Thursday, May 21, 2009

Getting frank with Frank

Frank from ten years ago when I first met him, in front of the big Ford F-350 dog truck

I had the opportunity to chat with Frank Teasley for the first time in 10 years last night. We had a lot to catch up on and I was up until nearly 1 a.m. listening to his stories - some of which I'd heard before - like arriving in Dead Horse in 1982 via a 1971 school bus with $2,800, 35 dogs and dreams of running his first Iditarod. Stories of learning from Joe Redington Senior, of running along Finger Lakes during his first Iditarod in 1988 with some of the greats such as Redington Senior himself, Rick Swenson, Rick Mackey, Tim Osmar, John Barron, Dee Dee Jonrowe and Duane Halverson. And of course, Susan Butcher, who won the Iditarod that year. Our conversation evolved into a discussion of what it means to be an Iditarod musher of the "old school." One thing that Frank and I agreed on immediately that identifies "old school" mushers are Carhartts. You'll notice Frank has a pair on in the above photo.

Frank, as anyone will tell you who has met him, is quite a character. In 1998 when I first met him, he was training for his eighth and final Iditarod. I wrote about him during that time in what would eventually become part of my master's thesis manuscript. In 1998, my description of Frank still fits him. I wrote:

Frank is a good-looking man of thirty-eight who has run the Iditarod, the annual dog-sledding race across Alaska, seven times. His ruddy complexion and strawberry blonde hair match his personality, for he is gruff and often difficult to read. Intimidating to some, he is smart, rugged, and looks good in Carhartts. He's made a living running a dog sled touring company outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, along Granite Creek Road with 180 Alaskan huskies in Teton National Forest after working as a commercial fisherman and living in Alaska for years. And his kennel is now my new home.

The description of Frank is still largely the same, with a few exceptions. Marriage has softened him. He says of his wife Stacey, "I built this house, but she's made it a home." It was so good to reconnect, talking about our friends Lila and Aaron, and some of his old dogs, like Creature, who was infamously destructive.

Frank's best Iditarod finish was sixth in 1991 - the year I graduated from high school. He's won the coveted Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for the best cared for team in 1989, and the Sterling Silver Award for the most improved team in 1991. Frank founded the largest dog sledding stage race of its kind in the lower 48: the International Pedigree Rocky Mountain Stage Stop, which combines distance racing endurance with sprint/mid-distance strategy and speed (according to Frank, the average speed of Stage Stop dog teams is 18 miles per hour compared to an average of 9 MPH of Iditarod teams)to cover several hundred miles up and down the rolling hills and valleys of Wyoming.

Frank has also traveled all over the world mushing, from Italy to, more recently, Russia for Nord Hope a project that introduces mushing and dog care to orphanages around Russia.

You can read more about Frank and listen to a podcast of our interview soon through In the meantime, here are some photos of Frank, courtesy of Chris Havener via the International Pedigree Rocky Mountain Stage Stop (IPSSSDR)site. For more information about Frank or the IPSSSDR, click the link here.

The man himself during the Nord Hope race in Russia

Frank at a starting checkpoint during the Stage Stop '09


  1. How cool! Did you meet Susan Butcher, too?

    I'd really like to volunteer next year at the Iditarod (somewhere in the interior when the mushers are loopy) or the Yukon Quest.

    If you hear of an assignment that you have to turn down, let me know! Thanks for this super post. I'll be sure to listen to the podcast.

    Yes! I have the same mukluks! But sadly, no Carthartts.

    Was Creature like Gary Paulsen's Devil? I think Winterdance is one of funniest and most poignant memoirs I've ever read. Love the buffalo careening down the hill to slide on the ice!

  2. Winterdance is by far one of my absolute favorite books of all time! Creature was a lot like Devil, although he was very nice to people. Just destructive - like Yeti! Oh, and I never had the chance to meet Susan - God I would have liked to. Some friends of mine knew her, and had dogs from her kennel.


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