This appeared in the Sitka Daily Sentinel March 15, 2002 Thanks! Dee Longenbaugh
BOOK REVIEWS - ALASKA
Riddles, Libby, illus. Shannon Cartwright STORM RUN: The Story of the First Woman to Win the Idatrod Sled Dog Race. Sasquatch Books, 48 pp. softbound $9.95 hardback $16.95
Van Zyle, Jona, JON VAN ZYLEíS IDITAROD MEMORIES. Epicenter Press, 64 pp. hardback $16.95
Freedman, Lew, ONE SECOND TO GLORY: The Alaska Adventures of Iditarod Champion Dick Mackey. Epicenter Press, 226 pp. + index, softbound $16.95
Just as the Iditarod Race has become internationally known and commercialized far beyond the dreams of the organizers, so books on the theme are coming thick and fast. These three demonstrate some of the possible permutations.
Libby Riddles, with family photographs and the able help of well-known illustrator Shannon Cartwright, has written a book children will enjoy. It traces her childhood, tells how she became a musher, and then does a day-by-day race of her 1985 win. The lay-out is excellent and the colors bright. This is a both a good book to give Alaskan children to encourage them to enjoy the yearly spectacular and fun to send a child Down South.
Jon Van Zyle has been drawing posters of the race for 25 years. These are reproduced in a small format, along with some photographs and paintings done for the book. Jona, Jonís wife, tells the story of the posters and Jonís interest in the Iditarod. He ran it twice and broke his knee during his second try, so draws the posters with first-hand knowledge of the endurance required and the possible dangers. Van Zyleís posters show the race in a heroic, romantic, Last Frontier light that is popular all around.
Freedmanís book on Dick Mackey has the most depth. It traces his move to Alaska in search of a trucking job, his friendship with Joe Redington, the father of the Iditarod, and subsequent interest in sprint mushing races. Mackey is a tough, competitive man who chose active outdoor careers ranging from trucking to iron work to bush pilot and dog mushier. Heís most proud of starting Coldfoot, the truckersí stop on the North Slope Haul Road, now known as the Dalton Highway.
His three marriages are touched on (real men always have women trouble) and the full story of his one-second win of the Iditarod in 1978, of course, as well as the fierce competition generated by sprint racing before the big race took the spotlight.
The overall flavor of this memoir is curiously old-fashioned. There is more than a hint of pride at conquering the wilderness that is suited more to the last century than todayís realization that the wilderness, even in a place as large as Alaska, is endangered. Tourists coming up the Dalton, brought by the big tour companies, are a good thing, and itís great that the highway is improved. There is no mention of the environment other than tirades against the bureaucrats who objected to turning Coldfoot into a modern town. Add buildings to make a hotel, build an airstrip, pollute the air, shoot the "dangerous" bears, sell tee-shirts, and make trails for a dog sled race across the Gates of the Arctic National Park to be called the Coldfoot Classic and publicize the Mackey enterprise. How dare the bureaucrats complain and throw up roadblocks? Why did they deny the plan to open some land so people could build some houses along the river? Oh, those Washington and Alaskan SOBs!
By the end of the book, this reviewer was g lad Dick Mackey is now spending winters down South and summers in urban Alaska. He is very proud of his son, Rickís, Iditarod triumphs, although there is a strong suspicion that if he still owned Coldfoot thereíd be a commercial tie-in.