This is the Shorty story, everybody loves the Shorty story.
When we first moved to Alaska we lived in Haines the most northern city in Southeast Alaska. We camped outside of town the first night. There was a dog running around the campground and the next morning it was still there. So we picked it up and took it to town. We asked around who owned the dog, and we were told that it belonged to Schnabel’s daughter. We went to find her and were told that she lived in a dome house behind her folk’s house. She was grateful that we brought her dog back. She was on her way back to school down in the lower 48 and needed someone to stay in her house for the winter. We traded working on the house for free room and board. That day, Itchy also got a job working carpentry. I got a job in the local café. So our first day in Haines we had a free place to live and a job.
One morning Shorty came in to the café. He was a regular there and eventually met Itchy. Apparently during the building of the Canal road, which he worked on, he also had a gold claim up in the Yukon Territory in Canada, near the Firth River. He said if we ever want to go there he’d love to go back.
One day we said we were ready to go. He said great and proceeded to tell us the names of his friends in Whitehorse, we were all supposed to meet there, get our gear and head out to the Firth River. His friends were Len and Edna and Len was at work the day we got to Whitehorse. We met Edna and she offered us some of her homemade wine. So we tasted some of her dandelion wine. Between the three of us we polished off a bottle and were all asleep on lawn chairs when Len came home.
We went shopping in Whitehorse for all the gear we thought we’d need for the winter. We loaded it in 55 gallon drums to be ready to drop it out of an airplane. We took off from Whitehorse headed towards Inuvik, which is right on the Arctic Ocean.
Shorty knew what type of planes to hire so we followed his lead. In Inuvik we hired a plane to take us out to where Shorty’s claim was. In the area of the Shorty's old cabin we dropped the 55 gallon drums out of the plane. The pilot kept circling and Itchy and Shorty proceeded to push the 55 gallon drums out the door of the plane facing straight down at the ground. There is nothing attaching them to the plane. I was in the front of the plane holding onto the dog.
There was an airstrip about 10 miles away from his claim and we landed there. When I say airstrip it was just a piece of cleared land that was only about a mile long and very bumpy. Itchy asked the pilot how the airstrip was and he said “It all depends on what you had for breakfast!”. After a bumpy landing we unloaded the plane, met the folks that lived at the airstrip, and proceeded to walk the 10 miles with our backpacks over to where Shorty's cabin had been. The remains of the cabin were a couple of walls, no roof, and no floor and no windows. We walked down to where the 55 gallon drums were and brought some of them up. We set up camp and were planning on walking over to where Shorty's claim was the next morning.
The next morning on the way over to where Shorty's claim was, he mentioned that his stomach was kind of upset. We didn't think anything of it and proceeded to walk to where his claim was. Right near his claim there was a creek, and so Shorty and I sat on the bank of the creek while Itchy went down to pan for gold. All of a sudden Shorty took a big gasp and fell over dead. I yelled for Itchy and we proceeded to try CPR on Shorty. Shorty was a diabetic and Itchy wanted to put it his pills under his tongue. I didn't saying that it would probably choke him. Itchy said “Choke him hell, he's already dying.” We tried CPR for a long time finally decided he was really dead. So we dug a shallow grave because of the permafrost, buried him and proceeded to walk back the 10 miles to the airstrip where we knew there was communications. We had walked that same 10 miles 4 times in the last 2 days.
We set some old tires on fire to try to flag down a survey crew that was in the area. They landed and went back to Inuvik with the news and Inuvik sent out the RCMP and the coroner in a helicopter. We met them, where Shorty died, and they wanted take the body back to Inuvik. The coroner was so overweight, he couldn't dig up the body so they asked Itchy to dig up the body. After digging Shorty up we all went back to Inuvik, the dog, us, the coroner and the RCMP and they want to perform an autopsy to decide how he died.
After the autopsy they asked Itchy to identify the body. He said “If the guy I buried is the same guy I dug up and put in the helicopter and you haven't switched the bodies, then it's Shorty.” They let us go. (He died of a massive coronary.)
We asked for a ride back to where they picked us up but they wouldn’t (all our stuff was still out there). So we left the RCMP and called Shorty’s friends in Whitehorse and told them what had happened and they sent us the money for airfare back to Whitehorse. We should have stayed in Haines!
I have pictures that go with this story.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Sandy Lindahl.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/23/2011.