Martin Early is a Kiwi, from a farming community south of Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. Martin Early has had a fascination with the “north” that started with a book, Pierre Bear, the Greatest Hunter of the North, that was read to him as a child. Growing up in New Zealand, he tracked possums, imagining he was in Alaska.
The fascination remained with him as he grew older and he imagined an adventure to Canada, and up to Alaska. But life happened, family, business and the adventure was set aside. Until one day, in 2008 he saw a documentary about dog mushing. Lance Mackey, Jeff King and Martin Buser, “I remember those three figures distinctly and the 2008 Iditarod,” re recalled.
Since then, dog mushing, and the north of Alaska has always been in the back of Martin’s mind. That and his innate sense of adventure. By then Martin had a well established farming business that afforded he and his wife the opportunity to travel. So three years ago they took their first trip to the Yukon and Alaska. After that trip, Martin decided it was time to make a change. They ended up selling the New Zealand business, and came back to the US, last summer, this time taking a trip up the west coast, and ending up back in Alaska.
It was at this point, that Martin, still with dog mushing….the Iditarod, top of mind, knew he needed to seek out someone with experience, the top people in the dog mushing world. He’d done his research, still not knowing what this vision of himself dog mushing would look like. “But what I do know, if you don’t give it a go, you won’t ever get there.”
It wasn’t by accident that he met the renowned Jeff King at Husky Homestead, taking his last tour of the summer season. He’d read Jeff’s book about the Iditarod twice and brought his copy from New Zealand, and naturally, got King to sign it. Then, boldly, said, to King, “Hey, do you think a middle aged guy from New Zealand could do the Iditarod?” “Possibly, could do,” replied King.
What then happened is how Martin happens to be a handler for Sean Underwood, one of Husky Homestead’s teams in this years’ YQ300. Upon returning home from his Alaska trip he emailed King asking if he could come back to see what he could learn. King invited him to come back, and Martin is now back in Alaska, working for Husky Homestead, learning what he can from his handlers and Jeff himself. King has had Martin jump right him, having him handle for Jeff at this years’ Kuskokwim 300, in which King placed third.
“I’ve seen a lot in a very short time, and it’s been great sitting in the truck with Jeff,” Martin said. “I don’t know what the next step is going to be,” he added. It will be one step at a time for Martin in his quest to learn the rules of the mushing game, and most certainly, it’s been life changing. He feels very lucky to have the support of his wife, who will be joining him in Alaska for the latter part of his two-month stay.
Martin is hopeful to learn as much as he can under Jeff’s tutelage, including some real sledding, and possibly even an Iditarod qualifier sometime this year!
While Martin doesn’t know where this journey will take him, this middle aged Kiwi, is living his childhood dream.
Martin Early (L) with Jeff King (R)