and stuff when they had them early sweepstakes races. ROBERT DROZDA: Were you able to listen to the Open North American from Fairbanks down south and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, we could -- ROBERT DROZDA: -- on the radio? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- we could get it. But that used to be a big thing. Everybody huddled around -- everybody everywhere. There wasn't a lot of live -- there was no live sports, and any -- whenever we used to go to the races, there used to be a lot of people there because in Alaska there was a lot of outdoor people. And there wasn't snow machines and there wasn't any live things for -- you know, I mean, so if there were a dog race going on, almost everybody went there to watch the dog races. That was a big exciting thing back in the '50s, early '60s, you know. But then when live sports and stuff come along, then a lot of people stayed home, and snow machines came along and a lot of people are out doing their own thing that way, you know, so we got less -- I think we got less spectators. But, I don't know, we did a lot of things with dogs, you know. Trapping, did a lot of trapping with dogs. Some hunting, hauling in game and different things with the dogs. You know, the dogs was a big thing. And my dad always had lots of dogs. I don't know why he had so many, but he always had lots of dogs. And then we used to -- the big thing, though, when he had lots of dogs there, we had to hustle like heck in order to get food to them. So we were constantly trying all kinds of different things, so we -- we thought at one time that the hooligans would really be great for dogs, but then we found out after we put them up, my dad started going and getting them with the boat, and he had my mom and us kids putting them up on -- we had chicken wire, and my dad went to Tealands (phonetic) and asked them if they had any toothpicks there. And they said, "Yeah, we have some toothpicks." He said, "I'll take every one you got," and he bought, like, 25,000 toothpicks. And what we used to do was stick these fish up through a chicken wire and put the toothpick through their eyes, and we just had rows and rows and rows because we thought this was going to be a great way. And then we come to found out as we fed them to the dogs, it was too much Vitamin A, and it started killing the dogs. They'd start urinating blood or -- and they would either get over it in a short time or they would die. So then we had to burn all the hooligans that we were using. Some people thought they could do it, but after awhile, you'd see them burning theirs, too. It just didn't work. But we were very lucky that there was a couple -- at that time, there was a couple of seal hunters, a guy named Cliff Forsberg and a guy named Howard Ross that was seal hunting at the mouth of the Big Su. Back those days they had a bounty on seals, and those guys would save the carcasses for us. And we would go down and get them and we'd get about 500 every spring. And then all of the big ones, my dad would have us take the -- the fat off of them big seals and cut it in square chunks, like a 2-inch square chunk. And we were putting it in what they called baker drums, a 55 gallon drum with a lid that -- a snap lid on it. And as long as you didn't have any meat at all on the fat, it would render out and be perfect for the following winter; but if you left some meat on it, it would blow the top of the barrels. So you had to be pretty careful when you were putting it up. And my dad had us boys doing that all the time, and we were feeding our dogs a lot of seal meat. So -- but when you live out like that and you have a bunch of dogs, you've got to constantly be on the move looking for things to fish and putting up fish and all kinds of stuff in order to take care of them. And then my dad would, by boat or by dog team, he would bring in oats or cornmeal or rice or something like that that we would put it in with the fish and stuff, and... ROBERT DROZDA: Kind of developed your own formula? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, that's how you had to do it back. And when I first started racing a lot of people were still doing that, cooking fish and rice, and probably some of them today, they still do it. Sometimes you're lucky to live in some place where you can get that kind of stuff, you know. It's not cheap either because, you know, you've got to put in a lot of hours and you've got to -- you know, price of gas and all that kind of stuff, but it's one way of taking care of your -- your dogs, you know. And then another thing that my dad used to have us do was we'd go to all these big meadows, build a big wire -- like a big wire rack, and we would cut the grass and put it on them wire racks, and cover them up later on, and that's what we'd have for bedding for the dogs. It wasn't like we could just go to the store and get a bale of straw, you know, so he'd have us boys going out and in the meadows and cutting grass for them. He always had plenty of things for us boys to do, and we had -- you know, in the wintertime in the Flat Horn there, we used to have a fish trap in there. And it's kind of interesting because when I was a kid growing up on that lake, we knew just about everything that was going on in that area, with game or fish or whatever, you know. And there was a lot of whitefish and suckers and burbot. And we had a fish trap there, and that's how we were getting our dog food. But now I understand that that lake has got nothing but pike in it. And there wasn't one pike in there when I was a kid growing up. ROBERT DROZDA: Interesting. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: And we used to go down, you know, before 1972, we used to go beluga hunting. And I used to stay down in the mouth of the Big Su for a month and hunt belugas. And take them to town and sell them to Pop Carr at 13th and Gamble, and that's how we made money, you know. That's a big thing, too, when you live out in the boonies like we did, hustling to make a living, you know; commercial fishing and hunting seals and whales and whatever, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: When you were fishing at Flat Horn Lake, what kind of fish trap did you have? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, we just had a square box with a -- you know, with a funnel in it, and had wings on it -- out of chicken wire and it had wings on it. And we'd just dip them out with a dip net or with a -- you'd gaff them with a gaff hook or something to get them out of there. But we used to -- we didn't get a lot, but we'd get, you know, enough to take care of the dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: And you'd dry those? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, we didn't dry them. We fed all them -- we had that mainly only in the wintertime, the fish trap. ROBERT DROZDA: Oh, okay. Through the ice and -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, through the ice. I don't know if it was illegal or not, but Fish and Game never said nothing about it, so... You know, a lot of times back those days like if you were out -- lived out in the woods and you were -- Fish and Game wasn't really after you because they knew you weren't wasting things, and they'd more or less kind of turn their head at that kind of stuff, you know, as long as they knew you weren't wasting it. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. Maybe there was less pressure on the resources then. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I'm sure.
ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. A lot less people. ROBERT DROZDA: So then, when did you move north of the range? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, after I was at Flat Horn, I went to the Army and I served two years in the Army. The Army -- a guy came to me and said, "Hey, we're getting ready to draft you. Are you interested in coming to the Army and run dogs for us?" So I said, "Sure, I'm interested in that." So I went to the Army and I went to basic training and then I came back to Fort Rich and I spent two years in the Army. And the main thing that I was doing was racing dogs for the Army. It was like a public relation type deal. We used to go on some maneuvers and stuff up Fort Yukon and Venetie, Chalkyitsik, different places. But I spent two years there at Fort Rich in a place called Camp Denali, which was a -- it was a great thing for me because I was interested in racing dogs. And I thought when I went to basic training that when we got our MOS's, I kept telling all the guys there that I'm going back to Alaska and drive dogs. It was the time when Vietnam was going on, and all my friends or all the guys that was in the Army were saying, you know, yeah, right. But anyway, when I got my MOS, it said that I was going to be a Howitzer operator and going to school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And I thought they'd tricked me, so I got a hold of a few different guys, and it wasn't long and I was back in Alaska and we were training dogs for -- for the Army. ROBERT DROZDA: And the Army didn't use them for work at all? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, we used them on some maneuvers and some different things, you know, reconnaissance stuff and things like that, but mainly they were a public relation type deal with the Army. And brought a lot of people to the races and that kind of stuff. And I was lucky, the first year that I was there we worked with the dogs really hard, and I came in -- I came in third the first year in '65, and in '66 I won the Fur Rendezvous with the Army. I always say that I had one of the biggest sponsors that anybody ever had, you know. Took me and the U.S. Government to win. So it was a good duty for me. I enjoyed it a lot, and they seemed to be plenty satisfied. I don't know. I had a lot of -- the dogs have done a lot of good things for me. Sure beat going to Vietnam anyway. ROBERT DROZDA: What about after you got out, then? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, then after -- after I got out of the Army, I went back to Flat Horn for a short time. And then I think in about 1970 I moved to Unalakleet for a year and a half. I went to Unalakleet. And then I came back to Knik for a little while, and then after that I -- in seventy -- in '74 I entered the Iditarod and started running in the Iditarod, which was kind of a new -- well, it was a new thing for everybody, but it was really new for me. It started in '73, so in '74 I went, and my brother and my dad; and my brother came in seventh and I came in ninth, and my dad came in eleventh. And then in '75, I went again and I came in third in '75. And then Rick Swenson called me up and wanted to know about how to train for Iditarod; and then in '76, he came and stayed with me in Knik. And he was a rookie of the year, and then in '77, he won; and then he helped me move my stuff here to Manley. So in '77, we moved here to Manley. So I've been here in Manley since '77. ROBERT DROZDA: When you and your brother and dad ran the Iditarod race, were -- were you all running your dad's dogs, or did you -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, I had my own dogs, and my brother had his own dogs, and maybe some of his friends had some dogs in there, and then my dad had his own dogs. A lot of the -- in the later years, a lot of my dad's dogs that he had came from dogs that I'd bought from different sprint racers and different things like -- you know, and different mushers. And my dad bred them up and -- because he kind of got out of the hauling and freighting and working that kind of stuff, and he started getting interested in -- he raced a little bit in some sprint races, but when the Iditarod -- when he got the Iditarod going, then he started getting interested in the Iditarod. And he got some -- he got some dogs from my brother and raised them up, so they were all -- all the dogs that he had were out of -- I mean, raised -- they were raised for the North American and the Fur Rendezvous is what they were used for, you know. And then they -- the guys that were running long distance races at the time started breeding them to suit what they wanted, like trying to get better feet and longer hair and all the things that they needed to do the type of racing that they were doing, but the blood line came from guys that's been racing dogs for years and years and years and trapping and different villages, and that's what the -- they didn't go to anyplace that I know of, Greenland or anywhere, and get a special breed just for the Iditarod. They were all dogs that came down through the line from dogs for North American and Fur Rendezvous. You know. And they just tried to make them to suit what they -- the eating better, the drinking better, the going longer hours of running, and that kind of stuff, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah, that's what I was going to ask, what were some of the main things you learned in switching to distance like that? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, what I was doing was I was trying -- at the time I was training a team for Fur Rendezvous and North American and a different team for Iditarod and that kind of stuff, you know, and it just -- back those days we didn't know very much about things like booties. I mean, when we started using booties, we were putting them -- the booties on after the dogs got sore feet, instead of like they do today when they boot them ahead of time so that you don't get sore feet. We didn't know that kind of stuff because everybody -- it was a learning -- a learning thing. They've been at it now for 35 years; I mean, they know what to do now, you know. We didn't know anything. Guys were cooking in washtubs or cooking in five gallon cans, or building campfires. I mean, when we went on the Iditarod, we didn't know anything about -- amazed how far we were even going then, and it's really amazing today how far these dogs can go. I don't think there's a tougher animal around than these dogs. And I don't think there's anything around that's taken care of better than these dogs, you know. Guys -- I think guys really take care of their dogs good. There is exceptions to the rule and like in anything, you know, but I think these guys really feed and take care of their dogs extremely good. ROBERT DROZDA: What do you think about these dogs now they run a thousand mile race and turn around two weeks later and run -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: It's amazing. I think my dad would really be impressed to see how, like, what Lance Mackey did with -- with his team and stuff, I think he would really be impressed with -- with that kind of stuff. It amazes me how tough and durable they really are. ROBERT DROZDA: So getting back North now, it was Swenson who got you to -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, not really. I had a friend -- I had a friend, Bill Taylor, that was running a fish plant here in Manley, and I don't know, where I was living at was on one of my -- my grandfather's homestead, and right above me there was a guy unloaded a dozer and they started dozing. I was the only one on that road, and next thing you know there's 350 lots for sale there, and I just said, I don't know, it's getting to be too many people for me. So I told Pam that I wanted to move somewhere else. And it was a little school here, I thought it would be good for my kids, so we came here. The kids, we'd take -- we used to take the kids to school with the dogs and pick them up with the dogs and all that kind of stuff. And I don't know, I thought it was really good. And some of the teachers and stuff that came here were -- I think they were really, really good teachers that we had. And I don't know, I just thought it was a great place to live, you know. And it hasn't really grown a lot since I moved here; if anything, maybe it's even gotten smaller, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: You like to be off the beaten path? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I've always lived in the woods or kind of in the woods. You know, I mean, this is probably as big a town as I've lived in, you know, for -- so I like being out in the country where I can go down and get in my boat and go fish or go do what I like to do, you know, and I've been lucky to be able to do that. I think it was in '97 or '98 I had a four-way bypass and wasn't able to go commercial fishing. I used to go commercial fishing from here to the mouth of the Yukon. Drive my boat down, stay down there a month or so and fish and take my son with me, and -- and go back and forth. That used to be a lot of fun to go do that, you know, but fishing's not like it used to be, so you can't do that. But I don't know, I just like to be a little bit free, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Nowadays you can go down to the Tanana here and get the majority of your dog food? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, I go down here and fish in the falltime, and put fish up for my dogs. And that's just -- you know, people think that we're taking a lot of fish, but that's just a small part of what we feed them. I mean, we feed them a lot of meat and commercial dog food. And I don't know, we do go down here and get some of these dog salmon, what we call them, dog salmon. I mean, they've been -- people have been getting them for a lot of years, a lot of years around here. I guess that's why they call them dog salmon. ROBERT DROZDA: Okay. Do you want to take a little break? BILL SCHNEIDER: Sure. (Recording paused.) ROBERT DROZDA: Joe, before we continue, I wanted to go back and ask you about your dad and where the idea came from to start the Iditarod and how that all came about. