The many faces of a Yukoner

The first Yukoner I ever met was Rodger Thorlakson.

It was 19 years ago and I was two days “Inside”. Sure, I met other people in that time, but between the hotel room and work it wasn’t a lot.

Those I formed relationships with were just like me: recently transplanted.

Rodger, however, had that hat going for him and the barrel-chested thing and the level gaze he gave you with eyes that had seen it all.

We were introduced by a mutual friend who had mentioned I would be a new father soon.

Those seen-it-all eyes looked at me anew and Rodger decided, “Yeah, I’ve sized you up. I figure you’ll be a good father.”

It was the ultimate compliment … if you got past the presumptuousness of it. And I did, instantly, because Rodger embodies that tell-it-like-it-is mystique you would expect of a Yukoner.

I feel sorry for Cheechakos who have to call me “the first Yukoner I met”. I must be quite the disappointment. Sure, I have a beard and checkered shirt and I really do like clothes made by Carhartt, but I just do not look like a stereotypical Yukoner.

My eyes have not seen it all and my handshake would tickle a fish.

I do not drink or smoke and I am not running away from anything Outside.

I only swear when the telling of a good joke requires it and I still think chopping wood is fun … not a chore.

Sure, I will look at a car’s engine before buying it, but I don’t know what I am looking at.

This renders me … typical. Yes, I think I am a typical Yukoner, which throws even more of a burden on Rodger and those like him, who still walk the walk, to keep the rough-and-ready image alive.

Once you have lived here for a while, you find there are different types of Yukoners.

There are recluses who live in cabins off the grid. And there are the granola-eating, back-to-the-land people. And there are cubicle-dwelling government workers.

That’s three stereotypes already … and I am not counting Rodger because his is an archetype.

OK, we also have artists who manage to live on $6,000 a year and then there are those who come to the Yukon to, in the words of Tony Penikett, “make a killing, not a living.”

And don’t forget the ageing hippies, mushroom pickers and the many stereotypes attached to the First Nations (thanks a lot, Hollywood!).

Gee, if I list 30,000 different categories of Yukoners, then it would defeat the purpose – and the fun – of stereotypes.

Fun? Sure. Just so long as loans officers don’t decide on who gets a mortgage and who doesn’t, based on a stereotype, then what is the harm in it?

This is a topic that has such a deep well of possibilities that I have decided to devote a new column to it.

On Page 10, you will see the first Yukon Icon, written by Peter Jickling. This gentleman has a degree in philosophy and a great interest in all things Yukon, so I just know that he will do a great job for you.

His first assignment: Rodger Thorlakson, of course.

Now he is looking for more stereotypical Yukoners to feature. Please do not be insulted if he asks you for an interview (unless, of course, you are a mass murderer hiding from the Texas Rangers).

You see, his job will be to examine what makes you a stereotype … and then all the ways you break that stereotype.

With Rodger, he found out that, yes, he is tough as nails – he has a cabin in his driveway awaiting the concrete footings he recently poured – and yet he is doing that work to offer space to musicians, such as himself, to play together.

Yeah, that will be my favourite part: when Peter blows up a stereotype. Because that is fun, too.

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