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Claude à M. Ryder, 6 avril 1926.
Claude à M. Ryder, 6 avril 1926.
Yukon Archives: 91/112 f. 2, MSS 365
Courrier de la vie de Claude avant Mary
  • Lettre de Claude à M. Ryder, 2 avril 1926

Dawson, April 6, 1926

Dear Father Ryder,

Your last long letter reached me by last week's mail, and as my reply promises to be rather a lengthy one, if I am to comply with some of your requests. I thought I'd better get started early as I am sure I shall not make it in one session.

I managed to get pretty well ahead this month with some of my office work so I am snatching a few moments during office hours today to get one started to you at any rate.

With regard to your letter and your suggestion that perhaps Mary may be a little homesick -Well -of course she read your letter, but she flatly contradicts such a statement, -"I am not homesick, - and I haven't been complaining to my people," she says, of course I hadn't thought that she had been complaining, -I know she wouldn't do that - ever. Naturally she would like to visit home and all that it means - what girl wouldn't? But she never leads me to believe she's really pining for such a trip. We talk about it and make tentative plans but I'm sure she realizes with me that such a long and expensive trip cannot be undertaken without much care and forethought.

In the first place it would mean an absence of at least three months and this too during the busiest time of the year for me, - my place in the office being somewhat of a responsible one it would hardly be possible to put a man in my place as a temporary substitute without at first giving him some coaching in the work, and again it is not always easy to find a man in Barracks who even cares for the work.

Again, and perhaps this is even more important -such a trip would involve probably an outlay of close to $2,000. --including fares and coming right upon the heels as it were of setting up in a home of our own with all the expenses in connection therewith, is rather too much for a man in my position.

I can honestly assure you that I am just about as anxious to make this wonderful trip as Mary is herself, but it's no use, as I see it for us to cripple ourselves financially for several years in order to make this trip at once.

I have a small nest egg invested that is bringing in a very good rate of interest and it is my intention under no circumstances except sickness ever to touch this. It's my insurance for Mary should anything ever happen to me. You understand I hope and won't accuse me of niggardliness in this matter. We've hardly got properly on to our feet as it were yet and of course the financial. side of our housekeeping is still more or less in the experiment stage. Mary is doing remarkably well - and I love her for the interest she displays in every thing. She appears to love our home -thinks it by far the nicest in town.

We've had a wonderful winter in all respects; the weather itself has been unusually mild and we've had some delightful trips with the dogs which Mary has thoroughly enjoyed. I don't think there has been a single week-end throughout the whole long northern winter that it has been too cold to go out - with perhaps one or two exceptions; this is most unusual for these latitudes.

We're so glad that you all have enjoyed seeing our snaps taken at various times and under various conditions. I'm very fond of photography and devote quite a lot of my spare time to this hobby, -my pet hobby really. We'll have more to send you from time to time, altho sleighing is now almost a thing of the past as far as this winter is concerned and we shall shortly have to be sending you snaps of our activities under somewhat different conditions.

Taking the winter "by and large" we have had a great deal of fun during our week-ends, - our little trips with the dogs have contributed largely to the enjoyment of the long winter months, - Mary has thoroughly enjoyed these trips - always, and as far as I am concerned, enjoy it as much as ever I did although during the past few years I have had quite a bit of it, but never palls me ~ I love to be out whenever it is possible. The very fact of us having dogs, has, I think, taken us out when perhaps we might not felt inclined to go otherwise. And really -Mary expressed herself the other day as being "sorry the winter was over" -just the very thing that I've said many times before in past years. Oh yes, one long winter has its advantages in the North. With your experience of winters in your latitude, you may not perhaps be fully able to realize the truth of this. When it snows here in Nov. - it snows to stay, and stays until April, and we rarely get that slushy mess that is so characteristic of your more temperate winters. It's never slushy here until April. The snow, as you might naturally suppose, - after repeated frosts becomes dry and powdery and not sticky and wet. Well, - Well - the summers are beautiful too, altho very brief, - flowers -vegetables of all sorts - grow luxuriantly - owing to the unusually long days and so many hours of sunshine, and the wonderful colorings are a real marvel, - they never fail to exert a wonderful charm upon me and I love the Fall more and more each year.

