Cures what ails you

Posted: Thursday, March 08, 2001

NIKOLAI, Alaska -- Forget the pink stuff.

Veteran musher Charlie Boulding swears by rotten fish to settle upset stomachs along the Iditarod Trail.

Boulding said his dogs began vomiting after he fed them a bad batch of food. That's when he reached for his tried and true remedy.

''Smell this,'' he said, as he opened a large bag of rotten fish, also referred to as sour fish. He tossed chunks of frozen rotten fish to his dogs, and they were readily gobbled up.

''See, they feel better already.''

Boulding said his dogs became ill after he fed them some freeze-dried dog food that had gotten wet. The rotten fish works because it contains good bacteria that works on the bad bacteria, Boulding says.

The musher from Manley is a true believer. He's eaten rotten fish himself.

''It's good,'' he said.

Years ago, he was competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and was at a checkpoint snacking on some rotten fish when one of the volunteers spotted him. She came up and tenderly informed him that they had good food for the mushers inside the lodge and he was welcome to it, he said, laughing at the memory.

Boulding, 58, has a full gray beard and likes to wear his hair in two long, skinny braids. When asked why at his age he would want to run dogs 1,100 miles across the Alaska wilderness, he has a practical response.

''I got to pay the bills. This is what I do for a living.''

The race this year has a $550,000 purse. The first-place finisher gets $62,857 and a new quad-cab pickup truck.

Boulding was born in North Carolina and moved from Montana to Alaska in 1983 to be a dog musher. He's competing in his ninth Iditarod and has placed in the top 10 every year but twice, and even tenth place pays $22,000. Boulding finished fifth last year. The fifth finisher this year will have a payday of $35,619.

It took about a day before the rotten fish worked its wonders and his team started running like they should, Boulding said.

''It perked them right up,'' he said.

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