Or, hop right on down the page to the story: The Sled
Everyone has a history. We each started-out somewhere at some time and we've changed over the years.
It's the same for every thing.
Dog sleds have a history. They started out being made very differently from the way dog sleds are made now. In areas where trees are hard to come by, when plastic for runners didn't exist, and before metal and bolts came to be, sleds were made. But out of what?
by Gary Paulsen
This is the way it used to be:
A man took two whale ribs or jawbones, lashed them together with crosspieces tied with rawhide, or found two pieces of driftwood (there was virtually no native wood where sleds first started) with the right curve, whittled them with stone or bone knives until they had good shape and were smooth, and again, tied all together with rawhide lashing, hooked it with crude collars (harnesses would not come for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years) to half-wolf dogs, cracked a rawhide whip and off they went.
Wood or bone developed friction with ice and quickly became hard to pull. So they covered the runners with frozen layers of mud or moss, packed with water or any other warm fluid available (use imagination here), smoothed it with the edge of a snow knife (the same ivory knife used to cut blocks for igloos) and the runners ran smoothly and with less drag.
For three miles.
Then it all had to be done again.
And that made nine miles, maybe in most of a day.
Now it is a different world. Sleds are made of aluminum or magnesium, bolted instead of lashed, runners coated with quick change high density plastic, sometimes teflon, and are so slick that a nudge sends them flying. The whole sled might weigh thirty pounds--compared to the several hundred of primitive sleds--and the plastic runners last for hundreds of miles without replacing. On flat, packed, fast trail even with a full load of say two hundred pounds (counting gear and musher) the dogs feel almost no pull at all unless heading up a steep grade, and comfort is the word: some mushers have heated handgrips and many of them have chairs they can sit in for the long flat hauls on the Yukon river or across the tundra of the interior.
Everything is different now.
Even the dream of the old way, of the work sledges, is almost gone....
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