Author: Young, Samuel Hall, 1847-1927
Alaska — Description and travel — Juvenile literature
Adventures in Alaska
Adventures in Alaska
S. HALL YOUNG, D.D.
Alaska Days with John Muir. Illustrated, 12mo, cloth….
“Do you remember Stickeen, the canine hero of John Muir’s dog story? Here is a book by the man who owned Stickeen and was Muir’s companion on the adventurous trip among the Alaskan glaciers. This is not only a breezy outdoor book, full of the wild beauties of the Alaskan wilderness, it is also a living portrait of John Muir in the great moments of his career.”—New York Times.
“I can see only one fault with the book, it is far too short. I should love to read such a book as big as the dictionary. Thank you very much!”—Gene Stratton-Porter.
“One need not be an admirer of John Muir to be thoroughly entertained by the lively pages. The Muir of this book is the familiar vibrant personality. This little book, the record of these trips, is written in a style animated and vivid without being journalistic—a style not unlike that of the lover of glaciers himself.”—The Nation.
Adventures in Alaska
S. HALL YOUNG
Author of “Alaska Days with John Muir,”
“The Klondike Clan”
New York Chicago
Fleming H. Revell Company
London and Edinburgh
Copyright, 1919, by
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave.
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street
Stalking Walrus in an Oomiak
Dr. Young’s figure is to the left. This is the time he got his ivory for the gavels
The author puts forth this little book of actual adventures in the great new land of Alaska with the hope that it will afford healthy-minded young people a true idea of some phases of human and animal life there. These stories are picked out of an experience of forty years and selected with a view to both unity and variety.
The first three chapters are an attempt to draw in bold outline some dramatic episodes of the author’s experience in the second of the three great gold stampedes of the Northwest. All these struggles for gold have in them richly dramatic elements. Life in such camps pulses strongly with all human ambitions, affections and passions. The missionary, if he is really to commend himself to the men who rush into the wilderness for gold, and do them good, must, first of all, prove himself a man, ready and able to do and suffer everything that falls to the lot of the gold seekers. He must live their life and play the game with them. He must cheerfully put up with the privations they endure, must take the lead in their healthy sports, must alleviate their sufferings, and, keeping himself free from the deadly gold-lust, must show that he has in himself and can give to his fellow pioneers something better than gold. His heart must be, for himself and those about him, a living fountain of joy and peace.
As in his earlier work, “The Klondike Clan,” the author endeavored to draw a true picture not only of the life and conditions of the first Northwestern gold-rush, but also of the minister’s aims and field of duty; so in this short sketch of the second Stampede his aim has been, above all things, truth. Every incident is actual history, and even the names are real. The dog story is also conscientiously true history, and belongs to one of the minor gold stampedes.
The second section of the book—the three bear stories and the walrus story—are also bits of history. Every pioneer missionary in Alaska should be an ardent hunter. The author’s life has often depended upon his gun and fishing tackle. For ten years in Southeastern Alaska he and his family had no beef or pork or mutton, but the game—animals, birds and fish—more than made up for the lack of these.
In Interior Alaska the same conditions prevail. The wild animals furnish not only the food of the people, both natives and whites, but also their winter clothing. Life would be unbearable there in “sixty-below weather” were the inhabitants unable to procure the warm coats provided by kindly Mother Nature for the use both of her four-footed and her human children.
The Eskimo faces the hardest conditions of almost any native race in his battle for life; and yet he is, perhaps, the most comfortable of any. He gets his living from the Arctic seas, the seal and walrus being his main dependence. From the great walrus he gets meat, clam chowder, light and fuel; its skin makes his foot-wear, the walls and roof of his house, and his boats; its ivory furnishes his tools and implements of the chase. When the author and his friends brought the great supply of walrus meat to the Eskimo village of East Cape they insured the life and comfort of its inhabitants for the winter. All this is an essential part of a missionary’s beneficent work. Good service for God and humanity is not inconsistent with the joy of the chase.
