EPISODE 677 ESCAPING THE YUKON
Nov. 11, 2022
My planned exit from the Yukon was not as easy as planned.
First crisis was the bus. Big time crisis for me. Given the same situation what
would you have done? Dumb is as dumb does.
I am not sure what the bus looked like. Perhaps like this one but not coloured
like a school bus. The trip began sometime around 1 a.m. In the dark so no
pictures are available.
Mayo Landing was not as glorious as this sign indicates. At least not so in 1961
Stewart Crossing was a postage stamp sized place. Empty. A wilderness bust stop.
I AM SITTING in front of my coputer trying to decide whether this actually happened. Maybe I invented
the story…or exaggerated the story. It has been more than 70 years since I stole that public bus
on that cold Yukon night. Did it really happen? Have I been telling a lie for decades. A big lie,
like ex President Donald Trump I have told the lie so many times to so many
people that I may have come to believe the lie myself.
“On my last nigh in Mayo Landing in the tiny hours of September 13, 1962, I stole a public bus
and drove it …along with passengers ….from Mayo to Stewart Crossing.”
Yes,, it happened and is recorded in my Diary. Just one short sentence. “I took the May bus with
passengers and drove to Stewart Crossing. Had do it.”
So my memory has served me well and this is my chance to unload the events of that evening.
My last evening in Mayo Landing was spent drinking beer with my mining friends. Miners are nomadic.
They meet for a short time…get to know each other…have a few beers together. Then, if they are lucky
they have job for a few months or years until the ore runs out and they have to look for another
pace to hand their hats. Nomads.
And this is more true for geophysical prospectors. Jobs last a few weeks or occasionally
for a whole summer like our Yukon job. When the work is over the men take off for parts unknown…
a kind of diaspora.
We celebrated our friendship that bitter Yukon night. Sept. 12, 1961. Not a crybaby kind of evening. Just last
meeting of people we would never see again. Bill was there and Peter the Biblical scholar and Gilroy
the staker….and Moses Lord representing the native population. Most of them would get very drunk.
I faked it a bit. Only drank a few.,, felt safe doing so for I could sleep on the bus ride
to Stewart Crossing.
The bus was supposed to leave at 1 a.m. or thereabouts. So at 12.30 I shook hands wirh
the boys whose ages ranged from 21 to 61 or older. We had shared a lot of adventures some
of which were recounted in an earlier episode. We had lived and worked rough. We would
never see each other again. And we know it.
“Where the hell is the bus?”
“Looks to be a bit late.”
There were five or six of us waiting in the darkness for the bus. But the bus never
“Happens all the time, the driver is sleeping it off at home. May not show up”
“But I have to be in Stewart Crossing by 6 a.m.”
“You can try to wake him. His cabin is not far. You’ll see the bus.”
“Got to wake him up Will he be drunk?”
“Hard to say.”
“I’ll go get him.”
“Careful of his dogs mind you.”
“He has a few huskies … dog team kind. Might not take
kindly to a stranger like you”
If I missed the bus coming down from Dawson City to Whitehorse then
my elaborate plant would collapse. And I did not know what I would
do. pay for a fight from May to Toronto?….with a whole bunch of flight
connections. Would cost a fortune. Worse would be the crashing of my big
plan. I really wanted to find Dead Horse Gulch, the Childoot Pass, Lake
Bennet , Skagway , the ghostly Treadwell Mine, and the
landlocked mysterious city of Juneau where the Tlingit people once lived.
“If the driver does not wake up and the dogs scare the shit out of you, there is
“Take the bus.”
“I can’t drive a bus….and certainly don’t want to steal one anyway.”
“Happens all the time…”
“A passenger takes the bus. Keys are in the ignition.”
Crisis. What to do? Seemed a bit off the wall to try and take the bus. But if I did not do that
then all my plans would fall flat. I remember tentatively entering the bus. Door was open
as if I was expected. Long metal arm did the opening and closing. I pulled the arm and
the door closed. Key was in ignition and when turned the motor rumbled into life. But no
sign the rumble awakened the driver.
I cannot remember whether it was stick shift or automatic. Seems to me there was a floor
shift which I slipped into first gear and the bus was on the move. At the Mayo Hotel I stopped.
May as well take the passengers with me Five or six of them. Local indigenous relatives of
Moses Loord no doubt. They did not bat an eye. Flopped into seats as if this was a normal
The thought of insurance risk popped into my head. Was i risking the lives of these people.
The thought popped out just as fast. I had other things to consider. Like lights. Road gear.
Pitch black highway. I took it slow. Only 33 miles to Stewart Crossing . Lots of time as the Dawson
southbound bus was not expected until dawn.
What can go wrong? Gas! Was the bus gassed cup. Seemed so. I got more confident as the
miles rolled by. Traffic in the early hours of Sept. 13 was nil. All I had to do was keep the moving
and scan he road for moose. Did I have high or low beams? No idea and not much chance
to check. Confidence increased.
Was the road gravel or tarmac? Try to keep to centre. Test brakes gingerly but keep moving.
What if I stopped and could not start again? Keep cool.
Population of Stewart Crossing is ten. Ten people with most of those ten living
in lonely cabins hidden away in the wilderness.
We reached Stewart Crossing and rolled to stop on the gravel. I had expected A small village.
instead I found about the loneliest place on earth. One tiny white wood clad place with a sign
reminding drivers this was the last place to get gas before Dawson City one way and Whiteouse
Not open. So we sat in the bus until the Dawson us rolled to stop at 6 a..M
And that was the end of Mayo Landing adventure and the beginning of another.
When I write these episodes I try to be self-deprecating. No one wants to read a puffed up ego. I doubt there would be many
readers of that kind of episode. The bus episode is different. Seems a little too self centred… Seems to have a load self-glorification. Sorry about that.
For that I apologize . It was a big event in my life. Fondly remembered.
Nov. 109, 2022