Hardman remembers Susan Butcher
Monday, August 7, 2006By ANDY KLEVORN
Daily News Staff Writer
Ludington musher Al Hardman was shocked and saddened when he heard the news of Susan Butcher’s death on Saturday.
“I couldn’t believe it. You look at somebody 51 years old and you don’t expect it,” he said.
Butcher, a four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, died Saturday in Seattle of leukemia.
“She put the Iditarod on the map, her duels with Rick Swenson were legendary,” Hardman said.
Hardman was having troubles getting his mushing career off the ground in 1996 when he bought two lead dogs, Luka and Feets, from Butcher.
“I was having all kinds of problems with leaders,” he said.
Those two dogs were the core of his rookie team in the Iditarod in 1997. He finished that race in 13 days and went on to finish the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome again in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Feets was on the team in 2000 and 2002.
Butcher visited with Hardman’s team on the starting line in Anchorage in 2000, and remembered Feets four years after she had sold him to Hardman.
Over the years Hardman always went back to Butcher for what turned out to be his best dogs.
Sackett, one of Hardman’s best dogs, came from Butcher’s kennel.
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Hardman said because she was out of racing competitively, she had the best dogs for sale.
“I thought she was really fair,” he said. Other top-name mushers are really getting rid of their worst dogs, Hardman said.
Hardman last saw Butcher in the summer of 2005 when he and his son-in-law Jim Conner went to buy more dogs in preparation for the 2006 racing season.
“We stayed at her house in Fairbanks, she seemed to be in really good spirits,” he said.
Hardman got to run a team of Butcher’s during that visit.
“I would have given a lot to have a team like that.”
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