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I think my dad had been travelling around different -- different parts of Alaska, and he didn't see that -- didn't see very many dogs anymore. And I think he was getting kind of worried about maybe that the snow machines had came in, and guys were getting rid of their dogs, and that that's where the main good dogs would come from, from the guys that trapped and all that kind of stuff, and worked with their dogs every day. Even in the summer a lot of them worked with their dogs using them for different things. And I think he was concerned about that. And I think that between him and Dorothy Page and probably a few other people, they started talking about possibly putting on a race. And, you know, first they had a small one that was just a -- just like a 28 miler or something like that in '67. And then had another one again in '69, and then actually in '73. But the big thing for me, as I was growing up, my brother and I was fairly well known in sprint racing, you know what I mean. And then my dad comes up with this idea about having this distance type racing that -- to Nome, you know. So he started trying to raise money, and he even went as far as putting our homestead up -- a acre of our homestead land and all that kind of stuff, you know. And then a lot of people were making fun of him. Like here I was a boy growing up and a lot of people are making fun of my dad, calling him Don Quixote, a guy that chases windmills, and all that kind of stuff, you know. And then my dad was constantly wanting us boys to help him work on this or work on that, or go out on the trail and then somebody will come along and we'll do some photos. And in my mind, I'm trying to train for Fur Rendezvous and North American and that kind of stuff because I've been doing well in it and all that, you know. And, I mean, I remember the time that I even told my dad, I said, "Dad, if this thing doesn't work, I'm going to change my name to John Paul Jones." And a lot of people took it the wrong way as far as I feel because they acted like I was against my dad. It wasn't that I was against my dad, it was just that I felt sorry for him in ways that people were making so much fun of him. And putting our homestead up and, I mean, he was really going out on a limb. I mean, my dad was going to meetings and not coming home until 2:30, and different things like that, you know, so... ROBERT DROZDA: It was a pretty grand idea. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And you know, my dad, they call him the Father of the Iditarod, and he did do a lot to get it going and all that kind of stuff, but I've always felt like my dad was the lead dog and he had a good team behind him. He had a lot of good people, a lot of good people helping him do things, but he was the one that was in the lead. And he was the one that was going forward. You know what I mean? And that's the kind of a guy he was. He was one of them kind of guys, whenever he set his mind to do something, he did it. He wasn't a quitter on anything, you know, but he did have what I thought was a good team behind him, a lot of good people helping him with that Iditarod. But I don't think it would have happened if it wasn't for a guy like him that was pushing all the time. And he got along well with people; governors, lots of different people that he got along well with. He was one of them kind of guys that could talk to them kind of people and he had people behind him, you know, but I give a lot of credit to a lot of other people that helped him along, you know. But he put in lots of hours. And I think when he went in the Iditarod himself, he more or less trained his dogs as he went. And he did quite well for a guy that was -- I don't think he even started until he was probably 55 or even older when he first started, and I think he went 19 times and he went when he was 80 and finished in the middle of the pack, so... And he was always -- he was always one of them kind of guys that when we were growing up, he always -- I mean, he told me things that, like, before transistor radios for, like, racing, you know, he used to tell me about if you just had a radio that you could listen to, and like these wheels and stuff, he was always one of them kind of guys that was thinking of something ahead before it ever happened. You know what I mean? He was a very interesting guy to -- to grow up with. I mean, he was the type of a guy that he would help you do anything to get going; like if we wanted to go commercial fishing, he would get us set up, but then you're on your own. It's like he had his own things to do, and you're on your own, you know. But he did work a lot on getting the Iditarod going, and I give him a lot of credit for that. Then he decided that -- in '79 that he wanted to climb -- he decided this a long time ago, before that, that he wanted to climb Mount McKinley with dogs. And somebody asked me, "Do you think your dad can make it?" I said, "I know he'll make it. I don't know how long he'll be there, but he'll make it."
I mean, he wasn't a quitter. He was the type of a guy that when he went to do something, he did it. ROBERT DROZDA: That was in '79? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I think in '79 him and Susan and Rob Stapleton, Ray Genet, climbed McKinley with dogs. ROBERT DROZDA: How many dogs did they get up there? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well -- ROBERT DROZDA: One team?
JOE REDINGTON, JR.: -- he started with seven, and they got to the top with four, but I think what they realized, you know, people used to always say about going to the top, they never said anything about coming down. And coming down was the hard part. I mean, them dogs have a lot of power especially when you're coming down, you know. So I think they realized that they didn't need -- they didn't want to have seven to come down with, so they left some at different camps as they went to the top. ROBERT DROZDA: That seems like almost an unbelievable accomplishment. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, he -- he did a lot of different -- a lot of different things. And I don't know, he's way ahead of us boys. We don't seem to have the desire to do some of the things that he did, I don't know. We still got dogs, though; my brothers and I still have dogs, anyway, after all these years. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. BILL SCHNEIDER: Maybe one more question on that. He had a big influence on a lot of people in the mushing community. Could you talk about some of the people he influenced? Your dad. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, he -- he did a lot with people from other countries, you know, as far as coming over. You know, like, he had Jacques Philipe that come over from France, he had two -- two teams from Russia that came over. He had some from Norway. We had a lot of different -- a lot of people come over from different places. And I don't know, I think he's -- he's made -- made a lot of people fairly well off from the things that he did as far as the Iditarod goes. There's a lot of people in the tour business. Yeah, I don't know, he -- I think he brought a lot of people into -- to the dog mushing world, you know, and a lot of people got interested in it. BILL SCHNEIDER: What about Susan Butcher? What was -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Susan was one of his ones that came there. I think she'd already ran some dogs. I think he said that she came to his place with a Volkswagon Beetle with, I don't know, 8 or 10 dogs in a Volkswagon beetle or something like that, and then she stayed around -- she stayed around there helping him with the dogs and learning about the Iditarod, and that kind of stuff. So she's one of the ones that he worked with. He worked with quite a few different ones, really. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, how about your family? We got you moved up here to Manley, but what -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, let's see. In 1966, I think, I got married. And in 1969 my -- I had a son born, Joee Ray. And then I got a divorce, and then I married a farm gal named Pam. And then her and I had a -- had a daughter named Heather. And then we went -- moved to Unalakleet when they were quite young and stayed there for a year and a half, and then moved back to Knik, and then in '77, we moved here to Manley. So I have a boy, Joee Ray, and a little girl, Heather. And Heather now lives in Canada. And my son now lives down in Wasilla. ROBERT DROZDA: What took you to Unalakleet? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: My dad was buying fish -- my dad was buying fish for a guy named Lloyd -- Lloyd Kline (phonetic), and wanted -- he wanted to know if I was interested in going up there to help him with buying fish and fishing myself. So we loaded -- we took two fishing dories. Loaded about 40 dogs in those dories, and put them on a flying boxcar that Northern Air Cargo had at the time. And my dad said -- I said, how we -- "What are we going to do with these dogs when we get them there?" He said, "Oh, we'll just tie them up to some trees." Well, when we got to Unalakleet, there wasn't no trees. So we had the dogs tied to driftwood and scattered up and down the beach for a quarter of a mile until we finally got that taken care of. He let us off on the end of the airfield with them boats and dogs, and no transportation; and it was kind of interesting for a while, but everything worked out pretty good. