Discovery Days and the Underwear Cannon

Shredded bits of a pair of my underwear are nailed to the wall inside a bar – the bar – in Chicken, Alaska.

It always amazes me what northerners will do to prove they are unique and unlike people from Outside.

We’d ridden our bikes down to Dawson City, on the Friday afternoon of the Discovery Day long weekend, one of the Klondike’s biggest celebrations.

Arriving into town without hotel reservations was not really wise but, by the grace of Nancy at the Midnight Sun Hotel, we were rescued from homelessness. After visits and a few beer in the tavern, we settled in for sleep.

Quiet room and dark curtains meant we slept through our intended early rise to be up just in time for coffee on the Riverwest second floor balcony to watch the local Discovery Days Parade.

I have a soft spot for that parade: 1976, cute guy, first summer in Dawson City, etc.

We left Dawson around noon, crossing the ferry to West Dawson and the Top of the World Highway. The weather was great and the views stunning.

The ride up to the summit is paved most of the way. Pot hole dodging not too tough. The down slope, however, is a challenging set of steep grade switchbacks set on silty gravel. Thank God it was not raining.

The guy was riding a KLR dual sport and feeling quite cocky about it. I, on the other hand, was on my cruiser. By the time we got to Chicken, my shoulders were pinned up somewhere around my ears.

The bar was calling loudly to provide some stress relief.

It takes a while for eyes to adjust to dim light on a sunny afternoon. First we noticed hundreds of ball caps hanging off the ceiling and the walls. Then we notice hundreds of rags also hanging off the ceiling and the walls, between the ball caps.

We sat down, ordered our drinks and looked around again. “What are all these rags doing here?” The barmaid fairly leaps to her feet, “If you let me shoot your underwear out of a cannon you get your drink for free!”

“I’m sorry, say again?”

Well, the pair I had on, I had been told, were particularly hideous. I don’t want to get into detail, but think of the flame pattern you see on a lot of Harley bandanas. It sounded like a fitting sacrifice. “I’m game.”

The barmaid was already hauling the cannon outside, loading, tamping and priming it. The last item, my underwear, was stuffed down the barrel, tamped down and the fuse lit.

Cannons are really loud.

Did I mention the underwear was a thong? It took good eyes to find the bits that were all that was left. The walls got their newest addition and I got my drink for free.

Then from across the valley came the loud boom of another cannon going off.

The barmaid was hauling her cannon back outside muttering, “He can’t get away with that …”

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