Dog teams were popular here, too!

Now that the sleigh-dog racing events are underway in the Yukon and Alaska, I kind of miss our own pooches sprinting down Scott Street every winter as us kids with dogs of all sizes would give our all.
This gives you a small idea of my own background in wintertime at Mine Centre, where our sleigh dogs were worth their weight in the gold being extracted from about six or eight mining shafts nearby.
Our mutts were tied up where Harold Dannis’ store stands by the school today. Usually, no more than three at a time (they would be happy to jerk the old trappers’ sleigh right out from under you).
Our dogs would haul everything from a tank of water up from clean and clear Bad Vermilion Lake to groceries from the Ed Bliss store, then on with my father for three miles night and morning to his job at Paccito’s mine—with lots of pep left over to keep us kids happy in-between.
Now there were several dog trainers in the neighbourhood who just might have made it big in the far north if the price was right.
In addition to the natives mushing in from nearby Wild Potato reserve or further, there were Orrie Kielczewski with his team of six or more from the Kettle Falls country, where he trapped before loading everything he owned plus family for B.C.; trapper Tim Harley, whose dogs contained timberwolf blood convenient to slap into a harness; and Sonny Patten, who would just as soon borrow your dog and others to run back and forth to Turtle Tank.
In those far-off days, the transportation rules of this district were simply that west of Fort Frances, through the farms, the most sensible winter travel was looked after by horses and cutter or bob-sleighs; whereas east of town, the dogs were popular through the trees and across the lakes before the bush pilots and snow sleds (propeller-driven) sidelined the dog teams.
When my dad despaired of finding work in town and in 1936 accepted a $3 per day offer from Angelo Paccito at his lakeside gold mine, we already owned a big dog that was partially St. Bernard, but looked collie, and “Cubby” moved away with us.
There were dogs running through the trees across the road from our cabin and my father was lucky enough to snare one after dark. He heard it yelping and chanced out to bring it home.
He needed at least two dogs for a team and soon discovered his catch was an expert with a sleigh. This was a very meek and mild Irish Setter the natives had let run for the summer. When nobody came around to claim her, Dad has his team.
“Fanny” could jerk frozen sleigh runners loose on coldest mornings by throwing herself sideways. Not young, but she was game and teamed up beautifully with our lead dog.
Our third runner was a handsome Husky pup we were given at the Olive mine, just west of Mine Centre, but soon went to neighbour Tim Harley because two dogs could do all we needed and the extra feed was a concern.
Through the summers, they lived mostly on corn meal with some wild meat added, Dad being a good provider of rabbits and porcupines with occasionally red horse sucker meat from the adjacent creek thrown into the mix.
Transportation now secure, Dad had access to the distant mines for their mail and eventually looked after a team of horses for nighttime deliveries. Then it wasn’t long before we returned to town for papermill construction jobs.
We brought back Cubby and left Fanny behind. One-dog pulls for newspaper deliveries were popular with town kids, the main problem being dog fights when you lined up to start the races.
Arrayed against you would be dogs of all sizes, spaniels and bulldogs and the German Shepherds and Newfoundlands, Airdales, and Deerhounds.
The kids with the smallest dogs were frequently winners over a four-block run down Scott Street. The crowds usually were surprisingly big and the cash prizes not bad, either.
All this was traditionally part of the northern experience and undoubtedly far less expensive than snowmachining got to be. This also is probably something that could be brought back for the greater good—and perhaps our New Atlantis would tolerate dog racing once more!
• • •
Everyone is eating out more all the time here and, someday soon, we might think about putting on a special day for all our waitresses. One deserving of such a reward, though, is leaving us for west Winnipeg, where her father is ill.
Laurie Miller, a star in the service of A&W, has made hundreds of friends with her cheerful courtesy. They all wish her future success.
• • •
Chuck Hammond, 89, the father of busy Art, phoned to add to the Smiths’ story last week that Wellington Smith had built an airplane as well as the first motor home.
Chuck, remembered for all the gardens he tilled here with his tractor, had helped build the motor home. Earlier, he had helped Ma Flinders look after her milk cows when they were pastured across the railroad from her dairy near Hamburger Alley.
The Hammonds were pioneers here.
• • •
While there is growing concern over the survival of all hockey teams, it occurs to our older fans there should be more emphasis on developing good juvenile leagues like we enjoyed here in bygone years.
They bring up teams named for their sponsors like Fletcher’s Fleas, Roy’s Rats, Neely’s Pills, and Pearson’s Pups. But boy, that was great hockey!
Another later league led by the Jaycees and Greenleafs, and coached by Bill Lloyd, threw a scare into Lakehead champions. Let’s hear it again from Stompin’ Tom: “Oh, the good old hockey game is the best game you can name!”
• • •
Then there’s Tom Drew always cooking up something. This week, Tom and friends are turning back the pages of time to put railroading, at least on a model scale, on view in our old CN station.
And they want others to bring out their choo-choos and tracks and get rolling!

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