The Klondike Letters
I have seen far too many men who have failed. There is something gone in their spirits. They become hollow shells of men, shattered dreams walking around in shattered bodies. This life is not to be toyed with, or to tempt fate with. It is to be taken seriously, every minute of every day. Try telling that to Michael P. McCurry. — James Longley
Even the easiest of lives is full of challenges for the people who happen to have easy lives. For most people, life is not easy. It is a day to day challenge to accomplish whatever it is that needs to be accomplished that day. For some, that might be food and shelter, for some, clean water. For most, though, the biggest challenge is to weigh the work of accomplishing a dream and the heaviness of not trying. Failure comes only in not attempting; it does not come from attempting and not succeeding.
The commonest of dreams is the dream of untold wealth, and the commonest form of that dream, especially in the late nineteenth century, was the discovery of gold. Wherever it is found, men chase after it like the proverbial ants to honey. The men who chase it know that there will be far more men than the gold containing land can support, that far more men will leave broken of spirit and finances, and that the chances that they will be one of the ones celebrating in the end are far lower than being struck by lightning.
Still, they go. There is something about the lure of finding a lifetime of wealth in a shovel full of dirt that keeps them going, to wherever the newspaper says gold has been found. In 1897, that place was The Klondike. Very few could have pointed to it on a map, and fewer yet could have described its rugged terrain and brutal and unforgiving climate. They only knew that gold had been discovered, and if they were lucky, they could strike it rich.
James Longley and Furry McCurry were two of the people who decided on not much more than a whim to take their chances. Fifteen and sixteen years old, respectively, they were too old to be considered children, but too inexperienced in life to really be called men. They did not yet know that both great wealth and great poverty do things to men that are not always good.
James had been married but a few months when the reports got to him. Everything in him told him that leaving on this chase at this time of his life was not the smartest of things to do. Everything except the dreamer in him. This book is his journal of the adventure, and letters he wrote to his wife Olivia during the time he was gone.
Idaho City, Idaho
I am six. All most old anuf to marre you. If you still wont to. I do. It is cold. I am in shcool. So is my sister. But she dosnt love you like I do. I am groing. My hair is longer. Then when you saw it. I think of you all ot.
Miss Olivai Stinsun,
A corse I will mary you. When I am 14. Thats 7 yers. Mommy said ok. But I wold haf to ask your father. I hop he says yes. But he doesnat talk. I hop I can still mary you. I am lerning about goegrphy in school. I know what a mountin is. And a plain. And I can add some numbers. But some I cant. So there.
James Longley, Jr.
January 20, 1897
Olivia Stinson held the two tattered, yellow notes in her hand and read them for the ten thousandth time. She had decided she was going to marry James Longley, Jr. on the day she had met him nine years earlier. Had it been up to her, she would not have been forced to waste the nine years waiting to turn fifteen, but her father and mother had insisted that she be that age before she married.
“I can’t believe you still have those,” Winnie Mae teased. Olivia’s sister had managed to get some time off from her work as a Red Cross nurse to make the trip back to Idaho from the east coast just for her sister’s wedding.
“I’ve looked at them every day for nine years,” Olivia smiled. “Every day, morning and night. I know it sounds funny, but it’s all I have ever wanted or looked forward to. My biggest worry is that you will be mad at me or hold it against me that I am getting married before you.”
“Marriage has always been a priority for you, baby sister, but it has never been for me. I love being a nurse, love being in the Red Cross. Maybe someday I’ll meet someone, but I’m not going to put my life on hold for it to happen. You are fortunate that you learned early in life who you want to spend your life with, and I am fortunate that I found out what it is that I want to do.”
Tears slowly dripped from the corners of Olivia’s eyes. “I love you, Winnie Mae. I have missed you so much since you left. I know I acted like I was glad you were leaving, and good riddance and all that, but the truth is that I cried for weeks after you left. You have always been the person who showed me the world beyond my own nose, whether that was how far you can shoot a beetle’s guts if you pinch it just right, or how the big dipper spins around the North Pole as the night wears on.”
“I don’t see that I did a very good job, but then you didn’t do a very good job of turning me into a lady, either,” Winnie Mae teased. They laughed, and shared a long hug. “Thank you for coming, sis. I would have put this off if you couldn’t have made it. I mean it. I would never have gone through with it without you here.”
The Klondike Letters is the fifth book in The Stinson Family Saga series.
It centers on James Longley, Jr., who is married to Olivia Stinson. Three months after their marriage, on Olivia’s fifteenth birthday, James and his friend Furry McCurry head off to the Klondike to strike it rich. He promises to keep a journal and to write his wife at least once a month. This is his journal and the letters he wrote.
Eventually, he takes a risky gamble and makes a solo trip back across the mountains in the dead of winter to make it back to Idaho in time for his wife’s seventeenth birthday. He thinks that he is leaving all of his pain and suffering back in the Klondike. He is wrong.