alan skeoch
biv, 6m 2022

The Yukon seemed  good place to grow a beard.  Made me look older.

Mom, DAd and Marjorie at Pearson Airport in 1961.   Mom and Marjorie would later pin me to the ground
at the farm and snip off my beard.  Same thing happened to Samson when Delila snipped his beard according to the Bible.

My next story was triggered by  a dream last night….bit of  a nightmare really.

Took me back to my last two days in the Yukon in 1961.  All that summer I made
plans to escape the Yukon by back tracking  the route taken by gold seekers of 1898.  To
follow their route into the  Yukon but do it in reverse.  from the ghost town of
Wernicke south to Keno City (Population almost nil) to Mayo Landing in our battered GMC Power Wagon.  A few beers
with the boys in the Mayo Landing hotel then a night bus ride to Stewart Crossing
where the morning bus from Dawson City would take me to Whitehorse and
from there the White Pass Railroad through Dead Horse Gulch where the glistening
bones of dead hoses horses marked the insanity of the Yukon gold rush.
Then a stopover at  Skagway  before looking a ride on a water taxi though the Inland
passage to landlocked Juneau,  And from there I would catch a flight to Seattle with a short 
hop to Vancouver and a final flight home to Toronto.  All this fuelled by cans of cold
pork and beans and raw oat meal and occasional other staple food like salami and rye.

All that summer of 1961 I lathered  myself with the words of Robert Service.

On every exploration job done each summer I selected 3 or 4 books to pack with extra socks.
In 1961 it was the collected works of Robert Service. His words became the beacon
of my escape from the Yukon. 

Getting to the Yukon in June 1961was easy but also an adventure.
 e threaded our way north  in an
overloaded DC 3.  Lots of freight and a few passengers.  My seat was close to the 
cursing pilot. 

 “Bastards oveerloaded us sgain…can’t get altitude so we will have to
thread our way through the mountains to Mayo.” 
“What’s Mayo Landing like?”
“Asshole of he world.  Tiny outpost on the Stewart River.  Aboriginals mostly with one hotel
for people like you… Luigi’s greasy spoon attached.   Take 60 seconds to see the sights
of Mayo.”
“Is that the Stewart River down there?”
Nope , that’s the Yukon River….backbone of the Territory.  See that other river…the Stewart
joins the Yukon at Stewart Crossing…big rivers.”

This was going to be a big adventure.  Little did I know that Stewart Crossing would be
visited in the darkness of a Yukon night in mid September in a ramshackle bus that I had
to drive because the driver was asleep or drunk or both and his dogs would not let me close enough to wake him.
Maybe sleeping off a binge.

 I made my escape driving his bus and passengers west to Stewart Crossing.  µet the Dawson – Whitehorse bus
 then an
empty White Pass Railway to the lawless town of  Skagway…and from there I had no idea.  But I sure enough
was not going to fly directly home to Toronto when there was a slower route.  I had
Robert Service and Pierre Berton as guides. Years later My boss, Dr. Norman Paterson of Huntech would 
describe me to an audience as ‘precocious’ whatever that means.

This story is long.  It will be broken into several Episodes.  You will either hate it or love it.
I do not give a sweet goddamn which you choose.  Some may even think the Episodes are
fiction.  No so.  These stories are part  of my life.  Why write the stories?  Do not really know.

alan skeoch
Nov. 5, 2022

P>S>  The previous summer of 1960 I had been sent to Ireland.  Living there was easy.
Our landlady in the tiny village of Bunmahon, Mrs. Lill Kennedy, commented to me
“We had another Canadian mining crew in the village a few years ago.  They were
drinkers and caroused a lot.  You are different”
.  If Mrs. Kennedy had been in the Yukon she might have reconsidered her comment.
Must write a story about her…a great woman.  She is long gone now.


“There’s a race of men that don’t fit in, 
A race that can’t sit still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and rove the flood, 
And they climb the mountain’s crest; Their’s is the curse of the gypsy blood, 
And they don’t know how to rest.” 
― Robert Service“Let us probe the silent place

“Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling…let us go” 
― Robert W. Service, The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses

“There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; 
It’s luring me on as of old; 
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting 
So much as just finding the gold. 
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, 
It’s the forests where silence has lease; 
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, 
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.” 
― Robert W. Service, The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses

Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.” 
― Robert W. Service


This sluice box miner gave me the 10,000 year old tooth of a Hairy Mammoth.  The tooth was a great
prop when I begin teaching history at Parkdale C.I. until some student to teacher stole it. 

An aboriginal family another dogs rafting to their hunting grounds down the Stewart River at Mayo Landing in 1961

Dodge Power Wagon could go anywhere…even up or down fast flowing creeks where there were no roads

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