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Cattle Trails

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: the Dalton Trai Continued; Siria M. "Si" Dawson, Augustus G. Dawson and Manley M. Dawson; Skaquay; Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith; Leonard Sugden; and The Cremation of Sam McGee.



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Chilkoot Pass on Way to the Klonkike.

Even though Bonnaza Creek had all been claimed, the Rush to the Klondike continued, fueled in part by the nationally reported story of a Rock Springs sheepherder Antone f. Stander (also spelled "Anton"). Stander emigrated to the United States at age twenty from southern Austria, later a part of Yugoslavia, and found employment at Rock Springs as a miner and sheepherder. By 1896 he had accumulated $400 and took off for the Klondike. By the time that he reached the Yukon, potential claims along Bonanza Creek had all been taken. He therefore explored what would later be called El Dorado Creek. By 1898, he returned to the United States, bearing an estimated 1200 lbs of nuggets, a millionaire. The story in the St. Paul Globe, Oct 23, 1898, p 8, described Stander:

Little Anton Stander is perhaps the most amazing and amusing of the lucky ones. You see such fellows as Anton on the emigrant shis from Southern Europe. He is a small Austrians, with the back of his head straight up from his spinal column, a prymidal-shaped head, black hari and black eyes, widely separated. He drifted into the Yukon counry along with other debris of humanity before the great strike. On the whole, his intelligence is not above that of the average person of Latin lineage who swings a pick in the section gang, but he had the luck to strike on of the claims on El Dorado and the stubborness to hold it --wualities that exist without a college education. You find college men in the Klondike, as a rule, working for men who, if they can read and write, cannot read and write well enough to become shining lights in literature. When Anton found out how rich he was, he immediately assumed the aire of an aristocrat.


Antone Stander at home on El Dorado Creek.

In Dawson, Stander became besmitted by a dancehall girl, Violet Raymond. When they married in San Francisco, he presented his new bride $20,000 worth of diamonds and $30,000 in money. {Writer's note: multiply by about 40 to 50 to get present value]. See Salt Lake Herald, Sept 30, 1898. Seeking to multiply his fortune, he purchased claims in Placer County, California. He was bilked. They proved to be fraudulent. In Seattle, he purchased the Holyoke Building and in 1905 constructed the 250 room Stander Hotel. The hotel had every modern amenity including private baths, telephone service, a barber shop, ladies parlot and a restaurant and grill.

In 1908 Violet filed for divorce, obtained an injunction against his selling property. She was ultimately, according to the Dawson Daily News, Feb. 5, 1908, awarded $1,000,000 in alimony. Part of the award consisted of a half interest in The hotel. Violet and Stander could not agree on the operation or the sale of the hotel. The court then made a solomonic division cutting the hotel in half -- literally. The Court directed that a brick wall be constructd brick wall be constructed from the celler to the roof. It went through rooms and closets. Violet's half included the dining room, and elevator. They still could not agree. Violet sold her half to the WMCA for $740,000 payable at the rate of $750.00 a month over 30 years without interest. Stander's interest was operated as the "Congress Hotel." Both Stander and Violet remarried. Violet's new husband alleged ran off to San Fransciso with $40,000 of her fortune. Stander remarried in British Columbia. Later census date reflects that he subsequently divorced.

There is always another strike over the next hill. With his fortune gone, about 1919 Sander went to Siberia to search for gold. Upon his return, he claimed that he found deposits richer than the El Dorado claims. Unfortunately, the Bolsheviki seized his claim and he returned to Seattle broke. SeeDawson Daily News, Nov. 20, 1922. Stander' remaining interest in the hotel was sold. The new buyer sold the remaining half to the YMCA and the hotel was razed in 1930. A new YMCA building was constructed on its site. Sander made his way back north, allegedly securing his passage by peeling potatoes in the ship's galley. By 1930 and in 1940 he was residing in a bording house in Talkeena, Alaska, a small town on the Cook inlet near Anchorage. Pierre Benton, "Stampede for Gold, the Story of the Klondike Rush" Sterling Publishing Company 2007, contends that he died in the Pioneer Home in Sitka. On the other hand, Lee Morgan in "Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, Sterling Publishing Company. contends that Stander was evicted from the Home as a result of drunkedness. What happened to Stander? On April 2, 1952, a minimal notice appeared in the Portland Oregonian :

