The Hero Dog...


"One morning the world woke up and there was no news."

Oscar Williams

baltobaltoFor sustained, paper-selling interest, two stories would use up more space during 1925 than the Scopes trial.

When most of the Eskimos in the ice-bound town of Nome caught diphtheria, a half-breed malamute named Balto became the hero. The nearest railhead was 655 miles away in Nenana, and the way was lined with an 80-mile-an-hour blizzard, blinding snow and 50 below zero temperatures. Several dog-sled teams started out for Nome with life-saving serums, but the only team to make it all the way was led by the indomitable Balto. Gunnar Kaasen, the man behind the reins was all but forgotten as the story unfolded. Indeed, Kaasen confessed that he had run out of steam as the perilous journey neared its end. He said Balto made the final push without any encouragement. He wanted Balto to have all the glory. And Balto did; his star hung so high in the heavens that it made Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart look like movie dogs, which they were.

. . . And the Man in the Cave

collinsFloyd Collins had to get stuck underground to push Balto off of Page One. A rock fall pinned the thirty-eight-year-old Kentuckian 125 feet down in a sand cave near Cave City, Kentucky, on January 30. His cries were heard by passing hillmen the next morning but he was eight hundred feet from the tunnel entrance and there appeared to be no way to get to him. William B. (Skeets) Miller, a skinny reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal,collins wriggled into the treacherous hole, called Crystal Cave, and interviewed Collins, and pretty soon newspapers everywhere were rushing correspondents to the scene. Then, while the wires hummed, an assortment of experts squabbled outside the cave over a means of rescue. They never did quite agree, and Collins' ordeal went on. On the eighteenth day, a rescue worker made his way to the unlucky man and found him dead. The body was left in the rocky mausoleum and there's a marker over it today.

Why did the plight of Floyd Collins draw such big headlines at a time when mine disasters involving scores of men often got stuck away on back pages? The answer was simple. In terms of human interest, it was a better story than an everyday explosion or dirt slide in a mine. It was one man's fight against Mother Nature. It was better than fiction and better than a movie script.

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