Reading the North

June 16, 2012 

Dalton's Gold Rush Trail: Exploring the Route of the Klondike Cattle Drives

By Michael Gates (Harbour Publishing)

The blurb: Despite its short existence between 1897 and when it was superceded by the Chilkoot and White trails in 1903, the Dalton Trail was a flashpoint for conflict with local Natives, border disputes between Canada and the U.S. and the jump-off point for a gold strike.

Excerpt: "(Jack) Dalton's temper and the simmering threat of trouble from the Chilkats came together with the tragic consequences in the spring of 1893. On March 6 at about ten o'clock in the morning, Daniel McGinnis, a twenty-seven-year-old clerk in the store belonging to Murray's cannery at Chilkat, was sitting and talking to a customer named Patrick Woods. Dalton walked into the store, accompanied by a local trader named Dickinson and a group of Chilkats. According to the testimony of witnesses given later, he strode across the room, passed the counter and came to a stop in front of McGinnis. He didn't waste words:

" 'What's this I hear McGinnis about you talking to those Indians about my going inside?' "

Alaska Curiosities

By B.B. Mackenzie (Globe Pequot Press, $15.95)

The blurb: This humorous compendium highlights the quirky characters, roadside oddities and other off-beat things found in Alaska.

Excerpt: "We know Santa can make reindeer fly, but what happens when they go hoof to toe with a bunch of crazy-costumed Alaskans bent on showing their speed, agility, resilience, or just plain zaniness?

"To discover the scientific answer to that question may or may not have been the goal of a couple local Anchorage disc jockeys, Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio, who proposed adding a Running of the Reindeer event to the annual Fur Rendezvous (known as Fur Rondy) festivities in Anchorage. Or perhaps they were just looking for a good laugh, which is in fact what this event delivers."

Write Hard, Die Free

By Howard Weaver (Epicenter Press, $14.95)

The blurb: Howard Weaver began working for the Anchorage Daily News as a 21-year-old reporter, and 23 years later he led the publication in a newspaper war against the long-dominant Anchorage Times.

Excerpt: "In the early 1970s Alaska was poised between its gold-rush past and the coming tumult of trans-Alaska pipeline construction, a coltish adolescent society where the booze, gambling and prostitution of its past were beginning to seem a quaint legacy in light of tougher, bloodier operations then emerging. It was a splendid time to be a crime reporter.

"I wanted to refer to Anchorage's traditional criminal establishement as 'disorganized crime' to distinguish it from the tougher new guys, but the editors wouldn't allow it. Still, the old guard remained my primary focus in early years, a deeply rooted and uniquely local brand of roués, pimps, and con men who operated essentially in the open, a fact of life most Anchorage citizens would readily acknowledge."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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