I could hardly believe it. An abandoned dog team in the middle of Alaska? I slowed my team to a halt and anchored my snow hook to the frozen trail. As I stepped past my lead dogs they looked as confused as me. Why is there a team stopped in the middle of the Iditarod Trail and not a soul around?
I didn't recognize the sled but I knew it had to be a race competitor. Nobody else would be out here – It was 20 below zero and about 2am. With each step I made the trail crunched under my feet. As my headlamp surveyed the situation I could see two big problems. There on the sled bag lay an empty fifth of whisky and there were boot tracks that led away from the team and down the trail. I followed the tracks for a short bit and decided to return and use my own team to give chase.
I hustled back to my team, pulled the hook and gave my lead dogs the command. We swung wide around the sleeping, abandoned dog team and headed down the trail. Within a quarter mile I could see a dark mass crumpled up in the trail. I knew it had to be the musher and I feared he was dead.
Just as my team approached the crumpled mass rose to his feet and started shouting "my team, my team"! As I slid along-side the musher I was glad there were no open flames. Isaac Okleasik was bleary eyed, confused, and coming off a big drunk in the worst elements. There were only a handful of Alaskans who could survive the those elements in his condition and Isaac was one. He had gotten so drunk and confused that he had walked away from his team and had no clue where they were.
Isaac was disappointed to find out that it was my team but he slapped me on the back and was glad to know where to find his four legged friends. Isaac told me he'd be alright and convinced me to go ahead. He made it to the next check point but didn't complete the race – He couldn't stay sober. Sad to say, Isaac didn't finish well in life either. And Isaac had so much potential!
I've thought a lot about that strange cold night in 1979. It compels me to this day. See, there's a window of time in everyone's life when they're sober minded just long enough to escape their addictions or their wanderings. Everyone has that moment when the ladder they're climbing, the stuff they're buying, or the substance they're using comes to a brief stop – A short window of time that hauntingly reveals there must be more.
We live in an intoxicated world. Yes, we were intoxicated in our own sin and can even return to try it again at times. But it's in the windows/moments of sobriety that we have a chance to tell all people about a loving God who fills us up and the well that never runs dry.
Drink deeply of God, catch people when they're sober, and give em' a taste of Jesus.