WAs it Antone Ferrell Stander, or was it another Antone Stander? If so, what was he doing in Portland? Another who went to Alaska and the Yukon was cowboy Angus McPhee (1874-1948) originally from Wyyoming. McPhee became a packer for the Quarter Master General in Alaska. After the Yukon he returned to Wyoming, rode in Buffalo Bill's Wild West and in 1908 became Champion of the World in the Cheyenne Frontier Days. That took him to Hawaii where he continued his career as a rodeo cowboy. In 1910, he lost one arm in an accident. Nevertheless, he continued. In 1915, with only one arm, he won the steer roping contest in the Hilo Rodeo beating his own time of 1:16 from the 1908 Honolulu Fourth of July contest. He became the manager of a ranch on Maui.

It was not just miners, sheepherders and sheepherders who attempted to find fortune in the Klondike. One letter from an American soldier formerly stationed at Fort D. A. Russell was quoted in the Big Horn Rivr Pilot, November 3, 1897, as indicating that a large number of undesireable types were flocking to the area. The soldier noted that they had "large numbers not miners, but expect in some way to get a part of the money miners may have." One of those who came north to Alaska was Wyatt Earp. Earp in four years running the Dexter Saloon in Nome allegedly managed to mine about $80,000 out of the pockets of prospectors. The Dexter reputedly housed a bordello on the second floor. The soldier continued, "We have doctors, lawyers, speculators, state senators, thieves, cutthroats and politicians." Among the politicians was a former governor of Washington State, John McGraw, former Wyoming State Senator John N. Tisdale (see the Johnson County War, p 3, and the mayor of Seattle who resigned his office to head north. Among the lawyers and politicians was Melville C. Brown of Laramie who lobbied long and hard for a position as a judge in the judical system in Alaska.

Two months before the letter from the soldier, a Deputy United States Marshal, William C. Watts had been murdered. The door to the courthouse in Sitka seemingly had a revolving door. One nominee by President Cleveland was a defrocked Methodist Minister. Five judges were appointed within twelve years. It has been speculated that the judgeship was a way of getting Brown out of Wyoming. See Viner, Kim: "Alaska Gets a Wyoming Judge", Annals of Wyoming "Autumn 2014. P 2.

Indeed, to a great extent, Judge Brown may have been the burr under Judge Carey and Senator Warren's saddle. Senator Warren wrote Judge Carey, "Personally, I would rathr crawl on my hand and knees in the gutter a block in Cheyenne, that to see even the worst of our three democratic judges replaced by Brown." See Viner, supra. Judge Carey had been involved in biter litiagtion with Edward Ivvinson and out growth of which was Brown denouncing the Supreme Court as having been bribed. See In re Brown, 3 Wyo 122 (1884) in which the Court suspended Brown from the Bar for have called the court a "Son of bitch of a court, -- one bribed and the other I don't known what." Brown served out his four years term, but after an investigation of complaints about Brown, President Roosevelt requested his resignation. See San Francisco Call, November 17, 1904. Brown returned to Seattle, paractice law there and ultimately returned to Laramie.

The Mizner Brothers were to the son of a former American Ambassador to the Central American States Lansing Bond Mizner. Wilson and Addison were noted for alleged cheating of the Roman Catholic Churches in Central America of priceless artifacts and art which Addison later peddled on Fifth Avenue for large sums. In the Yukon, Wilson secured employment as a piano player and "Gold Weigher." When measuring the quantity of gold dust, he managed to spill some of the dust on the floor. At the end of the week, he would mine the carpet for the dust. As a piano player, he allegedly inspired Robert W. Service's "The shooting of Dan McGrew." The center piece of the poem was a piano playing contest between a stranger and the saloon's professional piano player.

Allegedly, Service was inspired by a challenge by Wilson to the piano player in the Dominion Saloon (or maybe it was the Monte Carlo Saloon) called the Rag-Time Kid." The Kid claimed that he could play anything requested. Wilson sat down and played the "Holy City" and challenged the Kid to play the same tune, the background music for this page. The Kid bested Wilson.


Dawson, 1898, Monte Carlo Saloon. Further down the street the Dominion Saloon is under construction.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew
By Robert W. Service 18741958

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands my God! but that man could play.

