Dawson City, Yukon Friday, February 19, 1999

Putting their best feet(?) forward at the mid-February Hootenany are Virgina Mahoney-Lajambe, Kim Adams, Brandi Moneypenny and Pat Henman. Photo by Andy Crowther

Feature Stories

Onward with the Quest
Tr'ondek Hwech'in Open New Administrative Building
Portables to Become Permanent
The Junior Iditarod Beckons
Dawson Doctors Take to the Air
Dawson is Special in the Winter, says Children's Writer
Arts Extravaganza to Take Place in Dawson
Point of View: The Millennium Bug
New Shift Manager at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall
Uffish Thoughts: Stories Have Shaped the World We Live In
Telemedicine: Bringing Big City Medicine to Yukon Communities
100 Years Ago: How to Start a Stampede
Poem: Minus Forty

Welcome to the February 19 edition of the online Klondike Sun. We are late. A vicious flu laid the editor low, and his returning energies had first to be directed at the classes he's missed at school. The hardcopy edition marked the return of our four page television insert, added by popular demand after the demise of our private enterprise competition, the Dawson City Insider. We continued with our Crossword, two cartoon strips, our birthday page and lots more. There were 20 pages, including 9 photographs, 20 stories and 4 poems.

Onward with the Quest


Dawson is the midpoint of the Yukon Quest dog sled race, 1600 kilometres from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon. In alternate years it goes the other way. This has become a major media event over the last three years, and has grown beyond the capacity of our volunteer group to cover it every year. We will have some coverage of local material in our next issue, but for those of you who want to know more about the Quest and what happened this year, we recommend that you log on to their website. This link is provided with their permission.

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Tr'ondek Hwech'in Open New Administrative Building

by Wayne Potoroka

The new, as yet unnamed, Tr'ondek Hwech'in administration building officially opened its doors last week at a ribbon cutting ceremony performed by 6 year-old Allison Anderson. Over one hundred people braved the chilly temperatures to be on hand at the outdoor ceremony.

While both the Tr'ondek Hwech'in and the Federal government offices have been settled in for almost two months, the February 9th ceremony was a chance for the community to get together and welcome Dawson City's latest river front addition.

The event kicked off with a performance by the Han singers and drummers. They were followed by Chief Steve Taylor and Mayor Glen Everitt, who gave short speeches, and Tr'ondek Hwech'in elder Percy Henry, who had the honored task of blessing the building.

The ceremony capped off a trying two years for the Tr'ondek Hwech'in ,whose previous offices were consumed in a fire that razed their building to the ground. They were then temporarily housed in an old YTG building that has, in its day, served as the Yukon College, the Public Library, the Court House and the liquor store.

After the fire, the First Nation worked hard on plans that would eventually culminate with a permanent home. Once the blueprints were drawn up, John Mitchell and his Han Construction Crew went to work erecting the building which, among other things, features a classically designed hardwood foyer.

Tr'ondek Hwech'in Executive Director, Tim Gerberding, is enthusiastic about the completed building and sees it as a new beginning.

"The First Nation finally has a facility that benefits its stature as a self-governing nation."

While the building is indeed an impressive structure, Chief Steve Taylor sees it as something more than just a new home.

"It instills pride in our membership; it's ours, it belongs to us. For us, this symbolizes a new beginning now that the Land Claims Agreements have been signed and ratified."

He added that it was also a symbolic "departure from the Government of Canada as we start to do things on our own."

According to Tr'ondek Hwech'in Culture and Education Director, Deb Nagano, the new building is a place for all Tr'ondek Hwech'in citizens to call their own.

"We now have a solid foundation. We've been waiting for that for almost two years since the old building burnt down. We were united before and we're back now."

Percy Henry, who knows a little bit about pursuing an office home for the First Nation, was impressed with what he saw on Tuesday.

Henry was Chief of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in when they first sought a building for their offices in the 60's.

"We had nothing, didn't have a red penny, and didn't know where to start. We tried to get a building but no luck."

Their luck changed, however, and they managed to scrape up a home base.

"Eventually, we got a building from Clinton Creek. It was nothing more than a junky saw-mill. But, with volunteer help we fixed it up."

That building still stands today in its most recent incarnation, the Han Fisheries building.

Henry added, "Times were tough. We started with nothing but look at what we have today. It's been a long way but I think we did pretty good."