As the author confidently expects that many of his young readers will find their permanent homes in “The great big, broad land ‘way up yonder,” he hopes this book may prove, in some degree, an introduction to the enjoyments and achievements of the life there.
S. H. Y.
|I.||The Nome Stampede||13|
|V.||Louie Paul and the Hootz||100|
|VI.||Old Snook and the Cow||112|
|VII.||Nina and the Bears||131|
|VIII.||The Absurd Walrus||153|
|Stalking Walrus in an Oomiak||Frontispiece|
|Nome, Alaska, Summer of 1900||28|
|Anvil Rock, Overlooking Nome||36|
|The Odoriferous but Interesting Eskimo||48|
|Dr. Young and His Dog Team||80|
|Fort Wrangell, Alaska, on Etolin Harbor||100|
|Native Houses, Showing Totem Poles||118|
|Five Kodiak Bears||148|
THE NOME STAMPEDE
It was with the excitement of a veteran soldier going into a fresh battle that I teetered over the springy plank from the Rampart shore to the deck of the Yukon River steamboat. My year’s outfit of “grub and duds,” as the miners would put it, was aboard. I grasped the hand of Dr. Koonce, with whom I had just floated in an open boat down the Yukon twelve hundred miles. A fine fellow—”Kooncie”! We had been camping, and fishing, and packing, and boating together since the first of May, 1899, and it was now the middle of August. He was to stay at the new mining town of Rampart, build a church there and learn the joyous life of a pioneer missionary.
What a queer mix-up of men on the crowded decks of the steamboat! Wild rumors of a ridiculous sort had reached the ears of gold hunters clear up the two thousand miles of the swift and crooked Yukon to Dawson. Gold! Not snugly reposing in the frozen gravel of deep gulches and canyons cut through the high hills—where respectable and orthodox gold ought to be; but gold on the wind-swept, stormy, treeless, exposed coast of Seward Peninsula—the tongue that impudent young Alaska sticks out at old Asia. Gold, like yellow corn-meal, in the beach-sands of Bering Sea, where nobody could lawfully stake a claim, but where anybody could go with shovel, pan and rocker and gather it up. Nuggets a-plenty and coarse gold—enticing shallow diggings—in the bed of Anvil Creek and other creeks and runlets in the hills, and the flat tundra about Nome.
The reports of the new “strike,” often wild and exaggerated, came as a life-saver to weary and discouraged thousands of Klondikers, who had packed their outfits over the terrible thirty miles of the Chilcoot Pass in the fall of ’97 or the spring of ’98, sawed the lumber themselves in the “armstrong sawmill,” sailed their clumsy boats through the lakes, shot the rapids of the Upper Yukon, spent the summer of ’98 and the winter that followed surging here and there on “wildcat” stampedes or putting down “dry” holes on unprofitable lays, and were now eagerly snatching at this new straw, hoping to “strike it” on the Nome beach. From Dawson, Forty Mile, Eagle, Circle, Fort Yukon; from wood camps and prospectors’ tents along the Yukon, and now from Rampart, these bearded, battered, sun-blistered men came rushing aboard the steamboat.
I had engaged a state-room before the steamboat arrived, but when it came a placard of the company owning the boat menaced us in the office: “All reservations cancelled. Boat overcrowded. No passengers to be taken at Rampart.”
Of course there was a mighty howl from the Rampart men, nearly half of whom had packed up to go on the boat. I hurried to the purser, whom I knew, and showed my pass from the manager of the company.
“Can’t help it, Doctor,” he said in a loud tone, for the benefit of the bystanders. “The boat’s past her limit now, and we’re liable for big damages if anything happens. We can’t take anybody.”
Presently he slyly pulled my arm, and I followed him to an inner office of the store. “Get your goods aboard,” he directed. “You can spread your blankets on the floor of my office.”
