Below are excerpts from a story by Minneapolis Star writer and columnist Jim Klobuchar, who wrote extensively about Jerry Pushcar’s New Orleans-to-Nome odyssey. Below is from the Nov. 16, 1977, report on Pushcar’s final push, in which he was stranded for days on a little cape:
“He trudged the gravel road into Nome, Alaska, like some northwoods Johnny Appleseed, bearing the scents and burrs of thousands of solitary miles.
Residents gaped, an attitude afforded few visitors to Nome. It is a place scoured by arctic wind, a rude little enclave of humanity between the tundra and the polar sea. Not many visitors impress Nome.
People come to Nome — some of them reluctantly — by plane or by a boat. They don’t normally canoe 9,000 miles from New Orleans to get there, or walk the last 250 miles over cliffs, ocean-bay ice, tundra, and three feet of snow.
‘We thought you were dead,’ a beared house painter told Jerry Pushcar at the bar of a town saloon where the 27-year-old wanderer from Biwabik, Minn., was toasted with the Nome version of the champagne special: A double boilermaker — two shots of brandy and a beer.
A month ago, an Alaska newspaper published a report that Pushcar was feared lost at sea in the hours before the winter freeze locked the waters of Norton Sound.
The report, Pushcar acknowledged, was not far from the truth.
On the last full day of his three-year transcontinental canoe journey from the Gulf coast to the Bering Sea, he went for an enforced swim among the ice floes, wearing only his wool underwear. ...
... With the sea frozen and his canoe immobilized, there were still 250 miles of swamp, tundra and 3,000-foot hills between the inquisitive man and his destination.
‘I don’t know what choice I had, why you come to think of it. That uninhabitated cape on the frozen ocean was a helluva place to spend the winter unless you happen to be a walrus.’ ...
... After three weeks on the tundra, Pushcar walked into Nome, a prepackaged celebrity.