AHS Blog

The Koyukuk Sniper

Date Posted: March 15, 2013       Categories: 49 History

(The following bit of doggerel was written by famed Alaska archaeologist Otto Geist, year unknown. The document is in Geist’s papers at the UAF Alaska and Polar Regions Collections. I suspect it hasn’t been published; has anyone seen it before? Please note the deletion of letters in the blue words is in the original, not my edits. —Ed.)
Come on you jolly snipers, and listen on to me –
A little yarn I’ll spin to you, with you will agree;
About a jolly sniper who never did have luck –
Who f—-d around for forty years, in the good old Koyukuk.
An easygoing sort of man, with kind of a bulls–t smile
Who worked a hunch on North Fork Gulch, went a fly s–t to the mile
And every fall he had the gall his hard luck to lament,
How the heavy rains washed out his drains, so he never could make a cent.
He told me his hard luck stories, of how he nearly died –
On his empty guts he froze his nuts, while crossing the high divide
How him and his dog got lost in the fog, while mushing p.p. slough –
And how he went broke by losing his poke, while paddling his own canoe.
He never would keep sober whenever he came to town –
For he was a charter member of the good old slap ’er down
And the first rule of that order was always drink your fill;
He was so conscientious that he never would pay a bill.
He’d poled up every river and he panned on every bar –
He’d been in every mining camp from Nome to Chandalar;
You could tell by a glance at his moose-hide pants
He’d been in the hills for years, and the dirt on his shirt –
Was a howling disgrace, it hadn’t been washed for years.
He started to mining on Sheep Creek, where he took a lay from Cook –
He struck bulls–t on bedrock, and for fly s–t he never did look.
He cursed and swore for he was sore, someone was there before –
Old man Jones had sniped the gulch in eighteen ninety-four.
‘Twas then he cursed the Koyukuk, from the head clear to the mouth –
He cursed it east, he cursed it west, he cursed it north and south.
I’m leaving for a country where the wealth is yet untold –
Where there is no laws and lots of squaws;
I’ll hunt for sunburnt gold.
So the last time that I seen him was on the Arctic slope –
Bound for Mackenzie primed with lots of gall and hope
A great big pack was on his back consisting of bacon and beans
And the legs of a goose and a big chunk of moose –
Was hung to the ass of his jeans.
At last I heard he hit it rich at the head of the Swan-uk-tuk
But he fell ill and sickened, he could not survive his luck.
He wrote his friends, before I die, I’ll bid you all adieu;
Put a pick and gold-pan in my grave, and a brand new no. 2.
He sent a sprite message that his soul was doing well –
He’d started in a sniping on the high old rims of hell;
But there it’s all dry washing as it never rains or snows
And there ain’t no damn mosquitos, the wind it never blows.
The devil was quite angry, as though it was a disgrace –
That a man should be contented while stopping in his place;
He called for an imp, an ugly brute that answered to the name of Mel;
Together they kicked the sniper out of the warm old place called Hell.
(signed) Otto Wm. Geist