“I came to Alaska as a butcher, the old guys who used to cut meat,” Howard Farley told a captivated audience at the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome. “Dog mushers liked butchers in those days because butchers always had lots of meat scraps.”
As he told his tales from the trail, it didn’t take long for people listening to realize Farley is a great storyteller, sharing his adventure of the first Iditarod in 1973 when it took him nine hours to make it to the first checkpoint in Knik.
He recounted a conversation between himself and the wife of Joe Redington, Sr.
“I says, ‘Where is everybody?’ She says “They’re all gone.’ ‘What am I supposed to do now?’” Farley laughed.
“I’ll make you a stack of pancakes and we’ll worry about it later,” Vi told him.
Farley worked with Redington, Sr. to start the inaugural Iditarod race. At first, they planned to go from Anchorage to Iditarod and back. Then Farley said he suggested going from Anchorage to Nome.
They came into Anchorage to get the support of the mushers and the assembly.
“They were all, ‘You guys were crazy, you guys were nuts, you can’t do this,’” Farley said. “Well anyway, we put the word out.”
Nome had been his home long before the Iditarod started. Farley said seeing people lined up to greet the mushers reminds him of why the race finishes on Front Street.
“Joe invented the race, but I brought it to Nome,” he chuckled. “It was a little selfish on my part because what a better place to have it than a historical place like Nome, that has a history of it’s own.”
Mitch Seavey shattered the record this year, finishing in a little more than eight days. Farley’s first and only race took him 31 days, 11 hours and 59 minutes.
He said he and a dozen other mushers finished around the same time and headed to the town hall for the first musher’s banquet.
“We had over 300 people packed in, the whole town packed in because Farley finally made it,” he laughed.
There are an elite few who can call themselves Iditarod veterans and Farley says each musher who crosses that finish line is a hero