Growing up my dad instilled in me a strong sense of pride to be a Finlander. SISU was probably one of my first words and I bet most of my friends growing up didn’t have a clue who the Flying Finn was, but I did! In my dad’s world, if you were finnish, then you were kin! When we bought our cottage on the lake the first people we met were all the finlanders. My dad would drive around and see a finnish name and that was invitation enough to drop in. In the summer we would drive to the U.P. to visit family and it seemed like I had family everywhere. We’d pull off on a road where logging was underway and there would be a relative. We’d stop in the local Rockland Bar and we’d find family. Passing through Bruce’s crossing we’d find relatives. I grew up to love the U.P. and all its unique qualities and I’m very proud to have family that still live all over the western side of the U.P. Every year that Bruce and I come back to the Copper Country, I just revel in the all the unique things about this special place: the mines, the finnish street signs, the ice sculptures, all the pasty shops, the old buildings made out of rock and, most importantly, the friendly souls that live here. I truly love da U.P. and I’m proud to have roots here! It’s not surprising that my dad retired here and my brother went to college at Michigan Tech. Now, I am following tradition by racing dogs here.
One thing that I’ve noticed has changed in the U.P. is that the unique yooper dialect has virtually disappeared. Every once in a while you’ll find an old timer that has that fun cadence, but you don’t hear it very often. This is sad to me as it was one of the very unique things about the area. Growing up my family spent many nights sitting around reading old finglish folk tales. Finglish is part English and part Finnish; which is where the yooper dialect hails from. As a kid, I can remember watching the adults sitting around drinking beers, taking saunas and telling finglish folk tales. Some of my relatives speak finnish and they could add a real authenticity to these stories that just made you cry in laughter. In honor of the good old days and to this unique dialect I thought it would be fun to share our Copper Dog experience in my version of finglish since I don’t speak Finnish. To truly enjoy this story you must read it out loud in your best finglish accent!
Dat Kopper Kontri Hound Rase
Brusee and I rolled into da town of Calumet early Tursday eveneen und vee vere retty to rase. Vee hat ten hunds vith us; Sedona (vee call her dona fer short), Kaloof (vee call heem idyut fer obvyees reasons), Durbin, Triscuit and Zesty (dey are from da cracker litter), Sik Sik and Spike (dey are da main leaders), Provo, Penny und den dare vas Drift (a bik galoof of a hund). Dem hunds vere ready to roll or so vee thought. Fritay night vas colt and dey vere calleen fer temps dat could freeze yer ass hairs off or in dem hunds case dere pecker hairs. Dis vas very concerneen to us as several of our hunds have no hair on dere jewels. Dey as naked as jaybirts. Dat meant vee hat to protect dem or dem jewels vould vind up being ice cubes and den dere might be no jewels. Vhat goot is a boy hund vith no jewels? Dem girl hunds be lookin at him vondereen, “Vhat da hell do vee do vit dat?” Sooo vee hault out da bodycotes und suited dem hunds up. Dis included some of da girls dat have hat babies as vee didn’t vant dere udders to fall off. So most of da team vas dressed for da artic. Vee put da boots on fortee damn feet. Oh siit, dat is bad on da back. Geeze-o-Pete I felt like I been on a berry pickin maraton dat lasted a year. I manich to git straight upright und vee hooked da hunds onto da gankline. Dey vas howleen und screameen like a pack a volfs, eh. Earlier I hat traded in my stocking chuke (hat) fer an Alaskan kromer complete vith a bik fox tail. I vas feeleen artic sexy vhipping dat tail arount da place and I vas varm like a hund in front of da fireee. Vhile vee vas vaiteen dough I started to feel varm, but da veather idiyot said it vas goeen ta be 12 below da zero, eh. I kuld not belief vhat I vas feeleen, but it vas too late; da hunds vere headeen to da soot. Holy Wah, da team took off like a Floridian fleeing da snow. I high fived Brusee and yelled, “Give er tarpaper, eh!” Vhen I got back to da truck the temps had risen and vee had a virtual sauna at 8 dekrees.
In da Eagle Harbor vee vere assigned a parking spot right befur da timeen finiss. I vas concernt dat dem hunds vould run to da truck befur dey crossed da line. Dey ain’t no dummies; dey know where da varm bed is und all da goot vittles. Da formal finiss line vas 200 yards furder down da road und da situation looked hopeless. After I assed, da officialees told me dat vee could stand right by da timeen line. Dis vas goot so I kuld call dem flying hunds to me and hopefully avay from da snow tank, eh. It vurked! Vee averted disasteree. Da team vas in goot shape, but Brucee hat many troubles on da trail. Da lead duo decided dey was too smart fer dis siit und started flakeen out on all da road crosseens. I guess dey didn’t like all da flasheen lights und glowing people. Guess you can’t blame dem, da crosseens look like an accident scene. Youda tink dat Grandma got run over by a reindeer! Anyhoo, a friend say dat wee were faster den everyone on da trail, but vee lost a ton of time on da crosseens. Brucee said at one point he vas being taped vhile he undid a big tangle and he pretended he had duct tape on his mouth so he didn’t say vat he vas really tinkin. Dere could have been a lot of bleep bleepees on dat dere tape, eh! So our circus act vound up vith da 6th place after stage 1. Vee had some vurk to do.
