THE SETTING OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN
I MARRIED THE KLONDIKE conclusion
As the last short summer waned, this schoolma'am turned - housewife had to say good-by to Dawson City - that strange "other world" where fashions and song hits were years late, where the front porch was the refrigerator and where she had spent twenty-five exciting years
The Highlights of Life in the Yukon Were All Crowded Into the Brief Happy Summer Season
LAURA BEATRICE BEATON
THERE WERE only two seasons that counted in the Klondike— summer and winter. Autumn and spring passed so swiftly that it was hard to say when they began or ended. Our lives were ordered by the seasonal cycle of first and last boat, break up and freeze up.
This was all second nature to us by now. 1 had been almost two decades in the Klondike. Frank, my husband, had been thirty years there. He had come to dig gold and had ended as a civil servant. I had come to teach kindergarten and was now a housewife. The north was our life and our habits were attuned to it. Nature was our master and we were prisoners of her rigid system.
Our seven months of winter confinement began the moment the final series of blasts from the whistle of the last boat floated across Dawson City. Then the dark days were upon us. In late November the sun disappeared and we did not see it again until mid-January. Now we lived in a sort of perpetual twilight. The children left for school by moonlight and returned in the pitch dark. The street lights went on at three-thirty in the afternoon and in the houses the lights burned most of the day.
In the very cold weather a thick fog settled over us. We could judge the temperature by its density. If the houses a short block away were invisible we knew it was forty below. If those half a block away were invisible it was fifty below. If Robert Service’s old cabin across the street was shrouded then it was fully sixty below zero. The temperature fluctuated with great suddenness. I have seen it drop from twenty above to fifty below within two days. The lowest official temperature was sixtynine below. One December the thermometer registered fifty below for an entire month.
Yet I can never remember the children staying home from school in the cold. They wore two pairs of heavy wool stockings under their felt boots and two pairs of mitts. Their heads were swathed in mufflers under their double toques and their coonskin coats were tied at the waist with a second muffler. They waddled off awkwardly to school looking like small woolly bears.
Forty below sounds cold, but oddly after a few weeks at fifty or sixty below when the thermometer’s spirits rose to forty, human spirits rose as well and the weather felt almost mild. We grew restive in our wrappings, loosened a scarf, unfastened a button or two and remarked that it felt like spring.
We could never quite keep the cold or frost out. It seemed an animate thing, creeping insidiously under the doors in a long white streak. Each nailhead in the strapping around the kitchen door was covered in a little coat of ice and the keyholes and knobs were always thick with frost. Our house was hermetically sealed as far as possible. Each fall we pasted every window with heavy paper so no breath of air could enter. My husband Frank had an ingenious arrangement over the bed consisting of a length of stovepipe stuck through the wall with a tight, hinged lid which could be opened by pulling on a rope to admit an icy blast.
We needed no refrigeration. Anything placed on the porch froze solidly. I made ice cream simply by mixing milk and flavoring and setting it outside. We kept a box of frozen blueberries out
there all winter. In addition we usually had a carcass of caribou. Frank would shoot it in the fall, bury it where it fell in the perpetually frozen subsoil, then dig it up after the first snowfall, haul it into town, butcher it and place it in a box on the porch between layers of snow.
Hardly a winter passed without some tragedy brought on by t he cold. Every season several men were missing in the hills. The following spring their corpses or skeletons would he found. One spring a man was found dead in Thomas Gulch on the hill above us, not more than a mile from our front door.
There was a curious tragedy at Gold Run, near Granville, one winter. A Mexican named Sam Tim had vanished without a trace after a hard-drinking bout. The mystery was not solved until the following spring when the snow melted. Sam Tim’s brother found him not far from his cabin encased in a solid block of ice staring out from this prison as if he were still alive. He had lain down in the snow and frozen to death. A spring of fresh water under the trail had frozen around him. Now here he was, staring out of the ice at the crowd that gathered, looking just as he had in life except for the slight distortion of his crystal prison.
