Jack London, “To The Man On the Trail” (1900)

klondike gold man on the trail jack london

Still looking in the Klondike. (Denver Post)

Not heeding Jules Verne’s lesson, London traveled to the Klondike in 1897 to look for gold. He lasted a year. Scurvy wrecked him. He never found gold. He found Malamute Kid. “To the Man on the Trail” anticipates the familiar Isaac Singer set up: a group of men huddled against minus 74-degree cold, a stranger drops in, on a long trek, the stranger’s story follows. This one, Jack Westondale, an unlucky workhorse, married, with children, chasing after his team of swindlers, a man of “clean grit and stubbornness.” The man rests just a few hours then goes on his way, provisioned with food for himself and his dogs and Mamelute Kid’s respect. Fifteen minutes later the mounted police arrives, chasing after him over some issue. But the group of men thwart the policeman, giving Westondale time to make his escape: solidarity before submission to government authority.