Mushing Bulletin # 104 – The Ol’ Skoodawabskooksis

This morning around 9:00 I look out the upstairs window of our cabin at Baisley Lodges and do a double-take. Floating down the Madawaska River is a piece of ice roughly the size of a football field. For a second I can’t figure out whether the cabin is moving and the ice is stationary or vice versa. I had this frightening thought that Al Gore is right and the North Pole is heading south via the Madawaska river.

Two days ago the river looked solid enough to walk on. Today it is full of huge ice islands heading downstream at a 7 mph clip.

I’m out on the banks of the Madawaska with my camera by 9:02 trying to capture this phenomenon. See the picture below.

By mid-afternoon there is an ice-jam in front of the cabin. The river is still frozen further downstream and there is no place for all the ice to go.

Gino tells me that the next town on the other side of the Quebec border is named Degelis (imagine an accent aigue over that first “e”) which is a French word meaning “defrosted” and that it got its name from the fact that the river never freezes over.

Speaking of rivers, do you know how many rivers there are in New Brunswick? A lot. And none of them have names that you can pronounce without losing a crown on one of your molars e.g., Maduxnekeag.

A professor in St. John, New Brunswick, named James DeMille, has written a poem containing the names of all the major rivers in the province. My theory is that he did this to appear insane and avoid military service. Here is the first stanza:

Sweet Maiden of Passamaquoddy,
Shall we seek for communion of souls,
Where the deep Mississippi meanders,
Or the distant Saskatchewan rolls?
Ah no! In New Brunswick we’ll find it,
A sweetly sequestered nook.
Where the smooth gliding Skoodawabskooksis
Unites with the Skoodawabskook.

Pretty impressive. He knocks off four Canadian rivers and one U.S. river in the first stanza!

I’m sure that if you Google “Skoodawabskooksis” you’ll find the rest of the poem. Warning: Don’t read it aloud without first checking with your dentist.

Professor DeMille is a man after my own heart. Many years ago, when I was jogging a couple of miles every morning before work (I refer to this as my “Insane Period”), I decided that, in order to pass the time, I would try to write a limerick for every state in the union.

A jogger who jogged in Kentucky
Tried to jog through the mud but got stuckey…

You get the idea. Yessiree, quality stuff that can only be generated by a mind deprived of oxygen.

Flushed with success when I finished the States, I moved on to countries of the world and tried to work two countries into every limerick.

O Land can be bought for a song

In Thailand or even Hong Kong…

At some point it dawned on me that I had missed a state (South Carolina) in my original effort. So, my limerick-writing efforts ended, some say appropriately, with South Carolina:

Bra-maker from South Caroline
Hired Dolly to test out his line.
But the things weren’t designed
With Dolly in mind
And a large one blew off killing nine!

I always worry that during periods of inactivity such as those periods when I am waiting for the Head Musher at the trail head that a limerick will start buzzing around in my head and I’ll feel compelled to write it down. What the heck, just this one.

This is like an alcoholic saying “Well, maybe I’ll just have a sip of your beer.” The next thing you know I’ll be trying to fit two elements from the periodic table, say Boron and Magnesium, into the same limerick. It’s as easy for me to give up limericks as it is for Adrian Monk to give up hand-wipes.

Speaking of the trail head, that’s where we’re heading. This is the last full week of training before race week. The goal this week is a total of 45 miles – evenly divided in runs between 10 and 15 miles each.

The dogs have been hydrated. They know they are running and are reluctant to leave a spot in front of the door for fear of being left behind. Nope, they’ll just stand at the door with their noses pointing out and glance back over their shoulders for the next ten minutes with that “Are we going or what?” look on their faces.

Trails have been “punchy” i.e., crusty on top but easy to break through, so the Head Musher will be taking it slowly to avoid injuries.

After three weeks of training, we’re at the “Don’t-do-anything-stupid” stage. Stories of mushers withdrawing from the Can Am because of injuries are caroming around the internet. Brows are furrowed. Somebody ought to write a humorous limerick to keep everybody loose. Maybe not.

The One-Man Pit Crew

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Mushing in Ocean City MD