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Portables to Become Permanent

by Dan Davidson


The portables can be seen at the south end of the main school, beside the playground. They occupy the space originally assigned to the staff parking lot. Photo by Dan Davidson

After several years spent arguing about the land lease for the portable classrooms currently housing grades 5 and 6 at the Robert Service School, it appears that the conflict between the City of Dawson and the Department of Education is about to be resolved by making the temporary classrooms a permanent addition to the school.

That was the word given out by Mayor Glen Everitt at the Feb. 1 council meeting.

"The minister's department is currently reviewing the costs associated with extending the hallway in (the present) school to join the portables at the school with an enclosed part. (They are) also addressing roof pitch, the sprinkler system and all the other issues that would actually make the portables a part of the Robert Service School."

"If that be the case, there is no issue with the City of Dawson because they no longer would be considered portables."

After better than a year's worth of sometimes acrimonious arguments related to this issue, including the town's threat to have the building removed if the lease were no properly renewed, Everitt no feels that the lines of communication with the minister are open at last.

He indicated that this is pretty much the possible solution that the city has been attempting to persuade the department to since last year's spring crisis, but that no one would listen to it until recently.

Everitt reiterated that council has never been interested in telling the Department how to deliver its programs here, but the portables were installed on a temporary lease several councils ago and when it finally ran out there was a need to resolve a number of occupancy issues before council was willing to renew the lease.

Among these was council's desire to support the Robert Service School Council in its desire to see the department develop a definite plan, including time lines, to handle further needs for expansion to the 1989 building.

The portables - two classrooms combined as a single structure - were reluctantly accepted by the school and town councils of the day and installed when the population outgrew the original design of the building. While they have been modified in terms of siding and colour to match the original school, they are still marked as portables by their flat, modular style roof pitch. Students have to exit the building in all sorts of weather to takes classes in the gymnasium, music room, art room and computer room.

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The Junior Iditarod Beckons

by Katherine Cameron-Boivin

Sixteen year-old Kyla Boivin will be heading to Alaska this month to compete in the Junior Iditarod Sled Race, a competition which is open to young adults aged 15-18 years. She has been training her team of 13 dogs on her family's trapping trails since before the snow fell or the river froze and has logged well over 1,000 miles on her animals to date.

She is very glad to have graduated from rookie status after last year's participation and is eager to make a good standing in the 140 mile race. Once again she will be the only Canadian entered in the competition, which is a mid-distance race following the first leg of the actual Iditarod out of Fairbanks.

Kyla has received support and encouragement from all facets of the community of Dawson as well as some corporate encouragement from outside the Yukon. Taplow Feeds had arranged for a breeding program for one of her dogs with mate from the world class team of musher Ross Sanderson. They recognize that Kyla aspires one day to run the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race.

Kyla's sponsorship has come in all forms, from financial help to dog food donations, from fuel to equipment for herself and her dogs, from proposal preparation to psychological support. Every bit of help has boosted her determination ad her desire to make a good showing despite the fact that she will be competing against teams that have been leased from Iditarod dog lots.

She would like to acknowledge her sponsors with gratitude and appreciation. They include Viceroy Resources, Ross Mining, Rivard Productions Inc., McKenzie Petroleum, the City of Dawson, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, North of 60?, Midnight Sun Hotel, Gold Rush Campground, Taplow Feeds, Harper Street Publishing, the Dawson Trading Post ad Michel Vincent.

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Dawson Doctors Take to the Air

by Dan Davidson


Here we see a pair'a'docs modeling the latest in off-duty fashions while at January's "Double Bob" (Service and Burns) celebrations. Photo by John Richthammer

Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in their talks with the territorial government Dawson's team of doctors took to the airwaves on February 8 to put their case before the community and gauge their level of public support.

For about an hour Doctors Suzanne Crocker and Gerard Parsons were live on both DCTV and CFYT-fm as about 15 residents called in with questions and expressions of support for the physicians' stand against insufficient remuneration for on-call hours.

Once again, the partners emphasized that this is not an attempt to raise their own salaries. What they want is the opportunity to create a large enough pool of medical money in the community to allow them to recruit another doctor. With more hands to share the on-call and emergency load, the doctors feel they will once again be able to have a life outside of their joint practice.

At present they find it increasingly difficult to recruit additional staff for the busier summer season or locums (temporary fill-ins) for those times when they wish to leave the community for whatever reason, be it meetings or vacation.

