To Build a Historic Sled, Part VII





Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Cliff Sisson, of Kasilof, walks out of his house with a braking mechanism for a  wooden Iditarod sled he and two companions are building Thursday Feb. 20, 2014 in Kasilof, Alaska.

History in the Making—Trio recreates freight sled


  Peninsula Clarion

Three life-long friends, joined together by dog mushing, are in the midst of a massive project set to pay homage to the history of the sport while showcasing a dying craft.

Brothers Rod and Alan Perry along with Cliff Sisson have spent hundreds of hours over the past four months crammed inside Sisson’s workshop in Kasilof, a space just large enough to hold their creation, a freight dog sled. It is 16 feet long and made entirely out of solid white oak. The men are working around the clock to complete the sled in time for the ceremonial start of Iditarod XLII on March 1 in downtown Anchorage where thousands of spectators gather to see the racers off.

The project is the brainchild of Rod Perry, 71, one of 22 finishers in the first Iditarod Dog Sled Race in 1973. Between the brothers and Sisson, whose families have known each other since 1926 and grew up together in Oregon, the group competed in seven Iditarod races in the first seven years. Sisson was the last to race in 1979 and the three men went their separate ways until an archaic sled design brought them back together.

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To Build a Historic Sled, Part VI

Continuing the story begun in the previous post, John Norman had a most successful meeting with Mr. Joe Everhart. Our next action  was to send my following letter to the Wells Fargo publicity and PR heads.

The Wells Fargo Co. Express Gold Train

By Rod Perry

Observers notice in Alaskans an unusual level of pride in their state and a desire to be identified as an “Alaskan.” The phenomenon here is taken to an almost singular degree, far distancing even that of Texans. A common question asked offhand is, “What year did YOU come up?” It is a casual, one-upmanship way of evaluating who outranks who as a Real Alaskan.

Some carryover to such rating exists among long-time Alaskans when they think of companies and institutions. There is a kind of provincial respect for the origins of local companies like Nerland’s which began in the Klondike gold rush, and Bagoy’s, founded by an Iditarod miner. Alaska’s first philanthropist Z. J. Loussac, mined at Nome and began his success in business at Iditarod.

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To Build a Historic Sled, Part V

Unexpectedly, selectors turned down our Anchorage Centennial Celebration grant proposal to build a historic sled and run a reenactment of the dog team mail pulling out of Anchorage a century ago. Of course, we were disappointed, but not defeated.

My friend Jonn Norman (a powerful Alaskan who took over Sarah Palin’s post on the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission and who performed first as attorney for the Iditarod Race, then for the past thirty-plus years has headed the Iditarod Foundation.  Along with my friend of some 45 years, Greg Bill, (with Iditarod since the 1973 beginning and its Development Director since the 1980s) joined me in a new thrust. Our plan was to instead approach Wells Fargo about funding the building of the sled and running a reenactment of the Wells Fargo Gold Train mushing the gold out of Iditarod.

John had me sign and dedicate a copy of Volume I of my book, TRAILBREAKERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod to Mr. Joe Everhart, President of Wells Fargo here in Alaska. Accompanying that book, I wrote Mr. Everhart an opening letter, which follows:

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Wells Fargo Gold Train Rides Again!

Saturday, March 1st, Rod Perry cleared away some mists of time to help thirty thousand Iditarod Race spectators and an international TV audience look back into the glory days of the historic Iditarod Trail. Along with 1984 Iditarod Champ Dean Osmar and his team, Rod performed an Old North reenactment. Leading the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Ceremonial Start out of Anchorage, Rod rode a ouija (weegee) board and steered with a gee pole in front of the great oaken freight sled he, his brother Alan, and Cliff Sisson had just built. The performance demonstrated a freighting method unknown to moderns, but commonly seen during the North’s gold rush era.

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