The Yukon was ruthless in winter. Some men froze inside their own cabins because they would lie down in their bunks exhausted, the fire would go out and the cold would creep in and kill them. Occasionally the police would come upon a strange parka-clad figure standing stiffly in the snow unmoving. This would be the corpse of a man who, slowly freezing as he trudged the trail, finally stopped to knock his numbed feet together and wipe the ice from his stiffening eyeballs, only to find that he could no Continued on page 34 longer move on. And there he would remain, a grisly statue in the dusk.
The Setting of the Midnight Sun
CONTINUED FROM PACE 27
Christmas and New Year’s marked the peak of the winter season. In late December the town had a Christmagcard feeling to it, the snow crisp and glistening under the aurora, the air clear, and each evergreen outlined,in powdery white. All over the valley you could hear the tinkle of sleigh bells. Christmas had none of the slick commercialized atmosphere that it has on the Outside. We had no radios to deafen us with incessant carols and when we heard them in church on Sunday before the Yule they fell sweetly upon the ear. We cut our own tree from the hillside above and dragged it back through the deep snow in triumph. New Year’s Eve was marked by a lavish masked ball in the Arctic Brotherhood hall. The costumes were handmade and most elaborate. 1 remember I once went as an Eaton’s Christmas parcel, designed by Frank.
In the middle of January the first rays of the sun would peep tentatively over the hills and for a few moments a tiny sliver of light would fall on Fifth Avenue in the centre of town. With this gesture in the direction of far-off spring our spirits would rise and the sun’s progress across town would be the only subject of conversation for days. For the first time in two months people could see their shadows and more and more of us would venture onto the streets to see the tints of rose and gold on the white hilltops.
Winter gave way to summer with only a cursory nod at spring. Suddenly one day the snow would go soft and hundreds of frothing cascades would pour down from the hills. The ditches in town would fill to the brim with water. The low spots became ponds full of mosquito larvae and edged with snipe. The wild crocus would peer through the last snows. Finally the ice would move in the river. This, and the arrival of the first boat, marked the opening of summer.
The ice broke sometime during the first two weeks of May and this was accompanied by the wagering of thousands of dollars on the exact moment of its going. Every store and business establishment and office had a pool. The hospital had a pool and the school children had a pool and, of course, at our house my husband and I and our son and daughter had a pool, too. The news that the ice was moving flashed through the town like an electric current. Bells rang, whistles blew, dogs howled and whatever the hour the entire population hurried to the river to watch the spectacular sight. I remember one Sunday morning in church, the whistles blew. The minister swiftly cut short his sermon and we all rushed out. In the river the great cakes of ice, three to eight feet thick, were smashing and grinding against each other with the noise of a dozen express trains. Entire cakes would be hurled onto the banks piling into mountains that sometimes stood fifty feet high. Occasionally caribou could be seen clinging to the ice blocks and sometimes uprooted trees and the odd empty boat sailed by.
The opening of the river was a symbolic act of nature, akin to the breaking of bars on a prisoner’s cell. A short time later the first boat puffed in bringing the first fresh fruit we’d seen in months, a cheerful sight with its high plume of white smoke, its yellow stack and bright red paddle
wheel. From perpetual twilight WE now found ourselves bathed in thE perpetual daylight of the short but spectacular Klondike summer.
Because it never got dark, plants grew to enormous proportions. We had pansies four inches across, sweet-pea hedges ten feet high, and asters as big as chrysanthemums. The east side of our house each summer was covered with canary vine which ran over the roof. Frank measured its growth one day at five inches in twenty-four hours. All the annuals flowered swiftly but the perennials, except for delphiniums which survived the hardest winter, were another matter. We did raise fine Canterbury bells and hollyhocks but only by keeping them in the rootcellar from fall to spring.
Most of our seeds were planted in flats in March, from earth stored over the winter in the cellar. When the ice was out of the river they went into the garden. The vegetables grew as rapidly as the flowers. One of our neighbors grew a fifty-pound cabbage and we raised a cauliflower that weighed eleven pounds ready for the pot. Green peas flourished but beans wouldn’t grow at all. Our finest crop was spinach which we gathered by the bushel and bottled for winter use.