In response to one caller's questions Parsons, who has now been in Dawson 12 years, pointed out that the rising generation of physicians are unwilling to be slaves to their duties to the same extent that used to be true of rural doctors. They want families and they want down time.

Parsons and Crocker has already answered their own need for a change by retreating to the bush for the better part of a year in 1997/98. Since they came back to work they have been more determined than ever to avoid that degree of burnout again.

(At one slow point in the broadcast Parsons demonstrated how to make a temporary splint out of rolled up newspapers and duct tape. Perhaps they were out there too long?)

Callers like senior John Gould spoke of the need for extended health care facilities for people his age so that they are not forced to travel to Whitehorse for every medical crisis that comes along. Teacher Clair Dragoman expressed complete solidarity with the doctors and asked what could be done to improve the situation.

Parsons and Crocker urged callers and listeners to get in touch with Minister of Health David Sloan by mail or telephone and make it clear to him and his department what Dawsonites feel is needed here.

One caller checked in to make sure she had Sloan's title correct and indicated she was in the throes of composing a "nastygram" at that moment. There could be quite a few of those received in the capital over the next few days.

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Dawson is Special in the Winter, says Children's Writer

by Dan Davidson


Julie Lawson does a book signing at Maximilian's on the last Saturday afternoon of her Dawson stay. Photo by Dan Davidson

One of Pierre Berton's dreams for the Berton House Writers' Retreat Program is that people will be able to use in all year round. While some express skepticism when you raise the notion of southern writers wanted to come to Dawson City in the middle of the winter to soak up the atmosphere, Julie Lawson says it's a great idea.

Lawson, a children's book writer from Victoria, born and raised in southern B.C., has only seen snow a few times in her life before her recent stint on Hanson Street, and one of those times was during a season in Paris.

One of the things she hoped to acquire when she applied to the retreat program was a healthy respect for Canada's best known season, winter.

When she first arrived in the fall it began to look as if our mild autumn and winter were going to deprive her of that. It was a long time before there was real snow and it seemed longer before the Northern Lights arrived. When Julie was forced to leave early due to the death of her father, she was a little disappointed about this, even though she'd been having a great time here. (see "Berton House Author Feeling Inspired" from November 13, 1998)

She asked if could come back to finish out her term and the folks in charge of the program said sure. Julie arrived back by Dawson City Courier one midnight in mid-January to discover that she was getting a welcome all too familiar to Dawsonites: her pipes were frozen.

Still that was part of the adventure, and a part that was fixed up in no time, thanks to the folks at the Klondike Visitors Association, who look after the building. As for the rest of it, Julie is now a Klondike believer.

"I think it works out wonderfully well, I really do," she said a few days before her final departure on February 10.

The house has been warm, the surroundings have been congenial, and the cold, when it did arrive, actually encouraged her to work more. She wrapped up her public duties by spending the better part of a day at the Robert Service School last week, and was a participant in a number of other events, including carrying the hagis in the "Double Bob" (Service and Burns) party in January.

"I like being here in the winter," Julie says. "I like that feeling of being kind of closed in, not having it easy to get anywhere.

"Because I was here in the fall, I did a lot of exploring ... when I could; a lot of walking, seeing things, walking along the river and what not. (Later on) I didn't feel the need to get out and see what the town had to offer.

"If I hadn't had that, maybe I would have felt there was a little something missing, because when it gets so cold, it's not that pleasant to go walking, so I found I was spending more time inside than I would have normally."

But that wasn't bad either, Fingers poised over her Powerbook, Julie found the surrounding more than congenial - she was inspired indeed.

There are currently texts for three picture books making the rounds of the publishers. One is called The Twin Engine Sleigh, and ties in with the Gold Rush. Another is about the Porcupine Caribou Herd. She didn't actually get to see them on her trip up the Dempster, but she found a lot of material about them. The third is a story based on the life of Arizona Charlie Meadows and the Palace Grand, set in 1899.

Her major objective in coming here was to complete the first draft of a novel which is the final volume in a trilogy she's been doing. She's half-way through the third draft of that and has also begun another book.

This is going to be a time-slip fantasy set in present day Dawson and starring the daughter of a woman who is a writer-in-residence at Berton House. Somehow the girl will get sent back in time while exploring a ruined building.

