08 February 2011

Chapter 36: "Cap's Vision of Nicolai," Pt 2

ML warehouse McCarthy
The old Mother Lode warehouse at the end of the tracks at the ghost town of McCarthy in 1955with tourists preparing to ride the rails to Kennecott--4 1/2 miles tothe north.  The old Mother Lode Copper Company sledded its ore tohere for shipment to the smelter at Tacoma.  This was one of thelast historic structures at McCarthy to burn down.  

The Mecca,where the two met Stephen Birch and his party the summer before was locked up.
He looked through the glass.  He could see the shapes of the three billiards
tables in there, but the place had a very dead look to it, similar to the drug
store.  Cap felt a presence.   He turned around, startled to see a
motherly-appearing woman who was probably in her fifties staring at him and
“Hello, youngman.  Are you looking for a place to stay?  I operate several boarding houses
around here if you need a room.”
“I might.  I came in with another fellow. He headed to the Row to visit with someone named
Rose Katrina.  I’m not sure how long he plans to stay.”
She raised her eye brows. 
“Oh yes.  I know who that is.  Johnny Gakona.  I remember him from last year.  I think he
drinks too much.  I hope you don’t.  Rose works for me, you know.”
Then it hit Cap that this woman was Kate Kennedy. She was the infamous stout matron 
who oversaw all the prostitutes in McCarthy.  She owned the Alaska Hotel and several other
businesses.  He had never encountered her before, but it was said that she also
controlled the prostitutes at Breedman’s Hotel Chitina.  Rumor had it that she
came from Dawson City where she made her first fortune.  This was a rich lady.

4th of July McCarthy race

July 4th Women's Racealong Shushanna Avenue  --Candy Waugaman Collection
“Your MadameKennedy, aren’t you?”
She smiled at that. The smile chilled Cap.        
“Look, I can take care of myself tonight.  I usually just camp out anyway.  Why don’t you let
Johnny know I’ll be at the usual place?”
Her smile quickly turned into a look of disapproval.
“That Johnny Gakona kid only paid once.  After that he took advantage of my girl and my
“Maybe I’ve changed my mind. We might be here for awhile  How much are your rooms?” 
Her eyes brightened up. 
“For you, only a dollar a day. There’s one upstairs over there.”
She pointed to a stairwell leading to the second floor of the Golden. Cap saw that the windows
which seemed to face the glacier. 
“You mean oneof those?” 
“If you like. I have plenty of space tonight.”
“One night,” Cap said as he pulled out a dollar coin and handed it to the woman.   “I’ll take
one with the view of the river and glacier.”
“Follow me,” she said, as she led him toward the covered stairwell.  The narrow wooden stairs
creaked under her heavy footsteps.   She pulled out a skeleton key and headed
down a very dim passageway.  It was almost too dark to see.   Then Cap heard her
insert and turn the key.
She pushed  the door open, flooding the hallway with light.  Inside a single window was partly
opened.  The pull shade was fully up.  Curtains hanging along both long edges
gently moved as a light breeze came through. On each side of the narrow room was
a single bed. Both sagged ever so slightly.  Each was made up with linen and a
woolen blanket. Behind the bed on the right was a narrow bureau with a mirror.
Behind the other bed was a washstand with a basin, pitcher and two tin cups.  A
single chair stood in front of the stand. The woman pointed to a small closet.
Cap threw his pack on the floor and walked over to the window.
“There’s theextra blankets.  Never know when you might need ‘em. The outhouse is out back.
So is the pump.  If you need any female company let me know. I’ve got a nice
selection. If I remember, you were partial to Bubbles.  I’ll send her up if you

The Golden

The Golden in the ghost town of McCarthy, 1955         --UAF Archives
“How do I find you, Mrs. Kennedy?”
“Oh, just ask anybody.  Just ask for Kate.  You’ll find me.  I’m always around here
somewhere.  You have a good evening, young man.  I’ll see that your friend
Johnny Gakona knows you’re here.”
The Madame quietly slipped into the darkness of the hallway and was gone. Cap pushed up the
lower pane of the window all the way.  It seemed almost dead out there. He
poured some water out of the pitcher and tasted it.

          This stuff tastes stale. No, it tastes dead.  Like muskeg
water, but worse.  Room smells old and musty
too.  This place really seems dead. Be glad to get out of here. I feel
trapped in here. Got to get out of here and find some real water. Eat later.

The sound of the shrill train whistle of No. 71, followed by the screeching of iron as the
wheels of all those cars began to move, caught his attention.  

Now that sounds alive. Wish I were going to Kennecott tonight.  It’s lonely in here.
I might be tempted to do something foolish just waiting for Johnny
I’m tired the water can wait.

