Chickens have forever had a place in our hearts
and on our tables. Why is that? Well … why not?
And so I’d like you to come with me back to the summer of 1970, ‘way
up north of Fairbanks, Alaska, to what was once the thriving gold
mining village of Chicken, Alaska. I was on my way, hitchhiking with
a 17-foot canoe, to paddle down a stretch of the Yukon River and to
see the cabin where Jack London spent the winter once upon a time.
Just as an aside here, hitchhiking with a canoe, or with a sled and
11 dogs, would make a lengthy how-to book all by themselves. It
doesn’t sound easy, does it? It isn’t.
So what I would do on these “adventures” of mine, (my boss, Larry
Fanning, referred to them as Slim’s tin-cup trips because of all the
scrounging I had to do) is go to neat places and interview great
people, and write stuff. My column in the Anchorage Daily News was
called … brace yourself … “Slim’s Column.”
Truth in advertising.
[to top of second
So I arrived in Chicken, Alaska,
only to find I’d nearly doubled the local population. In the
far-distant past, Chicken was a ghost town. When the gold gave out,
so did Chicken.
So what was left was “the business” consisting of a gas pump, a
coffee pot, some postage stamps and a couple of nice folks. But
there was something else, too.
There was not only an outhouse there, but it was electrically
lighted. So where should I write my column? In an electrically
lighted outhouse in Chicken, Alaska.
The raising of poultry this far north is uncommon; too many local
varmints, including any resident sled dogs, eat them. So how did
this gold camp get its name? Ahh … the very reason for that column
typed on the wooden “desk” beneath that 20-watt bulb.
Chicken, Alaska, got its name because none of the miners there knew
how to spell Ptarmigan.
[Text from file received from
holiday rush! “Strange Tales of Alaska” by Slim Randles now
available on Amazon.com.