The following was originally published in 1991 by The Western Producer, a Canadian agricultural publication. It was brought to the Times by Birch Island resident Shannon Allen, the daughter of the author Cecille Carroll. An editor’s note at the beginning of the two-part series reads: The following story details the dog sled trek of Sammy and Paddy Carroll through Canada and the United States during the Depression. It is retold by their daughter, Cecille Carroll. Here is part two, part one can be read on the Times website.
Sammy and Paddy Carroll were now halfway through their cross-country dog sled trek. They left Canada behind, crossing the border into the United States at Nouyes, Minn., on Nov. 17, 1936. The highway traffic was much thicker, and the places they visited much more populated. Automobile agencies began to pay them for spending time at their business, because the dog team drew thousands of people.
After a month of fairly easy going and considerably more change in their pockets, they reached Madison, Wis. The dogs had by now picked up on the euphoria of the event. They knew what a sensation they created wherever they went, and they loved the action and routine of being met by a police motorcycle escort outside big cities.
The pulling was easy on the tire-mounted sleigh, they could sense the excitement in the air and they were the basis of that melodrama.
In no time, these astute animals adapted remarkably well to heavy traffic. They obeyed on command and had complete confidence in their masters.
The animals gave the Carrolls few problems on the journey; one got loose and killed 20 chickens in half an hour in Saskatchewan. And another time, they took off after a gopher that had the temerity to run right under their noses. Any dog who dared to confront those noble beasts, masters at minding their own business, would be rapidly dispatched. Once or twice some small, feisty animal came up to Old Wolf, who would grab it in a lightning flash and throw it nonchalantly over his shoulder to the rest of the team.
These animals rapidly developed an uncanny sense of traffic, which Paddy said had averted many an accident; he was also convinced that the animals had a sixth sense. Old Wolf, in particular, had mastered the intrigues of traffic lights. He would stop when the light turned orange or red.
They mushed through Minnesota, visiting the twin cities there, meeting the mayors, being given the key to the cities and appearing for charitable organizations. The Minneapolis Star reported them being there by Nov. 17, 1936.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported their celebrated arrival in Madison on Friday, Dec. 18, 1936.
The Toledo Ohio News-Bee reports them being in that city by March 19, 1937. Pennsylvania was next and then on to Illinois, stopping in Chicago for a week where they attended a Red Cross rally with the child movie star Jane Withers.
The 24th of May say them in Baltimore, Md., and by the middle of June they had arrived in New Jersey. They then went on to Washington, D.C., and New York.
Spareribs gave birth to give puppies in Maryland. It was quite a task to take care of the puppies as they travelled, but they just stopped more often when it was feeding time.
The now-famous transcontinental dog team was featured on the front page of every newspaper en route. Word of their arrival preceded them at each city and town. Schools would be closed and people would throng around them by the hundreds.
On June 29, 1937, The New York Times wrote: “Keeping a family of six children supplied with shoes may seem like a hard job for some people, but it’s nothing compared to keeping a family of six Alaskan huskies in shoes. Since Mr. and Mrs. P.J. Carroll left their home near the Alaskan border, the team of six dogs has worn out 5,000 shoes.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Carroll drove into New York City late Saturday night via the Staten Island ferry. Mr. Carroll, tall, straight-booted, wearing a bright, mackinaw effect plaid flannel shirt, walked beside the sledge-cart, shouting directions to Wolf, the lead husky.”
“On the sled, hoisted on three rubber-tired wheels, sat Mrs. Carroll, a tall, well-built Canadian woman, with chestnut hair and cheek still delicate and pink from northern winters. Like her husband, she was dressed in trousers and shirt. But she confided she has a dress for special occasions. The huskies proved extremely gentle, despite the fact that there is one-eighth pure Alaskan buffalo wolf in their ancestry. They are heavy set, with the gentle dreaming eyes of the Newfoundland.”
“‘Any one of these dogs,’ said Mr. Carroll, can kill a deer unaided and has done so. A pair of them can kill a caribou, and they could snap off an ordinary police dog with one lick. ‘I have to keep the dogs away from them, that’s the only danger in the city. They won’t attack unless the other dog attacks first. Wolf here weighs 110 pounds.’”
A Staten Island, N.Y., newspaper reports the following on the front page on Friday, June 25, 1937: “Dog team pulling sled on wheels nears end of 5,000-mile journey from British Columbia. Canadian couple has first view of ocean from island.
“Paddy rolled a cigarette between his fingers, lit it leisurely, blew a cloud of smoke into the sunshine and squinted his eyes as he looked out over Wolfes Pond to where a flight of gulls was winging in form the Lower Bay. A man of middle-aged, dressed in a bright orange rodeo shirt and dark woolen breeches, he was a strange figure, sitting there in the grove of gum wood and pin-oak trees by the side of the little lake. He was a bit of the North Country transplanted to the fringe of the big city.
The incongruity of his being there was heightened by the presence of an odd contraption. An Alaskan dog sled, mounted on three pneumatic-tired wheels, with a pair of Hudson’s Bay snowshoes strapped to the side, and a team of six malamutes staked out in the underbrush.”
The Carrolls were treated royally throughout their stay in New York City, and Old Wolf, the lead dog, was elevated to the very top of the R.C.A. building and obligingly howled a real wolf-howl over the radio station there, giving the nation-wide listening audience a unique thrill.
It was a great day for the little northern cavalcade; no other dog had been allowed to the top of that austere building, which at that time was the world’s tallest structure. But then, Wolf had certainly earned a singular recognition and honour after such a heroic trip as the undisputed leader of the team.
By now the Carrolls had abandoned their initial plan to mush to Halifax. Enjoyable as the trip had been, it had taken its toll on the mushers and the dogs. Besides, the Carrolls had two young daughters, Patricia 11, and Cecille, 7, back in British Columbia, who they hadn’t seen for over a year and a half. It was a much anticipated family reunion.
Paddy staked some high-grade copper ore on Babine Lake in 1938, and he held onto the belief that one day there would be a big mine there. He would be 75 years old when the prognosis was finally realized. Granby Mining Corporation finally purchased his claims and also gave him shares in the company. Today, just as he had so long ago visualized, there is a high-grade copper ore mine there, and a nice, modern town called Granisle which overlooks the beautiful expanse of Lake Babine; a fitting tribute to a man of grand visions.