High-flying Miners

Today’s Nugget is about the end of the mushing era and beginning of the aviation era with regard to prospecting for gold in Alaska. Gone were the days of mushing across hundreds of miles of wilderness in hopes of striking it rich. That was replaced by same-day travel while enjoying the view from an airplane window. The following excerpt is an entertaining account of how one old-timer viewed this new mode of transportation:

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner April 21, 1930


It was an April morning, with thin sunshine tempering a northeast wind. Snow was on the ground and three purring planes waiting their pilots’ commands to speed them to the Fortymile country; carrying four hopeful prospectors to that remote part of Alaska.

That was what the old ‘dough saw as he looked on. From his perspective, it looked as if the four who were about to flip the cards of chance in the great gamble of mining, were dressed as if they were about to fly to their offices in town, to sling pens, cut coupons, and dictate letters to flossy Janes, instead of wielding picks, shoveling gravel, and juggling gold pans in the bush.

The four passengers were members of the Fairbanks Rainbow Mining Company. They were Abe McCord, Gus Buhman (prounounced Booman), Albert Bell, and Charlie Phillips.

The old Sourdough was intrigued by this group of men and it was his first time observing the sky-trail being used by a prospecting company. Knowing the four miners, he voiced his wonderment.

“I’ll be damned! You fellas look as if you had struck it rich and was bound for the Outside, or a fancy dance or something. Instead they tell me you’re about to mush out in search of new diggings, but I’m darned if I see any sign of it. No old-time dog-team, no sled, no geepole, no nothing to show you’re about to take a whirl at the old game of chance to lay bare a pay-streak.”

“That’s just what we’re going to do, old-timer,” sung out Bell, who was no novice himself. “My ears long to hear the thrilling clink of gold in the pan once again.”

“Yes,” chimed McCord, “no wearisome miles of tough trail to buck, with you swearing at your dogs and often being the biggest one yourself. All you’ve got to do is step aboard, sit in your chair and look out the window to see the world below you going by till you get there.”

“Uh huh,” added Buhman, “weeks are trimmed down to hours- and then some.”
The sourdough then turned his attention to Abe McCord. “Who’s at the handle-bars that’s taking you fellas on the mush?”

“Handle-bars!” smiled Abe. “I guess you mean the pilot Mr. Crosson, along with pilots Young and Robertson who will be flying the planes that carry our outfit.”

Just then the order, “All aboard” was given. A hurried handshaking and the order was complied with. A short interval of quiet, then the blades nosing the machine sprang to life. A short slide over the snowy surface, and the Fairbanks Rainbow Company was in the air, their course closely scanned by the old sourdough until they were out of sight, while he mumbled that Alaska had sure gone to hell!

Submitted by: SOLO SCOTTIE.

Note: Three of the prospectors, Gus Buhman, Charlie Phillips and Albert Bell, were members of Men’s Igloo No. 4. This high-flying History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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