Clue Number Nine
There is a race named for a town
Where stars are big and bright
Where dogs go fast and dogs go slow
Beneath the northern lights
Go find the line where this race starts
The largest city in the state
The Midnight Sun just up the road
Will help you celebrate.
This time, $2,500 was enclosed, along with a copy of Go, Dog. Go!
I do not know why Go, Dog. Go! was one of my favorite books as a kid. My earliest memory is Dad reading that book to me on a goldenrod couch in a room with shag carpet so deep who knows what was living or hiding in it. He later confessed to hiding the book in various places around the house so I wouldn’t be able to find it at bedtime.
For my 10th birthday, while my friends were gathered around the table preparing for cake and presents, Dad made everyone be quiet.
“Friends, family, and loved ones gathered for this most sacred and special occasion of the crossing over into the realm of double digits, I have a story I would like to tell you before we commence with the partaking of delectable desserts and the destruction of wrapping paper.”
Then, from memory, Dad recited the complete work of P. D. Eastman.
Big dogs and little dogs.
Black and white dogs.
“Do you like my hat?”
“I do not.”
My friends just stared in stunned silence. The longer Dad went, the more they started to laugh. By the time he finished, they were absolutely rolling. Dad took a bow to a standing ovation. I just rolled my eyes and wanted to disappear.
And then I got my first dog.
A golden retriever we named Jones, a tribute to both the Harrison Ford movie trilogy (Dad and I refuse to acknowledge the fourth movie) and to a song by folk artist Ray Stevens. Jones was smart and loved to sleep on my bed, cuddling up next to a stuffed teddy bear. Jones was a fantastic comfort through all of life’s storms and quite talented when it came to catching flies. He once jumped — straight up! — off my bed and snagged the winged insect before landing next to the teddy bear. Two chomps and a lick and the fly was gone. For years, we had no need of a flyswatter at our house.
Dad took Jones’ training quite seriously. Every day, once we got home from school, Dad and Jones went outside and practiced various tricks, things like sit, stay, roll over, and fetch. Or, at least that’s what I thought they were doing. Dad did teach Jones the basic commands for dogs. He learned them in about two days. That’s what inspired Dad to keep going.
Dad taught Jones to walk on his back legs. He taught him how to dance and play peek-a-boo. He taught him to open and close doors, to fetch drinks from the fridge, to carry groceries, and to play hide-and-seek. For most of my teenage years, I think my friends came over to play with Jones as much as they did to spend time with me. At one point, Dad counted, and Jones had a vocabulary of more than 150 words and commands.
My favorite command was simply, “bedtime,” at which Jones would jump on my bed, nuzzle his snout beneath his paws, and join me and Dad for prayers.
Visiting Alaska has never crossed my mind.
My Midwest misperception is that Alaska is permanently covered in snow. I know it’s not correct, it’s just the first thing that comes to mind. Having never been a fan of cold weather, Alaska has never been on my places-to-visit-before-I-die list.
This is what I know about Alaska.
It is quite west and has its own time zone.
It is also quite north. The northernmost parts experience a couple months of darkness — literally no sun! — every winter, but they also experience more than two months of constant daylight every summer. The land of the midnight sun.
It is also quite large. Texas could fit into it two times and there would still be some Alaska left over.
The Iditarod races there every March.
There are mountains and moose and big bears and lots of fish and miles upon miles of coastlines.
And that’s all I know about Alaska.