A Lunch from Nature
On t he hot summer days we roamed the hills searching for berries and these gypsy wanderings are among my happiest recollections. From the hilltops we could look onto a vast sea of windswept mountaintops billowing to the horizon—the glittering snowcapped Rockies to the east, the purple ranges of Alaska to the west. By midsummer the hills were thick with berries currants hanging in shiny clusters; raspberries ripe for eating and masses of cranberries. Later on, the blueberries hung so thickly that we used a box with sharp metal teeth to comb them from the shrubbery. When the season was on, the whole town took to the hills, each family slipping by devious trails to its own secret berry patch, the parents warning the children in stage whispers never, never to shout when picking or reveal by word or action the location of their private horde.
We had made a memorable trip in a poling boat four hundred miles down the Yukon and we were now hopelessly wcidded to the river, and Frank, who could build anything, built a boat. It. was a twenty-six-foot round-bottomed motor launch of his own design. He even soaked and bent the ribs himself. He named her Bluenose after his native Maritimes, clamped a Johnson Seahorse Twelve on her stern and launched her one bright June day. From then on we lived on the river in the summer.
At the beginning of each season we would scout the river above the town for a suitable island. This we claimed for our own and established a camp on it. As the silt of the islands shifted every season it was impossible to establish a permanent river camp but as there were plenty of islands we had no trouble finding one each June. Usually we chose one that had been partially under water in the spring floods for when the river dropped it would leave large warm pools behind that served as protected swimming areas. Once we established our camp nobody disturbed us. We could come and go as we pleased, doing and wearing what we wanted without interference. From this base, we could roam up and down the river through the innumerable sloughs and small tributaries.
The river was alive with animals in the summer, wolves and coyotes howling at night, lone moose standing dramatically against the sunset, caribou swimming against the current by the thousands and bears on the distant hillsides. Occasionally we saw huge grizzlies in the distance, rising on their haunches, the brown markings on their great flat faces easily visible at half a mile. One day a grizzly fell upon one of our river neighbors, an old prospector named Red MacDonald, and tore him to pieces. A woodcutter came upon the remains and barricaded them in the cabin until he could get help. But the bear tore down the barricades and devoured the rest of t he corpse leaving only the head rolling about on the floor.
Nature does everything on a huge scale in the Yukon and the caribou migrations across the river were proof of it. Toward fall they would run in gigantic herds on their seasonal trek from the barren lands. The paths of previous herds were easily discernible along the river banks for the caribou trampled everything before them. We could stre them plunging through the underbrush and scrambling up the steep banks from our vantage point on the river. As the fall progressed the entire river was pungent with the odor of decaying corpses where dying caribou injured by wolves or accidents or careless hunters lay rotting among the willows. One hot afternoon we drove the boat into the midst of several dozen caribou swimming in the river. We were so close that the children reached out and touched their velvet horns—a dangerous thing to do for they could easily have capsized the boat. There were some friends with movie cameras a few miles downstream and Frank rounded up the herd with the boat and drove t hem down.
Most of our excursions were made upriver for we didn’t relish the idea of a power failure below the town which would send us floating to Alaska. The one time we did venture downriver a cylinder gave out and we had to beach the boat at the Indian village of Moosehide and prepare to hike back over the hills to Dawson, in the late evening.
As we started through the sleeping village a dog began to howl, a low ugly sound. Grey Cloud, our husky dog, was with us and his fur began to rise. Then another dog took up the cry
and another. Now 1 remembered stories of the Moosehide Malemutes, stories of town dogs attacked and torn to pieces by the Indian dogs who were of the same breed but, because of harsh treatment at the natives’ hands, of a vicious temperament.
“Don’t say a word,” Frank said, under his breath. “Keep a tight hold on Cloud and follow me.”
The village consisted of a short row of log cabins set on the river bank, at one end of which was the Anglican church and mission house. Below, cluttered with fishing nets, fish racks, piles of old cans and dumps of filthy refuse, was the beach where our boat lay. We each picked up a heavy club, and with Grey Cloud held firmly in the centre, we advanced.
The Indian dogs had a tierce reputation throughout the territory and were known to spring instantly on dog or sometimes unprotected human. We could see their dark forms now steadily advancing from each cabin into the main roadway. Huskies and Malemutes cannot bark or growl. Like wolves, they can only howl, and it was this eerie banshee sound, very low, t hat sprang now from their throats.
