ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby JeanieB » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:46 am

Hi Norma and Joe,
I am delighted that you are 'joining us' and to get to ask some questions I have been wondering about. I have talked with you on FB (Lois Horne is my 'real name'). I am sad that on my 2 trips to Alaska that I never made it to Skwentna - I was hoping to make it on my next trip - alas.....

You two have been such important contributors to the Iditarod, I am wondering how you plan to follow the race once you are away from 'the trail'?

What will you miss the most? The least?

Who is the most interesting character you have met in these years living in the bush?

I have a million more, but I'll stop for now.
Thanks so much for doing this, and hope you will stay on with our BSSD buddies!
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby fladogfan » Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:38 pm

Thanks for your answer Norma. It will be hard for Joe to leave there :( for you too I guess. I hope you find just the right place for you both.

Is Skwenta a tourist destination in the summer?
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Moose » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:20 pm

Hudson is about a three-hour drive northeast of here (Sebago, ME). An "old dog woman" friend lives up in that area, but I don't get there often enough. As I get older, it seems there are fewer hours in the day, fewer days in the week. . .just not enough time to do everything we want to do. (Sigh.) I chuckled at your story of moving to California from Montreal and the questions and comments you received. It's funny what people will perceive about an area they've never visited. My husband and I grew up in the Washington, DC, area. Five years ago we went back for his mom's 80th birthday celebration. That night I got together with some friends from high school I hadn't seen in many years. One of them wrinkled her nose up like she smelled something offensive and asked, "What do you eat in Maine?" Huh? Well, we do have real grocery stores! :shock:

No doubt life in Skwentna leading up to and during Iditarod is absolutely crazy. Can you share a bit of what life is like the rest of the year?

Thanks, Norma. It's good to have you here. :D

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Ravenne » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:24 pm

emwcee wrote:Hi Norma,

I'm curious to know what life is like living off the road system. I'm a city girl through and through. I love to be able to walk to the nearby dairy store to get milk and eggs, and to go visit coffeeshops and participate in varied community activities on the weekends. I can't imagine even living in the country, let alone off the road system. How often do you get visitors? How often do you get to town, and what are the main means of transportation for getting to and from your place? What happens if you get sick and need to see the doctor?

What are the joys and rewards of living in Skwentna?

That's my curiosity as well. To further expand on it, I'm curious as to how those who live in the bush are able to to afford necessities. I understand hunting is a huge part of rural Alaskan life but what about things you cannot hunt for?

Thank you, Norma, for taking the time to answer our questions!
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby sc-race-fan » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:55 am

Thanks for joining us. I moved to North Carolina to be closer to the grandkids, but became interested in the race when Sonny King, a South Carolina Vet began running the race, after being a race vet for a number of years. Even in the few years I've been following the race, I see changes happening every year, so I can't imagine all of the transition over the years you have been involved. Your comment regarding the thanking of the old timers, "...Your dreams may not have been possible" is one I will always remember. Sometimes it is so easy to forget those who came before to blaze the trail.

Having been the post office point in Skwenta for all those years, I'm also sure you and Joe will not be happy unless you find a place where you will continue to have daily connections with your "new neighbors and friends". You may not want folks so close they can hear you snore, but I believe you and Joe are not hermits who want to be left alone. Now my question: have you set your schedule to a calendar over the years, or do the seasonal changes guide your activities?

When I see your pictures posted here, I just smile knowing you and Joe are contented and happy with your life choices and will continue to be. Thanks again for being available to answer questions from dog mushing fans around the world.
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby runaway_sibe » Sun Nov 13, 2011 1:52 pm

Hi Horma.
You know me as Gaby Nieva Paredes on facebook.
I'm a mexican girl, like you understand, is a lot far away from Alaska, but I love dogs and all about mushing since I own my vey own siberian husky girl, Nicky, 15 years ago. She passed away in 2009. So please, sorry if my english is not perfect, is not my native language.

