Friday, April 29, 2016

Serious matters Part 2

The ITC Board did meet today and it appears most of the major business was dealt with in a closed executive session, no surprise. At least one good thing--or I would say apparently a good thing--came out of it. They did address in general the issue of domestic violence and have banned the young man from the 2017 race and indefinitely with reinstatement depending on his completion of court ordered rehabilitation and of course no further bad behavior of this kind. That seems fair. Whether any consequences will impact the woman involved, I have no idea. I really would hope he goes to some kind of rehab and she takes herself out of the situation, hopefully with the dogs she has worked with the most and her personal basic gear. Time will tell.

I will be a little catty and call the ITC's formal statement a bit after the fact and giving some appearance of a CYA action but they did do it and it appears to have some teeth. A special committee will be working to review the code of conduct, or so it appears, and perhaps bring it a bit further into the twenty-first century. While Alaska may fairly bill itself the last frontier, there are now too many people in the state and too many modern influences to proceed like it was '99--not 1999 but 1899!!

I have to admit I hope they do not go too far and tangle everyone up with rules and codes and regulations and standards out the gazoo!. It really isn't possible to mandate or legislate ethics, morality and human nature beyond a very basic degree. I am an individualist and libertarian but I have to accept that my right to swing my fist or my foot ends somewhat short of your nose or shins. Really the Golden Rule covers most of these kinds of issues very well. Don't do anything to anyone else that you would not want happening to you. Now just to put that into practice.

You can get to and read the ITC Statement from my Facebook page should you wish to do so. I am not going to attempt to post it here but it is a public document now and as such in the public domain. .

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Serious Matters

          I need to add a caveat to the following, post,  a bit after the fact. My comments are based strictly on what has been aired on various media and I think most of us realize that they are more interested in selling papers, getting viewers and providing  a certain level of sensationalism. As with almost everything, there are two sides to every story and usually the truth falls into a gap somewhere  between. Perhaps the young man's story deserves a hearing as well. While physical abuse is almost never justified unless truly from fear of death--like the use of deadly force guidelines-- abuse in relationships can and does go both ways at times Most of us have been guilty at times of behaving in a manner provocative and abrasive to  those around us. Did we "deserve" then to be beaten or have our things trashed? Probably not, but perhaps none of us can fairly cast the first stone, especially if the whole story is not heard.  And I did not intend to do so. See new post for further outcome on this situation.

             There is a lot of discussion in some circles and it will soon become even more public, I imagine. I have hesitated to mention it here but it is relevant to my topic of the Iditarod and women participating in it, so I will go into it but try to tread lightly.
Two mushers who are partners and supposedly engaged but not married have had problems for some time and it is now coming to light. In 2015, he broke her arm in an altercation and was placed on probation for it. This year additional domestic violence occurred in which she was thrown out of the cabin after being beaten up and left in 10 degree temperatures and some of her possessions were damaged or destroyed. (I may have some of the issues mixed as reports are not always clear but all this occurred) This event has resulted in charges but it has not yet come to trial.  However, despite the prior apparent conviction, although it was treated as a misdemeanor, both competed in the 2016 race and the ITC Board and officials denied any knowledge of the matter. But we all know that all court proceedings except those involving juveniles are public records and can be reviewed freely.
Like substance abuse, domestic violence, especially against women and children, is a serious, no, a huge issue in Alaska just as it is in the lower forty-eight. The general opinion in this case seems to be that it must not be swept under the rug and treated lightly.
Apparently the female musher, like many women, had been reluctant to press charges and probably lose her investment in gear, dog team and other valuable property the pair has jointly accumulated and developed. Perhaps she now actually fears for her life and must move forward in this. It seems that so often it is the woman who must escape, if she can, with little more than the clothes on her back. In Alaska that can be a pretty grim fate, especially in the winter. This woman also has a lifelong dream of becoming a successful long distance racer; she seemed to  believe she had found the way to do it, but at how great a price?
I know she withdrew last year not too long before the race. Likely it was because of the aforementioned broken arm. At the time I had no clue of this, of course. Clearly very few did. Well, you can hardly manage a sled and a team in a cast. This year she did complete the race as a rookie and I was happy for her until I learned of all these problems. I would counsel her to find and team up with another female racer—say Ryne Olson or one of the others or a reliable and respected couple --and work with them. Hopefully if she leaves her abuser, she will be able to keep or take away some of the dogs and gear but if not, they can be replaced. One’s life and physical health cannot be.
            While I am all in favor of sacrifice, determination and sticking through tough situations, there is a limit. I was never physically abused although I did suffer verbal abuse and a very restricted life as a teenager but once I was an adult and on my own, I vowed no person would ever abuse or intimidate me. I would never stay with a partner who hit me—not even once. And I have not. I think if this woman can get out of this bad situation, other women will step up to help her and she can come through it and triumph in the end. I would certainly hope and pray for such an outcome. All the women racers and kennel mangers I have met or contacted seem to be honorable and caring people.
Meanwhile at their meeting on Saturday, April 29, the ITC board will be discussing the issues of what bad behavior or criminal convictions should be grounds for barring a racer from competition and whether for one race, several or for life. They will also revisit a “code of conduct” which was established last year but seems to center more around never permitting a competitor to ‘bad mouth’ or criticize the race or talk out of school about internal problems. It has been called a “gag order” by a number of apparently disgusted people, to include some mushers, I believe. There is also the fact that all qualification and conduct issues have been left to the judgment of a single individual. Many feel, and I agree, that it too much to leave in one person’s hands and there should at least be an internal committee or board of ‘judges’ for want of a better term to deal with these problems collectively. I would love to be at that meeting but hope to get some information on the proceedings from a friend who will be there.