I be clubs, and finally the Indians, protected us. At the outset not a soul was to be seen but as the noise mounted and as we began to club at each dog as it advanced toward us, first one, then another human figure slouched from each tightly shut cabin, seized a
heavy club that always reposed at the doorway for just such emergencies and began to flail at the snarling animals. Slowly the dogs receded before this new wave of humanity, their black lips curling back over their teeth. Thus we breached thfe village in safety, ate a midnight lunch on the hill overlooking Dawson and then soothed by the panorama of golden sky and golden water proceeded home. But the Malemutes had their innings. When Frank went down next day to recover the crippled Bluenose he found they had clawed open our entire store of tinned rations. 1 had an uneasy feeling they had eaten them, tins and all.
By mid-August we knew our river trips were ending for another year. August is autumn in the Klondike. We beached our boat as the leaves grew sere on the t rees and began again to hammer on the storm windows and paste brown paper over the cracks. Then we prepared for the ultimate ritual of the dying season, the pilgrimage to the dock to see the last boat leave. I always thought it significant, though perhaps accidental, that while the first boat always arrived at eleven in the morning, the last boat always seemed to go at night. It. slipped out into the dark river, a floating spectre, and as we waved it good-by we adjusted ourselves mentally to another long seasonal night before the bright morning of a new summer.
Kven Turkish Delight
Dawson in those days reminded me of Sam Tim, the man frozen into the block of ice. It lay in a sort of state of suspended animation, its character, its people and its folkways frozen into an inflexible pattern by the constrictions of geography, climate and history. The town itself seemed much the same as it had in the gold-rush days until you looked closely and found that the buildings were warped and aged and the frost had heaved the foundations until they were all on a slant. This gave a queerly distorted effect, as if one were viewing the whole community through a warped mirror or a crystal cake of ice. So too were our customs fixed and immutable, if slightly distorted. The men went calling on New Year’s Day in formal dress, as they always had. No ball was complete without its grand march and its minuet. The prescribed refreshments at bridge parties included for twentyfive years sherbet, salted almonds and Turkish delight.
We were all a hit like George? F raser and Bob Rusk, two old prospectors who kept a general store out on Dominion Creek. They had been there since the gold rush. In the summer they washed out a little gold. In the winter they vegetated. They subscribed to all the big magazines which t hey allowed to pile up in the summer months. In the winter they read their way through them. When they had finished if was time to wash gold again. They had not been Outside since they first came to the Klondike and they rarely made the* thirty-mile trip to Dawson. In fact they spent the final years of their lives without moving more than a few miles from their cabin, content to live vicariously in the colored magazine advertisements.
This in a sense was our pattern too. Our ways were governed by the inflexibility of those seasonal anniversaries on which the calendar of the town was set. We were well aware of the inevitability of the river breaking in the spring and freezing in the fall. More than most North Americans, I think, we had become used to a certain precision in nature. If. was perhaps natural that we should unconsciously strive to maintain a similar fixed design in our own lives.
Dawson was a transient town, supporting seven flourishing hotels mainly for miners who worked on the creeks, hut the transients made little dent in our social armor. The tourists, police, nurses, teachers, doctors, dentists, mining men and ministers all ebhed and flowed through the community but the hard core remained. The medical men moved through as regularly as the migrating caribou. We had some good doctors in Dawson and also some very had ones. 'There was the doctor who
told me 1 had cancer of the breast and ordered an immediate operation. I resisted him. 'The cancer turned out to be a pimple. 'There was the doctor who examined our daughter for flu and announced she had chronic heart trouble and would never walk again. She refused to be lugged about, fortunately, and twenty-five years later she is walking as briskly as ever. 'There was the doctor who gave Frank an injection for something or other and found he had used the wrong drug. Frank turned blue and began to shake. I hust led the doctor out of the house,
piled blankets and hot-water bottles on Frank and brought him around. We continued to use that doctor. We had to; he was the only one in town.
'There was also poor Dr. Nunns, who was a good doctor. The tragedy was that he, too, was the only one in town. 'This meant there was no doctor for the doctor, Dr. Nunns came down wit h appendicitis and with the whole town watching helplessly he died. From then on the doctors began to arrive in pairs.