First, let me tell you that its a honor to have you here in the forum. We always listen great stories about the mushers, but with out people like you, and the volunteers, mushing competitions couldn't be possible. I like a lot all the pictures of Joe and Norma, you look so sweet and, very important, so happy. I guess that you got what I call the dream of every girl: a life partner to live and to grow old with. Congratulations for that! And to live in Alaska, wow, I want to be you when I grow old! ;)

I'm not going to ask what drives you to live on a Iditarod's checkpoint, because it seems that everybody is asking you that. So my first question is: how do you handle the technology? I'm a college teacher who teachs all about information technology, and in Latin America is a bit trouble to achieve that people from other generations use computers, the internet, even a mobile phone. But here I found a great woman, with a facebook account; so that's why I'm asking you this: are you using the technology because you want it or because you have to? is is easy for you? I'm trying to teach my mom to use the computer, but she doesn't want it.

Another question: do you have any particular story about your first Iditarod race on Skwentna? what where your first impressions about the Iditarod? do you like it?
Have you ever tried to predict the winner just because the way they look on their pass throught Skwentna? Do you have a favorite musher?

An finally, I know that you and your husband are going to move from Skwentna, what are you going to miss more of the Iditarod?
Well, I don't want to overwhelm you with a lot of questions, I hope you'll be ok, and well, you're invited to travel to México anytime you want! I know is going to be much more hotter than Alaska, but its ok, and it will be an honor for me.

Stay safe, and thanks a lot for doing this!

A big hug from México! :D
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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:26 pm

Hi Gabby:

For so many years, we didn't even have a telephone. We had to laugh when what we did get finally was what they called "push-to-talk". Worked just like a CB and we could all listen in on each other's calls. While there was absolutely no privacy, we all knew each other and everyone knew the rest were listening. After all, it was our day's entertainment! :) It was run by battery and heaven help the husband who didn't have a fully charged battery at the ready!! We could also answer each other's phone so often I'd get a call from someone asking me to answer and then I'd work the phone and the CB and the caller never knew there was a third party involved. Fun memories. Now our phone is private and they can be run by battery or electricity but with no telephone poles, we have an antenna. Service is good but you have to talk the same way as you do on a CB. We had no Internet service until one got Starband, a satellite dish required. Now pretty much every house has it albeit it is expensive...but I always say I don't go out to dinner or a movie, I need to have some entertainment! We also have Dish TV, so we pretty much are up with the rest of the world. Heck I even have a smart phone now! I am not computer literate because everything I do know, I've had to learn myself and I do get into problems almost daily.

I came here in 1982. In February of 1983, Joe said I might want to start taking down some of my nic-nacs so they didn't get broken or stolen during the Iditarod. I had no idea what that was and when I found out my home was going to be invaded by a bunch of dog mushers I was really taken back! I packed up the whole house and moved all the boxes to our bedroom. I was told that Steve and Louise would be down to help get the mushers thru. I was terrified. Louise had baked dozens of cinnamon buns and the neighbors started bringing in cookies and cakes for the mushers, the dog drops arrived and were laid out on the river and mostly I hid out. Most of the community people were also here when the mushers started coming, handing out treats and coffee. My most vivid memory of that first race was Col. Vaughn came to me and said since I was such a gracious hostess (ahem) he was giving me a dog. I got really excited because our daughter Christine was running Jr. Iditarod then and after all, this would be an Iditarod dog! He handed me a card, with a picture of a dog on it that he had signed...and that was to be MY dog! We all got a good laugh out of that one when I admitted I was expecting a real dog!! :)

In my early years, I met the "young" Susan, Rick, DeeDee, Sue Firmin, Cowboy Smith and all the others. We have remained good friends over the years and I feel that I am Blessed to know them all. I don't have a favorite because I admire them all so much. I was also happy to be around when the Rick/Susan thing was going on. We are asked all the time to sponsor a musher, but we feel like that would be unfair and so we feed them, sleep them and help them all we can while they are here and that's our sponsorship. Hope that doesn't sound snooty.

The thing I am going to miss most is seeing the mushers but more than that, our house and river crew number somewhere around 37 people each year. They have all become family and while Joe and I haven't really been involved in the running of the checkpoint since the 25th running, we love these people and will miss not being here.

Here's a scoop for you all too. The Skwentna Checkpoint will remain here for 2012. Cyndy and Todd have spoken to the ITC and vowed to do it out of tents on the river if they had to, and I spoke to Mark Nordman last week, promising no matter what with the property, they will be free to use the building for their checkpoint. :)

Thanks for taking the time to write and big hugs back!