A final thought, elections of two new ITC board members will be coming up soon with the results of the vote to be announced at the June meeting which I plan to attend.  I for one, and I think many others agree, would like to see more women on the ITC Board of Directors. I am in no position nor qualified to run but I know of a few who perhaps could and should. Put a bug in their ears? I am not sure I can but I will try. And if any females wind up on the ballot, they are almost sure to get my vote unless they are grossly unqualified or damned by their own statements.  I did recently vote for the US portion of the YQ Board, and my vote did go to the woman, a veterinarian, who seemed like an excellent choice. With close to a third of this year’s racers being female, it certainly seems reasonable and fair to have the feminine side represented and advocated for so the ITC does not become—or some say continue to be—just a good ole boys club!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Quick Update

I keep coming across new issues, ideas, problems and news relative to my favorite sport. Right now I am mulling over which of these I need or want to share and what to say about them. For that reason, I am not writing yet, here or anywhere else.

I suppose I am a bit disillusioned to find that many of today's prevalent ills and issues have made their way to the wilds of Alaska and the world of sled dog racing. This last bastion of wilderness and frontier spirit should not be so sullied but it does not exist in a vacuum and with our modern world where anything can be known anywhere in seconds, it was inevitable. All change is not progress, but once the worms are uncanned and things move past a point, there is no going back. It is what it is. More later.

Right now I thank God for Aliy and her ilk. A bright star in a sometimes dark sky. May guardian angels stay close to her.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Still on that Trail...

I know it has been quiet here since the end of the Iditarod and the racing season. However, I've been busy behind the scenes and planning ahead on this seemingly endless project of mine. I joined a Facebook Group called Idita-support and got myself in some hot water because the mushers there were not at all enchanted with my complaint about carrying healthy dogs and wish to see it banned. Oh no, mushers are a very independent lot and do not want any possible option taken away from their repertoire. While I do understand and appreciate their stance,I still feel it was misused in the 2016 race.I have backed off from further push on that for now but will keep it on the back burner..

However one totally cool thing happened because of my joining this group. It is managed and moderated by a lovely lady named Helen Hegener. She is an active writer of Alaskan non-fiction works, a stickler for historical accuracy and just a neat person. To add to the serendipity she lived in Arizona as a teenage military dependent and went to Tombstone High in the mid 1960s!. She also loves horses as well as dogs and we've had some wonderful email chats. I hope to meet her in the near future. She loves my idea and is enthusiastic about it., which I deeply appreciate. I just preordered her new book about the history of the sled dogs whcih will be released soon.

My plan to go to Alaska at the end of June, well about the 24th to be exact, is still on. I will attend the Iditarod Trail Committee annual meeting again though not to pitch anything to them.My main purpose will be to meet people and probably arrange with one or more kennels, likely in the Willow area, to spend some time in the fall. I am more than willing to scoop poop, fill dishes or any other chore for the privilege of hanging out and listening and asking a few hopefully not totally dumb questions. I've known all along that I must get some boots on the snow or dirt and live at least along the periphery of this  sport to learn and do justice to my subject. I think Helen can help me there. I do plan again to take advantage of the hospitality and aid of wonderful Alaska friends Bill Hutchison and Svetla Lerner who I met last year and am determined to get face-to-face with Deedee Jonrowe this trip. BTW, she just ran the Boston Marathon after finishing the Iditarod just over a month ago! Is that lady a total dynamo or what?! She just blows me away!

So do stay tuned. Part of the silence is because I've been busy elsewhere with some fiction writer business. My principal publisher closed the end of March and I was torn between leaving fiction writing completely and trying to find new homes for some of my work. I finally got bold enough to submit a few places and it looks like that is going to move forward. Guess I am just intended to have a number of irons in the fire--which may be necessary to either smooth out all the wrinkles or get my mark on all that livestock!! Any time I start to feel overwhelmed I look at this shot of four amazing mushers who I admire all to heck and gone. I know "quit" is not in their vocabulary and should  not be in mine, either. Thank you Allen, Deedee, Martin and Aliy for your inspiration!!