"I'm just fascinated by those tipsy buildings - those permafrost buildings," she says, and thinks it would be very startling to see the process reversed by a kind of time lapse photography effect from the inside.

Buildings haven't been her only fascination, though. She's been caught by something you don't expect to hear about in Dawson in the dead of winter.

"I've been so amazed at the light. The sky was never just blue. It was turquoise and green and violet and mauve and purple and slate grey and you name it.

"I was so astounded at how light it is at night - fascinated by the shadows of the trees in the snow - that just blew me away. (Dawson) really does have a special magic in the winter that I don't think you'd get any other time."

Julie Lawson wants more. She intends to come back and see the Yukon in its other seasons, perhaps rent something locally and do some more writing, even without the Berton program. She's a lady who tends to follow her dreams, so we may expect to see her back here sometime, with husband Patrick in tow.

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Arts Extravaganza to Take Place in Dawson

The Dawson City Arts Society is pleased to announce an Arts Extravaganza to take place in Feb. 26, 27, 28 at the First Nations Cultural Centre in Dawson City.

Gal opening on Friday night will feature an after theatre reception with the music of Pat Henman, Linda Moore and other guest.

Works of art by Society members will be shown. Everything from sculptures to large paintings will be seen and offered for sale. Norm Foster's play The Melville Boys will be presented featuring guest director Philip Adams with cast members Pat Henman, Grant Hartwick, Bonnie Nordling and Tim Coonen.

We are a newly formed non-profit group with the goal of creating a cultural focal point in the Klondike area. Our aim is to provide a place for all people young and old to take courses in art, music, theatre, writing and other disciplines.

To that end we are presently renovating the old Oddfellows Hall on the corner of 2nd and Princess St. Completion is scheduled for September 1999 with the grand opening on the first day of the year 2000.

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Point of View: The Millennium Bug

by Barb Hanulik

(CBC Radio in Whitehorse is having a writing contest about The Millennium. "Write a page or so on what adventure would take place when everything comes to a halt on Jan 1, 2000".)

To follow is an entry from Barb Hanulik.

They are seated at the kitchen table. There's a kerosene lantern on a nearby shelf but on the table there are only candles - two thin tapers, the kind you see at formal dinners. They are dressed warmly - he with a quilted vest over his shirt, and she with a turtleneck under a heavy sweater.

"I think I'll write to Mom," she says, "but I don't know when it'll be delivered."

"You miss the computer," he replies. "The e-mail was great."

"Yes, and I miss the video, the phone, the T.V., electricity and every other vestige of civilization. But I'll survive." She sounds bright and upbeat.

"We'll suffer, but we'll manage all right . How are the vegetables holding out?"

"There's plenty of potatoes and carrots, enough turnips and lots of onions. Enough berries and mushrooms; and plenty of fish and caribou meat."

"I'm glad to hear it. I'm heading out to the woodpile to cut some wood for tonight."

He grabs a parka and stalks off down the hall.

She picks up her pen and writes:

"SOMEWHERE ON THE STEWART RIVER.

JANUARY 1999"

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New Shift Manager at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall

The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) is pleased to announce that Darrell Wakelam is a welcome addition to our senior casino management team as the successful candidate for the position of Shift Manager at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall in Dawson City.

Mr. Wakelam has an extensive gaming background and is very familiar with "Gerties" operations. Mr. Wakelam's career highlights include, 22 years with the RCMP, 8 years as RCMP Gaming Specialist, Pacific Region with responsibilities for Gerties operation. 10 years as Inspector with both Alberta and British Columbia Government Gaming Agencies, Gaming related consulting for YTG Consumer Services Branch and a Court accepted expert in Slot Machine and Table Games operations.

His ability and experience will complement the strengths of newly appointed Casino Operations Manager, Allanah Fuhre. He assumes seasonal duties as of 15 April 1999.

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Uffish Thoughts: Stories Have Shaped the World We Live In

by Dan Davidson

Talking recently with Berton House writer in residence Julie Lawson I was struck once again by how very much the general Canadian reaction to the Yukon in general and the Klondike in particular has been shaped by the words that have been written about the place.

This was further reinforced as I leafed through Anne Tempelman-Kluit's anthology, A Klondike Christmas, Jim Robb's latest Colourful 5% and the latest edition (number 9) of Sam Holloway and Dianne Green's Yukoner Magazine. Now, of course, Sam's latest novel is running in these pages twice a week.

