the musher who would be king reprise

This is a photograph of Larry (Cowboy) Smith on a hunt in the 1960s. It was taken by the late Lorna Walmsley, who was the camp cook. It is a wonderful shot.

This is a photograph of Larry (Cowboy) Smith on a hunt in the 1960s.

It was taken by the late Lorna Walmsley, who was the camp cook. It is a wonderful shot.

Cowboy Smith was a guide, or wrangler at the time. I believe the group was on a game hunt, Pete Jensen being the outfitter.

When Smith arrived back in Whitehorse, I met up with him in the Whitehorse Inn. I had bumped into two girls from South Africa and they wanted to meet Cowboy Smith, so we arrived in his room, which was decorated with caribou ribs hanging in the shower and a wolf hide, or two. That was my first meeting with Smith and we’ve been good friends ever since. That had to be in 1968.

Smith has also been a dog musher. He came in third in the 1983 Iditarod and, another time, came in fourth. He ran the Iditarod five times, from 1980 to 1984. In 1983’s race, he got $3,000 in American $1 bills because he was the first musher to reach the Yukon River at a place called Anvik.

Smith had the bills stamped with a line drawing of his image, which included his dog team on a background map of Alaska, and made a limited edition of them.

A newspaper from Nome, Alaska, wrote: “The cowboy” is coming into town. They dragged themselves out of beds and into the frigid night air to greet him as he placed one foot in front of the other on his way to a third-place finish.

“He was still not on site, but you could feel the excitement, a different kind of excitement from being there when the first musher finished. This one was reverent, almost fanatical.

“‘I wouldn’t get out of bed for anyone but the Cowboy,’” said one sleepy-eyed woman.

“‘I love him completely,’ said another, ‘but I’ve already got an old man.’ They came about 500 in total, young and old, male and female, to greet their hero.”

This is an article from Nome, Alaska, that bore the headline, The Musher Who Would be King.

The Cowboy ended up on the front page of every newspaper in Alaska and the United States Midwest as he forced the pace of the race from day one, resulting in mushers having to evaluate their strategies.

Some information provided by Gerry Willomitzer. Photograph from Gordon and Lorna Walmsley fonds, Yukon Archives.

Anyone with information about this subject, please write Jim Robb: The Colourful Five Per Cent Scrapbook—Can You Identify? c/o the Yukon News, 211 Wood Street, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 2E4, or e-mail through the News website, www.yukon-news.com.

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