Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Alaska Tuxedo

          Here's a photo of Alaska's U.S. Rep Don Young decked out
          in genuine Filson threads that make up the Alaska Tuxedo.
          Notice the bag and the logo on the wall.
There are a lot of stories going around and a lot of opinions on just what an Alaska tuxedo amounts to. These days people claim any Carhartts suit will do, or any plaid shirt. But the folks who reallly know, say it's the Filson Company pants and jackets that make up the true tuxedo. How do I know, I met the guy who was there when they were invented. Here's his story. – TJ

THE ALASKA TUXEDO

AUGUSTUS BIRCH-ALDER

Some time ago a magazine lady come to a friend of mine askin' about the Alaska tuxedo.  Now my friend's got some knowledge about Alaska and such, but he don't know everything.  He let her know about me and eventually she come to ask me the same question.  Now as you kin probbly tell I ain't much for writin' things down and if'n you think my language ain't so great, you oughta see what my chicken scratchin's is like.  Well, I come to know about the question and when I got the chance to be near one of these typewriter machines, I let her know what I know about the Alaska tuxedo.  See, I was there when they invented it.  Real funny how it happened.  Most of those boys is long gone now.  I guess I'm about the only one left who was there that night. So I get to write the history.

Happened back in the early Twennies.  Me and Spuds McWhortle was up the Koyukuk prospectin'.  Spuds had just broke with his partner Gravy Dickens the winter before and me and him set up our stake and headed upriver after breakup to look over some creeks up that way.  We hit a little pay along the way, but nothin' like we wanted until too late in the season to do anything about it.  They's a little crick up there just past the Alatna that hit our fancy and we begun working our way up it, takin' a pan here and there until we got near this little waterfall.  In the basin under that trickle we come across dust – maybe $25 to the pan and commenced to doin' some serious diggin'.  Spuds and me worked hardern' we ever remembered, we was so concentrated we wasn't payin' attention to the signs and freezeup caught us.  We'd planned to build a raft to get down but we come out of the tent one morning and durned if that creek hadn't froze all the way down to the Koyukuk and the river was about to seize up too.

So, whut we planned was to hike out over the ice hauling a sled with as much gear as we could.  The rest of our stuff we planned to leave 'cause we was sure comin' back to that crick in the spring.  We washed out all our clothes for the trip downriver and that's when we found we wasn't the only ones surprised by freezeup.  Now I don't know how much you all know about this sort of stuff, so I'll explain a little here.

When you wash clothes in the winter time, you hang 'em outside 'til they freeze, then you bring 'em inside and stand 'em up by the stove and by the time they thaw, they're dry.  Well, Spuds left the clothes out overnight and in the morning we got one of them Alaska surprises.  We come out of the tent and the whole place had been tromped over and everything but the tent itself was ripped to shreds.  Only one thing coulda done that and we knowed instantly it was a big old bear come through our camp that night.  Spuds' clothes line was ripped down and that fool griz had ate my long johns.  They say there's nothin' meaner than a bear out in winter and I think I can now say that's true.  Can you think of anything so cold and so mean he'd be hungry enough to eat a man's long johns, specially after they been wore a whole summer doin' hard labor.  This was one mean griz. I mean there wasn't nothin' left of them long johns enough to cover a kneecap.  We got to thinkin' we might not want to be there when them longhandles started actin' up in his stomach.  He was mean enough already.  So, we packed everything that was left in a big hurry and made tracks downriver.

There we was with winter comin' on bigtime and I had to make this hike without long johns of any sort.  It was cold and there was another problem, too.  I don't suppose any of you ever wore a pair of them heavy wool trousers like we used to have.  Them things weighed a ton, took two sets of suspenders and a belt to hold them up, specially after a summer's work and I was so skinny from it all.  It took all that to hold 'em up and that was without change and dust in the pockets.  Also, they was made of the roughest kind of wool imagineable and that come to be the big rub.