What will people in the future make of it all, I wonder?

One thing I am sure of is that no one would be able to make much of anything here in Dawson City but for the three great writers that have shaped our destiny since 1898.

The first was Jack London, of course. He wasn't here many months, but he's cast a very long shadow down the years. He adapted the Yukon to the American frontier myth and made it seem a place of adventure, a place where people could be tested to see what they were made of, where anyone who was string enough could succeed in some way, even if they didn't get rich.

His love of the European philosophers of his day came through in the "test to destruction" motif that seems to run through a lot of his work. If whatever you face doesn't destroy you, it will make you stronger, was his message. It's a simple paraphrase of Nietzsche, but one which appealed to many people and found its way into a lot of writing.

Robert Service came next, a quiet bank teller who lived his life as if he were preparing a script. He took the rhythms of Kipling and other poets of the old school and built an unlikely career on them, making a fortune while the poetic avant garde scoffed and starved. He took the Yukon and invested it with mystery, romance and humour while at the same time pursuing his chosen path with the single-mindedness of a bank clerk.

We grew the next one ourselves. Like him or not, Pierre Berton must be seen as one of the formative literary figures of our territory. The others had to come here to write about it. He had to go away. But the Yukon has never left him alone, any more than it ever left Service or London, who kept revisiting the place in words throughout their lives.

Sure, there are the many books which feature the North specifically, more than a dozen of them, if you count in all the material he's adapted downwards for the Adventures in Canadian History series for kids.

Aside from that, however, Berton doesn't ignore the North even when he could, when other people might. In his latest picture book, Seacoasts, there are three oceans in view, three shores, not the two that most Canadian writers would probably visit. His latest collection of shorter material, Worth Repeating, also visits the Yukon.

I venture that the tourism industry would not be what it is today except for the interest Berton generated when he wrote Klondike and helped to produce the National Film Board's "City of Gold".

The Berton House Writer in Residence program will, I like to think, continue the tradition of bringing the North to life in literature. Some of our guests are merely having their southern preconceptions shaken up a little. Others, like Michael Kusugak and Julie Lawson, are arriving here already excited, their fires stoked not only by the opportunity to have time to write, but also by the chance to be here, in a place they already find exotic and interesting.

They will take us with them and will tell our tales the way they have seen them while they were among us. And you know how it is with stories. If they're any good at all, they last a long, long time.

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Telemedicine: Bringing Big City Medicine to Yukon Communities

In February, Whitehorse media got a chance to see a demonstration of a technology that is beginning to change the way medicine is practiced in some of the Yukon's smaller communities. For the last three months, Teslin, Dawson City and Ross river have participated in a pilot telemedicine project linking their communities health centres to Whitehorse General Hospital.

"This allows medical staff to see video patient information over long distances. And the underlying infrastructure will provide a platform for a variety of new applications in the health and education sectors," explained Erick Eid, the General Manager of Northwestel's Advanced Communities group.

Northwestel has been working on the telemedicine pilot project in partnership with the Canadian Network for the Advance Research, Industry and Education (CANARIE) and the Yukon Territorial Government. The project cost is valued at approximately $590,000.

"Although most northerners love their unique environment, when it comes to health care, we pay the price for living in a remote location. It can be difficult, and more expensive , to get the health care we need," commented Northwestel vice-president Ray Wells. "This technology has tremendous potential to make cost-Effective, specialized health care available to isolated communities in the North."

The health centres who are participated in he pilot project received a general patient exam camera and a multimedia compute workstation at Whitehorse General Hospital. Teslin is connected via terrestrial microwave. The communities of Dawson City and Ross River are using wide-band satellite links which can handle the increased Bandwidth needed to transmit video images,

This telemedicine project is a first for the Yukon. "The North needs to take a lead role on these types of projects," Eid commented. "The benefits that this kind of technology can provide is much greater in the North, where our communities are remote and access to major medical facilities is difficult, "The underlying in fracture is frame relay technology, which supports general Internet access in the communities, as well as specialized telemedicine applications that a variety of business can utilize.

"Northwestel is very interested in pilot project of this type, and in partnering with both the public and the private sector, "Wells concluded. "Telemedicine, distance education and electronic commerce have great potential for northern businesses and residence. They have the power to genuinely improve the quality of life for all northerners."

