But There Is Some Pleasure, too.

Tents and buildings along a lake
The bottleneck at the lake as stampeders waited for the Yukon to break up in the spring of 1898.

National Park Service, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, George & Edna Rapuzzi Collection, KLGO 55800. Gift of the Rasmuson Foundation.

Lake Linderman, April 29, 1898

Dear Boys:

I write you probably for the last time, for a while at least. I broke camp, or rather the North East party with whom I was stopping did, about ten days ago, and moved from Sheep Camp to the Lake. I packed the remainder of my baggage on my back from Sheep Camp to the Summit, no very easy job. As the other boys had not arrived yet I loaded my sled with about 200 pounds camp outfit, put 100 pounds of flour on as a drag behind, and made the descent of the hill very nicely. It is no easy work to get from the Summit to the Lake, even if it is down grade. About 300 pounds is all a man can handle, 250 is better. My first load came down so nicely that I put 350 on for my next, but never did it again. Couldn’t manage it. Coming down the hill from the summit with 100 pounds dragging behind it was more than I could hold. The last thing I heard as it got the better of me was a voice saying “For God’s sake, hang to her”, and I hung. With feet braced in front and the steel spikes of my creepers tearing up the trail, and clinging to the “G” pole for dear life, I made the descent mid a shower of snow flung in my face and breast, at the seemingly Empire State Express gait. Which is the way that man I spoke of in my last was killed and the way many are injured there, the sleds get away and they don’t hang on to them. Another day I started down one of the half dozen troughs which are worn by the descending sleds, with a light load and it was so slippery that my drag crowded the sled instead of holding back. I came to a point where there was another sled just in front and could not stop any other way, so dropped and made a rough lock of myself. Was somewhat bruised, but saved a worse accident. You bet I was thankful I had on only 225 pounds with only 125 on the sled.

But to return to my tale, as the story books say, I arrived at the lake with my camp outfit at about 7:30, too late to pitch camp before dark, so went to the tent of Geo. Farel of Titusville, where I was housed and fed in a manner not to be surpassed. His partner Fred Nicholas of North East was absent at the time. I shall probably go down the river with them in one boat, as we all have about the same plans and objective point. Western Pennsylvania has sent a fine lot of boys up here.

The Batavia boys are nearby and we visit back and forth a good deal. Their cook Joh McJury, has a great future before him if he chooses to follow cooking as a business. A few nights after I set up for myself I was enabled to pass some of the favors I had received, on. Two men were belated as I had been and applied for lodging. One of them was an old Yukoner, and you may be sure I applied the pump. My hopes are high.

A few days after my arrival here, I went snow blind. Could not see a thing, or even open my eyes when the pain would come on, and could not see much anyway. But I had to keep at work. The day I was the worst, I borrowed a pair of snow glasses, put a red bandanna over my head to shut out the side light, pulled my cap down over my eyes and went to the summit, 10 miles away, for a load. I would get another sled close up, and by watching the motions of that, kept the trail. Then when the pain came on would pull to one side until it eased up, then get behind another sled and go on. But the pain was something terrible. That is one disadvantage of working alone. Sick or well, you must keep going. Such is life in the far north. About that time one of my neighbors divided his black veiling with me, and the Batavia boys dropped some eye medicine in my eyes to allay the inflammation, and between them they cured me. Everyone has been very good to me so far.

People get very ugly and cranky though. It is the hard world. I don’t believe there is a place on earth where a pleasant word or a hasty word will go further. And yet five minutes after a quarrel all is fair again. In an instance I will relate a circumstance that occurred to me the other day. On the way down there is a sharp pitch where nearly all of us use a rough lock. I use a drag. It is much quicker to put out and take in. At the foot of this hill each sled in turn stops and removed the rough lock or drag. I waited my turn then pulled far enough ahead to allow the next sled to come down also, then stepped back to pick up my drag and place it on the sled, an operation requiring about a minute. But the man behind was afraid another sled would come down and run into him, so ordered me to go on. I told him I would as soon as I picked up my drag. At that he took hold and tried to run my sled on. It got a little warm there for a few minutes, but the sled remained until I ready to go on. About ten rods beyond, he was helping me over a bad place and I helping him. I apologized. He did the same. All was lovely. But it is all hustle and hard work. There are no easy parts unless one has enough money to hire everything done. But there is some pleasure, too. It is pleasant to come in cold, wet and hungry to a warm tent and sit down to a big dish of pork and beans and afterward smoke a social pipe in the short evening. I think my eating would surprise even those who are acquainted with my natural appetite. I eat a 6x8 loaf of bread at a meal and other things in proportion. I am making baking powder bread now, but if I ever get more time I shall bake sour dough bread, as it is far healthier.

Well, boys, will bid you good-bye. Shall move down Bennett in 4 or 5 days until I get to good timber for boat building and opportunities to send out letters will be few.
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Last updated: September 28, 2017