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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod Paperback – February 17, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Living in Minnesota, Paulsen had a small team of five dogs that he used to work his traplines. Over time he became more and more entranced with mushing, until he eventually realized that wanted to, needed to, run the Iditarod - the 1,100+ mile dogsled race stretching across the state of Alaska between Anchorage and Nome. The first half of the book deals with his preparation for the race - finding more dogs, training the dogs, getting the right equipment, etc. We soon see that he has quite a bit to learn. Over the course of this training period, Paulsen finds himself attacked by dogs, run away with by dogs, and often spending many miles being dragged along on the ground behind his sled by dogs. He manages to break his sled repeatedly, get separated from his team, and one night, get sprayed by five different skunks in rapid succession. He is, in short, one of the least qualified of all possible Iditarod candidates.
The second half of the book takes us through the race itself. In the beginning, he makes every possible rookie mistake. He gets lost before even leaving the city of Anchorage, after putting the wrong animal in the lead-dog position:
"We went through people's yards, ripped down fences, knocked over garbage cans.Read more ›
Paulsen's personal account is easy reading in that he does not dwell in complex literary style, use large words or go overboard in describing deep characters or flowery scenery. He merely relates what he sees and feels. Often his mission is just staying alive and attached to his sled. His descriptions about his summer training with a bicycle and a car body leave you laughing out loud and in wonder about his perseverance and dedication to his dream" You look like a toy", Ruth (his wife) said as I came back from being dragged out of the yard on my face, hanging on to the overturned rig. " A big doggie toy...."Out of the first twenty runs, I didn't once leave the yard in one piece." His sense of humor is overwhelming as he tackles training a dog team without any instruction, without a book or manual but only his desire to run dogs to keep him going. `In subsequent runs I left the yard on my face, my ass, my back, my belly. I dragged for a mile, two miles, three miles. I lost the team eight, ten times; walked twelve, seventeen, once forty-some miles looking for them. The rig broke every time we ran....Read more ›
Not to mention the five-skunk night.
It takes a great deal of physical as well as mental toughness to train for the Iditarod, much less run a team of half-wild dogs in the actual race.
"Winterdance" reminds me of Algernon Blackwood's "Wendigo:" in both stories men are caught by the spirit of the Great Northern Wilderness, and perish or almost perish. I think the most telling moment in Paulsen's book comes when he runs his team to the end of his trapline---and then keeps on going in the dead of a Minnesota winter, just to see what lies beyond the next hill. His wife's intuition to call out a search team was correct, even though Paulsen eventually did turn back. The 'Wendigo' or wanderlust had almost captured his soul.
It also reminds me of "Call of the Wild." Like Jack London, Paulsen has a laconic, fluid writing style, and both authors include the Wilderness itself as one of their major characters. I won't say that either man subscribed to Blackwood's weird brand of pantheistic mysticism, but read how Paulsen slowly bonds with his dogs--and other wild animals.
This book is also a grand dog story with more pratfalls than a "Three Stooges" movie. The author spent many a night on his backside, being dragged down a dirt road (or worse, through a second-growth forest) by his lusty team. Running the Iditarod takes a very special madness, and Paulsen endured moose attacks, blizzards, dog bites, and too many helpings of moose chili to draw us into his very beautiful and brutal world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A humorous book with much insight. A great book for any dog owner. Great reading to the children. Highly recommend.Published 20 days ago by freedeep
So much fun, loved it. Get ready for the ride of your life!Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Best dog book ever. Laugh out loud funny, informative and truly gets the bond between us and our dogs without a hint of sentimentality.Published 2 months ago by Mary Lavine
This tells the rest of us what it would be like to run this incredibly challenging race. Paulsen is a wonderful writer. His books are funny and exciting. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Saxon Brown
It's funny and eloquent, and gives a vivid description of Alaska in the winter, from a city to remote villages-- I lived in AK for almost 20 years so that is not an exaggeration.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I absolutely love this biography. Paulsen has a tongue in cheek voice and illustrates the hardships and grandeur of the Iditarod in an engaging way. I couldnt put it down. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Janine Arendt