While I was checking off my outfit and seeing it on board, I noticed a lot of the Rampart men, with hand-trucks gathered from the various stores, taking their own outfits aboard, ignoring the shipping clerk and dumping their goods wherever they found a place to put them. The officers and deck-hands were protesting and swearing, but the men went right along loading their outfits.
Presently the captain pulled the whistle rope and ordered the plank drawn in and the cable cast off from the “dead man.” Instantly three men marched to the cable’s end, seized the man who was to cast it off and held him. Then fully fifty men with their packs on their backs filed down the plank. The first mate tried to stop them. He even made a move to draw his pistol; but the foremost man—a big six-footer—threw his arms around him and carried him back against the stairway and held him until the men with their packs were all aboard. It was all done quietly, and with the utmost good humor. The men grinned up at the swearing, red-faced captain on the upper deck, and one shouted, “We’ll give you a poke of dust, Cap., when we get to Nome.”
When all were aboard, somebody on the bank cast off the cable, the swift current caught the boat, the wheel backed, and we swung around and headed down the Yukon, bound for the new strike.
Whiskers were very much in evidence in that closely packed mob of men that stood around on all the decks, stepping on each other’s feet, perching on stairways, boxes, pole-bunks—anywhere for a resting place. To go from one part of the boat to another was a difficult proposition.
The most evident trait of the crowd was its good nature. The deck-hands, among whom I recognized a lawyer friend from Dawson and a former customs collector from Juneau, were gold-seekers like all the rest; and it was, “Hello, Shorty!” “Ah, there, Dutch!” “Where you goin’, Jim?” between them and the newcomers. A rollicking, happy-go-lucky crowd, all joyful at being on the way to the new diggings. Even the officers of the boat began to smile, secretly pleased that they had a record-breaking and most profitable load aboard, and were free from blame for overloading, because they could not help it.
As for me, I was well content, even to be hustled and jostled and elbow-punched by this horde of scraggly-bearded men of the northwestern wilderness. This was my parish, my home; and these were my comrades, my chums, my brothers. I was just as sunburned and weather-beaten as they were, and felt the same tingling of nerves, the same leap of the blood at the call of fresh adventure.
I was dressed in the same sort of rough woolen mackinaw clothes and soft flannel underwear as the men around me. I had left my clerical suit and white shirts and collars behind, for three reasons: First, for the sake of economy. These strong, loose garments did not cost a third as much as broadcloth, and would wear twice as well. Besides, it would cost a dollar and a half to have a white shirt laundered in Interior Alaska (which, at that time, was twice the original cost of the shirt), and twenty-five cents to do up a collar, the cost price of which “outside” was three for a quarter. I could wash my flannel shirts myself. Second, for comfort’s sake. The soft wool of these garments was so much warmer and more pliable than a “Prince Albert” suit; and a starched collar would sear one’s neck like fire, when it was “sixty below.” My chief reason, however, was that I wished to create no artificial barriers between my parishioners and myself. I wished to stand on the same social level. I desired these men to feel that I was one of them, and could camp and “rustle,” carry a pack, live on rabbits and rough it generally as deftly and cheerfully as they—live the same outdoor life and endure the same so-called “hardships.”
The view-point of these “sour-doughs” was shown in a funny way at our first landing place after leaving Rampart, which was the little town of Tanana. When the boat tied up, the whistle gave three sharp hoots, showing that the stay would be very short. As soon as the plank was ashore a man ran up it, and when he reached the deck he called loudly: “Is there a preacher aboard? Is there a preacher aboard?”
A grizzled old miner, who did not know me, pointed to the only man on the steamboat who wore a Prince Albert coat and white shirt and collar, and drawled: “Wa-al, that there feller, he’s either a preacher or a gambler; I don’t know which.”
The “dressed-up” man proved to be a gambler. I made myself known to the anxious man from the village, followed him ashore and married him to a woman who was waiting in the company’s office.
