Monday, April 23, 2012

Yukon Tales

I walked into a colleague's office the other day to go over some logistics details of a project that I am working on. As I was sitting in the chair across from his desk, my eyes wandered to a nearby bookshelf along one of his walls. Instead of being filled with technical manuals or textbooks, it contained an eclectic mix of books from his own personal collection. Trying to be witty, I asked him if he kept these book in his office just to impress his visitors. His response to me was almost as if he had expected the question. He jumped from his chair and hastened to his shelf. Running his fingers along the spines of the books, searching for a specific title, he pulled out a thin book and handed it to me with a big smile. "You have got to read this book, it is just wonderful!" The passion in his response intrigued me. It is not like he even knew that I liked to read or had the slightest inkling of what my tastes might be. But even beyond his enthusiasm, the title of the book struck me as completely unexpected. Best Tales of the Yukon. How someone could be so impassioned over a book on the Yukon was beyond me. However, given the nature of the offer, as well as the thinnest of the book, I decided to give it a shot.

The book was written by Robert Service, a banker teller stationed in the Yukon territory. It represents a collection of poetry and verse that details the Klondike gold rush of the early 1900s, as well as the savage beauty of the land and the melange of characters that inhabited it. The individual pieces were based on a time and place that was filled with vivid imagery and a wild mix of frontier personalities. The author's language and style really did transport me to the world that he lived in and experienced. From the highest highs of striking it rich to the lowest lows of striking out. A fun and interesting read.