Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Adventures Of Dusty Sourdough

Don't ever let it be said that I am not a sucker for a heaping dose of "cheesy."  Case in point:  An hour or so in a tent city attached to a restaurant in a mine where they serve traditional and authentic Alaskan corn fritters, with honey butter, which as it turns out was not invented by Rainbow Gardens to serve on Mormon Muffins, but by some hapless gold miner whose rations got mixed up together--sort of like the whole chocolate and peanut butter melee...listening to Dusty Sourdough regale us with stories of his Great-great Grampa, a lawman in the days of the great Northern Gold Rush.  Stories that are being translated by Disney into a three-part television mini-series for Halmark channel.  Can you get any cheesier than Disney hanging out with Hallmark?!

But maybe not as hokey as you would think.  I mean, overall.  Forget that they called this little stage a city and the wooden restaurant a gold mine and that it was right across the street from the Alaska Wild Berry Farm and Theater where you could see real reindeer in the petting pen, and the world's largest chocolate fountain flowing hugely and freely right before your eyes.

And that someone needs to work a bit on their spelling.  And anyway, who cares how fudge is spelled.  Spell it like a swear word and I'm still going to show you how it's et. 

Dusty's story was actually so riveting to me that I won a prize at the end of the tale for being the first one to shoot my hand up with an answer to a very obscure fact he casually mentioned in the middle of the tale. Dusty was surprised I was so smart.  I was proud.  How many of you know how far it is from Nome to Dawson?  I'll tell you.  700 miles.  I remember that because I was hanging onto every word about Alex What's His Name and his travels over land, sea and river.  Still not sure what my prize is, though.  A zerox copy of an add for the Bear Paw Something Something where you can ride an animatronic hot air balloon and get your picture taken in a parka and mukluks.  The paper has Dusty's autograph on the back of it and I think that makes it a free ticket to get in. 

What do you think...think Dusty told us he sang back-up with Glen Campbell?  Think he had his own little ditty about his great-great granddaddy as a theme song that sounded very much like Dannel Boone or Old Yeller music?  Think we sang "North to Alaska" more than once that evening?  You bet your sweet little corn fritters we did.

The best part of his story, though, he is holding in his hands in this picture.
That is a real artifact Dusty obtained from some library in Canada.  A treasure map that had only been reported to be in existence all this time.  A little guy in Seattle had boasted that he found gold, lots of gold just lying on top of the ground and he was going to be rich beyond imagination and he had a map of how to get back to his claim but he wasn't going to show it to another soul.  Of course, bragging about it in a saloon is probably not the healthiest thing a gold panner could think of to do.  He was shot and killed and no one saw who did it and there was no map to be found on or near the poor, rich guy.  A saloon girl claimed to have seen a very big man look like he shot and killed the little gold miner, but this very big man suddenly disappeared.  At this point in the story, I imagined that eerie sound you hear in the movie Cat Ballou when Lee Marvin and his evil metal nose-mask make an appearance from out of nowhere and recede again just as abruptly.  Gave me gooseflesh. 

Alex was a very big man, and he was a bad man, but no one could prove anything against him.  He finally got caught for having killed a travel companion (and you'll forgive me for not telling this story in more vivid detail, for it is a good story, but I want to get to the point of the map.)  Alex engineered a lot of the gold rush in Alaska, but because he was such a rapscallion--or murderer, if you will--his likeness is not caste in bronze and immortalized in downtown Anchorage or Juneau or Nome or Dawson.  But this child-like drawing on a piece of leather was among some of his meager belongings, tucked away in the library, now in the possession of Dusty Sourdough to go along with all his research. 

Turn the map upside down and look closely at it and you can see the southwestern outline of Alaska and there at the top is a bullet hole.

Well, maybe you had to be there.

1 comment:

buzzard said...

What a brilliant post, thankyou!!