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars?
Then you've a hunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, the lady that's known as Lou.)

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere", said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

The music almost died away ... then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill ... then the music stopped with a crash,
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell. . .and that one is Dan McGrew."

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that's known as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch," and I'm not denying it's so.
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two
The woman that kissed him and pinched his poke was the lady that's known as Lou.

But even before starting on the trail, Skaquay had its own horrors. Things were particularly corrupt in Skaguay. The town had come under under the control of "Soapy" Smith who reestablished his business and mode of operations in Skaquay. Surrounding Smith and his saloon, Jeff Smith's Parlor, was an aroma of fraud, murder, and bribery. In addition to Tisdale Among the speculators and cutthroats were brothers Addision and Wilson Mizner. Wilson Mizner later claimed that Jeff Smith was his mentor.


Jeff's Parlor, Skaquay, Alaska, 1898. Trail.

Col. Steele of the Royal Nowthwest Mounted Police explained the corruption in Skagway:

The town of Skagway at this period of its existence was about the roughest place in the world. The population increased every day; gambling hells, dance halls and variety theatres were in full swing. "Soapy" Smith, a " bad man," and his gang of about 150 ruffians, ran the town and did what they pleased; almost the only persons safe from them were the members of our force. Robbery and murder were daily occurrences ; many people came there with money, and next morning had not enough to get a meal, having been robbed or cheated out of their last cent. Shots were exchanged on the streets in broad daylight, and enraged Klondykers pursued the scoundrels of Soapy Smith's gang to get even with them. At night the crash of bands, shouts of " Murder! " cries for help mingled with the cracked voices of the singers in the variety halls; and the wily" box rushers " (variety actresses) cheated the tenderfeet and unwary travellers, | inducing them to stand treat, twenty-five per cent, of the cost I of which went into their poekcis. In tin- dance hall the girl with the straw-coloured hair tripped the light fantastic at a ( dollar a set, and in the White Pass above the town the shell game expert plied his trade, and occasionally some poor fellow was found lying lifeless on his sled where he had sat dlown to rest, the powder marks cm his back and his pockets inside out.

One Deputy United States Marshal was murdered when answering the complaint by a Andy McGrath, a British subject, that he had been scammed in the bar of the People's Threatre, a combination saloon and bordello. Both the marshal and Andy were shot and killed by the bartender. The next deputy marshal was in the employ of Smith. Things boiled over later in the year when a prospector was robbed of almost $3,000 worth of gold (1898 dollars). Complaints to the federal government had gone unanswered. Some of the business people tired of the criminal element gathered at the Juneau Wharf to decide what was to be done. Smith and some of his minions tried to force their way in. In an incident later known as the "shootout at the Juneau wharf," Shots rang out. The City engineer was shot by Smith. Simultaneous shots believed to have come from the Engineer found their mark in Smith who died instantly.It has also been contended that Smith was shot by someone else. Since it would not have been self-defense, it would have been murder. But Jeff Smith probably deserved. Therefore it was convenient to pin Smith's death on the City Engineer. Tthe City Engineer lingered from his wounds and finally died when infection set in. The remnants of Smith's Gang including the currupt deputy United States marshal decided that Skaquay was no longer healthy

Canton was hired by the United State Marshal to serve along the American portion of the Yukon. He was fired several months later upon instructions of the Attorney General and never drew a paycheck.


Soapy Smith, 1898.

Not withstanding the concern about cutthroats in American territory, across the border in the Yukon the Northwest Mounted Police kept things under control. There were no murders and no serious thefts in Dawson,although the Dominion Saloon was held up once, but the Mounties got their man.


Officers of Division B, Northwest Mounted Police, Dawson City, 1900.

In 1904,in recognition of its services to Canada and the Empire, King Edward VII conferred the title "Royal" on the force. In 1920, the force became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is charged in addition to law enforcement with protection of the Monarch, the Governor General, the Prim Minister and other Crown Ministers.


Northwest Mounted Police station on the Dalton Trail.

In 1898. some 2,000 cattle made the trek. One of the more unusual livestock drives was In the summer of the 1897 when Siria M. "Si" Dawson, Augustus G. Dawson and Manley M. Dawson from Colorado trailed 900 sheep, 6 goats and 100 head of cattle into the Klondike. The route taken was laid out by Si in February when, to say the least, it is fairly cool in the Klondike.


