Updated: Sep 9, 2022
With the passing of the great Lance Mackey, I see lots of folks sharing their stories about him. And there are a great many folks with greater stories to tell of him than mine- but I'd like to share mine as a way of memorializing him today.
In 2010 After losing a son, a career, my best friend drowning in the lake near our home, and then ultimately my marriage, my kennel in the divorce- I was looking for a new direction for my life. I'd lost my spiritual compass was being tossed about by every wind.
Soon after my divorce, I applied for a musher/handler job with Mitchell B. Seavey and he'd offered me a job. I had lost pretty much my entire life, but I still knew dogs, knew mushing. But after some time and reflection I called Mitch back.
"No matter what way I slice it, I can't be a good dad from 3,000 miles away" I told Mitch, and thanked him for the opportunity.
Instead, I took a Kennel Manager job at a tour business in nearby and took my musical abilities into the bars on the weekends.
From there I took an environmental consulting job in Washington DC for a year.
When that contract ended I was at rock bottom. As far away from who I wanted to be than I ever dreamt. I was tired of playing music in honky tonks till 2 am every weekend. Tired of running from God. Tired of being so far from my family.
I had no idea what my next move would be. No idea. This is when Lance messaged me and asked me to give him a call- the call mentioned in this screenshot.
For over an hour he told me that he'd been unable to do as other champions had done- converting his fame into monetary stability. He needed someone familiar with tourism and writing grants etc to partner with him to help turn his fame into a profitable tourism business. Lance didnt offer me a job. He offered me an equal partnership!
We laughed about how many propositions he was getting from far flung women around the world- wanting to be his mamma/nurse after watching the documentary of his life- But that wasn't Lance- he was going to do it on his own. I shared my own stories about the antics of drunk ladies at my gigs. I shared that I'd just learned that I had possibly become a father, again, with a woman I wasn't with. He too had learned of a child he didnt know he had until after his championship wins. We had other things in common- debt, child support, alimonies, spousal support- it was paralyzing to us both.
We were both a train wreck. And we found comfort in that. In sharing our tomfooleries. It was nice to laugh about the mess that was my life with someone who was also not always as put together as he appeared to be.
So he offered me a partnership- we'd be perfect for one another- we thought! I know how to write grants and run a business. He… well he is freaking LANCE MACKEY! In return, he offered me half the business- and the path to becoming an Iditarod musher myself. He also offered to make sure I'd have two flights home to Maine a year to see my kids.
This seemed like the greatest chance of my life- I was unemployed in a strange city- do I go back to Maine and struggle to make ends meet or do I join forces with the great Lance Mackey and live the Alaskan Adventure?
I spent the week praying and every time I prayed I tried to talk God into letting me go to Alaska. Every time I prayed I got the same answer- go home, to your kids.
So I called Lance back and told him what Id told Mitch Seavey a few years earlier- being an absent father is not who I want to be. He agreed.
I thought the conversation would be over then. I'd wasted enough of his time. But it wasn't. Lance cared. he actually cared- and took the time to prove it. Lance talked to me for another hour, about who we were and who we wanted to be.
"Find a way to make a living close to your kids and build you kennel back." He encouraged me. "If you go back to Maine, don't just go back- build your mushing dream there, with your kids."
And that's exactly what I've done.
I think alot about what my life would have been like if I’d taken that offer of a partnership with Lance. But do I regret not taking it? It was hard. The day after I pulled into Maine my jeep was repossessed. I was homeless and without transportation. But when I see my family training sled dogs and racing and just hitting the long cold trails with me- I don't regret it. Not for a minute.
Its been a long, slow road- but I have a career, my wife and children around me, a small but growing kennel of 12 dogs, and a (older but) paid off jeep.
I'm doing exactly what the great Lance Mackey said I should do. I'm doing what he encouraged and inspired me to do in those two hours of phone conversations. And I think he is somewhere right now looking on- rooting me on.