Monday, August 29, 2005

Grandad's Yukon Stories 2: Domestic Life

In my first post about Grandad's stories of life in the Yukon, we see what honeymoons, manual labor, and real toughness meant to outback folk.

There were some real characters in the Yukon, and some of them were female. After the fold, one of the cautiously respected characters of the early 20th-c frontier, in my grandfather's words.
"One of the better known roadhouse operators in days gone by was Ma Schaeffer at Pelly Crossing. She was a large, tough, good-hearted woman with little education. She would rouse the crew and guests at the roadhouse in the morning by yelling up the stairs, 'Hurry up and come alive! I've got to have that sheet you're sleeping on for a tablecloth!' In later years she was married to Cy Detra who had a small ranch at Thistle Creek. They were flooded out one time by an ice jam and had to escape by going out the second story window and up onto the roof. Cy, who was not a big man, had a real struggle getting her out the window and up onto the roof.

"The Detras had a vegetable garden, raised hay, and had a few cattle, including a bull. The Pelly farm was also in existence at that time, and had some cattle but no bull. One time the Pelly farm owners arranged to borrow the bull from the Detras to service their cows. The bull had to be transported from one location to the other by steamer. Their deckhands were having a hard time persuading the bull to walk down the gangplank onto the steamer Casca. The ship was loaded with tourists and they were all out on deck watching the procedure. Captain Campell, a very proper, gentlemanly sort, was in the midst of them, leaning over the Texas deck railing. To amuse himself and the tourists around him, he was shouting gossip and joshing back and forth with the Detras on shore. Just to say something he shouted down, 'Mrs. Detra, has that bull of yours got a pedigree?'

"A look of astonishment came into her eyes as if she were saying to herself, 'Pedigree, pedigree, what the hell is a pedigree?' Then there was was a look of comprehension as if the word had suddenly clicked in her brain. 'Pedigree! I should sa-a-ay he has!' And she held her big, fat arm up in the air and pointed with her other hand to a cut off point near her shoulder. 'When that old bull gets excited he has a pedigree that big!'"


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