Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Stopping by Old Woman Cabin on a Chilly Evening"

I'm excited. One of my poems has been posted at a remote cabin in northern Alaska, accessible only by dogsled, snowmobile (called "snow machine" in Alaska) or helicopter. It will probably be read by only about 100 people. So why am I so excited? Because those 100 people are some of the people I admire most -- the dogsledders ("mushers") in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. During last year's race I got inspired (as usual, late at night) and wrote a parody poem of Robert's Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Called "Stopping by Old Woman Cabin on a Chilly Evening," the poem takes the point of view of a musher stopping to feed ("snack") his or her dogs in a cabin located halfway between the checkpoints Kaltag and Unalakleet, one of the longest stretches of the race. I posted it to an on-line forum on the Iditarod sponsored by Cabelas. This year, someone posted my poem again, to a new forum that the great folks from the Bering Strait School District set up when the Cabelas site shut down. One of the teachers saw the poem, printed it out and added an illustration, which was drawn during one of the first expeditions to map out what is now known as the Iditarod Trail. He then laminated it and posted it at Old Woman Cabin. As the mushers pass through--cold, tired, perhaps a bit discouraged--I hope they take a bit of cheer in reading my poem. Here it is:

Stopping by Old Woman Cabin on a Chilly Evening
(with apologies to Robert Frost)

Whose house this was, all mushers know.
She's gone to the hereafter, though.
She will not mind me stopping here.
To snack my dogs amid the snow.

My 14 dogs must think it queer
To stop without a checkpoint near.
Between the river and the trail,
The coldest evening yet this year.

They start to bark and wag their tails
When they see me get out the straw bales.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of the ever present wind that wails.

Alaska's lovely, wild and deep,
But I've got to get to Unalakleet.
I've miles to go before I sleep,
I've miles to go before I sleep.

Here's a picture of the poem that is posted in the cabin:


  1. Congratulations! That is wonderful.

  2. That is so COOL! Congratulations. I think they will like having something to read to distrast them from their woes and remind them of the goal!

  3. I am VERY behind in my blog reading, but I LOVE your poem! Great job!

  4. MARCIA, I really enjoyed your poem which is posted at the old women cabin..very cool. I use to live in alaska was a sad time for me to leave the state i love, but family needs called..but i wanted to share with you a poem i wrote to susan butcher when she was in the hospital, i hoped it would warm her heart and help in some way get her through such a bad medical problem, so i share it with you since you also are an iditarod lover. THE RACE

    Barking and howling ,excitement in the air...the dogs are ready, how will they fair....miles and miles of training is done.. The time is here, the time has come. It’s off thru the shoot like a shot from a gun. The pace is fast, you better hold on.

    The sounds from the trail are the musher’s song, the sound of there paws running along, the mist from there breath floats in the air, there tails are wagging were finally there. The sound of the runners breaks thru the snow. The tempo is fast we have miles to go.

    Its out on the trail where my heart has been full...I now need the strength of my huskies that can do it. We all know you’s another race in a different land.

    JUNE 18, 2006

  5. Robert, what a beautiful poem. Susan was a wonderful person, and we all miss her. May I post your poem on the BSSD mushing forum?