Toll Tent, Dalton Trail.

The trip was made by the Dawson brothers in order to recoup part of the family fortune which had suffered because of the cost of ruinous litigation. The animals were shipped from Seattle to Skagway. From there the livestock was trails to Lake Teslin where the brothers constructed skows on which the sheep were carried down the Yukon River to Dawson City. Dawson, however, is named after a Canadian Geologist George Dawson. An older Dawson Trail from Ft. William, Ontario, to present-day Winnipeg is unrelated. It was named for Simon Dawson a Canadian Engineer. The lDawson Trail provided the \ first all-Canada route to the Red River. Prior to the construction of the Dawson Trail there was no direct concenient connection between Ontario and and Winnipeg or until construction of he Canadian Pacific Railroad between British Columbia and Winnepeg. Indeed, when in 1878 Governor General lord Dufferin and Lady Dufferin made a fairwell trip across Canada;; he had to travel through the United State from British Columbia to the Red River and then by riverboat to Winnipeg. The return was again down the Red River to the United States and then back to Canada by way of Minnesota.


Dalton Trail.

The three brothers Si, Gus, and Manley were sons of New Mexico stockman, John Barkley Dawson (1830-1918). The father, himself, had a certain wanderlust, being born in Kentucky and in turn living in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. In 1855, he was trailing cattle into the mining camps of California. By the time of the Civil War, Dawson was back in Texas and joined the Texas Rangers. Following the war, he provided beef to the Army by trailing cattle from Texas to Colorado and assisted Later he became a stockman raising both cattle and sheep in New Mexico. He also assisted John Wesley Iliff in extending his operations from Denver up to Cheyenne. The ghost town of Dawson, New Mexico is named after him. In the early 1900's he estalished a stock growing operation in Routt County, Colorado. The operation was sold in 1915. Si became the superintendent of a ranch in Brazil where he died in 1919.

Some drovers would drive the cattle to Dawson City down the ice on the Yukon River. This may have avoided the perils of the rapids or being stuck on sand bars but added an additional peril of the ice breaking up underneath the herd. In 1903, newlyweds Grace and Chris Bartsch trailed 500 sheep, 50 cattle and one goat to Dawson City and barely escaped the ice breakup. From the shore, they watched in horror as others went into the icy, raging waters. The Bartsch animals had to be transported the remainder of the distance on a scow.

The last cattle drive on the Dalton Trail was in 1906.


Prospectors' Scow.

Thanks to Johnny Horton, the radio program "Sargeant Preston of the Yukon," Jack London and the poems of Richard W. Service, the Yukon may have a romantic image that may not be not entirely accurate. John Bird Burnham who travelled to the Yukon in 1897 quoted in his "The Ice Trail on the Yukon" a Canadian governmental messenger John Pache:

"You Americans are hard men to kill. Coming down the river I -met over three hundred men on their way out, and most of-them were from the States and knew nothing of the cold that is cold, or how to take care of themselves right. Yet they acted as if they were on a picnic, and as if the devil were really dead. They didn't seem to mind little inconveniences like frozen feet and cheeks, and hands with the nails coming off and blistered with the frost. They're reckless devils, and a more cheeky set I never met. With the pants burnt off their l egs and the faces on them like brown parchment from the fire and frost, they had the gall to give me advice about the country, to tell me how many pairs of moccasins I'd need for the trip, and the like, when I was born on a snow drift and got my growth under the midnight sun. You Americans would storm Hades if you thought the heat had melted out any gold down there; a nd you'd put up so good a bluff and are so nervy, I'll be bound you'd get some of the stuff if there was any there."

Even if using a scow or barge to carry the cattle was risky. Before reaching Lake LeBerge, one came to Miles Canyon and the White Horse Rapids. Burnham described passing the remains of a boat on its side. It had gone through the rapids sideways, hit an obstruction, turned over and the crew and cargo swept over and carried down through the canyon. Burnham wrote, "there is little doubt but that its crew perished." Burnham continued that "rude notices on the east bank warned us to land."

