Sample Chapters from
IDITAROD a novel of the Last Great Race
by André Jute
Joe May, winner in 1980, reminiscing in 2011, says:
In the long ago it was customary for Iditarod mushers to stop by Mcguires bar when in McGrath...some stopped longer than others. Puddin Anderson played a wicked guitar and the brothers Anderson, Eep and Babe, if they weren't driving dogs in the race, and other willing locals kept the party going until sunup..sometimes to the chagrin of party prone mushers. The old building rocked with singing and laughter and the air was blue with smoke, cigarette and other. "So much for history and what's been lost in the fog of time"'.
And here’s the same scene from my 1990 novel IDITAROD a novel of The Last Great Race, reissued for ebooks in 2010:
McGuire’s Tavern was jumping. At a table near the back an Indian woman solemnly strummed a guitar, now and again picking sad Alaskan-Western schmaltz when the mood took her; she never smiled. Across the table from her sat a smiling Indian. On the table lay a beaver carcass. Occasionally a musher would break away from the serious business of drinking at the bar to inspect the carcass. How much? Thirty dollars. Too much. Twenty-five? Okay. Money would change hands. ‘My sled’s parked under Crazy Horse’s plane,’ the Indian would conclude the arrangement. ‘Help yourself.’ He never went outside to check that only the paid-for number were taken. Crazy Horse’s plane was the one almost in the doorway of McGuire’s and the sled stood under its wing. For every beaver carcass he sold, the Indian ordered a Seven-and-Seven but he seemed quite sober. The woman drank Schweppes sparkling orange. At the bar they were taking bets on whether the trapper would be able to keep to his feet once he rose; in eight hours he did not stand up once even to relieve himself.
Rhodes looked at her watch; her mandatory twenty-four hour rest stop was over: she could go whenever she chose. Outside she could hear the wind whistle even over the excited buzz of the tavern crowded by the Iditarod to three or four times its comfortable capacity. They anxiously followed the reports coming in every ten minutes from the blue steel and glass FAA tower: the weather was worsening. She was rested and alert, the dogs were fed and rested. She received an emotional charge from seeing her father and her friends. The pain of the Iditarod is, she now knew, only secondarily in tired muscles and aching bones. The main effect, given that the racer is physically in shape, is the unexpected aloneness. She was accustomed to loneliness but the singularity of the Iditarod runner was a different order of pain. The wild white space hurt her, wore her down, with its suggestion that she was the only person left in the world and that she did not matter. Seeing people — especially those who cared for her and hugged her as her father and Harvey did or cried in happiness at seeing her as Margery did — told her that the wild white space deceived: she was not alone, she mattered. Refreshed, she was ready to start the remaining eight hundred miles to Nome as soon as the weather would let her.
‘What do they say at the bar?’ Rhodes asked. There was no need to specify the topic.
‘Eep Anderson says—’
‘I thought he left two hours ago.’ Rhodes looked towards the bar: the Indian was talking to his brothers and holding a short drink.
‘He did. But he decided the storm would reach Ophir before he did and he’d rather wait it out in the bar close to home comforts than under ten feet of snow. That’s his wife Puddin with the guitar. You’re not thinking of going out into the blizzard, are you?’
‘It could clear.’