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby MelanieGouldFanBrian » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:30 pm

Hi Norma.
Brian here.

First, I just want to ask how Joe is doing? And send him best wishes from ALL OF US here.
Second, thanks for your years of great Iditarod service at the Skwentna checkpoint, and for joining us here to tell us about them.

Okay, my questions are:
1. What is the funniest thing that ever happened at the Skwentna checkpoint during the Iditarod and who was involved?

2. Who were, or still are, some of the mushing 'characters' of the Iditarod over the years? Any stories you can share?

3. Any retired mushers that you especially miss seeing at the Checkpoint these days?

It's certainly great that you are taking the time to do this with us Norma.

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:08 pm

Hi Brian:

Taking a day off work! YAY ME! Joe isn't doing so well but he remains happy and busy "piddling". :) It has been our great pleasure to keep the race going thru this checkpoint for all the years.

The most fun we had here was truly a work of art. When the race used to start on 4th Ave and keep coming on the same day, mushers got here really early in the morning hours on Sunday. We had be chosen to give away a Dodge truck here and all the the big wigs from Dodge had come to Alaska for the occasion. I don't remember how many we fed that night because we had them, a ton of media, officials, etc. After dinner, I noticed that the Sweeties were acting a big funny, up and down the stairs and asking me for some strange stuff. I am the worst at keeping a straight face, so they decided not to include me in the plans, but finally came to me and said, "Keep looking out this window. When you see a headlamp flash 3 times, you say 'Here comes a team!" With that, they all put on their winter clothes and left! Tom Cooley, our Vet had brought up a beat up old sled that he left here for the kids at Yentna Station and when I saw the sled taken away, I got the message loud and clear. Dodge had spent all day setting up lights on the river, making a red line across, and I guess it was just too tempting for the crew. About 9:30, I saw the hits on the headlamp and said, "Looks like a team coming in!" Anyone thinking would have known that couldn't be but Joe and Rob, our checkers led the pack outside to greet them. Meantime, 3 snowmachines came up the sandbar across and the Sweeties aborted what they had up their sleeves. Then again, 3 hits on the headlamp. Chn 2 and I decided to go down and watch what was about to unfold. I could hear Joe yell to Rob "Go meet them and let them know they have to cross the red line in order to get the truck". Rob started running towards the team and he could see that the team had on foot gear attached to human legs. He quickly turned his headlamp on and let the team come in. All the Sweeties had tied themselves to the old sled, had Zach, a young kid, on as their musher and they came in barking and yapping with signs tied all over the sled and themselves. They got here and staged a dog fight and Dodge got into the spirit of the thing and presented Zach with the keys to the truck. Everyone just had a field day down on the river laughing and marveling at how they had all been suckered so early in the evening. Unfortunately, no one got any video of this!! Lance was manning our camera but had the cap on the viewer! We have all the sounds...just no pictures. In the video you hear Cyndy yell, "Lance! The lens cap is on!" and then you hear..."Oh sh..!" Was quite a night.

In truth, the mushers are all characters! They are all good friends and tease each other mercilessly. One night, Susan laid down between Cowboy Smith and Rick Swenson and from the corner came "Oh look! A Susan sandwich!" They kept things going all the time. Today the rookies haven't caught on that they can come in and act up, so they are pretty quiet and polite. :) Back then it seemed like anything went! I always say that my favorite races were those in the early years and I miss those days. The Iditarod Air Force would land on the river and come up for lunch. They all had Iditarod pins and I would steal them. Got to be they expected that and I ended up with quite a pin collection. One pilot said, "Well, I'd leave for another load but Norma didn't get my pin yet!" Didn't take me long!! :)

Of course the one we miss most is Susan. She was such a good friend to both of us. Then about 4 years ago, David began to come in her stead. We cried together and then it seemed like we avoided all talk of Susan with him. Two years ago, he and I were sitting at the table and he said, "Every time I'm here, do you know what I think of?" "Yep! You think of Susan and Joe sitting on the couch crying in each other's arms when she had to scratch!" After that. Susan was included in our talks. My most favorite time is when we can get David to speak of his own Iditarods and his memories of the trail. People tend to forget he was a musher in his own right and he's not just Mr. Susan Butcher. Just love him!

