Scotty Allan’s Legendary Leader
A chapter from Along Alaskan Trails, Adventures in Sled Dog History
In Esther Birdsall Darling’s classic book, Baldy of Nome, a story is told of a driverless dog team in the 60-mile-long Solomon Derby, a race between Nome and Solomon along the coast of the Bering Sea. The young leader of the team, realizing his driver is missing, turns the team around and returns along the trail, searching…
“Far away in the whiteness, Baldy saw a black spot toward which he sped with mad impatience. It grew more and more distinct, till, beside it, he saw that it was his master, lying pale, motionless and blood-stained in the trail. From a deep gash on his head a crimson stream oozed and froze, matting his hair and the fur on his parka. Baldy stopped short, quivering with an unknown dread. There was something terrifying in the tense body, so still, so mute. He licked the pallid face, the cold hands, and placed a gentle paw upon the man’s breast, scratching softly to see if he could not gain some response. There was no answer to his loving appeal; and throwing back his head, there broke from him the weird, wild wail of the Malamute, his inheritance from some wolf ancestor. The other dogs joined the mournful chorus, and then, as it died away, he tried again and again to rouse his silent master. Moment after moment passed, the time seemed endless; but finally the warm tongue and the insistent paw did their work; for there was a slight movement, a flicker of the eyelids, and then Scotty lifted himself upon his elbow and spoke to them.”The incident is based on an actual event, when Scotty, leaning over his sled to look at a broken runner, hit his head on an iron trail marker and was knocked unconscious. Scotty Allan’s team, with Baldy in the lead, went on to win the race, and Baldy’s rescue made him a hero. The story is even more remarkable because Scotty Allan’s regular lead dog, named Kid, had passed away only the evening before the race, and Baldy, who had never led in a race before, had been selected to take his place.
Allan Alexander Allan, who’d been known as Scotty since he was a lad, had set out for the Klondike goldfields and found work moving supplies over the dangerous trails to the mining camps, earning a reputation in the Dawson area as a top notch dog driver. When gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, Scotty, like many others, traveled down the frozen Yukon River some 1,200 miles to the new goldfields. Scotty Allan didn’t strike it rich in Nome, so he focused on his specialty, training dogs. He took in dogs others didn’t want and trained them to race, and he said, “Dogs are the most intuitive creatures alive. They take the disposition of their driver. That is why I never let my dogs know that I am tired. At the end of the day…, I sing to the little chaps and whistle so they always reach the end of the trail with their tails up and waving.”
In 1907, the dog drivers in Nome banded together to form the Nome Kennel Club to improve the care and breeding of sled dogs. Around this same time Scotty reputedly purchased a sled dog named Baldy from a young boy who could no longer afford to care for him. As Scotty wrote in his autobiography, Gold, Men and Dogs, he was one of the founders of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, the first organized sled dog race, which ran from Nome to Candle, a distance of 408 miles, from the shore of the Bering Sea to the shore of the Arctic Ocean
The first All Alaska Sweepstakes race took five days to finish and was won by John Hegness. The next year Scotty Allan and Baldy took first place, repeating the win again in 1911 and 1912, and they placed in the top three a total of eight times. In five other races, they finished either second or third, and they became famous beyond Alaska, all across the United States. Their race entries were followed and reported in national newspapers such as The New York Times.
As Allan and Baldy gained fame, Allan partnered with his sponsor, Esther Birdsall Darling, to form the Allan and Darling Kennel, which became one of the best-known racing kennels in Alaska. Allan’s dogs were so well known that when the United States entered World War I, the government commissioned dogs from the Allan and Darling Kennel to haul supplies for the French military. Twenty-eight of Baldy’s sons and grandsons were chosen, bringing the total dogs from Nome to over 100. When they were ready to leave Nome, the whole group of dogs were put on a single 350 ft. gangline, and Scotty Allan’s lead dog Spot led the 106-dog team through the streets of town to board the waiting ship.
Scotty Allan would go on to be elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1917 and 1919, and Admiral Richard Byrd sought out Scotty to train the dogs for Byrd’s 1928 Antarctica Expedition. Scotty and his family moved to California prior to the 1925 Diphtheria Epidemic in Nome, which resulted in the famous Serum Run. They took the venerable old leader Baldy with them, and the famous sled dog lived out the remainder of his days in the warm California sunshine.
On April, 15th, 1922 The New York Times reported Baldy’s death to their readers: “Berkeley, Cal., April 14.– Baldy of Nome, famed for the races he won in Alaska, his heroic deeds that have been twenty-eight Malamute sons and grand-put in prose and verse, and for the sons he gave to France for the World War, was buried here today. He died in a dog hospital of old age and his final resting place is under the rose-bushes in the garden of ‘Scotty’ Allan, whose life he once saved. Baldy was 15 years old. He was two years old when Allan ‘mushed’ him through the first of his seven races for the All-Alaska Sweepstakes of 418 miles. With Baldy as the leader, Allan was brought in winner six times.” ~•~
More about Scotty Allan:
LitSite Alaska – Mushing Legend “Scotty” Allan
Baldy of Nome – download the book or read online
Along Alaskan Trails, Adventures in Sled Dog History (this article is a chapter from the book)