Alaskan ad­ven­turer’s tales in­spires quest for suc­cess

Coun­try Mat­ters colum­nist Natalie Pit­field’s Alaskan farm visit re­news ‘sense of em­pow­er­ment’.

Franklin County News - - COUNTRY MATTERS -

I’ve of­ten won­dered what life­style blocks or small farms are like in other parts of the world.

When I travel I try to find out the an­swer to this ques­tion.

On a re­cent trip I learned more than I’d ever hoped for and met a lady who is one of the most in­spi­ra­tional hu­man be­ings I’ve ever had the plea­sure of en­coun­ter­ing.

Mary Shields lives out­side of Fair­banks, Alaska.

My hus­band, Kevin, and I vis­ited her small farm. We wanted to talk to Mary, look around her farm and meet her sled dog team.

Mary was one of the first women to com­pete in the Iditerod Thou­sand Mile mush­ing race in Alaska. She also com­peted in the Yukon thou­sand mile event and in a char­ity event through Siberia.

Most com­peti­tors spend around $30,000, have at least 15 dogs and de­vote them­selves to train­ing for the events. Mary de­cided that her gor­geous dogs could han­dle things so she built her own sled, took around seven dogs and just got out there and did it.

We ar­rived at Mary’s house and were sur­prised when she came out to greet us in a wheel­chair.

She apol­o­gised for it and said she’d gone to An­chor­age to have a pin put in her an­kle but there wasn’t enough bone so they am­pu­tated her foot. It had only been a few weeks and she wasn’t used to her pros­thetic yet.

But she as­sured us that the next time we saw her she’d be walk­ing and mush­ing again.

She showed us around her gar­dens and then we met her dogs.

There were two five-week-old pups and we got to help her with the dogs for a while, in­clud­ing putting the pups out on the grass for the first time. We were in Heaven. Then we went in­side and sat and lis­tened to Mary tell sto­ries.

She was so mat­ter-of-fact about all the amaz­ing things she’d ac­com­plished. And her lit­tle log cabin was just beau­ti­ful.

She has vol­un­teers come in and give her a hand with her dogs but she’s fiercely in­de­pen­dent.

And given that she’s 72 that’s pretty in­cred­i­ble.

We told her sto­ries of our own life­style block and the an­i­mals we love. She said she hadn’t been so en­ter­tained in ages.

We left Mary’s place with a re­newed sense of em­pow­er­ment.

Two months later I still feel like there’s not much I can’t ac­com­plish with hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion.


Kevin Pit­field, with Mary Shields. Kevin is hold­ing a five-week-old Husky puppy.

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