Tuesday, 8 April 2008

April 8, 2008 Tales Of The Trail - Tales of the Traveling Pants

Tales of the Traveling Pants - and then there was FIRE!!

Believe it or not, this next story is another one that revolves around my pants. In fact, the very same pants that were wrapped around my knees in the Buffalo Tunnels.

The trail into Ruby was hot and the dogs and I were more then ready for a good rest when we pulled into the village. The volunteers gave us an excellent parking spot up by the church. Robert Nelson and Lachlan Clark were already parked up in that area and tending to their dogs.

The vets went over the dogs, finding a few odd issues, like a couple sore wrists, a sore back on Tesla and a swollen Achilles tendon on Batty. I massaged and wrapped everyone after filling their bellies with a good meal and then headed into the community center.

The community center is one large round building. The volunteers put barriers down the middle and one side is devoted to sleeping, the other side houses comms folks, tables and chairs, and a few tables laden with food. I like the village of Ruby a lot, but the checkpoint is not the best for mushers. There is a lot of traffic in and out of the checkpoint building which means drafts every time the door opens and a wet floor which is difficult to move around on when your boots are off drying. And then there is the outhouses...my skin crawls thinking of the outhouses. I won't go into dramatic, graphic detail, but this year there were signs on the outhouse doors. One said 'For Standing' and one said 'For Sitting' - and trust me, you wanted to obey the signs. However one thing Ruby does very nicely is feed the mushers. The locals bring all sorts of local delicacies for us. I passed on the roasted moose tongue, but did devour some fry bread and salmon casserole!

 Anyway, I tried, unsuccessfully to get some sleep but at least got some down time before heading back up the hill to water my dog team, some 2 hours before I intended to leave.

Lachlan and Robert were still down in the checkpoint, Fabrizo had just pulled in down the hill with his team, but other then that it was pretty quiet around my guys.

I emptied three bottles of HEET into my cooker and pulled out my matches to light it. What I do with my matches prior to the Race, is take 2 'strike anywhere' matches and tape them together with 1 water/windproof match. This means I can almost always get my cooker going with one strike. The matches are all stored in a small round Tupperware container.

I pulled out one of my match bundles, stuck the lid back on the Tupperware and was placing it back in my pocket when there was a sudden BANG. The lid shot off the container and flames started shooting out of it. Unfortunately, as I already had the container halfway into my pocket, my pants instantly caught on fire. Now, I didn't take the time to sort it out at that moment, but in retrospect, what I figure happened is that when I pulled one match out of the container, it rubbed hard enough against another to ignite. That within seconds ignited all 100 or so matches creating a mini inferno. However, the 'how' was not my immediate concern - putting myself out was. I could see flames shooting out of my pocket as I was momentarily frozen with disbelief. It very quickly occurred to me that this was a serious situation, that there was no one near enough to help me but me, and that I better do something fast. STOP DROP and ROLL suddenly went through my head. I flung myself into a snow bank a few feet from my sled and rolled around until all the flames were extinguished.

I stood up and took a moment to gather myself. The dogs looked at me expectantly. 'Yeah sure you had a brush with death, but where exactly is our meal??' That brought me back to the present.

Of course, I had no matches now. Fabrizo was still working around his sled, he was surrounded by vets checking over his team and an Italian film crew that was following him on the race, but still looked suave and very together - rather unlike me. When I asked for matches, he looked at my disheveled and scorched condition and asked if I had fallen in the snow. "Well, sort of." I replied, telling him and the vets the story. One of the vets helped me pick melted pieces of Tupperware out of my pocket; Fabrizo lent me a lighter and life went back to normal on the Iditarod Trail.

As a postscript to this tale - I did escape this incident with nothing more then a couple dollar-sized burned patches on myself. My pants and long underwear weren't quite as luck and had a couple good sized holes in them - and some melted Tupperware embedded in them. The long underwear I replaced in Galena, but the pants hung with me until White Mountain. Back at home this week I was folding and putting away my racing clothing and came across my poor, burned pants. I stood debating throwing them into the garbage, but in the end just couldn't bring myself to do it. I guess we had just been through too much together!!



Teanna said...

And one of the unsung hazards of the iditarod Trail seems to be clothing on fire... Hank DeBruin had the same issue this year, though not quite so colorfully...

I'll pass on the moose tongue too, but Native frybread rocks!

Loneoak said...

I'm beginning to think your name has Murphy in it somewhere

Christine Anderson said...

oh honey, i would FRAME those pants along with a copy of how they got burnt in a beautiful glassed in picture frame! that is a story your children's children will get a kick out of. So glad you weren't hurt seriously though and also glad to know that i am not the only person who has crazy stuff like that happen in life. God bless you and your beautiful dogs! (fur-babies)

Christine Anderson said...

oh yes, and if Moose Tongue is anywhere near as good as "Cow's Tongue" then you passed up a WONDERFUL dish! try it sometime. It is probably delicious. I know Cow's tongue is wonderful. I cook my cow's tongue in the crock-pot whenever I can find it at the grocery store.