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In every saloon in Dawson, miners would tell of their discoveries, tossing their gold dust around and raising a laugh. The winter evenings dragged with so many twilight hours and the stories would continue from man to man. One hero would tell the story of his discovery standing next to the scale up on the bar, feeling like a Big Shot. The bartenders would encourage this bravado, and as the hero reached some emphatic point in his tale, and everyone would laugh, the bartender would raise his hand and timing its descent onto the countertop with the last word of the Hero’s story, the bartender would bang his hand down. All the scattered gold dust would jump up into the air. At the same time, the bartender would drag the crown of his head down, nose flush with the countertop, and let this pose linger a hesitant second as the gold dust settled into his pomaded hair.

Later that night when the bar was buttoned up, some tart or spoiled dove would sit opposite the bartender, his head down upon a clean bar towel, and she would slowly tease out all the dust her fine comb could catch. It would take all of an hour to get the bartender’s scalp clean of the sparkles. Then she would wash his hair in a basin, and that water would be drained through a fine mesh to capture more loosened gold dust.

Before the salon opened its canvas flaps next, the bartender would prepare for the day, adding more pomade to his scalp, those scented ointments, greasy and slathering, meant to catch the eye of a solid woman. While the scales were up, bartenders in Dawson pulled in a few hundred dollars each night this way.

This was daily life in the Yukon. Photo courtesy of