144 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-88839-232-X
DDC 971.9102'0924




Illustrations by June Foote
Reviewed by David Mattison

David Mattison is a librarian with the B.C. Provincial Archives and
Records Services Library.


Many Yukon tales are set during the great Klondike gold rush.
Gordon-Cooper, a Yukon bush pilot, attempts to fill the void between the
brief Klondike era and the post-World War II boom. All the old-timers in
this collection are men, but this doesn’t mean that women won’t
enjoy these stories, especially the three amusing “Yukon Yarns” that
poke fun at the establishment geologist, the slow-witted old fellow
being fitted for a hat, and the trapper outsmarted by two wolves. Most
of this anthology’s Yukoners are independent trapper-types who enjoy
living off the land and matching wits with the Native peoples.

The anthology opens with a mad-trapper yarn told by an RCMP corporal.
The tale ends with the classic tall-tale kicker about how to bury a
corpse in frozen ground. Rather than ending the story there, though, the
author tacks on a brief account of a mercy flight. The next story is
about a dying miner named Orloff King, who receives some comforting
advice about life beyond the Great Divide before he takes the final
journey. Next comes Gordon-Cooper’s own account of a hair-raising
mercy flight beset by mechanical problems. He then narrates his
participation in the 1949 Firth River gold rush. (The Firth River, which
drains into the Arctic Ocean near Herschel Island, was a most
inhospitable environment, and the rush quickly passed.) The Nahanni
Valley and Indian lore in the Northwest Territories are the subjects of
“Witch Country Tales,” again based on the author’s experiences. A
rambling account of the adventures of Ira Van Bibber precedes the last
story, about Fred Guder’s travels in the Nahanni Valley.

Some of the stories are difficult to follow, because the author
attempted to replicate the oral flavor of the originals. A selection of
his photographs and a map with nearly indecipherable trail legends
assist the reader to visualize these stories.


Gordon-Cooper, H., “Yukoners,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/11528.