Pack Horses to Dog Sleds
When I decided to place Jeremy’s story in Alaska, it was so I could show a part of history that I’m not proud of. While visiting Skagway, Alaska on our 30th anniversary Alaskan cruise, I was appalled to learn of the 3000+ horse carcasses that littered the White Pass.
My plan was to have my hero be a guide and packer using horses. He starts out that way at the beginning of the story, but the year and time I needed, because of the great rush for the Yukon was so short, had a huge storm that winter. The amount of snow that fell made taking a pack string over the pass near impossible, but I wanted my characters to be in a hurry to get over the pass.
My hero has to get his last commissioned delivery to Dawson City by March 1st and my heroine needs to find her brother fast to save her family from ending up out in the street. I also made it imperative to the heroine’s safety to get out of town fast. But that’s for another blog during the tour. ;)
With the need to get over the pass in a hurry, the hero, Jeremy, trades his pack string for two “trains”, as they were called back then, of dogs and sleds. A “dog train” consisted of usually six to eight single-harnessed dogs and three sleds.
The sleds were typically nine to twelve feet and sixteen to eighteen inches wide. Wide enough to fit in the trail the dogs made and got through thick forests and rocky areas. The body of the sleds were constructed of thin oak or birch lashed together with deer thong and shaped like toboggans, curling up in the front and having runners sticking out in the back. Hides were used to make the “floor” of the sled, the area where the freight or goods were placed.
The freighter didn’t ride on the runners like you see in dog sled races. A freighter walked or used short skis to glide along the trail behind the dogs. That’s if the trail was clear and not deep snow. In Laying Claim because of the deep snowfall, the hero has to use snowshoes and walk in front of the trains packing the snow so the sleds don’t bog down.
During the gold rush, it’s said not a stray dog could be found on the streets of Seattle because they were bringing up to $400 a piece in Alaska and the Yukon for dogs large enough to pull a sled. Most mid to large size dogs can pull 150-200 pounds. A six dog team can cover three miles an hour if hitched single and pulling three sleds. The sleds would hold 500, 400, and 200 pounds respectively. If the terrain was relatively smooth and flat they could cover twenty miles a day.
The dogs were fed two pounds of dried or froze salmon in the evenings. The oil and protein filled them and kept their muscles in good shape.
Most of the book Laying Claim is spent traveling from Skagway, Alaska to Dawson City, Yukon and on to St. Michael, Alaska.
This post is part of a week-long blog tour. I love to give and you could be the winner! I will be giving away an e-copy of my Christmas novella, Christmas Redemption, to one commenter at each blog stop where there are at least ten commenters. You can find the blog tour hosts at my blog: http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com or my website: http://www.patyjager.net
Blurb for Laying Claim:
Jeremy Duncan commits to haul one last load of supplies across the great interior of the Yukon before heading home. But, he has to trade his pack animals for sled dogs and leave Skagway in the middle of a blizzard due to one strong-willed, business-minded beauty.
Determined to find her older brother, Clara Bixbee doesn’t care how she gets across the pass, as long as she does, and soon. Hiring handsome pack guide Jeremy Duncan seems to be her best choice. Especially after she saves a young girl being beaten by the local gang leader and needs to escape Skagway fast.
“Who’s there?” a female voice questioned through the wood barrier.
“I have a trunk for a Clara Bixbee.”
The door swung open. A girl stood in the opening.
No. A girl didn’t fill out the front of a dress like this one did. But she was small. Tinier even than his sister, and she barely came to his shoulder.
“It’s about time you brought my trunk. I’ve been waiting hours for it to arrive.” Her green eyes snapped with anger.
“I don’t know who you asked to pick this up, but I found two thieves rummaging through it on the beach and saved it.”
She gasped, then her small pink mouth set in a grim line. “I paid the clerk downstairs to have someone bring it to me.”
No wonder the man had a startled look on his face when Jeremy hauled the trunk up the stairs. “Where would you like me to put it?”
The woman stepped back, opening the door wider. “I cleared a spot over there. I’ve yet to meet my roommate but will have a word with her about this mess when she comes back.”
Jeremy set the trunk on the floor and turned to the woman. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a working woman’s bun, but her clothes, the ones she had on and the ones he’d sifted through in the trunk, were not working-class clothes.
She stood with her hands on her hips, her head tipped back, eyeing him. “How did you know this was my trunk?”
“After I chased the men off, I took it to my livery where I had some light and looked through it until I found the Bible with your name in it. Then I left it in safekeeping and started asking for you at the hotels.”
Her smooth, creamy skin flushed a deep pink. “You went through my trunk?”
“Would you rather I left it to the thieves who wouldn’t have brought it to you even after they took all they wanted from it?” While the woman was soothing on the eyes, he wasn’t keen on her attitude.
She gasped and dropped to her knees in front of the trunk. Her tiny fingers clasped the broken latch where a key had most likely locked the box. She unclasped the other latches and dug down to the bottom of the trunk shoving the clothing, causing them to spill over the sides.
Jeremy watched in fascination as she burrowed into the contents. She pulled out an oilcloth jacket and pushed her hand into a pocket. A smile crept across her face. Her hand reappeared empty. He’d guess she had money stashed in that coat.
He cleared his throat and she jumped. In her urgency to make sure she hadn’t been robbed, she’d forgotten he was still in the room.
“Jeremy Duncan. Miss…?” He hoped she didn’t say she was married. It would be a shame to have rifled through a married woman’s unmentionables. It would make fanaticizing about her not near as much fun.
“Bixbee.” She frowned. “You know my name. Why are you asking?”
He smiled. “Just figuring out if you’re married.”
“I am not, and it isn’t proper for you to be in my room.” She pushed to her feet and stood, again, with her hands on her narrow hips.
Jeremy nodded to the open door. “The door isn’t closed so you haven’t been compromised.”
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Bio: With sixteen published books, three novellas, and an anthology, award-winning author, Paty Jager is never at a loss for story ideas and characters in her head. Her rural life in central and eastern Oregon, and interests in local history and the world around her, keeps the mystery and romance ideas flowing. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter; @patyjag.