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. And you ran dogs out of Unalakleet? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, ran dogs around Unalakleet there. ROBERT DROZDA: Uh hum. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Which was a lot different for me, too. I wasn't used to -- used to that type of where you could go anywhere you wanted to go, you know, from the wind. But I enjoyed Unalakleet, it was a great place. There was so many things to do around Unalakleet, that fishing and hunting and all that kind of stuff. It was a great -- really a great place. I enjoyed -- a lot of the old timers were telling you stories about different things that they -- they did. The only thing would have been better if I would have knew how to speak their language because they could probably tell their stories better in their languages -- language than in ours. And my wife went to all the -- every time we'd get a chance for her to go to some type of skin sewing thing that the ladies had, my wife would go and learned how to cut wolf for ruffs and how to sew all kinds of different things from the older ladies and stuff there. And I was constantly on the go hunting and fishing, and it was a really a great place, one of the greatest places for hunting that I've ever been. ROBERT DROZDA: And fishing primarily in the Bering Sea, then, or were you going up the Yukon River, too? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No. This was mainly there right off of the -- off of Unalakleet. I mean, we were fishing for herring and salmon and tomcods. Whitefish and char, and all kinds of stuff like that, you know. Yeah, it didn't take me long to start putting up fish for my dogs when I got there. BILL SCHNEIDER: We should take a minute and have you talk about the development of your dog line. And what you're looking for in developing the dogs that you are using for racing. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, I've tried a lot of different -- I've tried a lot of different lines of dogs. You know, most of the dogs that -- that I had came from, like, villages like Huslia. And then I -- you know, I bred those kind of dogs up. And then I got dogs, like, from Gareth and crossed those dogs in. I remember one time Gareth had came down to Flat Horn and brought down -- I was just about maybe 18 years old or somewhere, I don't remember how old I was at the time, but anyway, Gareth brought some dogs down. Him and Al Wright brought some dogs to Flat Horn and I trained those dogs for Gareth. And then I had them for a year or so and then I gave them back to Gareth, and so I had some of that line. And I got a -- I stayed with Westcott in 1961 when I was in the Juniors in Fairbanks, and he gave me a Belgian Sheepdog cross that Warren Brewer had. And we bred that in, and we got a lot of good -- a lot of good dogs. My dad bred it in, and he got a lot of good dogs from that Belgian Sheepdog cross that -- that we had. And I had that for -- for quite awhile. And then, you know, I kept -- I kept breeding the best that I could get of -- of the Huskies. And Egil Ellis come along with Pointers and started beating us, so everybody had to start trying that. So I -- I tried some Pointer crosses, but here in Manley, it's -- it's -- you know, you have to have a dog barn, for one thing, and I had a dog barn, but still, it's -- for them kind of dogs with a short coat and stuff, it's pretty hard -- hard for them, harder for them than a Husky, you know. And Huskies have been -- mentally been used to this kind of weather and stuff for years and years and years. So I kind of phased out -- I kind of phased out the Pointer line. And some of these dogs that I have here go back to -- to a dog called Burner, and then one of his pups called Sailor, and that's mainly what I have now is -- and I went back to where I had mostly all -- all Husky or very little Pointer in there. If it is, it's only a 16th or something like that. But I think at the time it was a pretty good deal to get a new line of dogs to -- to breed in there, you know, because a lot of these dogs are really related. If you check with a lot of different people, they are really closely related, you know, so once in awhile it's good to get something new in there and breed something in there. ROBERT DROZDA: So was that Sailor an Ellis dog, you said, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, Sailor was -- actually how that came about was, was my brother raised some dogs with Gareth. And then Gareth got one of those pups, or Roxy did. Got one of those pups and a dog called Burner, and that's where that line, Burner and Sailor. Sondersons got in there where they would cross one of their dogs and got into that line of dogs. But a lot of the dogs are related, distance dogs, you know, a lot of people have distance dogs that go back to Sailor. ROBERT DROZDA: Are there some -- some really special dogs that stand out in your mind over the years and that -- ? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, you know, like when I was a kid growing up, my dad had got a dog called Lady that -- and I never realized this at the time, I just found this out a few years ago, that when I was a kid in the first grade going to school, we had a cook, her name was Ila Zinsky (phonetic). And she had gave my dad this dog named Lady because she had got into the chicken coop and killed a whole bunch of her chickens, so she gave him this leader. And I just found out here that -- that Ila Zinsky was a mail carrier, one of the only female mail -- mail carriers in the Independence Mine area. And that's why that she -- because I never could figure out, why would she have a leader, you know, as a cook in the school. But I found out a few years ago that she was one of the only -- the only woman mail carrier, and that's why she had this leader. And that was a really nice leader. And my dad had a dog called Lobo that he used for lots of his reclamation work. And he was a really good leader. And then we had one that -- a dog named Wolf, and I think he got it from one of our neighbors, but that dog was an exceptionally good leader; and he not only knew gee and haw and come up -- come gee and come haw and all that, but if you were going through the woods and a tree was leaning, you could holler "over," and he'd jump over it; or if you hollered "under," and he'd go under it. I mean, he was really a -- really -- you know, a lot of them dogs are really good, but they didn't have the speed that it -- that it takes, you know. And then I had a dog when I was in the Juniors called Snag that I used in both Anchorage in '61, I won Anchorage Junior North American -- or Junior Fur Rendezvous there with Snag for a leader. And then I went to Fairbanks and raced in the Junior North American and won there with that dog in the lead. And then my brother had got -- actually, my mother had bought 'em from my brother, some half Labrador, half Setter dogs that I -- that he had, and he sold them to my dad. And then I -- the Army bought them off my dad, and that's the ones that I won the Fur Rendezvous with was Happy and Windy. And they were -- had no Husky in them at all; they were half Setter and half Lab. And I used them in the lead in the Fur Rendezvous and won that. And I've had some other really good dogs. Like I had a leader named Trainer that was exceptionally good that I bought from a guy in Fairbanks. I had a dog, a good leader that we raised here called Carlo that my wife trained as a pup. I don't know, I just have had lots of good ones. I have some even now that I -- I consider pretty good, you know. I've been pretty lucky with dogs. I've loaned dogs out to guys, like I loaned them to Michi Kono, a Japanese guy, and he won the North American. I had a dog called Banjo, I think she ran six North Americans, and he had her as a leader. And then I've been letting Jason Dunlap use mine in the Fur Rendezvous and North American, and I got a couple -- I got about three or four leaders here now, Raisin and Ruger and Toast, dogs that we raised. Most of the dogs that I have here now we've raised. A lot of these guys that are racing are racing their own. You can't hardly buy -- people that are racing can't really afford to sell one to somebody that's really a competitor, because you need it to race against him, you know, so it's pretty hard to go buy a good one, so you almost got to raise them. And I've been lucky with some of these dogs that I've bred up, the whole litter is good. And I don't know, people -- I think people nowadays and dogs, they probably work with them more like letting puppies chase them when they're small with chasing four wheelers and chasing snow machines. And, you know, it's just a lot different now, because I can remember years ago when all it was was just a snow machine -- I mean, a snowshoe track. I mean, you didn't have snow machines and stuff to put the trail in. You'd go out there and snowshoe a trail, and when somebody got ready to go past you, you would turn your sled either on its side or turn it upside down and stick the brush bow in the snow, and try to help the guy get by you, you know. It wasn't these wide trails like we've got today, you know. There was a lot of single leaders back when I was younger, a lot of guys were using single leads instead of double. A lot of bigger teams now. When I was -- when I was young the teams were small, you know, like 9 dogs, 10 dogs for going in some of these races. And I think in about 1962 or something like that, George Attla came to the Fur Rendezvous and had 16. And he had a leader named Nellie and Tuffy, and then he won with 16, and I think that started the -- the bigger team. Then Gareth went to the Fur Ren -- to the North American, I think, with 20, and I don't know, it's just a lot different today. You know, you got good feed. Guys specialize in that now, I mean, guys are training dogs and specializing in that, you know. And you get snow machines and drags. A lot of things now that I don't know if the dogs are trained any better today than they were years ago. I have my doubts. I think years ago they might have even been trained better than they are today, you know. People used them a lot more for a lot of different things. You know, they had good leaders because they used them for a lot of different -- a lot of different things, you know, especially in the villages. But, you know, like, in the villages, it used to be a big thing, a pride thing where people had dogs, and they'd like to loan their dogs to somebody and send somebody in from the village to race, you know. There was a lot of that type of -- a lot of that type of pride. And, you know, a lot of people used to come to the North American from the villages and watch, they still do today, but a lot more years ago. You know, some guys just running them might not even own a dog in the team, or maybe just one, and the rest of the village would -- people in the village would own them, you know. There used to be a lot of that. ROBERT DROZDA: When you were working with some of these other mushers, like Michi Kono, you're -- you're providing him with the dogs, and he'd work with you throughout the season with those dogs or -- ? