Tillicums of the Trail
A night in June 1917 found me under one of the brick-piles on the Avion front in a safe little cellar that the Hun had fixed up for himself and then turned over to us. I was seated on some sand-bags set against the wall, with a "capacity house" to hear a Klondike tale. A few candles gave a dim light hazy with thick tobacco smoke, making it easier for fancy to have free course. There were no interruptions except the occasional call from the top of the dug-out stairs for some man to report for duty. The sound of shells and guns came dully to our ears and seemed unheard as, in imagination, we travelled afar to fairer climes and by-gone days.
I'll tell you to-night of my first trip to the North and my first attempt to travel with a dog-team on a winter trail.
In 1899 I was a Missionary in the back-woods of Minnesota learning to preach, practising on our American cousins out of consideration for the feelings of my fellow-Canadians! I was quite contented in my work, preaching at little country schoolhouses with long distances to drive between, but getting everywhere the best they had of hospitality.
One day in the winter of 1899-1900 a telegram came to me from Dr. Robertson our Canadian Superintendent of Missions asking me, if agreeable, to report at Winnipeg that week for duty in the Yukon. I couldn't resist "the call of the wild" and I wired acceptance of the appointment. Two weeks later I was on the C.P.R. headed for Vancouver. There I got a berth on a little steamboat named the Cutch, bound for Skagway, Alaska, the great gateway to the "Golden North."