You asked me about my people, - Yes they are all alive -and well. My father and mother were both members of the teaching profession but have now retired, and are both living alone in a very charming old country village on the east coast within a mile of Sandringham - a country residence of our late dowager - Queen Alexandra. I have three sisters, all married since I left home, and all living in England. I'm the only boy of the family. My father is around about 65 or so I think, mother about the same, girls are younger than I.

I left home in 1910 and have never been back - disgraceful isn't it?

My career out here hasn't been a very exciting one, and to go over things in detail would only bore you I'm afraid. It suffices to say that like many another Englishman who comes to this country, - I've tried many jobs, - gaining experience, but little else. I've been on a farm, worked in a store, on a survey party, played the piano in a movie show, worked in a roundhouse, and fired a locomotive and finally joined the Police in 1914. Since that time I have done even more different kinds of jobs than I ever did previously, - but I have nearly always enjoyed the life. I came north in 1915, where I have been ever since, and am pleased to say I have never regretted that step in my life. I joined the Police in Sept. 1914 thinking that the Force would be sending overseas a Draft, but owing to trouble at that time with the foreign element at home, we were not sent. When our boys did go finally in 1918, I was way up North out of all touch - about 250 miles north of Fort Yukon and so again I missed it thro no fault of my own.

I have at various times been stationed at different points an over this vast Yukon Territory and have traveled it from the Arctic coast to the northern border of British Columbia -and all behind a dog team - and also from the most easterly to the most westerly extremities - and the more I see of it - the more I love it - in all its moods. Out of the total of about eleven years in the Territory - more than half of it has been spent in service at some out-posts living for the greater part alone[.] Just previous to meeting Mary for the first time I had spent almost two years on a[n] out-post where my nearest Post office was nearly 300 miles distant - and where I'd had no mail for seven months! not even a paper; where the nearest white woman was also that far away too. The only inhabitants of that vicinity being a few white trappers and prospectors and the rest Indians.

I loved the life tho in spite of the isolation - dogs, books, photography in addition to the daily chores around my cabin, were the chief means of putting in the time. I had to do entirely for myself - cooking, house-cleaning, my own washing etc., cut my own wood out in the bush, haul it in with dogs, saw and split it -and the thousand and one other little things that go to make up the life of a Policeman out on the real frontier -the edge of things as it were.

Now of course, all of this order of things has passed away and I am getting real comfort now, with a dear little wife and a home all our own. I have a reasonably good job - not big money tis true - but secure and sure, - my hours are easy, so's my boss, and I have Saturday after- noon and all Sunday free to do as I please.

Naturally, living in a small town so completely out of the world as it were, we cannot enjoy things up here that make life pleasant on the big Outside, but there are compensations for the lack of such diversions. We, Mary and I are both fond of walking and there are certainly heaps of places where we can walk - and nothing is "Verboten," one is at liberty to go almost anywhere. In half an hour almost one can be completely out of all sight or sound of civilization and there are an infinite number of fine places to camp out.

I'm particularly fond of getting out in the hills with a pack on my back and tramping around, making tea and eating lunch out-doors when- ever and wherever I feel so inclined. Mary loves this too and so we're never at a loss for anything to do in our spare time. Then of course we have the river at our very door almost. A canoe is always at our disposal with any amount of camping material, and altho the Yukon River is not one of the easiest rivers to navigate in a canoe, yet it is not at all impossible to go against the current if one knows how to manage it. So you see with this big outdoors all our own to roam at our own sweet will, we can really enjoy life altho we cannot go to the opera or attend lectures or hear the latest musical genius or any of those things. Personally I wouldn't exchange it here for any of these things I mention, and I'm pretty sure Mary loves it too --just as much as I do, for which I'm really thankful. I'd hate to think she didn't like the North, or even that she was just putting up with it for my sake, no, I think she's genuinely fond of it all. Her admiration and enthusiasm for the country is not merely that expressed by most newcomers, the novelty of it all has worn off by now: I hope it is a more lasting love for these things, because, well because it's become my home now, and my work is here and if all goes well I expect to remain here - well indefinitely.

Well now I think I'd better call this a letter and finish off.

********* Your affectionate son


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