- Winter 1989 -
She tried to hold the team on the race path but she had lost control. The sled careened around the bend bouncing off a rock and sliding too far to the other side as the dogs went to the left. Lianne lost her balance as the sled turned over sending her sprawling toward the trees. At the same time, the Huskies broke loose and continued running headlong into the cold night.
When she finally settled in a snow bank, Lianne remained still moving each limb slowly and carefully. Pleased at finding no broken bones, she struggled to her feet. The only visible injury was a six-inch gash in her right knee that was bleeding profusely. Lianne limped to the overturned sled in search of first aid and water.
During the next two hours, a number of racers passed her on their quest for victory. No one stopped to offer help, which according to the rules, was a driver’s prerogative. Lianne had survival gear in her backpack, but a night out in the open wasn’t something she relished. Not to mention the danger from wolves and bear. As she trudged forward along the trail, she prayed for protection from animal attacks and the weather; more snow had been forecast.
Matthew had been a challenger in the annual Yukon sled dog race since its conception in 1984, and this year, he and his Huskies were looking good for first place. His father and older brother, Luke, had also raced, and Matt had learned everything about racing from them.
Ahead on the right, Matt saw Lianne and her bandaged leg struggling through the snow. Without hesitation, he called for the team to stop and pulled off the trail in front of her.
“Had an accident, I see.” he said.
“Sure did. I lost control of the team and took a turn too fast. Not only did I get hurt, but I lost the dogs.”
Matt grinned. “Well, they will find their way without any trouble, but it looks like you’re going to need a little help. Let me rearrange the sled then we’ll head out. Don’t want to get caught in the storm if we can avoid it.”
She thanked him and soon they were moving at full speed. Lianne felt warm and safe and prayed a blessing on him before she fell into a bumpy but sound sleep.
When they arrived at the next point in the race, Lianne went to the medical station and Matt took care of his dogs. She later learned that her team had indeed found their way back and had been fed and set for the night. Lianne never forgot Matt’s kindness and the fact that because of her, he lost the race that year.
- Winter 2006 -
“We’re here today to congratulate Matthew Bower on his 10th first place win in the International Yukon Quest and present him with yet another trophy and a check for $25,000. Congratulations, Matt.”
Applause followed as Matt received his prize money and held up the winner’s cup.
“Thank you so much, Wilson. It is an honor to participate in this race and compete with talented drivers and teams from all over the world. But the real winners are my team. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”
More applause as Matt’s lead dogs appeared on stage and were given head rubs and hugs from their master.
Wilson finally interrupted. “Which one of your races has been the most memorable, Matt?”
“Well, that would be the race of ‘89 when we were in the lead for my first win. But instead of maintaining that lead, we lost time making a rescue of another musher who lost her sled and dogs and was on foot with an injured knee.”
“What a bad break to end up loosing, but it is certainly to your credit for being a Good Samaritan. As I recall, you didn’t receive any winnings that year, is that right?”
“Not exactly. You see I’ve received a prize every year since then that I cherish more than all my cash winnings. Lianne Randolph-Smith has come to every race over these past 20-plus years and presented me with a plate of home baked cookies, and we have developed a lasting friendship which my parents taught me was the greatest award of all.”
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