We had two dentists but only in the summertime. In the winter we went without dental care. 'Then one fall
Frank arrived home in a state of great excitement.
“I’ve bought Faulkner’s tools. He’s selling out.”
“You’ve bought a set of dentist’s tools? Are you out of your mind?”
“Not a bit of it. I thought I’d potter about with them this winter. You remember 1 helped out a dentist in Granville years ago. Why, they even called me Doc.”
He quickly cleared out his den, set up a dentist’s chair and drill and before we knew it, prospectors, Indians—yes, and bank managers, too -were waiting in the living room for appointments. Frank had no license and little training but he was better than nothing in the dead of winter when a man had a toothache and needed quick relief. I soon found to my astonishment that certain townspeople would hold off their dental work unt il winter in order to go to Frank. 'There may have been several reasons for this. He was a gentle sort of man and did his best never to hurt anybody. He also charged less than real dentists. Again—and 1 consider t his the most valid reason —he I always gave a man a healthy slug of brandy when he pulled a tooth.
I would not sav that Frank was a wildly popular man for popularity in Dawson was based on the intangible business of being a “good fellow” and Frank was never that. He hated to be slapped on the back. He used unusual words and he was keen on correct pronunciation. Nor did he gossip, and in t he winter the town lived on gossip. A man who preferred to go off and copy old mining records—as Frank did instead of standing around the big stove in the office dissecting his neighbors tended to be looked on with suspicion. And yet Frank was i great!v respected, and I think loved, by the tattered old men who came in to him regularly to renew their claims or I check up on mining law. It was not until years later, when he died, that 1 l>egan to hear stories of how he regularly lent them money and helped them in various ways.
Frank 'Turns Lawyer
The townspeople, I imagine, con| sidered him somewhat eccentric for he played chess and talked about Fanstein’s theory and subscribed to the Scientific American and refused to wear ! a hat in the summer a piece of brazen individualism in a town which clung ! so carefully to the old conventions. For that matter I myself had thought him eccentric on our first meeting though I never again felt so. The truth is that he was a shy nervous sensitive man in spite of his varied careers in the mining camp and his early rough life in the Klondike. I remember once when F’rank’s lodge was holding its annual ball. It was his task to mount the stage and announce that refreshments would be served. My old friend, John Black, a stickler for the proper use of words, as Frank was, slid up beside me as F’rank walked up tin; steps. “At last,” said John Black, his whiskers bristling, “at last we’ll have somebody who understands the English language I and won’t employ that confounded word ‘lunch.’ ” At this moment F’rank j spoke. He was terribly nervous. “Lunch is now being served in the lunchroom,” he said.
'This makes his actions on a certain winter’s day the following year more than usually remarkable. He came home for the midday meal and in a voice trembling with anger told us how a miner up the Klondike Valley had been charged with shooting a cow moose, an offense punishable under the law.
“What they can’t seem to get into their heads,” he said, “is that the poor beggar was starving to death. He had to eat. It was him or the moose. The whole thing is a bunch of damned nonsense, if you ask me, and the trouble is he’s not going to get a fair shake. There’s only one lawyer in town and he’ll be prosecuting. They’ll give him some rookie policeman as a defense lawyer who doesn’t care a hang about the business and find him guilty. He’ll have to pay a stiff fint' for saving himself from starvation.”
He pushed his plate back from the table and said, half to himself, “If I knew anything about law I think I’d have a shot at defending him myself. It’s a damnable piece of nonsense.”
“But you don’t know anything about law, dear.”
“No, perhaps not. Nor do the people who charged him, it seems to me. Anyway, under British justice, a fellow doesn’t have to have a license to defend a fellow man . . . Well, it’s time to get back.”
I watched him walk down the wooden sidewalk to the administration building where he worked.
“Children,” I said, “I think your father is really going to defend that man.”
1 remembered the hesitant sentences about “lunch” at the lodge ball and shuddered a little to think of Frank in court.
He returned that night with a look half sheepish and half triumphant .
“You went to court this afternoon I’ll bet.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I did. I got to thinking about it and decided I’d have a shot at defending him. He was grateful, you know.”
“I’m sure he was, dear. Did you win?”
“No, no. Lost of course.”
