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Peter Dunlap-Shohl - Susitna Story
By Peter Dunlap-Shohl

Susitna Story from LitSite Alaska on Vimeo.

Susitna Story
Copyright 2008 Peter Dunlap-Shohl

Where the moon casts crazy shadows through the twisted tilting spruce,
In the dark and drunken forests roam demons on the loose.
Through tangled winding willow hells, o'er ice-bound mountain streams
Is where you'll find the Devil, training his dog team.

Susitna Sal was making camp one January night
When a red-eyed well-dressed stranger appeared in her fire light
Croaked the stranger, "I'm the Devil, and I've got a deal for you."
Sal spit, said, "Have some coffee then, do you take one lump or two?"

The Devil sneered, "I've heard your curs are held in high esteem.
There's nothing on two legs or four can beat me and my team.
Let's race out to that roadhouse that's known as Fenton's hole.
You win, I'll breed my dogs with yours, you lose, I get your soul."

The Devil's dogs all had two heads, their glance gave brave men chills.
Their eyes burned like Mount Augustine. Their fur was spiked with quills.
Said Sal "As IF! Be serious. I'll race you out of pride.
There's no Alaska dog team afraid of a team from Outside."

The stranger scoffed and cracked his whip. Two voices hollered, "MUSH!"
So fast they tore through powder snow they left a trail of slush.
And as they flew on through the night, Sal felt the weight of dread.
First inch by inch, then mile by mile the demon drew ahead.

She begged, she bellowed and scolded, she coaxed her tiring team,
She ran the hills, and on the flats she fought the urge to scream.
Two miles to go, the fiendish foe was almost out of sight.
She saw him make a hard left turn where he should have made a right.

Through thickets cruel the left trail ran, past overflowing streams
Where high-strung moose lurked in the spruce and stomped unwary teams.
Her jolting heart began to hope, her spirit rose anew.
In double time she made the fork, and to the right she flew.

And as the roadhouse lights grew bright before her blurring eyes,
From just behind and closing, she heard sulphuric cries.
His Gore-Tex all in tatters, his beasts limped as they ran.
But he drove them with a fury beyond the strength of man.

His snapping whip, his fetid gasps grew louder in her ear
And with each stride she felt inside a mortifying fear.
In all the depths of Hell below, no torture could she rate
To losing from some bozo who came from out of state.

So spurred she gained the roadhouse door and stumbled safe inside
Saved by a twist of fate, and steadfast Alaska pride.
Now wiser for the lesson she learned that fateful day....
The race is not always to the swift.
It helps to know the way.

About the Author: Peter Dunlap-Shohl worked as cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News for over 25 years. He produced four editorial cartoons per week, concentrating on local topics. He also created and oversaw a local interactive political cartoon caption contest for which he drew one cartoon a week that readers completed by submitting captions. Pete also created animated cartoons for the Anchorage Daily News website.

Peter is now freelancing and working on his many cartooning and animation projects. You can catch the latest at Frozen Grin.

Pete was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002, and maintains "Off & On, The Alaska PD Rag" a blog about living with Parkinson's that features original cartoons and illustrations.

Dunlap-Shohl has won various prizes, including the First Amendment Award from Alaska Press Club. He was also awarded first place in the 2002 Society of Professional Journalists Northwest regional editorial cartoon competition.

Dunlap-Shohl has lived most of his life in Anchorage, surviving the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and sundry volcanic eruptions and moose charges. He lives in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains with his wife Pamela and son Wiley. Hobbies include biking, and playing the dobro.


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