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: No, he came here for, like, two months or something like that. ROBERT DROZDA: Did the dogs respond to him? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, yeah, he was -- you know, everybody's different. You know, there's -- some dogs really take to some people real quick. And, I mean, it didn't take him but just a little awhile and the dogs knew him and he knew their names. I mean, he was focused -- he was really focused on at that time coming over here and racing, you know. He was a bus driver over in Japan, came over here, stayed with us for a couple months. And when I first met him, I didn't know what to think when I -- when I first met him, because I thought all Japanese people ate fish and rice, and so I asked him about going to McDonalds or Burger King or someplace like that, he said, "Oh, that's okay, we have those." But he brought a dictionary, one from Japanese to English, one from English to Japanese. It was a little hard to -- hard to work with him. I had an interpreter, a girl in -- in Fairbanks that was -- that had taken Japanese, and I would call her once in awhile because he couldn't -- you know, it would be hard sometimes for us to -- to communicate, you know. But he wrote everything down. And that year I had him -- the first year I had him, he was a rookie in the North American, and then he wanted to come back the next year, and he came back the next year, and then that's the year that he won. And very good with dogs. Very good. I mean, he was dedicated and he was very interested in dogs, but -- and then he moved over here. Well, it's harder for him to come over here. I never sold him any of my dogs, but I helped him buy dogs. But now he's got to make a living and he's got to put it all together himself. You know. Sometimes that's not as easy to do as a person might think, you know. He's raised a lot of good dogs, but to get enough of them to be able to go do it is kind of hard. And, you know, I've been doing it, I've been racing, you know, since '56, so... I may not always win, but I'm usually right in there, and I still know a few tricks of the trade, you know. Even these young guys, they know, too. They do it a lot different now. Nowadays they race with a GPS watch. They do it a lot different. I race with the moon and the stars, you know, and the sun. And these guys use a watch, you know. It's a lot different racing nowadays. They use mats, and it's just a lot different than when I -- when I first started racing. ROBERT DROZDA: Lots of changes in technology. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Oh, yeah, lots -- lots of things, you know. ROBERT DROZDA: Sled technology. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. And -- and I think -- I mean, I hear different people have -- you know, they're anti Iditarod; they're -- you know, I think we've learned a lot from the Iditarod. Myself. I mean, those guys have experimented with a lot of different things, and I think we've helped them with some of the breed that they have, and they've helped us with a lot of technology and stuff, you know. I think it goes hand in hand, you know. I'm always interested in all kinds of dog mushing, you know. BILL SCHNEIDER: Hang on a sec here. (Recording stopped momentarily.) BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. ROBERT DROZDA: Have you done much travelling for dog mushing, racing? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't remember exactly what year it was now, but I did go out to that Midwest circuit out to Bemidji and Ely and Grand Rapids and that area there racing. And then we went over as far as in Saranac, New York. That was a lot different for me. We -- well, actually, we raced, I think, in, like, down through Canada, we would race in Ft. Nelson, and then went on down into Minnesota and raced there for -- for a while, and then we were gone for quite awhile, but did that Midwest -- Midwest circuit and then... ROBERT DROZDA: Were there a lot of the same characters as -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, like, George Attla was there, and some of the ones that came -- who would come here for the North American and stuff. Like, Gary Hettinger and Harris Dunlap and some of them guys were travelling that circuit. ROBERT DROZDA: Streepers, or -- JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah, Streepers, too. They were there. Yeah. So we did -- did that. I only went out to the Lower 48 just one time. I went to Canada a couple times and Ft. Nelson and raced down there. ROBERT DROZDA: You said it was different for you? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, the travelling, and finding places to train and stuff I thought was hard. And it was kind of a -- it was one of those kind of things where, you know, a lot of the JC's and stuff put the trails in and stuff, and these guys really worked hard at it, but when you go to put them trails in, it's not like trails where dogs have used it and punched it with their feet and hardened it up and all that kind of stuff. So, like, the first few teams that go out, have a crust that they run on, and then the rest of it starts breaking up, you know. And some of the mushers come back and raising heck, and you feel kind of bad for these guys that's really worked their tails off trying to put the trails in, and then they're getting their butts chewed out for the trails not being very good, you know, so I don't know. Sometimes you just got to grin and bear it, and that's how it is, you know. It happens even here sometimes, you know. I've had things happen in the North American where the gate's locked, you know, at the golf course, and different things have happened. You know, things happen sometimes, you know, that you don't expect. BILL SCHNEIDER: So where -- where are you now in your career? What are you looking forward to? JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Well, I don't know. I'm getting up there. Like today's my birthday, I'm 68 years old, you know, and when I start thinking about raising pups, by the time I get them ready to race I'll be 70. And I'm getting to the point where I have a hard time handling. These dogs that I have here now are pretty wild, and I have to get some young driver to drive them in some of these races because I don't feel that I can handle them as well as I used to be able to, you know, so I don't really know. It depends on, you know, I -- I'm sure I'll have dogs as long as I possibly can, you know, but it just depends on how my health and that kind of stuff goes, you know. I feel that I have some really good -- good dogs right at this time, you know, but I don't know. It's just everything seems to be getting a little harder for me than it used to be, you know. Stiff and sore. And I still like it, but it's harder to do it, you know, compared to what it was when I was younger. And when you're not racing them yourself, it takes a little bit away from it, you know. It's hard to find some -- I'm fortunate to have a guy, Jason, that's been running mine that's really good with the dogs, and he does a great job for me, and -- but he's got a family and probably wants to do his own thing, and takes a lot of time. I mean, it's not something that you just do a few hours a day, you know. I mean, it's -- when you're training, you're training from daylight until dark, and then that's not enough in Alaska in the wintertime, you know, you need more hours. More hours of daylight anyway. But I don't know. We'll see what happens here. I guess George Attla, he's 70 some years old, and he just got a team again, so I guess there's hope for all of us. BILL SCHNEIDER: I'm sure there is. You're doing a great job. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: I'm lucky to have a wife that's into it. And she trains all these dogs that I have here, she's trained from when they were pups. And she's not that interested in racing, but she likes to train the pups, so we have a pretty good team effort, her and I work together taking care of them and all that kind of stuff, so fortunate that way. ROBERT DROZDA: Yeah. It sounds like a good balance there. JOE REDINGTON, JR.: Yeah. I remember years ago, somebody asked me about buying dogs and stuff and I said, "Well, you've got to have a family that's behind you, you know." If you come home with a dog and your wife's standing there with her foot sticking out the side of her tennis shoe, and she wants to know why you didn't get two, that's the kind of wife you've got to have, you know. They're hard to find. BILL SCHNEIDER: Thanks so much. This has been good.