The telemedicine pilot project will undergo a full evaluation in June 1999.

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100 Years Ago: How to Start a Stampede

Complied by John Gould

STAMPEDE

During the early days in the Klondike, it was easy to start a stampede, every one who had come here to make their fortune listened to every story or rumour of a new strike, a new find of another Bonanza. Even a whisper of a new find caused a stampede, one such event is written up in the Klondike Nugget of January 14, 1899.

This was a scheme of "Nigger" Jim Daughtery's. He had stocked the road house, then proceeded to spread the word around town that there had been a good prospect found on a creek down river. None of those who had taken part in the stampede, and had staked claims found anything worth while. But Nigger Jim and his cohorts did well with the road house.

Even Charley Meadows, of the Palace Grand Theatre, got into the rush. The only thing is that Charley mistakenly thought they had found the mother lode and it was up the Klondike. Charley was unable to get a dog team as they had all been bought up, but he did get an ox. After a trip of 12 miles he discovered that he had taken the wrong trail. He moved into a cabin near by. At the writing of the item in the Klondike Nugget paper, the editor thought that Charley might still be there.

Here's how they saw it at the time:

Bought the Road House and Grub
The Stampede Down River Now an Endurance Program

Last Tuesday, night was the occasion of much excitement in Dawson. In every saloon and on every street corner excited knots of men could be seen discussing in subdued whispers some subject of seeming great importance. Up and down throughout the city could be found numerous dog teams with sleds loaded for what was evidently expected to be a considerable trip. Men were skirmishing all over town in search of any kind of animal that could be pressed in to service for a hurried trip. In short every body was on the "qui-vive" of expectancy, and evidently some matter of considerable importance was on the tapis. (ed. note - means "under discussion" and is derived from the word tapestry)

A typical Klondike stampede was in active progress and the "push" were getting ready to set out.

The only men who were supposed to have accurate information as to the destination of the stamped were "Nigger Jim", Sam Stanley and Billy Chappel. Friends of these old timers and hard mushers were present in sufficient numbers to stake the length of the entire creek, but in addition were several hundred more anxious and expectant Cheechacos who banked on getting a claim simply by following the wake of the push.

All night long an unceasing procession of men, some with dog teams and some without, some pulling their own sleds and others with a little grub on there backs, some provided with stoves, tents and robes others with none of these requests to Klondike travel, helter-skelter, pell-mell, anything to be on hand to stake, this nondescript caravan set out down river.

Besides those already mentioned, the following were included among the stampeders; George Noble, Henry Berry, Gus Seiffert, Tom Cannon; Falcon Joslyn, Charley Hiltz, Douglas McMurry; Senator Hill, Gus Backe, Sam Yeade, and a host of others.

Various surmises to the destination of the stampeders were made, some locating on Carlisle Creek in the Forty Mile district, and others stating that the objective point was a tributary of the Klondike which heads towards the Yukon in the direction of the Forty mile. Affidavits of the richness of the discovery were said to be on file and various amounts were stated to have been taken out to the pan, ranging from 30 cents to several dollars.

When the vanguard of the stampeders reached the Eigthteen-mile road house a halt was called and possession of the establishment and all the eatables contained therein was immediately taken. Twenty men managed to crowd into the fur bunks with which the house is supplied and 75 more hungry and weary "mushers" crowded themselves into the small cabin and called for coffee and anything else that would assist in warming them up. Two other cabins located near by were soon filled to overflowing and those who could not get in were forced to camp as best they could.

"Nigger Jim" proceeded to buy the road house and all the supplies therein. The stampede had resolved itself into a test of endurance. If the whiskey and grub hold out long enough the scheme will have worked to perfection. Never the less those in the know sent back to Dawson for more supplies. At all events the outcome will prove exceedingly interesting.

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Poem: Minus Forty

by Dan Davidson

Nostrils itch.
The moisture on tiny hairs
freezes with each inward breath.
Tiny icicles
      sticktogether
      totheotherside,
pulling the nostrils closed
as they contract.

You can almost feel
the airway
getting
smal
ler.

Inhale again and they
      POP free,
      P...L...I...P!
dozens of minute
velcro fastenings rip-
ping loose
as you expand to breathe.
You flex your face
for release
and the cycle begins again.

This is just for breathing.

No wonder it feels so much
like work just
to be outside in January.

January 28, 1999

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