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Chicken, Alaska


SLIM RANDLESHome Country
Fiction by SLIM RANDLES
To The Desert Independent

October 14, 2020

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.

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.

Naturally.

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.

Beat the holiday rush! “Strange Tales of Alaska” by Slim Randles now available on Amazon.com


"Home Country" columnist Slim Randles won three regional book awards for the two books he wrote in 2014. "Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing" won for best how-to book and best cover design at the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards in Albuquerque. Randles lives in Albuquerque and has a dozen books currently in print.



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