If one survived the frost bite, but provisions ran low one might starve. Burnham recalled, At Fort Selkirk, "four hundred miles from food and safety" starving prospectors "tantalized by the sight of rafts l aden with beef and mutton for the Dawson market, aground and abandoned on bars in midchannel, a feast for the ravens." On a trip to the coast, he

"saw some ravens tearing at an object which on closer inspection proved to be the ribs and upper portion of a man's body. T here were many gruesome associations on that journey in the dead of the Sub-Arctic winter. Tottering out of the blue-grey haze of snow and frost-laden spruces, came from time to time starving men, almost as emaciated as the plague victims in India, with the light of an insane fear in their eyes, whom bitter experience had taught that it was better to risk death by stealing food rather than to risk refusal by begging for it.

At Fort Selkirk, two half-crazed men came into Burnham's cabin and "without a word seized upon a loaf of bread and some prunes, which was all the prepared food in sight, and began eating ravenously, like beasts that expected to be driven away. When they had finished they left without asking for more or saying a word of thanks for what they had taken. The men had black spots on their cheeks, where the flesh was frozen into the bone and would n ever grow again."

Prospectors were ravaged by scurvy. Indeed, Jack London suffered himself suffered from that malady. We tend to mishear some of Johnny Horton's lyrics in his "When it's Springtime in Alaska," the actual words in the final verse are not "When springtime in Alaska, it's 60 below" but, "he'll be six feet below." Scurvy was a hazzard of winter in the higher latitudes. A standard item on breakfast buffets in Iceland is, as an example," cod liver oil in a little shot glass. In the evening having nothing to do with scurvy, one might find putrified shark in a jar with a lid on it to keep down the aroma. Scurvy is indirectly responsbible for one of the Yukon's most famous poems by Robert W. Service suggested from one of the adventures of Dr. Leonard Sugden, a surgeon with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Dr. Sugden was one of those explorers that the British public school system tended to produce at the end of the 19th Century. He served as post surgeon in Hong Kong, received from the emperor of China the title of Mandarin of the Second Class and served in the Boer War. In the Yukon, he acquired an early motion picture camera and achieved some fame filming conditions there. In 1916, Dr. Sugden joined Owen Rowe O'Neil's expedition into the darkest part of Swaziland. There, he visited the Swazi school for witch doctors. He caught dysentary but on the point of dying was cured by a native witch doctor by the muti a magic leaf grown from a secret location known only to the head witch doctor. Normally muti is reserved only for royalty. Sugden was conferred the native name MLung "Emantzi Eenuiinduna in the swazi Impi. Following his return from Swaziland, Dr. Sugden spent time exploring parts of Brazil. In 1922, he disappeared from a steamer on the Stewart River near Mayo, British Columbia. it is unclear whether he was murdered or whether he accidently fell in. His body was never recovered.


Dr. Sugden on right, following his induction into the Impi, Swaziland, 1916.

As noted, to Dr. Sugden is attributed one of the great legends of the Dalton Trail and the Yukon. About 1898, Dr. Sugden was dispatched by the Northwest Mounted Police to the cabin of a prospector on the Upper Yukon. The prospector was suffering from scurvy. On arriving, Dr. Sugden discovered the prospector dead. The ground was frozen solid and burial was impossible. In a nearby lake the steamer Olive May was caught in the ice. Dr. Sugden placed the body on his dog sled and carried it out to the the Olive May which fortunately still had its steam up. Dr. Sugden and the steamer's crew stuffed the deceased prospector into the fire box. Thus, the body was properly disposed of. In the telling and retelling of the story the actual name of the prospector has been lost. The name of the steamer has been changed from Olive May to the Alice May. The story came to the attention of Service, at the time a bank clerk, who it setting it to verse used the name of one of the bank's customer's, a road, railroad, and highway engineer who at the time was constructed roads for the territorial government. The bank customer, Sam McGee, spent the rest of his life enduring bad jokes about whether it was warm enough. McGee later left the Yukon and constructed roads in, among other places, Montana and Yellowstone National Park.


The Steamer Olive May, Upper Yukon River.

The Cremation of Sam McGee
Richard W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request.

" Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked";. . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm --

Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Years later, McGee returned to the Yukon for a visit. He discovered that gullible tourists were purchasing urns which purportedly contained his ashes.

Next Page, The Edmonton Trail, Byron F. Wickwire.