On day two, vee left vith 9, vich vas our plan. Da hunds vere happy und vee hoped for a goot run. Vee vent vith no boots on da hunds. My back vas tankful for dat. It vas still above da zero vhen da team left. After da team left, I did vhat any goot handler vould do; I tore tail outta dere und headed straight to da Tamarack fer some hangover hash! Dems some friendly folks dat run dat place and holy wah, dats a goot breakfast. Da hunds came in lookeen spry und happy. Dey past dere visit vith the hund doctor vit flying colors. Vee had some sore feet und von girl had a minor sore bicep, but she’s a tough one und I felt I could vork it out fore morneen. Afta vee doctored dem up vee vent und ate some more vittles. I tink I found 5 pounts at dis checkpoint. Vhile vee vere eatin da craziest ting happen. I vas laid by da vet team. Yeppers, ya heard dat right. I got laid right dere in da restaurant. It vas nutz I tell ya. A vet gal in a flowered shirt vith some flowers in her hair come over and she put this red plastic lei thingy arount my neck. I bout died laugheen. Boy, dat don’t happen at many rases. Anyhoo, vee talked to several teams dat eveneen and it appeared dat da 2nd stage sorted out a few teams as dey struggled vith some injured dogs. Vee vound up takeen da 3rd placee on dis stage.
On day tree, vee woke up und hell hat frozen over. It vas -12 below und da vind vas blowin like a hund on beans. I vas too lazy to haul out the artic kromer und so I just froze my ars off. Ya ain’t no true yooper until ya got a little frost bite on yer face, eh! We walked da hunds vhen vee got up and dey all looked goot axsept our bik galoof hund. He vas bein a bik babee und limpin a bit. I cided to pull him so dat Brucee didn’t vind up giving da 68 lb lug a ride home. Dat vould have been like hualeen a Volvo in da slederi, eh! Vee took off vith 9 hunds und dey vere all happy to go, but von of dem sonsabeetchs vas lyin. Brucee vas makin goot time, but den about 8 miles from da finiss a team dog, dat SOB dat vas lying, startet necklineen and needed to be put in the sledari und dis shut da team down. Soon after von of da leaders started falleen off und da udder vas pulleen him like she vas draggeen a cow to da field. Brucee debated about moveen dat dragger out, but didn’t. In hind site, he should have as it may have been the forty seconds vee lost to Aaron Peck. I tell ya those damn Kanucks you invite dem to a race and not only do dey vin the damn think, but den dey beat ya by forty seconds and vorse dan dat dey beat us in da hockey! Damn dem Kanucks from the Great White North. Dey sure do know how to train some fast just hunds dough, gotta give dem dat. Vee vere tinkin our team must have snuck a pasty or two as dey didn’t have vhat it took dis veekent. Dats da dog raceen dough. You vin some und you lose some. Dis veekend vee lost da rase, but vee von from the experience and da friendships.
This year’s Copper Dog drew the best field of competitors to race in this area in a long time and it was very exciting. Competitors came from all over the continent. We saw teams from as far west as Alberta, Canada and Alaska and as far east as Ontario, Canada. Representing the middle of the country were teams from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Some of these teams could have stayed at home and avoided long drives, but instead they chose to come because they preferred the tougher competition!
The race didn’t disappoint and a spectacular event was put on, once again. Smart decisions were made on the fly, improvements from past lessons were obvious and the energy was awesome. We cannot commend the RGO of Copper Dog enough for the outstanding event they pulled off. Their enthusiasm, energy and efforts show in the world class event they put on and it is appreciated more than you’ll ever know. Aaron Peck spoke openly about his concern for our sport as there are fewer and fewer races being put on, but he was given renewed hope for our sport after experiencing the Copper Dog. The manner in which this community embraces our sport brings tears to my eyes. During this one weekend we experienced; gifts from the hotel where we stayed (AmericInn), discounted meals from restaurant owners, drinks bought for us from fans of the sport, random fans wishing us luck and the friendliest and most welcoming feeling from the community. We have raced in several different parts of the country and none are able to top the overwhelming friendliness or the spirit of copper country. If you have not put this race at the top of your list for 2015, you need to. This is not just a race, it is an experience; an experience you will take with you for a long time.
I would also like to be so bold as to encourage other RGOs to really look hard at what this race is doing. You may find answers to your low entries and many other problems plaguing your race. These guys have figured out a way to be progressive and to build a symbiotic relationship with mushers that works towards constantly improving the event. They understand that the race, the competitors, the community and, most importantly, the dogs must all benefit from this event. We cannot have a successful mushing event without all parties working together. Our sport is changing and race organizations, as well as, competitors need to evolve to help keep this sport alive. Too often we get stuck in a rut and continue to do things status quo because we’ve always done them that way. We are afraid of change or we are afraid that change will leave us behind. If you are one of those people, you need to watch the video, “Who Moved My Cheese” to understand how evolving in life and not being let behind is truly dependent on constantly changing. There are so few races out there and too many that need to move some cheese.