I tell you we trudged for days down that crick and then down the Koyukuk to the Yukon.  We was hopin' to catch the last of the riverboats up to Fairbanks, but we was too late.  Took us two weeks to the Big Yu and surefire, time we come to it, she was froze as solid as that old grizzly's brain.  We traded some dust for grub at the post there in Koyukuk, stashed some more gear and headed upriver for Fairbanks where we planned to winter out.

By this time that other problem with them pants was becomin' a real pain, if you know what I mean.  All that walkin' with that scratchy fabric in them stovepipe trousers swishin' back and forth was havin' an effect on my pore legs.  Time come we was in quite a parade of folks headin' for the Tanana and Fairbanks.  One of the folks we run into was Gravy, Spuds' old pardner.  Didn't take long 'fore they was squabblin' about this axe handle and that stove and they almost come to blows afore I stepped atwixt them.  That little Gravy ripped my shirt in the process and I tell you, I couldn't spare the threads.  We finally picked him up and dumped him in a snowbank and we continued on, me with even more ventilation than before.  Mind you this was early winter but it got down to the 40s below some of them nights on the river.  With them extra holes in my clothes, and them pants rippin' my thighs to bloody meat, we flat hustled for town.

We finally come upon Fairbanks and what a sight that town was, growing up along that slough all fancy and modern as a little town in Alaska could be.  It had some high-falutin' ideas, too.  All the boys was there.  Champagne Ricky was up from Kantishna country.  The Slough Goose come over from the flats.  Angus McQuarts must hit it big that summer 'cause when we come down Two Street he was marchin' along, blowin' his bagpipe scarin' wimmin and their kids right off the street.  He's the one told us about a big dance party comin' up that very night.

Now you might not think two guys just hiked all the way from the Alatna to Fairbanks'd in any shape to do no dancin', but I don't expect you kids comin' to Alaska these days know what it's like out there on the creeks all summer with just another smelly old sourdough to keep you company.  We'd get dizzy just tryin' to stay upwind from each other.  And, once we come out and got a chance to mingle with other folks and maybe some of them other folks is of the other gender, well, they ain't no tired in the world gonna stop us.

So, we was fired up for Angus' dance.  I even tried to tap a few steps right there in the middle of the street but I had to stop 'cause it was then I realized how bad them pants had tore up my legs.  See, all that rough wool rubbin' against my tender thighs for all them days just about tore the hide off me.  If I was going to do any dancing I was going to need some patchin' up.  And, I was going to need some new pants.

First thing we done was head over to Mizz Marble's bathhouse to get the dust off and trim a little hair here and there.  I soaked for about four hours, but I never got no redder than my thighs already was.  Mizz Marble, she gives me some salve to put on my wounded legs and that helped some.  She was all up for that dance, too and she told us the ladies of that town wasn't goin' to put up with no poorly dressed miners and we'd best be gettin' us some formal type threads or they wouldn't even let us into that dance. We paid up and then we went over to Spickle's store to see about some dancin' clothes.  Now, a guy lives like we do ain't got room in his outfit to be packin' around nothin' like a dancin' suit and even if he did, ours probbly woulda been tore up by that bear.  And I fore sure wasn't puttin' them wool pants back on.

Time we got to Spickle's and lookin' over his wares, he'd sold out most of his fancy duds.  There was enough guys in from the cricks with dust and everybody was gettin' gussied up.  He had a couple of them banker suits left but me and Spuds couldn't see much sense in buyin' one of them just to go for one dance.  Old man Spickle, seein' we was doin' a good job of resistin' spending any of our dust says he's got an idea.  Now Spickle's got this wife, well, she don't really belong in the country.  Mrs. Spickle, now she's a story in herself, come down from Dawson where they say she did more than just clean house if you know what I mean.  She's got more city ideas than Fairbanks can accommodate, I mean she reads things like fashion magazines and such and always dresses up.  Spickle asks his wife what she thinks would be the right stuff for us and she hauls out one of them magazines.  I'm sure they was both winking at each other, too.  She reads how this one fashion place says men's clothes should be what she called functional and geographical and how the clothes should fit the man, more than just fit, if you know what I mean. So, Spickle, right on her cue, trots out these olive colored Filson pants and says to me try 'em on.  I did that and then he shows me a nice wool plaid shirt about the same as the airbag on them bagpipes Angus plays.  They all looked me up and down and then Mrs. Spickle says it's missin' something so she comes up with this fancy lookin' piece of strung and ties a bow around my neck.

