Poems of the Week

The Ballad of Musher Nick

by Julia Griffin

“Musher loses huge lead in Alaska’s Iditarod Race after dogs go on strike:
Nicolas Petit says dogs stopped after he shouted at them”
—The Guardian

O have you heard tell of a musher named Nick,
Who traveled the ice with his sled and his pick,
And sixteen brave huskies, a regular squad:
And all for the prize in the Iditarod?

They set out from Anchorage early in March:
The sled was heaped high with tarpaulins and starch,
The dogs were in harness and sturdily shod,
Intent on success in the Iditarod.

They sledded through Willow, their spirits were high,
The tundra and spruces were sweet to the eye;
Brave Nick offered praise to the dogs as they trod:
O how could they fail in the Iditarod!

Now Rohn was behind them and also McGrath,
When Nick felt inside him the stirrings of wrath:
Two huskies were snarling. “This isn’t so odd,”
Thought he, “with the strains of the Iditarod”;

But three blizzards on, by the cold Bering Sea,
He turned on the two with a curseword or three.
Then snorted the pack: “Does he think he is God?
Let him take the pull for the Iditarod!”

And down on their haunches they parked in the snow.
Not one further step could he coax them to go;
So home again sadly Nick knew he must plod,
So close to his goal in the Iditarod.

And this is the story of Nick-out-of-time,
Defeated by dogs in a difficult clime;
Let’s hope they’ll forgive him and give him the nod
To come back next year for the Iditarod.