“Well, funny thing is that didn’t seem to matter too much. The point was, I think, he got an adequate defense. Also he really seemed to feel so much better about it when I offered to help him. I mean, 1 think he felt somebody was on his side.”
Which was all there was to it except one small item. The following day a large parcel arrived at our door tied in brown butcher’s wrapping. It contained a giant haunch of meat.
“Moose,” said Frank. A pause, then he added drily, “Cow moose at that, I imagine.”
I bus, marked by small dramas, our years in Dawson ticked by. Hardly a season passed without some minor j tragedy being enacted in one of the ! cabins in the town or along the trail.
I remember tin; wave of horror that swept over us when Stewart Barnes ■ died. He was an Oxford graduate and a Creek scholar who had come to the i Klondike in gold-rush days. He was ¡ too proud to tell anybody he was ! starving to death. One day they found his emaciated body in his cabin with a notebook beside it describing tin? j agonies of his last hours.
Another year we had a murder. An old prospector was found bludgeoned hi his cabin on the Klondike. The murderer was trapped by a single clue that had a peculiarly Klondike flavor. The old man had been killed for his money but his money consisted of banknotes of great age which he had been hoarding since the turn of the century. When these old bills began to appear in the stores the police nabbed their man, a laborer named Barney West who was subsequently hanged.
Like the prospector’s hoarded banknob's, most of our pleasures and pur| suits were years behind the times. The ! radio was now the rage Outside but there were no radios in Dawson. Our '
movies were up to five years old and often older. We got short paragraphs of current news three times a week in the four or six pages of the Dawson News, which meant that our headlines were not more than two or three days old but for more detailed accounts we had to wait a fortnight or more for the coast papers.
Our popular songs were hopelessly out of date. They filtered into town a year or more after they had been sung to death Outside. We were perhaps the last community on the Continent to dance the Charleston and
the Black Bottom. Everybody was drinking Coca-Cola, according to the magazine ads, but it had not reached us. We wore our skirts down when the rest of the world wore them up and we wore them up long after they had gone down again. Arrival of the first boat each spring brought us a new glimpse of what was in vogue Outside. Down the gangplank one day late in May came Mabel Cribbs, t he druggist’s wife, in a skirt around her ankles. How strange she looked—for ours were up to our knees.
These things helped keep Dawson in
its apparent state of suspended animation. One went Outside for a visit to find the world had moved on. One returned next spring to find Dawson had remained exactly as before. Mv parents’ letters from Toronto took as long as six weeks to reach me and we did not read the August Book-of-theMonth until November.
The airplane was to change all this in time but airplanes, like everything else, were late in coming to Dawson. I remember the first one swooping down on Dawson one winter day in 1927—the Lindbergh year—and the whole town rushing to the river hank to watch it land on the ice. The little halfbreed children raised their hands in the air to try to catch it as if it were a butterfly. They called it the Queen | of the Yukon. A short time later it crashed into some trees, it was re\ placed by Queen of the Yukon 11 which plunged into the river. The mail came in by stage weeks later, rescued from the river bottom, each letter encased in a thick jacket of ice.
We lived vicariously, as George Kraser and Bob Rusk did, in the pages of the Outside magazines and in the thick mail-order catalogues. I did most of my shopping from them. If the sizes of the children’s clothes were wrong when the goods arrived we had to make do for the distance was so great that it was impractical to return anything. 'There was no use returning a child’s dress because it was too large. By the time the replacement arrived it, would almost certainly be too small. Thus we did our Christmas shopping in September, and in November we had a miniature Christmas Eve when we wrapped parcels for relatives Outside.
It is not surprising then that the great depression which began in 1929 should be almost three years late in arriving in Dawson. We had heard vague reports of bread lines and soup kitchens Outside, hut Outside was always a remote world, unconnected with our own. In the Yukon full employment, high wages and unlimited credit continued until the spring of 1922. I use this date because Frank was ; told then he was out of a job. The federal government was reducing the | staff as an economy measure. At the ! age of sixty he was superannuated with j a small pension.
The Most Nostalgic Day
Now we had a hard decision to make, j Should we remain in the Yukon, or ¡ should we too, as so many had before j us, quit the Klondike for good? It was | logic, rather than sentiment, that we ¡ had to follow. The pension would allow j us to scrape by in some small hackj water but it would never maintain us in j the north where prices were still sky¡ high.
