100,000 miles with Mail-team in The Yukon
Mr. P.C. DeWolfe, known familiarly as ‘Percy' in the Dawson district is the
Mail-carrier between Dawson and Eagle in Alaska . Three times a month Percy
makes the round trip, and it is said that he has, in the twenty years he has
held the contract, never missed a trip through sickness. Such a reputation
has he made for himself that he is known locally as The Iron Man, and never
did a man deserve a nickname more than he.
From early in October, after the regular river steamers have ceased running,
until the first boat the next spring in early June Percy handles the mail.
The first few trips are made with a small gasoline-launch as long as navigation
on the Yukon river [sic] is safe and before there is too much floating ice.
After that he takes to the old time-honoured Yukon method of carrying
it by dog-team and sleigh, later on during the winter perhaps by single horse
No matter what kind of weather Old Man Winter springs on him; does the thermometer
say forty -fifty -or even sixty below zero? is it only ten below with half
a gale blowing which is even worse than the extreme low temperatures? or has
there been a nice gentle fal1 of six inches of soft snow during the night with
the temperature up around the twenty-above mark? Never mind - Percy never fai1s.
The total distance for the round trip is about two hundred miles and the usual
day's run is around twenty-five miles and it is not unusual for this distance
to take him ten to fifteen hours depending of course on the condition of the
trail and the state of the weather. N ot so ‘hot' for speed maybe, but when
it is remembered that the walking is never really good; where a careless step
in the dusk off the hard beaten trail means blundering into soft, knee-deep
snow -Ah, that's different! It means just this - that Percy earns his money.
Nor are low temperatures, high winds and drifted trails the only discomforts
that the Mail-man has to contend with. Not by any means. During the warmer days
of Apri1 and May, the snow melts and the ice on the river becomes rotten. It
is then that Percy's job is not only uncomfortable but becomes positively dangerous.
More than one horse has he lost through the treacherous ice. There isn' t much
anything tha t goes through the ice and into the swirling
icy waters of the Yukon River . More than once has he been ob1iged to leave the
river and with mail sacks on his back or in hastily- improvised dog-packs, take
to the 'bush' and walk, and the banks of the Yukon are not the easiest places
in the country to walk on even without a load. No - be it Fall, Winter or Spring,
the Mail-Man's job, along the Yukon at all events, is certainly no picnic, and
whatever Percy's reward may be at the end of the season he earns it .