Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm broken and pursued

If Sam and I had a song, which we don't because it's lame, this would be it.
It's a duet by John Prine and Iris Dement. Here are the words:

In Spite of Ourselves

She don't like her eggs all runny
She thinks crossin' her legs is funny
She looks down her nose at money
She gets it on like the Easter Bunny
She's my baby I'm her honey
I'm never gonna let her go

He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays
I caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies
He ain't too sharp but he gets things done
Drinks his beer like it's oxygen
He's my baby
And I'm his honey
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

She thinks all my jokes are corny
Convict movies make her horny
She likes ketchup on her scrambled eggs
Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs
She takes a lickin'
And keeps on tickin'
I'm never gonna let her go.

He's got more balls than a big brass monkey
He's a wacked out werido and a lovebug junkie
Sly as a fox and crazy as a loon
Payday comes and he's howlin' at the moon
He's my baby I don't mean maybe
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize
We're gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.
There won't be nothin' but big old hearts
Dancin' in our eyes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I never really leave, I just slip away

So Rich and I took 10 dogs and two sleds into the White Mountains yesterday. Conditions are shitty at best, but the trail is so smooth that the lack of snow isn't really an issue, especially when you're double-sledding like we did. We did a 15-mile round trip and Rich, who is my little mushing protege, did great. And by great, I mean he's still alive, so...great! We got to the halfway point at Lee's cabin and I let the dogs loose to run free, play etc etc...They weren't tired at all and only a few of them ate the snacks I offered so I figured we should just keep going. That's when shit went bad. Bully, Sneaky Pete and Parker took off down the trail. Oh it was glorious to see them stretched out, running free...until I realized they weren't coming back. I was pissed. So, Rich and I, with a combined weight of probably about 400 pounds...yes, I'm up to 165, so what?... and a 50-pound bag of meat in one of the two sleds were pulled by just seven dogs for seven miles. Needless to say, Rich and I ran up the hills and pedaled on the flats to help the dogs out. It was a workout for everyone involved. We got back to the truck finally and Bully was tied up while the yearlings danced happily around him. My anger for them vanished and I was filled with relief. Thank Jebus. And thanks to the musher who caught and tied Bully up. (Also, musher man, you dropped half a bottle of rum on the trail, so thanks for that, too!)
Anyway, the dogs looked really good after the run but I'm still giving them a day or two off before the next outing.
Peace.Rich on the second sled. The sled he was on was tethered to mine. It's a common training technique, especially when there's not enough snow to set a hook.

Darky, darky. I love the glowing mountains.

I call this one Dogs on Trail.

Do I look cross-eyed? Do I look like a cross-eyed chipmunk? Yes, I chew on my neck gaiter.

Rich and dogs in Lee's Cabin in the White Mountains.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Love is like a heat wave, baby

It's warm here. Too warm. My 300 pounds of meat for the dogs, which is more like 200 now, is thawing. We don't have the freezer space for it. It's never this warm in November. It's been above freezing for several days now. My meat is soggy. I've been giving it out to the dogs like candy. I need to get rid of it before it goes bad. The skiff of snow we had is disappearing quickly. I'll have to go back to training with the four-wheeler. I'm pretty disheartened about this heat wave. It's ruining everything. Sigh. Sob. Sob. Sob. Snort. Sniffle.
We went to Thanksgiving dinner at the Engmans last night and it was a great time. Really amazing food and a movie on the big screen after dinner thanks to a borrowed projector. Lots of kids and dogs.
I'm getting lots of work these days, so much so that I'm actually stressing over looming deadlines. I haven't felt that in a's kind of nice.

Roy didn't want turkey. He opted for some eggs.

Look how happy I am. Short of my mum's, this was the best turkey dinner ever.

