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Random Thoughts from a Random Memory


By Edward Master


I have known Dennis (Butch) Alworth since 1961, the fall semester of seventh grade. I can still picture him standing in the bleachers on the north side of the Parker gym, along side Ned Barger and Penny Master (at best, a distant relative). Shortly thereafter, we ended up at the same table in Alan Bickel's wood shop class. I should have realized early on there was something different about a grown man (Bickel) wearing a short-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up over his biceps. Eventually, however, the future brought us Denny Klingensmith.

After surviving six years of high school (on three different campuses) Butch and I decided to matriculate at then Clarion State College (now Penn West U). We commuted together. John Novak (St. Petersburg) and Liz McCall (Parker) eventually rode along. We were a happy band. Butch and I shared an off-campus apartment for a couple months, but that didn't last. My folks moved to Lock Haven for dad's job and I returned to look after the house in Turkey City. I ended up teaching junior high science and Butch went into banking. I got married to my wife Eileen in August 1976; Butch hitched up with Roberta (Bert) in April 1973.

Unbeknownst to me, Butch came in contact with a Siberian Huskie in the mid 1970s. He picked up on the Huskie breed after the brother of his brother-in-law (Bill Brison) brought back a Huskie from Alaska. The saying is that you learn something new everyday. Well, not many days ago, I learned about my friend Butch raising and training Siberian Huskies to race.

Overall, Butch has raised three litters of Siberian Huskie pups. He hasn't raised the dogs to sell but to race. In Fall 2007 with the third litter of pups, he began his mushing career. For a year and a half he taught the dogs basic obedience and then sled-dog commands. He introduced them to sleds and dryland racing rigs as well as the associated gear with those races.



Butch Alworth and sled team in 2013

at Riverstone Farms.

 

He initiated competition in the six-dog purebread class with a sled in snow racing and with a three-wheeled rig in dryland racing. He Later raced with two dogs pulling a scooter. In their first-ever race the dogs finished in third place. Subsequently, the team earned two seconds and numerous firsts.

"When other mushers and spectators would congratulate me on winning races," said Alworth, "I always told them that I did not win the race, my dogs did. I was along for the ride!"

Alworth claims that his dogs are not the fastest dogs on the trail, but they are well trained. They never seem to miss a command, nor a turn, nor get tangled in the gangline (the harness/rope system holding the dogs together).

"I had a great team," said Alworth.

Alworth did have an advantage however. Dr. Arthur Steffee permitted Alworth to use his (Steffee's) equipment to formulate six miles of trails on his (Steffee's) 1,200-acre farm property (Riverstone). Alworth used that six miles to train and condition his dogs in preparation for the race season. He uses a 75-pound, 3-wheeled rig for conditioning, but races with a 25-pound rig in the fall and a lightweight sled in the winter events.

Alworth has raced in Salamanca, NY; Sinnamahon-ing, PA; Clarendon, PA (the Warren Co. Winterfest); Slippery Rock, PA (Coopers Lake); and Kirtland, OH. He raced for six years until the team was too old to run and, ultimately, began passing away. Alworth currently owns three Siberian Huskies, a senior female and two puppies.

Dr. Steffee has sold his property and unfortunately Alworth is now faced with finding new training grounds. But, when asked about his racing future,

Alworth calmly replied, "I'll be back."

Postscript on the dogs

I asked Butch about the Iditarod (originally set up to deliver medical supplies in Alaska) and he said that he couldn't imagine doing the 1000-mile race. I got to meet his two puppies when (wife) Bert and he brought them to my room for a quick visit. They were lovely dogs (I think the dogs knew I am an animal lover) and it was almost like pre-Covid visits from therapy animals.


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