My inbox is still smoking from the urgent appeal just in. Sender is my friend, that wonderful, internationally-adored darling of the Iditarod Race and perennial top contender, DeeDee Jonroe. She’s urgently soliciting prayer from the multitudes making up the vast Iditarod family for her neighbor George Murphy, just landed on Providence Hospital’s helipad, and fighting for his life in the emergency room. George is a legend here in the North, a great bush pilot who not only flew race dogs, mushers, supplies, and media during his almost thirty years winging the trail in the Iditarod Air Force, but served a stint as Chief Pilot.
Now George, 82 years of age, with a six-inch-long gash to the head running blood like a faucet, with his heart bruised and other possible internal injuries, seven of his ribs smashed in, his leg lacerated, was at risk for even holding on until reaching Anchorage, and would have almost certainly been headed for the morgue instead of raced by chopper to emergency had not a very remarkable someone else been fighting for his life.
His wife Ruth, 85, seeing an enraged moose taking out her winter-stressed frustrations targeting what Ruth thought was their old golden retriever, sprang from their pickup cab and grabbed a grain scoop out of the bed. Racing over and joining a fray any thinking angel might fear to enter, she lit into the near thousand-pound behemoth, bong-bonging the maddened creature, swinging that shovel with all her might and main, all five-foot, ninety-seven pounds of her. It wasn’t until she had gotten in licks enough to draw the moose’s attention that she noticed it was not the old pet the moose was stomping down into the deep snow. It was her dear husband of over forty years. If the loyal Ruth was willing to put her life on the line for her dog, now her adrenaline really red-lined and her own hackles rose higher than those of the moose.
Now a mere shovel, wielded by a diminutive octogenarian granny, would seem to a moose like a like a bothersome bot fly. But to the bulging eyes of the crazed animal there must have been something in the demeanor of that fiercely loyal little lady striking out for her husband that turned its fight-or-flight instincts the couple’s way. As it finally wheeled to flee, Ruth, like the Babe striding into a fastball, got in one last lick, swinging from her heels to deliver a “mighty” Whang! of the scoop to the critter’s retreating broad butt.
The late country singer Jimmy Dean once advised in song, “Let this be a real strong omen, Don’t you ever underestimate the power of a woman!” Especially when that woman’s a true Alaskan of the cut of our Ruth. Thank Heaven that, because of her and prayers offered up by Iditarod’s own to the Almighty, you’re still with us George. Hope you’ll be back at the controls of your beloved, vintage Aeronica before long.
Learn about Rod’s two volume work, TRAILBREAKERS, Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod at www.rodperry.com