When the distinguished-looking elderly gentleman walked into the Iditarod Race headquarters (a room at the Roosevelt Hotel in Anchorage), I had no way of knowing this smiling man was going to lead me to my most embarrassing moment.
It was during the 1974 race, and my wife, Pam, ran race headquarters. I’d run the race in 1973, without managing to impress anyone. But hey, I was a dog musher, and here was a guy with a Boston accent, asking about the race.
His name, he said, was Norman Vaughan and he had just moved to Anchorage.
Well, I taught Norman Vaughan for the next hour how to drive a dog team. He smiled and nodded and listened patiently. Before he left, he told me we were probably going to see a lot of each other in the future and thanked me for the information.
Not 20 minutes later, the radio announcer let everyone know that the guest speaker at the mushers’ banquet that evening would be Colonel Norman Vaughan, who drove a dog team to the South Pole as part of the safety plan for the Byrd Expedition.
Byrd named a mountain in Antarctica for Norman, and Col. Vaughan took some young people down there and climbed it on his 100th birthday.
Embarrassing? I suppose, but at least he learned the correct way to handle a dog team, right?