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Iditaroditis

The following letter tells the tough times of an Iditarod stampeder caught up in the fevered rush to get in on the next big strike — which in the summer of 1911, was in beautiful downtown Dikeman — about 130 winding river miles north of Iditarod:

Alaska Citizen, July 10, 1911

FAIRBANKS LOOKS GOOD TO HIM

Has Had All He Wants Of Lower Camp And Hankers For Town.

Dikeman, June 4, 1911
To: Mr. George Bellows:

Friend George–This country is a paradise compared with other places, such as Hell. It fazes anything ever marked on the map. The climate is fascinating and very varied, in fact you could write a long story about it entitled Iditarod, the Land of Five Thousand Climates. I have never seen Dikeman, the man who discovered this country, but would like to; also I would like to feel his bumps. He must either have been crazy or a Canadian, because they, either of them, only would pick out such a salubrious spot as this to prospect in. I’m not saying that the isn’t here, because it is here, mostly all in one place, on one creek called Flat, and most of the silver here is in one saloon called Casey’s. If some physiognomist could see any of the men that wintered here, one look at their face, and his verdict would be, “Iditaroditis”, i. e. — meaning no grub.

The water was so high here that it worked havoc with the poor little mice. You see it was a foot high in each house. Most of the boys here stayed home on top of their beds and done nothing all day but shoot mice swimming around on the floors. Bill Johnson was marooned for seven days in his cabin. I assure you we had a delightful time. I had lots of fun with the cheechakos on the (steamer) White Seal, when she came through. The water was at its highest. They did not like the looks of it. I told them the farther up they went the worse it got, but could not get them to stick here; their motto was “Excelsior (oceangoing steamship),” and if it keeps up like the outlook is at present, they will be eating their motto before fall, that’s providing its not all made into beds.

The (steamer) Tanana was loaded with passengers from the (steamer) Sarah when she went through here. I am coming back to good old Fairbanks after a while, and they’ll never get me away from it again. If you cold only see me now. What a picture for tableaux vivants. Call it the Prodigial Son, on the eve of his departure for home.

Quite a bunch are leaving Iditarod for the Melozi and Good News bay. Rich reports are coming here from both places. The steamer Samson has been built over for B.H.&K.; a new bow and big hurricane deck, Texas, etc., to accommodate passengers. She is a swell craft now. Cy Attwell has made a modern boat out of the Little Delta. Tom Markuson has built a nice pool hall here. Jim Fullerton is part owner of Dubins hotel. Mrs. Myrick has rebuilt her restaurant and fixed it up fine. The N. C. Co. has a swell store here and also a fine fellow in charge, Mr. Jim Mulligan. The White Seal just came in from Iditarod and has about 50 passengers for Ruby creek and some of them say the whole country up above Iditarod is going to leave for there. Great stuff these stampedes, eh?

I think I am getting the fever myself. My partner, Billy Roberts, who used to be in the fire department, has got it already. You see he has been here longer than I have. He put in last summer. He calls it the time of the Deluge, as it raided all the time, here, last summer. George, on the square, I’ll have to show signs of speed if I ever intend leaving this place. I’ve handed out all my spare mitts, but none of them are full.

Every one is wise. I’ve laid awake five nights now trying to think out a scheme for to grab some of these live ones coming up the river, but no go. I think I have gone clean through my whole repertoire. I’m afraid nothing but a lead pipe would loosen up some of these cheechakos, but I still live in hopes. There is absolutely no chance to spend your money here, because there ain’t any. I hear the Guggenheims are coming here, that’s good. Gee, but I’d like to grab Simon (Guggenheim) for a chunk. I don’t know what I have done wrong, but it’s a cinch bet I don’t get any of the coin, if I do some gonof (thief) gets it away from me.

Well George, I will conclude now, as I have to find out more about his Ruby creek. I am getting kind of feverish myself. So long for the present, from your old friend.

Note: We don’t know who the author of this story is, the letter was unsigned. At the time of the Iditarod Stampede, many residents of Fairbanks went to the Iditarod country and most came back empty-handed. This feverish 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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