Warren Neakok - ORAL HISTORY 88-08-06 & ORAL HISTORY 88-08-07
Warren Neakok was interviewed on July 26, 1984 by Dave Libbey and Ed Hall at Warren's home in Point Lay, Alaska. A total of eight interviews were done with Warren for the North Slope Borough's Point Lay cultural resource site survey, whose results are reported in: To Keep The Past Alive: The Point Lay Cultural Resource Site Survey by Warren Neakok, Dorcas Neakok, Waldo Bodfish, David Libbey, Edwin S. Hall, Jr., and the Point Lay Elders (Barrow, AK: North Slope Borough, 1985). Inupiat elders, Warren and Dorcas Neakok, were life-long residents of the Point Lay area and helped keep the community alive when others moved away and the village nearly disappeared. In this interview, Warren talks about a dog sled trip he took from Point Lay to Point Hope, Alaska and uses a map to mark the route. He mentions specific places along the route and provides Inupiaq place names. This recording has been edited from the original in order to facilitate the flow of the interview and conversation. Image GalleryView Warren Neakok's Trip in Google Earth
Click to section:
Introduction to discussion about dog sled trip from Point Lay to Point Hope and marking the route on a map
Departing from Point Lay
Following the spit and making first camp at Qasigialik
Second camp at Qagiaqtaaq
Third camp at Ayugatak
Staying at the cabin at Ayugatak and getting help with the load from another team from Point Hope
Arriving in Point Hope in late March
The reason for going to Point Hope
Whaling in Point Hope
Leaving Point Hope near the end of April
Stopping at Akololik
Traveling in stormy weather and following a creek where there were good trail conditions
Finding his way on the creek back out to the ocean
Camping at Pikmigiaq
Camping at Cape Beaufort
Getting to and camping at Kuutchiaq
Hunting caribou near Kuutchiaq
Hauling caribou meat back to Point Lay
Whaling at Point Hope
People and number of dog teams on the trip
Date of this trip
The whale caught at Point Hope
Hunting along the trail
Number of dogs in the teams
Types of sleds used
Making the trip from Point Lay to Point Hope for the first time with Samuel Dives, the route taken, and the equipment used
Getting back to Point Lay on that first trip
Making this same dog team trip multiple times, but never by snowmachine
DAVE LIBBEY: It's July 26, 1984, and we're talking with Warren Neakok at his house about a dog sled trip from Point Lay to Point Hope, right?
ED HALL: Yup DAVE LIBBEY: Okay. We were going to try to mark that trip that you make when you go by dog sled from Point Lay to Point Hope. Try to mark the route on the map. WARREN NEAKOK: Point Hope directions. DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, going this way and you would start from. Okay, here's Point Lay up here. WARREN NEAKOK: From Point Lay, we left around just before noon, my family, my wife, with one team, and we travel right across here. And then from there go right across there where we go to the better trail. The snow was pretty soft and deeper up where we go across there and then we go down to the spit-side. DAVE LIBBEY: Okay, snows deep up this way at Siksrikpak. WARREN NEAKOK: No, I was wrong, I'm sorry. That's, that's where we left from.
ED HALL: From the old Point Lay DAVE LIBBEY: Oh, the old Point Lay, okay. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, from there we went this way and then turn down spit-side.
DAVE LIBBEY: Okay. WARREN NEAKOK: So we have to follow the spit all the way, better trail, all the way. Then from there, we - where did we camped out? Right in, right in a little the other side of Qasigialik somewhere, right there somewhere. Yeah. DAVE LIBBEY: First camp, huh? WARREN NEAKOK: And we just stayed overnight and the next morning we started out earlier and then followed the coast line all the way and we camped to Qagiaqtaaq. That's where the first - the first team stopped, there, two teams. There, right there. Stayed for one day…
DAVE LIBBEY: Okay, that's at Cape Beaufort WARREN NEAKOK: …did some little caribou hunting get our fresh meat, and then we just hunt right beyond there because they were pretty close, lot of caribou there. That was around the last part of March, just before April. And then from there go down to that, oh, that Ayugatak. ED HALL: Um, this side of - WARREN NEAKOK: Where's that coal mine? ED HALL: Oh, that coal mine? It's further…so you kept going all the way to it? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, all the way.
ED HALL: All the way down this trail. WARREN NEAKOK: Along this snowmachine trail. ED HALL: Okay, here's that creek where you told me… WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that's where we camped in that, in that old cabin. Made a pretty good trip that time.
ED HALL: All the way. WARREN NEAKOK: The wind was calm and the sunshine clear. The trail was good out through the ocean ice, right close to the bank, pretty smooth all the way, snow kind of half melted. ED HALL: That was the fourth night, eh? The fourth night.
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah.
ED HALL: Right. WARREN NEAKOK: Let's see, one, two, must be, third night.
DAVE LIBBEY: Third night, right. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, we remained at one day at… ED HALL: Yeah, you stayed two days, two nights at Cape Beaufort. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, from here two days and then that's the third time we made… ED HALL: Third time you made a trip, yeah. WARREN NEAKOK: The trail was good, actually just a little off on the backside. The ocean ice was pretty smooth all the way. So we got - got here a little later, right around 10 or 11, the winds started picking up, snowing and everything. So that's where we camped out. ED HALL: Did you stay in that shelter cabin there? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, yeah that's where we stayed while it's in pretty good shape (at Ayugatak). And from there, we stayed for the day. And one team came from Point Hope. I don't know how they notified the person down at Point Hope and he come up to help the other team up with their load, that's where he came in the next day. We stayed there for two days I believe because they got to wait on him. And then the next day, he came in and for the next day, another day he went up to look for caribou but he didn't get any, so the next day, again we left for Point Hope, all the way to Point Hope. ED HALL: And all the way around the.... WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, all the way around Cape Lisburne. All the way to Point Hope.