That was one voyage of mingled discomfort and pleasure. Discomforts and hardships are as you make them and take them. There were a few of that company who grumbled and swore at being crowded, at being obliged to stand up all day, to lie on the floor or on the piles of cord-wood at night, besides being compelled to fairly fight for their meals or to get their food from their own kits. But the majority of these men had been camping and roughing it for two years. Many of them had packed heavy loads over the Chilcoot Pass in the great Klondike Stampede, had made their own boats and navigated hundreds of miles of unknown and dangerous rivers, had encountered and overcome thousands of untried experiences. To all of them these little discomforts were trifles to be dismissed with a smile or joke, and they had contempt for any man who fussed or complained.
One of the cheeriest of the crowd aboard the steamboat was a newsboy twelve or thirteen years old. His name was Joe: I never knew his surname. He had had a very wonderful time. The year before—the summer of 1898—he was selling papers in Seattle. He heard of the high prices paid for newspapers and magazines at the camps of the Northwest. He bought three or four hundred copies of the Seattle P. I. (Post Intelligencer) and Times. He paid two and a half and three cents apiece for them, the selling price at Seattle being five cents. Then he got five or six hundred back numbers of these papers, from a day to a week old, for nothing. He also got, mostly by gift from those who had read them, three or four hundred of the cheaper magazines, some new, some a month or two old. For his whole stock he paid scarcely fifteen dollars.
Joe smuggled himself and his papers aboard a steamboat bound for Skagway, and worked his passage as cabin boy, waiter and general roustabout. At Juneau and Skagway he sold about one-fourth of his papers and magazines—the papers for twenty-five cents each and the ten-cent magazines for fifty cents. He could have sold out, but hearing that he could get double these prices at Dawson and down the Yukon, held on to his stock.
He formed a partnership with an old “sour-dough” miner, who helped him get his papers over the Chilcoot Pass and down the Yukon to Dawson. At the great Klondike camp he quickly sold out his papers at a dollar each, and the magazines at a dollar and a half to two and a half.
Joe spent the winter of 1898-9 at Dawson, selling the two papers published in that city and running a general news stand, in which he sold the reading matter he had sold before but gathered up again from the buyers. Sometimes he sold the same magazine four or five times.
When the Nome Stampede began, Joe got into the good graces of the manager of the steamboat company and got free passage down the Yukon. He shared my wolf-robe on the floor of the purser’s room, and we became great chums. The boy was so bright and quick, and at the same time so polite and accommodating, that he made friends everywhere. He was a Sunday-school boy, and distributed my little red hymn-books when I held service in the social hall of the steamboat on Sunday, and his clear soprano sounded sweetly above the bass notes of the men.
“Joe,” I asked him one day, “how much money have you made during the last year and a half?”
“Well,” he replied, “I sent two thousand dollars out home from Dawson before I started down here, and with what I am making on this trip and what I hope to make at Nome, I think I’ll have five thousand dollars clear when I land at Seattle the last of October.”
“That’s a dangerous amount of money for a small boy to have,” I warned him. “Have you lost any of it?”
Joe grinned. “No, I dassen’t. Some card sharps tried to get me to gamble at Dawson. They said I could double my money. But my partner [the old miner] said he’d lick me half to death if I ever went near the green tables. I didn’t want to, anyhow. Everybody helps me take care of my money.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Why, give it all to mother, of course. She’ll use it for me and my sister. I’m going to school as soon as I get home. Mother works in a store, but I guess this money’ll give her a rest. She needs it.”
A word more about little Joe before I leave him. He made good at Nome in September, and sailed for Seattle the last of October. The last I heard of him, four or five years later, he was making his way through the University of Washington, and still managing newspaper routes in Seattle. His is a case of exceptional good fortune; and yet I know of a number of boys who have made remarkable sums selling papers in Alaska. It is a boy’s land of opportunity as well as a man’s.
Our voyage to St. Michael was a tedious one—down the long stretches of the Lower Yukon, worming through the sand-bars and muddy shallows of the interminable delta, waiting through weary hours for tide and wind to be just right be