Global Awareness Day at The Salisbury School

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say “It’s Spring, for God’s sake, what are you doing writing mushing bulletins. Why aren’t you out at the practice range hitting golf balls?”

There are a couple of answers to this question. First of all, we have not had two consecutive warm days thus far this Spring. One day you hit a seven iron 150 yards and the very next day, because the temperature has not gotten above 40 degrees, the ball feels like a brick and goes 120 yards. Not that that necessarily stops me, but it’s not a great deal of fun.

Secondly, and I have said this before if you’ve read these bulletins, there is no “Mushing Season”. Mushing Season begins when the Head Musher arises on January 1st and it lasts until the next December 31st, then it starts over. Sometimes, the Mushing Season involves running on snow; sometimes running on sand and dirt; sometimes watching films of other mushers run races like the Iditarod when it’s too hot in Maryland to do anything other than play golf.

Now, contrast this with the golfing season. We have a much more rational approach to the sporting life. For golfers, Golfing Season begins on January 1st and lasts until the next December 31st, then starts over. Sometimes, it involves playing on beautifully manicured grass; sometimes it involves playing on beautifully manicured grass that has frozen solid; sometimes it involves watching films of other golfers playing in tournaments in Hawaii, for example, when it is too cold in Maryland to do anything other than run sled dogs. So, you can see the critical difference between Mushing Season and Golfing Season i.e., one starts with the letter “M” and one starts with the letter “G”.

So, one might conclude from the above that the mushing season and golfing season overlap somewhat. That is why last Friday, a day screaming out the word “Golf!” at the top of its lungs, I found myself hitching up the trailer, tying on the three-wheeled, German-made Fritz cart, and traveling down Route 50. The objective was to keep the Head Musher under control as she ran a four-dog team out onto the stage as the leading attraction in the annual celebration of Global Awareness Day at The Salisbury School.

The Salisbury School is located about 20 miles from our house. I know exactly where it is because it is not far from Perdue stadium, the home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, the local minor league baseball team. Despite what Newsweek might say about the proper way of rating educational institutions, I find that proximity to baseball stadiums is the best way to judge the quality of a school. Find Fenway Park and you’ll find a school like Harvard. Find Perdue Stadium and you’ll find a school like The Salisbury School. It’s a simple matter of a mutual attraction between baseball stadiums and intelligent people and great educational institutions.

Well, one of the many intelligent things that The Salisbury School has done over the years is to hold a “Global Awareness Day”. They’ve been doing this every year for about twenty years. They pick a country, have the kids learn all about it, and then dedicate one day to celebrating its history and culture. We were lucky enough to participate because this year’s country was Canada and apparently someone tipped off the librarian at the school, a lady named Margy Meeks, that Linda Powers, a musher, lived nearby.

I’m sure all of you realize that the Head Musher has Canadian roots. Yup, she is 100% French Canadian. She thinks that Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion should be canonized. When she cut her hand on our recent séjour (a French noun which, roughly translated, means ‘to spend time in sub-zero temperatures”) in Canada she let out a quick stream of invectives in French directed at the knife and I’ve still not been able to find four of them in my Petit LaRousse. And, of course, every Christmas she bakes several traditional Canadian meat pies (“Tourtieres”) the contents of which caused them to be put on the State Department’s munitions list precluding export to countries harboring members of al Qaeda.

So, as they say in Canada “Global Awareness Day” and the Head Musher was “a match made in Québec”.

As a first step in preparing for the big day, the Head Musher Skyped first, second and third graders from the Bunkhouse at Baisley Lodges during our recent Canada trip.


The students got to ask her questions about Canada, mushing, and sled dogs. In the above picture, Chinook and Aura are trying to figure out exactly where the kids’ voices are coming from. Chinook is checking out the wood burning stove as the possible source, while Aura is checking out the front stoop.

Friday’s event at the school started with an assembly in the gym attended by all the students and a large number of parents. One of the graduating seniors sang “Oh Canada” to start the festivities. He sang it so well that a pick-up hockey game broke out in the rear of the gym. It (the rendition of “Oh, Canada” not the hockey game) brought tears to the Head Musher’s eyes. I had a flashback to elementary school and Canadian nuns and my knuckles began to hurt.

From the gym we moved to the music building where the Head Musher held three separate sessions with third, fourth, and fifth graders to describe the sport of mushing and the dogs that make it necessary. I remained in an outer room with Kodiak and Aura and, when given the high sign, brought the two dogs into the room so that they could sign autographs for the bargain price of one scratch under the chin and a pat on the head. Aura spent most of the time trying to figure out exactly what these little people were all about. Kodiak took a what’s-not-to-like-about-thirty-or-forty-kids-wanting-to-hug-you attitude.

But the coup de grace (which is like a coup d’état except without the armored vehicles) we hitched up the four dogs to the Fritz cart and the Head Musher rode into the gym and onto the stage. Chinook and Kodiak led the team with Fenway and Aura running in the wheel position next to the cart. In accordance with my “One-Man-Pit-Crew” responsibilities, I was dragooned into maintaining control over the outfit by attaching a leash to Chinook. My instructions were simple: “Do not let the team drag the cart and Head Musher off the four foot high stage and into crowd unless it was absolutely necessary.”

We got to our position on the stage, a run of about thirty yards, and stopped. This caused Fenway immediately to start barking. It was his “What are we stopping for?” bark. It was his “We’ve got harnesses on and a cart to pull!” bark. My fear was that he would continue to bark during the Head Musher’s slide presentation, drowning out every fourth word.

But the previously-mentioned Margy saved the day. In a heart-beat she said “Would it help if I stayed here on the stage and petted Fenway to quiet him down?”
Here is the answer to that question…

Margy Meeks

Aura remained on her feet and vigilant, but quiet.

We have offered Margy a lucrative contract to replace me as pit crew for next season but she remains committed to The Salisbury School.

In the weeks leading up to Global Awareness Day, the art teacher at The Salisbury School, Rene Schoelkopf, requested pictures of our dogs. She used the pictures to create a 4×8 foot mural of the dogs as part of a scene depicting life in the frozen north. It’s an amazing painting. What talent! The likenesses of the four dogs are incredible. She has caught the sweet calm of Kodiak’s eyes, Chinook’s piercing stare, Fenway’s cocky head-tilt and tail-wag, and Aura’s ever-cautious posture with tail curled around her legs. Here is the mural…

Salisbury mural

The Head Musher called the school to see if we could buy the painting. Rene informed us that they had already decided to give it to us. Could there be a more unique gift? A great way to end the mushing season.

Oh, wait, I forgot, the mushing season never ends. Jeez, I’ve got to write that down somewhere.

See you next seas…later,
The One-Man Pit Crew

P.S. This time I’m really hanging up my bulletin-writing pen and heading for the links.

  1. Mr. Powers I wanted to thank you for writing such an eloquent article on your adventures at TSS. We were all quite amazed at the energy of your pack! My students are still talking about getting to make the “human fence” for the dogs when they came into the gym. That was the hi-light of their day. Oh, and my son (4th grader @ TSS) now wants a dog to pull him around on his scooter, like your wife’s cart. How you’re inspired a 10 year old’s imagination!

    It never ceases to amaze me how the Eastern Shore is such a melting pot of cultures and the incredible people who call this area home. Thank you again, and I wish you and your pack much success in the mushing ahead!
    Gratefully yours,
    Stephanie Krisulevicz
    5th grade teacher at TSS

    • Stephanie, thank you very much for your kind words. We were delighted to be able to participate. When we left we all felt, dogs included, that we’d made lots of very special friends at TSS. All the best.

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