ED HALL: Okay, I'm just going to do this… WARREN NEAKOK: And it calmed down again that next day. This morning was -- wasn't too good but that second day was real clear again, like we travel here same day, nice weather, good trail, make it all the way to Point Hope. We got there earlier, early afternoon around three or four. ED HALL: And this was in late March? In late March. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. That becomes around late March, around the last week of March. ED HALL: And what were you going down to Point Hope for? WARREN NEAKOK: Oh, we were planned to stay down there for the summer but I changed my mind and I want to head back. I got a little homesick and then after we got a whale… the crew I was out with, got a whale April 9th. And they, they said that this whale catch break the record, they used to the early man was a little later than April. And this man he break the record, he get the one whale early…earlier than everybody. DAVE LIBBEY: Whose was that? Whose crew was that? WARREN NEAKOK: Lenny Lane, the old man. He died a long time ago. But his sons are down there, his two sons, the other sons there, Amos Lane, Jacob Lane. They're all at Point Hope. And then, we stayed there a little more than a month, anyway and then I changed my mind, want to head for home before these rivers break up and start flowing. And then we left, it be now, about the last week of April. Just before the end of April. Somewhere around mid, mid-week of the last week of April. And then we left again, to home. We left around afternoon from Point Hope. And then where's that Akololik, it'd be right there. where's that little… ED HALL: They call this one Akololik, right here, that's the name on it, anyway, Akololik. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah that's it, we didn't go too far from there. We camped out a little further in some -- somewhere right there. Yeah and next day, next morning the wind started blowing from the south. Get a little stormy and could hardly see further away. That is a part of the back up there, little mounts there. And then we took off… followed that creek all the way and we stop in to the old -- old cabin somewhere back there. ED HALL: You go all the way to the headwaters of the creek? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, we had to follow that little creek all the way. That's the only good trail. Instead of climbing the mountains. ED HALL: Okay, it goes right up here and then down to this other… WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that cabin. And we had a lunch there in the old cabin and then took off again. Go right over that mountain. We go right, follow that little creek because this here where we used to go right over, kind of a little too high, we got a heavy load. And then we have to follow this little creek all the way out. And then from there, right -- that coal mine, the one I was talking about? We camped out about half way, somewhere on that, I couldn't tell whereabouts we are. Straight into that…I could see that when we go over this mountains. I could see that. Somebody told me there's a better trail. Straight, short cut, not like this follow the beach side. And from there, all the way down to that coalmine. We camped out about half way. The weather it get good again. I can't even tell where -- where that place was. Where we camped out. ED HALL: Was it in a creek, in a creek valley?
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, somewhere… ED HALL: Cause there's a nice stream valley that goes clear up to here.
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah ED HALL: Yeah, somewhere, that's why I put a dotted line WARREN NEAKOK: After we go out that somewhere. Camped out. And then from there, we go out to the ocean through that little coal mine, Ayugatak. ED HALL: Right at the, right where you showed us that coal mine?
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah
ED HALL: Oh, okay. WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that's where, there was this little creek behind it and we hit -- the water was running and we can't go across and then, I get kind a little lost. I thought we was way up off from the ocean side. And that was late -- late afternoon. And then I told my kids, make some hot water and feed our kids, I told Dorcas. Put a little tent in. But it was pretty good and but it just cooled off late -- late evening. And then I start walking to that little bank side, it wasn't too far away, about as far as the old roadside. There's a mount there -- real flat top. So I start walking and then I go right on top. Yeah, I could see the ocean ice right down below me. I was happy then. So I walked back and tell them we were almost out to the ocean if we go to this direction. Some part of the snow was pretty well melted, too. And then we took off after lunch. We tried to follow that little creek along the edge of it through the bank side but it was pretty soft and kind of a little slanted too, behind that little creek. So we go down to that -- follow that little creek down right along side of it, so we get down to the ocean. I wanted to camp out as soon as we get down there. It was pretty calm, nice weather and Dorcas didn't want to camp out. She wanted to just keep going. And put up the smaller kids to the sled and cover them up with the sled cover, put them in the part of them in the blankets or sleeping bags, to keep them warm. They were kind of sleepy, too. So we took off travel, late evening. And so we get up to Pikmigiaq, yeah. That's where we -- go as far as there. And we camped out right in that sand bar right below the cabin, put up tent. Next morning was beautiful, calm, sunshine, clear. And then next day, we took off again. And we camped out a little south side of Cape Beaufort, the winds start picking up again. ED HALL: Didn't go very far then? WARREN NEAKOK: No didn't go very far. Somewhere. That little -- got a little creek, I think that's what it is there. The last little creek like that, other side of Cape Beaufort.
ED HALL: That's what it is. WARREN NEAKOK: Somewhere, somewhere right there. And then from there -- from there we travel all the way to Kuutchiaq. The wind was pretty well blowing. And the water was running and flowing right in that Kuutchiaq Creek and the water goes out to the ocean. I thought we would never make it but right where it's draining, it was -- it was about this wide.
ED HALL: Three feet. WARREN NEAKOK: Enough to go across the slit, just make a big, heavy stream there. Come down. Oh, we can make it right -- right through that little creek. So we made it. Water all over down below that Amaaqtusuq, that's where it runs out both ways. And then from there.
DAVE LIBBEY: Fourth camp…is that right? WARREN NEAKOK: …we camped out at Kuutchiaq.
ED HALL: Oh you did camp there.
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah.
ED HALL: Oh, okay. WARREN NEAKOK: Right below that little bank. Just snow blocks around it and put up a tent on it. Just before we reached that Kuutchiaq old cabin, saw caribou for the first time and my son-in-law, we get about six -- six caribou. We were hungry for it, too. The kids were sure glad and everybody, all of us. And then right after we put up our little tent, my son-in-law and I start hauling the -- the two boys start hauling the caribou, what we get, they haul them there in our little camp and start skinning them. And next day, start taking -- taking some meat up to Point Lay, after they froze. It was kind of cold up there, lot different -- we don't see no running water up there from Cape Beaufort up here. It was pretty good, snow all over everywhere. Took a sled load of caribou and put them in the school storage, that's for the summer meat. And there was a tent there, at Kuuchauraq, yeah, that old man -- that old man and his wife and their adopt -- two adopted kids. Oh, they did some hunting down there, caribou hunting. They were camping right on the beach side. I stopped there, have some little coffee, something to eat. Took off for Point Lay. ED HALL: So you came in like this, to Kuuchauraq on the way back and then did you go back along the spit? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, I follow the beach all the way up the spit. And next morning after I do some little shopping, some little groceries, head back in early after¬noon. I had to go back through the mainland side all the way. ED HALL: So you took some meat up for the cold storage and brought some supplies back down. WARREN NEAKOK: And we stayed there for a while, about three or four days, till the wind calmed down. As soon as the wind calmed down another team go down, came down from Point Lay; that was Willie's older -- oldest brother, he go down to pick us up. DAVE LIBBEY: Willie Tukrook? His older brother? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, so we came up and started living there at Point Lay again. That's the end of my trail. DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, but did you -- you went down to Point Hope to get maqtaq? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that's why we had a heavy load, maqtaq and meat. ED HALL: But you went out whaling while you were there -- on Lenny Lane's crew? WARREN NEAKOK: As soon as I got there they tried to hire me. This one old lady, she's got more power, she really want me. Old man, I think so. ED HALL: That wasn't the first time you'd been whaling, though? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah -- no, but when they used to do whaling there, I used to be out, but I was pretty young. But I'd never been there when they -- when they shot a whale, or kill a whale or something. Just go out there once in a while when I get big enough to haul some groceries, what they want and take them out, just travel back and forth once in a while. ED HALL: From -- from here?