I musta looked pretty silly all told cause as they started to looked me up and down, they also started to smilin', then they started gigglin, then they all broke into real laughter.  Then Spickle plops this bowler on my head and they all crack up.  Just about this time, Ricky comes in and he's been celebratin' a little and he wants to know what's all that funny.  So they tell him they're me up for the dance and they falls to gigglin' all over again.

Ricky looks me over real good and then says he don't see what's all that funny, if that ain't an Alaska tuxedo, then he don't know what is.  And if a man can't wear an Alaska tuxedo and get in anyplace he wants to go, then the place ain't worth goin' into.  He says he'd just as soon have one, too, if they've got his size and they did and by that time Spuds decides he'll have one too and when we left, Spickle himself was looking for a waist size that'd get around him.

We paid up again and headed down Two Street to the saloon where the boys was gettin' ready for the dance.  A couple of them give me a pretty good ribbin' but when they seen the women eyein' us up to dance, they was askin' where they could come across a similar suit.  We told them it's called an Alaska tuxedo and Spickle's is havin' a sale.  We done some good advertisin' for that little store, 'cause by the time come for the dance, Spickle's sold out all them pants that had probbly been layin' around that store for the past ten years or so.  By the time we come to the dance hall, there's only about one guy in the whole town ain't wearin' one of them suits, except Angus, of course, 'cause he's got to wear his kilts.  The one other guy turns out to be the man takin' tickets to get into that dance.  He takes one look at them suits we was wearin' and says something like it ain't suitable attire for his dance  Now every one of the men in that town was wearin' them twill pants and plaid shirts and them string ties.  A couple of the rougher women had 'em on, too.  While we was stopped there at the door, McKinley-hip Martha shoved her way through the crowd to confront this fancy little ticket taker.  She allows as how she wants to dance and how she wants to dance with a man, not some panty waist in a waistcoat.  She says if he wants to dance with someone like an Alaska woman, he better go get the proper suit himself, and she pitches him into the nearest snowbank.  Then we all filed into that dancehall, leavin' our dollar at the door, just like the little dude mighta still been there.

I don't have to tell you we all had a grand time at that dance and from then on them tuxedos that Ricky named was the thing to wear if a guy wanted to get formal.  I hear they's a couple places in them cities now don't allow a fellow in if he's wearin' one.  Sure hope I never wander into one by mistake 'cause even at my age I could probbly tear up one of them citified joints.  Ain't no place in Alaska for that kind.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Interesting quotations

"In the final analysis your life is only as good as the background music you dance to." – that was me

"Whether you think that you can or you think you can't, you are right." – Henry Ford

"You want to feel alive until the day you croak" – Frank Gallagher Shameless

"Smooth is good but sailing takes a brisk wind" – me

"I'm a drinker with writing problems." ~ Brendan Behan

"Religious Freedom is not about stopping persecution; it’s about being the one who gets to do it. Glory!" – Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian

It doesn't matter what you write, it only matters that you write.

"Give someone a book and they'll read all day. Teach someone to write a book and they'll spend a lifetime mired in paralyzing self doubt." – internet meme

"It's been a long time since I heard my backbone crack – Chuck Berry

“Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” – JD

"I was the only person up on the hill with both racing numbers and a handicapped placard." – Kitty Delorey Fleischman, a grandmother who occasionally still races her Porsche in hill climbs.

Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. – anon

"Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool." – Mark Twain

Shit happens; you just come up with a different plan. – Kitty

Your body is not a temple. It's an amusement park. – Anthony Bourdain

Never too late for a happy childhood – Berkley Breathed

A real writer doesn't just want to write, a real writer has to write. – Internet meme

"It was like the aftermath of an orgasm with the wrong partner" – David Lagercrants, "The Girl in the Spider's Web"

The non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

We never comprehend how heavy the things are we insist on carrying until we set them down. jd

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio talk show host

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve