Sled dog racing along the Yukon River in a Rendezvous of yore.

Rendezvous In the Old Days

Rendezvous – it’s always been our mid-winter break. A chance to unwind. It’s competition, and horseplay, and fun. It’s a toast to old friends, and another to new friends. It’s a pessimist’s pleasure: “can’t touch the good old days, going to my cabin till it’s over;” and an optimist’s glory: “Can’t beat seeing friends I ain’t seen for a year.”

It’s stress, strain, winners, and losers. It’s love in the afternoon. It’s families at play, and wonder in the eyes of a child.

The mid-winter blues-blaster is back for its 50th time, with volunteers as busy as ever – maybe busier. Where would we be without them, eh?

Lord thunderin’ – it seems it was only yesterday. Okay, quite a few yesterdays when Rendezvous was on the Yukon River. Main Street was blocked off for flour packing, whip-sawing, chain-saw tossing, goodie tents and the like. G. I. Cameron – ex-Mountie and friend of all – was our regular starter of the dog races, letting them loose on a seven mile and a 15 mile track. Fred Stretch and I prepared the dog tracks for a few years there, dragging stone boats in the snow that Fred designed and built.

Volunteering was alive and well in 1979, as now, and the Queens led the way, generously giving their time and energy raising the bucks. There were several dances every night at the service clubs, mainly, and we all loved the deal. Pay your two bucks each, yep $2, at the first dance, get your hand stamped, and you were good to go to all the others for the night with a wave of your stamped hand.

My contemporaries and I used to reminisce over those folks from England who came to Rendezvous more than once in the seventies – like the seven foot tall cowboy, bigger’n any of us had ever seen. Anywhere. He was close to eight feet tall with his hat on. He’d bump into the “chandelier” – what we called those ordinary hanging ceiling lights in the Officers Club.

The club was a leftover military officers’ mess from the Army or Air Force, not sure which, up near the airport where the Yukon Transportation Museum is now.

The gal from Europe was a fond memory. Her enthusiasm for the dog races was contagious.

“This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen,” she would say. She never missed a race. Someone said she came back for a few years in the ’70s, but I never met her. Wish I had!

It’s changed some, though. It had too. It’s like Confucious says, “The only constant in the world is change.”

Sourdough Rendezvous is still a fine old wing-ding and mixer. The dance halls are smaller than the airport hangars that were used sometimes. But they’re warmer, now, too. Shake off winter blues, celebrate the basics, and above all catch-up with friends from around the Yukon. We could even leave our electronic tethers at home, play in the snow for awhile, and see who can tell the best tall tale – say did I ever tell you about Tom Meekins and the two wolves that stalked him… oh darn… next time, eh?

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