THE WEEKLY EXAMINER
Excerpts from: REV. JOEL M’WHACKER’S CALL TO KLONDYKE
By Arthur McEwen
“I have received a call from the Klondyke,” announced the Rev. Joel McWhacker,
and the café broke out into congratulations.
“Thanks,” said the reverend gentleman, interrupting the friendly chorus,
“but I am in very grave doubt as to whether I shall accept it or not. Of
course, I perceive the advantages of going. In a new district like that,
bull luck is just as apt to strike a clergyman as anybody else, and there
is what I once should have deemed a very inviting field for spiritual endeavor
among the newcomers, who have not learned, like the old hands, to hold
out against the temptations of mining life. The call is one that is entitled
to the most respectful consideration, gentlemen. It comes from a few of
the boys who have known me off and on for years in Virginia City, Deadwood,
Butte, Bodie, Leadville and Tombstone. They’re not quite what would be
called exemplary men here amidst your complex and conventional Eastern
civilization, being ordinary mining men, who are…“
“Just the boys,” interjected Colonel Dropper of Nevada.
“Precisely,” agreed Dr. McWhacker, “men of mature years and large experience,
who are not prone to attach undue moral importance to behavior which, through
its want of decorum would necessarily shock the respectable, may or may
not betoken a vicious disposition. Environment, geography, has a commanding
influence upon our standards of right and wrong. I recall with mortification
that in the days of my youth while filling rural charges on this side of
the continent, I had only stern reprobation for acts which I thought inexcusably
sinful, but which I now recognize to be merely breaches of propriety….I
am not aware that Moses brought down from Sinai any graven commandments
against impropriety….These friends and occasional parishioners of mine,
now seeking their fortunes on the Klondyke, write me that a man like myself
is sorely needed there, and that they agree to grub-stake me, and hold
a claim for me against my coming…Their report as to the richness of the
diggings is certainly inspiring…..
“Because,” responded Dr. McWhacker, two potent reasons restrain me.
The first is that as pastor of Tombstone’s Independent Centennial church
I have a charge which ought to be satisfactory….But my chief reason is
the excessive prevalence of the tenderfoot in the Klondyke….I see that
they already have dance houses and that gambling is going on….”
“Miners will be miners,” philosophized the barkeeper.
“That is what I dread, young man,” said Dr. McWhacker, with energy.
Granted that I accept this call, to which I am giving the prayerful consideration
due it, and what happens?” I arrive at Dawson, and no sooner am I ashore
than, weather permitting, I encounter a man in a red flannel shirt, with
a pistol hanging in his belt. His trousers are tucked into his bootlegs
and a great slouch hat flaps about his ears. If old enough to grow one
he is sure to have a full, shaggy beard, preferably red. He says what and
that and calls me partner as he slaps me on the back and invites me to
come and liquor up. Yet, gentlemen, that man may have been, and most probably
was, a dry goods clerk in Brooklyn but a few months before, or a plodding
mechanic, or an overworked c-driver to some small city of the corn-fed
Middle West, where nothing ever happens to anybody and where nobody gets
much of anything for what he does for ten and twelve hours a day. It’s
all drudgery and sordid common place, and very melancholy to think of,
for human life is short and ought to have more in it for industry than
the privilege of keeping alive.
“But take a meager man of this kind, gentlemen, and put him in a mining
camp where any fool may become rich in a day and the most sensible of men
remain poor, and it turns his head. Whatever imagination he has takes fire.
He’s an escape from the jail of narrow, settled conditions, and has been
fired by the cannon of luck into a freedom that is gorgeous. For the first
time in his life he’s free to do as he chooses, and he chooses to have
fun, the poor, starved, brainless sinner. There’s nothing so easy for brains
and enterprise to organize as a saloon and a gambling game and a dance
house. That’s why they’re so soon found in a new mining camp. They’re the
cheapest snares that capital can set to catch game; consequently they’re
the earliest to be set. And the tenderfoot is only too willing to walk
into them. He’s crazy with eagerness to grasp pleasure with both hands,
and there are, those who have so corrupted the tenderfoot in advance that
at the very time he’s submitting himself to the snarer he is filled with
an exultant sense of being an admirable person—a gay and dashing and picturesque
manly being, calculated to inspire with envy the onlooker, lay or clerical.
Oh, I know him!
“The corrupters of the tenderfoot are the writers he has read….I don’t
think I shall accept this call to the Klondyke, pressing and flattering
as it is….
Contributed by: Charlette Sause
source: THE WEEKLY EXAMINER, SAN FRANCISCO, THURSDAY
MORNING, Page 12, 03/17/1897,
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