Eric and baby Ella.
Rachel and baby Alex.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm thankful for Roy

Happy American Thanksgiving, y'all! We've decided on a name for the little one....da da da...wait for it....Roy!
Lil' Roy has made us very happy and we're thankful for him. I'm not thankful, however, for the biting, chewing, whining, high-pitched barking...etc, etc.
We went to a Thanksgiving feast/bonfire last night and brought Roy. He was a big hit. He did really well in a 16x20-foot cabin that had 23 people in it at one point. It was packed. He wandered around and fell asleep under a shelf. Tonight we're going to another dinner feast and will bring Roy and Bully. Our goal these days is to tire out the pup so he'll sleep well and will leave old Ruffles alone. She absolutely hates him but he loves her. And by loves I mean harasses her at every turn. Hitchcock has become Roy's new buddy. Hitchcock has boundless energy (I'm serious, I've never seen anything like it) and so we let Hitchcock loose and Roy outside and they chase each other for ever. I'm pretty sure it doesn't tire either one, but it gets us a little closer. My neck is killing me from sleeping on the couch with Roy. Sam and I are still taking turns with the nightly routine. Yesterday he started to bark at the door when he had to go pee or poo which I think is pretty amazing for such a young dog. Anyway, I have food to make for the party so happy turkey day!
Roy sleeps hard.

A very telling picture. Bully actually tolerated him until Roy bit Bully's wang pretty hard. Bull pretty much ignores him now.

A creepy mascot at the basketball tournament. I hate the yetti.

Funny signs that Adam kindly pointed out to me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life with a hairy, nine-pound dictator

The puppy won't stop crying. I'm serious. I've tried everything short of duck-taping his stupid puppy yap shut. He's lucky he's so cute and pathetic. He still doesn't have a name although we're leaning toward Chance. Every time we put him in his homemade puppy pen so we can, you know, go out and have a life, he escapes. He doesn't go anywhere. Twice now I've come home and he's been snuggled up in Hitchcock's house. I'd like to name him something Finnish like Kulta or Karhu (those are Finnish beers) or Kiitos (thank-you in Finnish) or Niilo (a dog I had in Finland)...but Sam's not buying it. This morning I started calling him Butters. Maybe I'll call him 'Shut the hell up!'
God I'm tired.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A babe in the woods

We have a new couch-hogging addition to our brood. Yesterday morning Sam heard a commotion in the woods in the lower dog yard. Sally and Happy were going bonkers as were the dogs up by the house. Upon further investigation, Sam found a sickly, skinny, stinky puppy nestled in the brush. He gathered up the little bundle of bones and brought him in the house. The pup looks like a husky puppy, although it's a little hard to tell. What is apparent, is that this little boy has not eaten in weeks. He's friendly and has taken to the couch like a champ. We've been giving him small doses of rice and chicken, a bland meal that won't upset his empty tummy. I think we've decided to keep him. What's one more, right? I was at the b-ball tourney all day yesterday so I was getting updates via email and short phone conversations.
'What's the puppy doing now?'
'What's the puppy doing now?'
'He pooped on the floor.'
And so on, for the 10 hours I was covering the games.
Sam and I took turns sleeping with him on the couch last night as he's very vocal when left alone. Poor little dove. I put a note on the ADMA list serve, but don't have high hopes that he'll be claimed. It's pretty obvious he was abandoned.
Anyway, more basketball for me today, so I must go.
Sam, the puppy saver, is staying home with the stinky little fart today. Oh yeah, he had rolled around in something dead and gave off the most foul odor. Sam gave him a bath with Dr. Bronner's shampoo...but now he just smells like peppermint and dead animal.
Lastly, we're still trying to agree on a name. Please send ideas. The winner of the name-the-puppy contest gets a free puppy.
Poor little guy. He eats like a piggy and wags his tail furiously while scarfing down his chow. He already looks a little fatter this morning.

Hmmm. Is it possible the pup and Bull are related? They did this on their own, I swear.