Hope this helps and I hope I'm not being too wordy! I write like I talk and often it takes many words. :)

Thanks for asking.

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Re: ASK THE CHECKERS: Joe and Norma Delia (Starts Nov. 11)

Postby Norma » Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:01 pm

Hi Marcia:

Life in the Bush. Until I turned 40, I was always a city gal, involved in PTA, Little League, could shop with the best of them, Church activities etc and yet, my favorite times during those years was going camping or to the country. I was married for 26 years and we had gone on a 25,000 mile trip around the US in a travel trailer. When we got back, I had had enough and ran away to Alaska. After I met Joe, he invited me to come for a visit and when we got here, I felt like I had been on a long trip home and found my best friend waiting for me. It was amazing. I still get teased when I say that Joe is my very best gift to me. :)

When I came, it was absolutely a bachelor's pad, altho he had 2 teen-aged kids. There was indoor/outdoor carpet on the floor and a carpet sweeper! Remember those? Bear hides on the walls. The PO was in a quarter of the downstairs and people would come at all times day or night. Groceries were ordered thru the mail but I never got the hang of that. Everything came by the case so I was spending a thousand dollars and had no variety of anything. I had never flown in a small bush plane but now I found myself flying into town and getting the groceries I wanted and using that time to visit. We had no running water except what Joe ran for out of the river, altho we had an indoor bathroom that worked, no electricity, propane lights, no refrigerator, a wringer washer and a clothesline. When I told my Dad we were getting married his comment was..."Why would you want to live such a hard life?" In time, we had all of the conveniences of town but generated our own power, had a well and running water, phones, Internet, Dish TV., etc.

I would go to town about 4 times a year and come home with 2 chartered plane loads of supplies. Sometimes I would have the "run-out-ofs" sent out on the mail plane when we got low on some items. We had no food that didn't have to be cooked or baked and I even was baking bread there for a while. I had all day and it made me happy to take care of my new family. Joe worked for the Post Office but the hours were only for 4 hours a day and he could go off in the woods when he wanted to. I was living the dream. :)

To get medical help, we have to fly into town. Since I've been here we've only had one bad experience. Joe was cutting trees and his foot slipped. Chainsaw came down on his kneecap. I heard him outside yelling to bring him a band-aid. Unfortunately he was showing me his knee from the inside out! It was a dense fog day. Got him into the house and called a couple of neighbors to come sit with us while I tried to find a plane that would come pick him up. This was about 10:00 a.m. and when we finally got a plane in, it was 3:30. The Dr kept calling to see if it was bleeding but apparently the saw cauterized it so it wasn't. A Medivac finally came and good job there was a nurse on board. By the time Dave and Steve got him to the runway, he was bleeding badly and they were able to stabilize him. Was funny because the nurse was a friend of ours, who knew that as soon as they patched the knee up, Joe would want to head home. He told the Drs to get lost for a couple of days. :) Finally I called him one morning and his PT lady said Joe had been offering her money to get him out of there. I said I would double the amount to keep him until he safely could travel. We all got a laugh out of that!

This area is made up of fishing/hunting lodges and there are 3 paying positions now that the school is reporter, runway maintenance and the PO. In summer, fish and garden produce is canned for a winter's supply, along with berries found locally. Moose, bear and beaver can be found for winter as well, so everyone takes advantage of the short summer season to prepare for the long dark winters. The women do a lot of knitting and sewing in the winter and some make fur items that they take in to sell at the Christmas fairs, and some of the men trap to get some much needed cash. The life is not easy...well, except for me. I don't do any of the above and my only claim to fame is hooking rugs. Of course, that made the ladies testy when they'd sit around the table knitting and I'd move their stuff to slap my rug up on it. :) No talent Norma.

Can't think of much else. Hope it gives you a sense of my life. Life here is at a much slower pace and I'm going to miss it when we move. Stress out here is at a minimum. Believe it or not, my last trip to town was in October, 2010. Thank God for kids who don't mind shopping for us!!

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