The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous celebrations of the Sixties had a magical feel about them. The Yukon hadn’t seen winter carnival celebrations since the late forties, so it was like a breath of fresh spring air when Rendezvous rolled around.
In a time before the Yukon Quest and other world-famous dog races that are now held in the Yukon, the Sourdough Rendezvous dog races were home spun affairs that saw the arrival in Whitehorse of old friends from the communities that we had not seen for a year.
In 1965, 40-year-old Babe Southwick of Destruction Bay brought her team to the Sourdough Rendezvous dog races. Babe was a member of the pioneer Dickson family from Kluane Lake. She added spark and color to an already lively event. Her father, Tom, came to the Yukon as a Mountie during the Klondike Gold Rush, married her mother Louise, then left the force to go trapping and raise a family. He was one of the Yukon 's first big-game outfitters. At the first musher’s meeting in 1965, Babe drew the #8 starting position. Then on Friday morning, the first of three days of racing, her well trained team disappeared down the Yukon River in a cloud of whirling snow, and made good time around the fifteen-mile trail.
After finishing the first day's race in the top five, she took care of her dogs and then retired to her hotel for a night of rest before day two of racing. Two hours later she was rushed to the Whitehorse General Hospital where she was pronounced dead of a heart attack. It was Friday, February 26, 1965. The news spread rapidly through Whitehorse and a pall hung over the Rendezvous festivities. The mushers met and decided to carry on with the races.
On day two, ten mushers lined up at the starting gate, each wearing a black arm band. Babe's racing number, eight, was withdrawn. Then her brother–in–law, Alex Van Bibber, took her Destruction Bay team around the course for the final two days of racing.
It would make a Hollywood ending to say that Alex led Babe's team to victory that year, but that honor went to a then-unknown musher from Carmacks, Wilfred Charlie. In the crowd watching the races that year was Andrew Snaddon, the editor of The Edmonton Journal.
Profoundly moved by Babe's death, Snaddon convinced the Journal to donate the BABE SOUTHWICK MEMORIAL TROPHY which is awarded to the team with the fastest lap of the three heats. And the number "8" remains retired from Sourdough Rendezvous dog sled races.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Sourdough Rendezvous