The couch potatoes. We were hoping Ruffles would mother him a little more, but she just tries to sit on him. Bull's pretty indifferent.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A stream of inspiration

Strider took the longest pee ever this morning. He popped out of his house, scurried around the pen, cocked his leg and let 'er rip. He peed for, like, 40 seconds. He must have held it all night. That's my dawg! He's got a bladder the size of a bowling ball and a brain the size of a pea. My little space cadet. He's got big, brown, doe eyes that, despite him being five, makes him look like a puppy. He's in the pen with the young ones and is a pretty good babysitter, although he likes to pick on Sneaky Pete quite a bit.
Rich and I are taking the sleds out today. We got a tiny bit of snow last night which might help the bumpiness of the trails. A friend of ours suggested we throw marshmellows into the fire to make it snow. I ask that you, my fine readers, do the same for snow in Alaska! Gran, that means you too. Just tell the nurses you need a marshmellow and a lighter and to not ask any questions...
I'm covering the Top of the World Classic basketball tournament until Sunday for the Associated Press. Seven NCAA Division 1 teams are here for this annual tourney. It started last night and went well. My photos from the first game were mediocre but I got a couple stellar action shots in the second game. There are two games tonight, four on Saturday and four on Sunday. Busy, busy.
Here are a couple pics from the game.
I'd like to give a shout to Maddy in West Virgina. Shout! I love getting new readers from far flung places.
Matias, left, and Adam, sports guys at the News-Miner, hard at work during the second game: Oregon State v Colorado State.

John Wager, staff photographer at the News-Miner. I had to make fun of his kneepads and cowboy boots (sounds like a good Saturday night, eh Nancy?) but I didn't have kneepads and guess who was sore at the end of the night...

Ouch. Why are you hitting yourself? Stop hitting yourself. This is one I sent to the wire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New meaning to Bump and Grind...

This was me leaving the yard yesterday with only a little, biddy four-dog team but with no brake. I put the drag up because I knew there was still a few tree stumps poking up. Near of the end of trail from my yard to the main trail I was going quite fast so I put the drag down and immediately caught a tree stump. This is what happens when there's not enough snow. It brought the dogs to an immediate halt and sent me into the handlebar with a force that made noises come out of my mouth involuntarily. Despite that, and the really, really bumpy, tussocky parts of the trail, I don't think I'll go back to the four-wheeler. There's still not enough snow to set a hook (parking brake, so to speak) so stopping the team for any length of time requires me to find a tree to tie off to. A tree that's big enough to the hold a crazy 10-dog team, that is. But, I ran teams with less snow in Finland and despite bruises on my body and pride, I didn't break anything, so there.
Plus, it's so much fun and the dogs enjoy it so much more than pulling a smelly, noisy ATV.
Anyway, I'm on a sled. It's not pretty, but it'll do.
Um, do you think someone's eager? That's Julie and her boy Frodo jumping behind her. He's a young clunker but a really sweet boy.

Me and the best lead dogs ever: Bully and Capiche.

Pretty sunset out on the trail.

My newest dog Sally always looking back. I usually don't tolerate dogs looking back, but she's new and is still learning to trust me so I let it go for now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jillian: portrait of an idiot

This is what happens when you leave a can of soda water in the car. Overnight. In Alaska. In November.

My reaction: 'oopsie...can't I wink my way of this one?' (Yes, I was taking pictures of myself while driving...idiotic and narcissistic that's me!)

On a smarter note, I bought a new sled a couple nights ago and got a smokin' good deal. Here it is:

It's much, much smaller and lighter than my other two sleds so it'll be good for smaller teams, double sledding, going faster, being reckless etc...
Now, back to the idiotic end of things; I can't wait to get on a sled so today Julie and are hooking up small teams to test the trails. There's still not really enough snow, scratch that, there's enough snow to go, just not enough to stop, hence, the small teams, which we still won't be able to stop but um, we don't care. We just won't stop, or fall off...haha!
Anyway, time to hit the trail. Don't worry, I'm bringing my camera...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Have dog team, will travel....but how far?

I bumped up the dogs' miles today. Sam came along armed with his shiny, new GPS and to my surprise I hadn't been going nearly as far as I thought I was. I was disappointed as I thought I was going eight miles but was actually only doing just over four. Oops. So I doubled their miles today to eight and they handled it like champions. I'm amazed every single time by the pups' (Sneaky Pete and Parker, who are actually almost two but still pups to me.) tenacity. They are maniacs in and out of harness. Sneaky Pete has been in lead several times with Capiche and he's super. Today, we had a random loose dog on the trail and a man and child to contend with. 'On by!' And on by they went. Perfect. I'm really pleased with the team's progress and am getting excited for my first race in December. It's only a 20-miler at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association track, but I did it last year and it was loads of fun and great experience for the dogs. Happy and Sally have hit the ground running and are fitting in well with the team. Hazel and Hitchcock are spitfires for sure and Strider, well, Strider's Strider. My little space cadet. Bully's been great in lead but he gets tired pretty quickly. Sister is my constant. She never gets too excited, but she's always pulling. Over all, their tugs were tight for the duration of the run and tails were wagging at the can't ask for much more than that.

Hooking up.

Taking a break.

So I married a turbo nerd...

Theresa got me thinking about the old days. High school, actually. Teased hair. Thick glasses. A unibrow. Tapered pants. BLECH! But, nothing that I ever sported can compare to this. I found this little gem whilst visiting Sam's mama in Missouri. This is Sam's senior portrait from Pratt (Kansas) High School. Enjoy! Sexy bitch! By the way, he knows I did this and he's looking forward to seeing me in all my high-school glory when we go to my parents' house this spring.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Baa, Baa Hack Sheep

I have high standards. For myself, for others in my life, for my dogs. I've been told that sometimes my standards are too high. And sometimes, I'm sure, they are. But when it comes to journalism and writing and photography, they are not too high. I do hold myself apart professionally here. I can't help it. But, what's wrong with that? I want more for myself and so I expect others in this world of journalism to want the same. Most of the time, I'm wrong. Most of time, in my experience, mediocrity reigns. It's not my fault my standards are higher. My parents' benchmark was set way over my head, as it should have been. They expected a lot, as parents should, and were supportive no matter what. And so I aimed to please. But I have to credit the Yukon News (yes, that's right) with my flair for writing and my eye for photography. I'm not saying there isn't heaps of room for improvement. But that's just it, I want to get better. And I want to surround myself with people who also want to get better. People who want to learn.
Editors at the News edited. Sometimes, actually often, they edited too much, but they read everything. Even my lame, long, sports' features. It doesn't matter if it's a race on the track or a race in the political arena, stories should be well-written, interesting and engaging. To everyone. And it doesn't matter if you have three weeks or three hours to write said article, it should be great. Every. Single. Time.
Is that expecting too much?
Those high standards were set at the News. If a story sucked, it didn't go in. If a photo sucked, it didn't go in. Wire copy was always ready and waiting in case a reporter couldn't pull it together. There were rewrites and reshoots (not often, but every so often) which at the time, I hated. I would whine and bitch and moan, but now, years later, I realize what a favour the editors were doing me. I still have a professional relationship with them, but I wouldn't call them friends. I have enough friends. I needed editors and I got them. I'm not saying the News didn't/doesn't have its faults. It does, but looking back, I miss those high writing/photography standards. Like I said, the News is far from perfect. But you have to admit, the writing and photography is great. It helped that the paper was privately owned. That means that advertising wasn't a deciding factor when it came to editorial content. The paper wasn't just a vessel for ads with a couple of stories thrown in to fill the space. The owner was there but never got involved with what stories went into the paper or how they were written. That was the job of the managing editor. This post is about the Yukon News and what I liked about it. Hopefully it will give some insight about why I hold myself apart. And, why I will continue to do so. I won't apologize for that.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Spitfire Kennels: Now with more meaty goodness

I never thought 300 pounds of raw meat could make me so very, very happy. But it has! Hooray! I'm like a lion in a zebra store. A T-Rex in a caveman shop? Whatever. You get it. A kid in a candy store. But it's raw beef and chicken! Oh, how I have missed the smell of blood and meat thawing in the entryway. Yesterday Charlie Champaine himself (he's a mushing legend who is now the biggest supplier of meat for sled dogs in the state...maybe even in the world) delivered 300 pounds of his Blue Race Mix frozen, chopped and sealed in 50-pound bags, to our cabin. I arrived home from an afternoon of trying not to open fire on the arseholes at the DMV to this glorious mound of meat. The dogs knew. I couldn't wait. I sliced open a bag, scooped up an armful of frozen meat chunks, ran to the dog yard and started tossing pieces to the dogs. Like rice at a wedding. Like confetti at, um, an event where you throw confetti. "Meat for everyone!" I exclaimed. The dogs are so happy. And therefore, so am I. I emptied 200 pounds of it into a barrel and the rest is in the dog truck. These chunks make perfect snacks for the pooches after a long run. The dogs devour them, raw and frozen, in a matter of seconds.
After tossing out a couple of chunks to each dog, I half-filled the food bucket with some meat nuggets and brought it inside to thaw. At feeding time, I added hot water, seven scoops of kibble, psyllium, fish oil and a dash of love and before long, the smell was enough to make a non-musher gag. But I love it. The dogs ate faster than ever, let out a long, unified howl and crawled into their straw-packed houses for a good night's sleep. So happy. This morning I thawed some more meat, added hot water and gave them their bloody broth with a bigger-than-usual grin on my face. I love making them happy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My liver is Irish

So here's a mishmash of photos from Indy and Kansas City. Good times, good times. I also have some exciting news about a cool mushing/adventure opportunity for me in March, but I'm not sure if it's too early to talk about it. (I usually end up jinxing these kind of things.) So here are some pics, including Britney moments before she tackled a purse snatcher. The first batch of Indy are taken by fellow FFA photog Kelly Rogers (no relation...I hope). The ones of us at the Cove are taken by Sam's brother Jon and the ones of KC are taken by yours truly. Enjoy!
Me kissing a big building in Indianapolis. Excuse me while I kiss the sky. By the way, I'm not pregnant, just bloated. Must remember to SUCK IT IN. Christ Almighty.

Kelly being Kelly: Kooky and lovable.

I thought this was funny. This is at the antelope club. Our first stop on the Saturday after the convention. Time to cut loose! Of course, for Jill that means making a complete arse of herself, but that's me: Kooky and lovable. (Maybe we are related, Kelly.)

Jebus keeps a watchful eye on the keyboard player.

Loves me some Sam.

The band at the Antelope Club. They were rockin'.

Costumes. It was a Halloween party in case you didn't catch that.

And this is Britney Spears from her 'Hit me baby, one more time' days. He was actually quite frightening. But, some jackass crept into the back door of the club, grabbed a woman's purse and took off. Ole Brit here chased him down and got the purse back. The snatcher got away, but the women got her bag back. Well done, Creepy Old Man Britney!

Me and fellow photog Ed in Indy.

On to Missouri...

Jon, Nancy, moi, Sam and sissy Rebecca in Shell Knob, MO, visiting Sam's mama.

Nancy and I getting (sort of) pushed by Sam.

Sam and I helping with 'Christmas' dinner. We had Christmas (complete with tree, turkey and tunes) because this was the first time we were all together and who knows when that will happen again. Riley Jones (the dog) was supervising.

The Cove, home of Sam's mama. I miss green grass and big trees.

Marlin at the bottom of the stairs (one of many staircases) at Jon and Nancy's in Kansas City.

Self portrait.

Ruby, one of 10 cats at Jon and Nancy's.

The mansion. A man went crazy in the '70s and murdered his family in the basement. No joke. I did not go in the basement.

Kitty in the window.