We left a few days after Dawson’s j great celebration—the anniversary of the discovery of gold on Aug. 17. I remember that day so well. I was standing with the children, as we ; always did on Discovery Day, watching the parade of the Yukon Order of Pioneers form up in front of the old log lodge hall on King Street, next to Pantages’ old Auditorium Theatre, an ornate wreck of slanting walls and gingerbread fretwork that looked like a piece of a Hollywood western set. The pioneers themselves looked like Hollywood extras in their black suits and big grey mustaches and nugget chains.
All day long the people had been pouring into Dawson—trucks overflowing with crews from the dredges, old battered Model Ts carrying miners and their families from the creeks, canoes full of Indians from downriver and the streets a hurly-burly of dust ¡ and dogs, snarling, barking, playing, ; fighting and howling everywhere.
This was a day for nostalgia-—our last Discovery Day and Frank’s last i parade. Watching the greying men as they adjusted the purple sash of their order and formed up in a shambling line ' behind their banner, the memories of a quarter of a century in the north began to crowd across my mind like scenes in a newsreel. Each Aug. 17 1 had come down here to the Pioneer Hall to watch the parade start off and follow it along the streets to the park in the centre of town. In the first few years the parade had stretched for many blocks and the
men marched with a young brisk step. Now the line of men was hardly a block in length and the men were stooped and shambling. There was not a man in the line who had not come into the Klondike before the turn of the century. None had found much gold. Most were content to lay their hones in the Yukon Valley.
In the days that followed there were more memories as I packed up those things we could afford to take with us and disposed of those that we couldn’t. Here was a pan I’d used to cook with during our honeymoon in a tent on Sourdough Gulch. There was the frog costume that won Frank first prize at the New Year’s Eve ball. Here was the flag from the poling boat in which we’d floated down the Yukon. A couple of nights before we left Frank came home looking a little sad.
“Well, I sold the old Bluenose,” he said. “A woodcutter bought her. He wants to take her downriver to do some freighting.” He had put his very heart in to this boat and 1 knew it was not easy for him to part with her. Our happiest days had been spent lazing aboard her on the warm summer evenings.
And Grey Cloud, our husky dog now grown old and blind, had to be disposed of. He was too far gone to give away. Frank took him out to the woods late one evening, after the children had gone to bed, patted his head, settled him down in the leaves and shot him.
The next night we were walking home along the water front when Frank stopped suddenly. “Listen,” he said and cocked his ear toward the river at the sound of a high-pitched motor. “There goes the Bluenose.”
We waited quietly on the bank while the rhythmic sound drew nearer. “There she is,” said Frank softly, pointing out into the main stream as the late evening sun glinted on her blue prow. “She always did ride well, didn’t she?”
Automatically we turned to look for the dog, who whenever he heard the Bluenose’s engine, rushed to the water front. But the dog was gone.
The next day was our last in town. The house was sold and the boxes packed. As usual the dock was crowded as it had been when 1 first arrived in Dawson a quarter of a century before. The people were older now hut some of them were the same. 'There was Apple Jimmy Oglow, the Greek fruit merchant who was the first man to greet me when I stepped off the boat a young kindergarten teacher so long ago. His hair had been black then; now it was quite white and heavy lines marked his brown leathery face though his grip was as firm as ever.
The final whistle blew and we boarded the boat. As the sound reverberated around the Yukon hills a husky began to howl in the weird minor cadence of his breed. Another dog took up the howl and another and another, until the mournful strain floated over the town, echoing across the deep howl in the mountains, echoing over the log cabins and the flanks of t he hills where the red currants still grew thickly in the summer, echoing over to the west side of the river where the bones of the decaying river boats lay, and up the Klondike Valley where we had spent our first married months, and across those wooded Yukon islands where we enjoyed so many summer evenings.
The dogs were still howling when the boat passed the mouth of the Klondike River and chugged around the bend.*
This concludes Mrs. Berton's reminiscences. In expanded form they will be included in the book, I Married the Klondike, to be published luier by Little, Brown and Company.