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Malamute

A Malamute, a dog breed well-suited to arctic conditions that Wada found very useful for mushing.

Wada proposed to Seward Chamber of Commerce to mush the Iditarod trail and proof that it was a very practical route from Seward to the mining town of Iditarod for the period when river navigation is hindered by ice. The prospect of increased traffic through Seward made Wada win their support and he mushed the trail, spotted locations suited to set up roadhouses, and improved the trail removing obstacles. His assistant in all this was Frank J. Cotter, who went on to write poems, published in 1918 as Rhymes of a Roughneck. In the poem The Malamute, Wada is mentioned once, and the lines thereafter likely reflect the mamories of their joint effort opening the Iditarod trail. Following “He” references to Wada, and possibly next “He” and “his” can be read as pointing to Wada, although some liberty of interpretation remains. Here an excerpt:

‘Twas a malamute first scaled the Chilkoot
  At the time of the great Klondike charge;
‘Twas a malamute first saw Lake Bennett
  And left his footprints at La Barge;
They hauled the first mail into Dawson,
  That Land of the Old Timer’s dream,
And when Wada first drove in from Fairbanks
  He was driving a malamute team.

They broke the first trail into Bettles
  With no guide save the lone Northern Star;
They freighted next year to Kantishna
  And from there to the famed Chandelar.
They know the long trail to Innoko,
  Tacotna and Iditarod too,
For there’s never a Camp in the Northland
  But what these same malamutes knew.

They brought the first sport to the Nome Beach
  Where they showed up in action and deed
That the North dog is game as they make them
  And besides that has plenty of speed.
He came home with the bacon from Candle
  Like a bat out of Hell, thru the snow,
And the plunger that cashed in his “out tab”
  Was his pardner, the Old Sourdough. …

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