Claude Turcotte was the father of my two younger kids, Josh and Sophie Turcotte, also Dad to then-toddlers Geordie MacInnis and Lee Robitaille. He was my partner, lover and frenemy from 1979 to 1988, when his shenanigans became too much for me.
Claude came to Yukon in 1973 to work in Clinton Creek, and stayed for the adventure and party. He became a minor Yukon celeb in Dawson, and later in the ‘Horse. Originally from La Belle Province, he was an agent provocateur who loved to stir the pot and happily watch the ensuing chaos.
He was King of Halloween. He went as the Tin Man one year, and wore an 80 pound culvert all night at Gerties. The next year he donned a massive fur coat, filled the foot of a pair of pantyhose with potatoes and pulled it over his head to impersonate The Elephant Man. He created a fat suit to mimic a known RCMP informant and the guy left the Territory right afterwards. Dressed as a Quebec Referendum ballot box in 1995, all his ballots were pre-marked Non.
When he partied out of control, he’d call the cops on himself, then rumble with them when they came to get him. Sometimes he called just for a ride home; the RCMP figured that out and quit coming.
When looking for a scrap, he’d pick the biggest guy around. While not always victorious, he was usually less damaged than he should have been.
After we split he loved to push my buttons. He was really good at it and it made his day when I flew off the handle in public.
He was killed by a drunk driver on a roadside in Fort St. John in the early hours of April 4, 1998. He’d been working down there and was only a day or two shy of coming back. The kids were devastated, of course, as were his many friends. His brothers Rejean and Yvan came from Quebec for the funeral in Dawson.
Sadly, with our checkered past, I was mostly just mad at him.
It makes some kind of sense that not long afterwards he came back to haunt our house. This was always in April, not just the month he died, but also his, Soph’s and my birthday.
It took me a long time to figure it out, actually, as his ghostly pranks primarily consisted of rattling cupboards, jumping around on the deck, and visiting my dreams. For awhile I thought it was my imagination or the wind, or chalked it up to minor seismic activity.
He was a benevolent spirit, in many ways a more courteous houseguest than when he was alive. But I bet it frustrated him that without a body he couldn’t make much noise. He’d usually stay for a week or two, and it got so I could count on it and looked forward to his visit. I’d tell him how the kids were doing, and how much they missed him. One year Sophie was back home in the month of April, so he stayed the whole month.
Through the decade or so of his hauntings, my feelings have mellowed. Some years ago, he walked unannounced (as always) into one of my most vivid dreams. This was a random occurrence, like so many things in his life, and on this occasion I was really glad to see him. In hindsight I think we both had things to work out with each other, and he didn’t stop visiting until that was done.
Ask any Yukoner who knew Claude, they all have their own personal tale to tell about him. The smart bet is that even the most outlandish of them is true. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense for him come back and unsettle the living, just to get the last word.