Friday, November 14, 2008

Ain't It the Life

Russ-stick Acres
Over the flat, barren corn fields of my home, the Toyota and I eat miles back up to Michigan. Random raindrops fall over the barren gray, and I listen to Neko Case’s “South Tacoma Way” along the highway, happy with hot coffee and the silence of wheels humming on asphalt. Along with the leaves, all the election signs are down along Route 2 now, leaving only a barren array of gray-brown forest beside an angry, cold Lake Michigan that will soon be frozen. Old broken down snow machines from years past sit in yards; I wonder absently what day it is. It’s so easy to lose track of time here.

Steps leading down to Lake Michigan along Route 2

Perhaps that’s why my good friends Sherry and Russ Sutherby refer to their place as, “Russ-stick Acres: where time stands still.”

I was able to stop on my way up north and spend the night at their place. Sherry and I were up talking dogs until the wee hours in the wee house – a tiny cabin where she is able to connect to the internet. Then I retired with my three dogs to the Bear’s Den – the even tinier cabin where Lance Mackey slept when he visited Michigan in September (see previous post).

Inside the Bear's Den

There is a whole culture of mushers here. They are generally a quiet bunch living close to the land. They tell stories of hooking up Seppela Siberians to the chasis of Volkswagon Beetles in the 1970’s. Russ Sutherby is a prime example.

Thin and quiet, Russ is about my height (5’8”) or a little taller with thick wavy, shoulder-length gray hair that still holds hints of the blonde that undoubtedly wooed women years ago. Russ and I stand in the new saw mill he built recently. He explains how he was so inspired by this project, he built the mill in three weeks. His quick light blue eyes dart to some of the equipment as he’s showing me, then back to me; his eyes are the most striking thing about him, although he is altogether a striking figure. Above his eyes and wavy hair sits a felt hat, complete with feather and, on the opposite side, two matches tucked away. Russ rolls his own tobacco from Bugler, and his mustache and fingers are stained tobacco-color.

This morning, Russ wasn't too happy with me. Or, should I say, he wasn't too happy with my dogs.

I let my threesome out of the Bear's Den for a run. I had done the same thing last evening when I arrived and they came back without a problem. About half hour after calling for them without seeing any sign of them, I fired up the Toyota and headed the 1/4 mile up to the main cabin.

First, I saw Yeti running frantic circles, a look of worry on his face.

Then I saw Russ, with another emotion entirely on his face.

"Your dogs were chasing my (expletive) cows!" he said, blue eyes firing at me.

Of course, I apologized profusely, and almost immediately, Russ's eyes softened. He accepted my apology, but he added,

"Will you do it again?"

"No," I promised.

"Okay, then I accept," he smiled. "But if I hear this happens again with you, I'll not accept!"

Who'll Stop the Rain?
Today I took the quad out for a 20-some mile ride to familiarize myself with some of the longer trails. I ended up coming back along CR 414 by Pike Lake. It rained all day here - as it's done for weeks. I am a muddy mess.

Random phone booth along 414 by Pike Lake

Later, I took two teams out, first a 10 dog, then an 8 dog. First team was like a dream. Second team - not so much. It took me about 15 minutes just getting out of the yard because Ernie and Rachel, my two leaders, decided they didn't want to run. I had a couple minor scuffles; then finally everyone figured everything out and we had a good run.

I'm exhausted. More to come...Mush on!

1 comment:

  1. I know I'm biased, but you are an incredibly talented writer. You capture the essence of your subjects with such accuracy and emotion.

    love you,


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