I was up in the Yukon last week working with Gwaandak Theatre on a series of radio plays based on legends from Old Crow. It was great to see all my Vuntut Gwich’in relatives and meet the famed Paul Kennedy from the CBC radio program, Ideas. He looks nothing like he sounds on radio. Is that an oxymoron? (Even though I failed my GED course three times, I’m still trying to sound like I’m a writer.)
I’ve been living in Alberta for the last four years while my wife pursues a post-secondary education. I was at the university myself for a month and a half, but I kept dumping the mop pail and they had to let me go. I ended up getting a job at the “Big House,” a federal penal institution. I was so busy shaking hands with all the inmates that the warden thought I was hiding something on my resume. I had to reassure him that the North, being as it is, is like a small town. Over time, a guy gets to know most everybody. And with me playing my guitar in every two-bit joint from Tuktoyuktuk to Teslin, you get acquainted with the rounders in town a might quick. I’d tell you some prison stories, but I’m under a federal gag order not to, so it’ll have to wait till I see you in the Pit sometime.
At any rate, it was a breath of fresh air to get back “home” recently. Most folks know I’m originally from the Mackenzie Delta, but since we raised our kids in the Yukon, and they call it home, then I figure I’d best toe the family line. I can just hear my homies dissing me for making such a preposterous statement. “You lowdown bannock-slapping, flapjack-flipping, tea-boiling son of a biscuit-eatin’ man.” I know damned well I’ll get demoted to chief pot-scrubber on my next hunting trip back to the delta, but we made a life for our kids in the Yukon and our sights are set on getting back up once the dust settles.
Though I’ve gotten to know a few folks here in Alberta, I still get a hankerin’ for some good old Yukon folk; guys who know how to roll a smoke and make cowboy coffee on an open fire. My good buddy Roger is one of them original sourdoughs who got his feet wet in Dawson City back in the day. He’s got some great stories from that hippie era and I love nothing more than to hear them over a good cuppa coffee.
We had rehearsals for the show in the afternoons and I spent my mornings sauntering around town and getting reacquainted with all my old Sit-jah’s. Me and Roger hijacked Uncle Stephen Frost from the hospital where he was visiting his daughter, Jackie. He was glad to take a ride around town and act like a juvenile delinquent with me and Roger egging him on to tell us stories about his dog mushing days and the good times in the beer parlor at the old Whitehorse Inn.
There was always a crowd around Paddy’s Hotdog Stand and I got to see more friends there then I ever did in the courthouse. His five-dollar smokies went down real good too after all that walking I was doing. We even got to play a few songs together on Saturday night at the Gold Pan Saloon. We used to pack the joint back in the day when I had a band called the Hellhounds. We were always on the bum for a bass player but seemed to pull off a three-set night and get everyone half throttled before they shut out the lights.
I’m back here in Alberta now and settling in for the night before I head off to work in the morning. I know the universe will align itself and one day I’ll be sitting under the stars again hunting moose with my buddies and telling them some old jail stories, but this time I’ll tell them from the outside. Baby Island standing by.