Love of Life and Other Stories HTML version

A Day's Lodging
It was the gosh-dangdest stampede I ever seen. A thousand dog- teams hittin' the ice. You
couldn't see 'm fer smoke. Two white men an' a Swede froze to death that night, an' there
was a dozen busted their lungs. But didn't I see with my own eyes the bottom of the
water-hole? It was yellow with gold like a mustard-plaster. That's why I staked the
Yukon for a minin' claim. That's what made the stampede. An' then there was nothin' to
it. That's what I said - NOTHIN' to it. An' I ain't got over guessin' yet. - NARRATIVE
JOHN MESSNER clung with mittened hand to the bucking gee-pole and held the sled in
the trail. With the other mittened hand he rubbed his cheeks and nose. He rubbed his
cheeks and nose every little while. In point of fact, he rarely ceased from rubbing them,
and sometimes, as their numbness increased, he rubbed fiercely. His forehead was
covered by the visor of his fur cap, the flaps of which went over his ears. The rest of his
face was protected by a thick beard, golden-brown under its coating of frost.
Behind him churned a heavily loaded Yukon sled, and before him toiled a string of five
dogs. The rope by which they dragged the sled rubbed against the side of Messner's leg.
When the dogs swung on a bend in the trail, he stepped over the rope. There were many
bends, and he was compelled to step over it often. Sometimes he tripped on the rope, or
stumbled, and at all times he was awkward, betraying a weariness so great that the sled
now and again ran upon his heels.
When he came to a straight piece of trail, where the sled could get along for a moment
without guidance, he let go the gee-pole and batted his right hand sharply upon the hard
wood. He found it difficult to keep up the circulation in that hand. But while he pounded
the one hand, he never ceased from rubbing his nose and cheeks with the other.
"It's too cold to travel, anyway," he said. He spoke aloud, after the manner of men who
are much by themselves. "Only a fool would travel at such a temperature. If it isn't eighty
below, it's because it's seventy-nine."
He pulled out his watch, and after some fumbling got it back into the breast pocket of his
thick woollen jacket. Then he surveyed the heavens and ran his eye along the white sky-
line to the south.
"Twelve o'clock," he mumbled, "A clear sky, and no sun."
He plodded on silently for ten minutes, and then, as though there had been no lapse in his
speech, he added:
"And no ground covered, and it's too cold to travel."