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah ED HALL: So there was two teams that went all the way down and two that came all the way back? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, these -- these two teams came from Point Hope to pick up Tuckfields, Charlie Tuckfields parents. That was my bro -- Dorcas' younger brother and her brother-in-law, they came up by dog team to pick up Tuckfields from Point Hope to Point Lay and we go same time with them. That is, they were moving to Point Hope for good after they lived here for years. DAVE LIBBEY: Who were they? Who were the Tuckfields? WARREN NEAKOK: Tuckfields, old man Tuckfields and his wife and his family. They came up by -- by boat in summertime, that was around early years '40's, maybe '39 somewhere. They came up by boat in summertime. And they remained there for how many years, for quite a while. ED HALL: Well, you made this trip in the 40's, right? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, I think we got in '46. No I was wrong. Early year '50. Yeah that's the time. ED HALL: 19 -- 1950. DAVE LIBBEY: Must be just about the time you were working for -- just about the time you were working on that coast survey? Warren Neakok: Yeah, that's the time, '48. Same year, soon as I get back. As soon as I get back start working there, for Geodetic Survey. Year '48
ED HALL: '48.
Warren Neakok: Yeah. ED HALL: Was that a big whale? Warren Neakok: Oh yeah, sounds like. Oh, about 50 -- 50 feet or so. ED HALL: Must have been exciting. Warren Neakok: Yeah, I think after we got home, get about three more or five more, some other crews. We get some ptarmigans once in a while, the kids keep hunting ptarmigans. ED HALL: Oh when you were traveling? Warren Neakok: Yeah, when we travel on the way back, one wolverine, one brown bear, a little one. That was used for dog food.
DAVE LIBBEY: Oh, you got a wolverine, huh? One wolverine? Warren Neakok: A wolverine, but it was kind of reddish color. I thought it was a bear, right between the ice piles, we were traveling out side of a big pile, ice pile, right close to the beach. While we were traveling, saw some kind of a head looking at us, right between the big iceberg. I thought it was a bear so, we stopped, grabbed my rifle and shot at it. It took off. I ran up there, go up on top the ice pile. Look at it, see that wolverine just roll down the side. A big sized one, too. DAVE LIBBEY: Where abouts was that? Where abouts was that along the trail? Warren Neakok: That was a little -- little on this side of Cape Beaufort. ED HALL: How many dogs did you have, Warren?
Warren Neakok: Oh about eight, eight dogs. ED HALL: On your team and was there eight on the other one, too?
Warren Neakok: Yeah ED HALL: So you had lots of hungry dogs. Warren Neakok: My uncle down at Point Hope, he gave us that little short sled, that little basket sled. So that give us more room, three kids drive it with three dogs and we use five dogs because the snow get kind of melt a little bit, you know, the sled just go real easy. ED HALL: Even with a heavy load. Warren Neakok: Yeah, even with a heavy load. DAVE LIBBEY: So, coming back you had two sleds?
ED HALL: Three sleds. DAVE LIBBEY: Yeah, of your own, though. Warren Neakok: On the way down, we didn't have much load, just enough our groceries and enough for the dogs. See how many, how long -- stay overnight or so. ED HALL: You remember at that coal mine you said one time you stayed in that shelter cabin, maybe that we found at the coal mine? When was that? Remember you said -- you said you went up this creek and around? Warren Neakok: Oh when I first come by? ED HALL: Yeah, no I don't know when it -- yeah. WARREN NEAKOK: Let's see what year? '47. Early year '47. ED HALL: Where were you going then? WARREN NEAKOK: Point Hope. That guy wanted to take me along. [Samuel Dives] He traveled by himself from Barrow, all the way. And then he wanted to take me along. Go along with him. He said that he gets tired of traveling all by himself in the big storm, too. So I did. So we followed that and after we took off from that old shelter cabin, travel right around. About a mile off, about a half a mile or a mile off from the beach side, because we can't travel through there, pretty rough and then we get down to the spit right ahead of the lagoon. And just travel there. ED HALL: So that was an earlier trip that you made to Point Hope? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, that-- that was my first trip.
DAVE LIBBEY: That was just the year before?
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, my first trip. ED HALL: Did you just go right down and come right back? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, no, for the other year. No, I just go down and come back up. We camped out at Cape Lisburne, that's from Pikmigiaq, all the way. And then we holed up there for two days, the wind was blowing pretty good, east wind. And then late evening, we took off, we go right over there somewhere, go down -- down to Akalolik, just a little this side of that campsite where Cape Lisburne is. He knows the trail, go right over the mountains. ED HALL: Yeah, I guess it looks like you could come down through here. WARREN NEAKOK: Get down to that Akalolik. That was the only place where they could go down to Akalolik Creek, is pretty steep. Finally, we hit that same spot where he used to go down. Because these mountains are pretty -- pretty high. And then when we come up, we followed that little creek a little ways in and there's a little kind of lower spot but it's pretty high and pretty rocky, too. We got enough dogs, we got about 17 dogs. Yeah, we had a tough time, some rocks all over, no snow and it was pretty steep, too. And we got stuck once in a while, and my partner there, he had to walk up way ahead of his dogs. I was behind the sled handle. So he start to whistle at them and all the dogs starting crawling up so we go right up, stop once in a while, finally we get to the top. Soon as we get up to the top the wind was pretty well blowing. Boy, we had a hard time once in a while to trying to handle our sled, the dogs kept going like everything, 17 dogs. ED HALL: One sled? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, one little basket sled. It wasn't too big, maybe about this long… ED HALL: 10 feet long WARREN NEAKOK: About this wide and kind of narrow too. Got a big load, too. ED HALL: What was he traveling for? Warren Neakok: Oh he took somebody, the white guy up from Pt. Hope or Kotzebue all the way to Barrow. I don't know what he was. ED HALL: And then he was just coming back?
WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah. ED HALL: Who was that? Who was that guy you were traveling with? Warren Neakok: Oh, Samuel Dives. ED HALL: And then how did you get back to Point Lay? WARREN NEAKOK: After three or four days, when the wind died down, but it was still blowing pretty good but it was better. And he hired, the other guy wants to take me home, as far as Pikmigiaq. Because I don't know the trail, over these mountains. I didn't really know which way I'm going, because we'd been traveling in dark -- dark weather, too. That was in November, just before Thanksgiving. And he took me up and camped out right in the mountains somewhere. I don't even see what, we followed the Kukpak for the way in.
ED HALL: Kukpak WARREN NEAKOK: Kukpak, we go further up, and then just before dark we camped out. And then from there, we camped out again somewhere. And then from there, go down to Pikmigiaq. And next day, early in the morning, he took off, and I took off. Took off around seven o'clock in the morning, before daylight. From there, from Pikmigiaq, I camped out at Kuutchiaq. Hit a big storm again, north wind. Stayed overnight and then left in the morning, all the way to Point Lay. ED HALL: Did you ever make that trip again by dog team? WARREN NEAKOK: Oh yeah, after I know which way to go, right over these mountains, I think I made a couple of trips after that, springtime, the first part of April. One year and the other war, that is when they get a whale at Point Hope. But with the other guy with me, I had no problems on the trail. ED HALL: Have you made the same trip with a snow mobile? WARREN NEAKOK: I haven't -- I haven't traveled with a snow mobile. Maybe I'll get lost if I use a snow mobile. Not using my lead dog, too fast. ED HALL: You would go that same way with a snow mobile, though? Even that steep way… WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, they follow that same trail by snowmachine. They come up once in a while by snowmachine…
ED HALL: Point Hopers? WARREN NEAKOK: Yeah, they travel. But it only takes them about a couple of days.
ED HALL: Yeah, little different.