Cap pulled his Hudson Bay blanket out of his pack sat on the narrow bed, which seemed
comfortable enough.  He pulled off his boots and tossed them in the direction of
the chair.  He three his heavy shirt toward the other bed, lifted his weary legs
onto the sagging mattress and pulled the potlatch blanket over himself.  He was
asleep almost immediately.
He found himself looking up at Chief Nicolai. 
“Grandfather, you’re still alive.”
Tsuuye, I stay close to my people.  You just can’t always see me.”
“Where are we?”
“Look around you.”
Cap was startled to find he was still in the room above the Golden.  Nicolai was sitting
on the empty bed three feet away.
Somehow the room seemed darker and even older.   The only sound he could hear was 
that  of the wind coming off the glacier.  He lifted himself up.  His  boots were on the
floor right where he’d kicked them off. His shirt was laying on the bed next to
Shee-ya, where he’d tossed it.  He pulled off his Hudson Bay blanket and
stood up.
“Look outside, Tsuuye.”
The view startled him.  The buildings across the street stared blankly back at him.  Most
had dirty, broken glass. In the direction of the railroad yard something seemed
to be missing.  Yes, that was it.  The entire group of buildings where the large
white drugstore building stood was gone.  Fireweed grew thick among charred
timbers where the heart of the town once stood. The distinctive railroad
warehouse with its diamond-shaped windows at the end of the siding was
missing.   So was most of the railroad trestle.  A few old pilings could be seen
sticking out of the gray, roaring water of the main channel.  The railroad water
tower at Clear Creek had also vanished.
“Grandfather, what happened out there?  The railroad and half the town is gone. Looks like a
ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town. Look at me.  I’m a ghost.  This is a ghost town. You
were right when you told Johnny that McCarthy would die.  You have seen it for
yourself.  This is the future which the white men will leave you--useless, empty
buildings.   Some of them gone completely.  No railroad.  No mine at Kennecott.
Just scars on the land.  Don’t listen to these white people.  They are not here
to stay.  They’re here to take and to spoil and then to leave.     

“Believe only in yourself and your own people.  Stay together no matter what happens.  If you
follow the white man too far you will be lost.  There are many devil spirits
among the white man. Learn from him, take what you can, but  remember.  White
man come and white man go.  They have no roots here.  We will always be
here.   What exists now because of the white man will fade away until there is
nothing left.  Nothing at all.   They will leave you destroyed as well unless
you heed me. Always remember who you are. Only as saghanni utsuuy can you
hope to survive.  You are of the Raven Clan--the Children of the Earth.”
“What about the Saghanni ggaay, Shee-ya?”
“You already know about the ravens.  They are here because of the curse. They only come 
when a spirit is about to pass on.  Sometimes it’s a human spirit.  Sometimes its the
spirit which lives in an object--like the white man’s old home.  Watch that they
do not come for you. They look like us, but they are not us.
“There is much left for you to do, Tsuuye.  Work with your sla’cheen. You will
both be lost otherwise.  It was meant that you would always work together.”
Cap reached toward Nicolai to touch him.  Nicolai faded into the darkness.
Cap jumped straight out of bed and fell off the edge.  His head hit the backpack, which
cushioned his fall.  His body hurt. The floor was cold and hard. He pulled
himself off the bare wood floor and looked outside.  Everything was in its place
as he remembered it when he walked into town earlier that day.

It was just starting to get dark.  People were finally coming out. He could see some of them
walking the dusty street below.   He took the water pitcher and headed outside
down the dark hallway and stairs toward the water pump, still not wearing either
his shirt or his boots. He was too upset to think straight.   At the bottom of
the stairs he found a firm, sun-warmed wooden sidewalk. 
He glanced across Shushanna Avenue where saw the double garage doors open and a 
model-T inside waiting to be serviced. The town appeared very much alive, though now
there was no one in sight.

July 4 Childens Race
July 4 Childrens' Sack
Race down Shushanna Avenue. In the distance is The Golden 
--Bruce Haldeman

Cap walked around to the back of the building.  The grass felt good as he swished through
it in his bare feet.  The warm wind blew gently on his bare back.  He knew he
was still alive.  He spotted the outhouse and then  found the well pump.  It
supplied fresh, icy-cold water almost instantly.  He took a long, refreshing
drink, then  hauled the full pitcher back up to his room. He downed two more icy
cups of the good-tasting water.

The Golden’s right downstairs. Think I’ll get dressed in my good shirt and have a 
real drink.   Maybe play some pool. Need to be around live people.  Any live 
people.  Too weird around here.

Cap had a special, fancy shirt he kept for going out.  Sometimes he liked to appear in
downtown Chitina looking well-dressed. He wanted to look good now.  He unpacked
the western-style wear and his bone choker, which he tied around his neck. It
had been given to him by his father.

Might want to take Kate up on the offer.  Will it be Bubbles tonight ? 
Have to look good,  just in case.

Cap was surprised to find Kate Kennedy sitting alone inside on one of the tall stools at
the bar.  The back bar featured a long plate-glass mirror. He saw an image of
himself which looked good.
“Have a seat young man.  My, don’t you look good!  Wish I were half my age  after seeing you
like this.  Bartender, let me buy the young man a drink.”
The bartender gave Kate a puzzled look.
“Are you sure that’s allowed?  After all, he’s Indian.”
“He’s an Indian, all right. And I’m a white woman. Where’ve you been, Jim.  This is the
Twentieth Century.  There’re no slaves anymore.  No inferior people.  Not even
us women are below you like you still want to believe. We ladies are every bit
your equal now. And don’t you forget it.  Besides, Indians just got the right to
vote. So pour the man a drink.  I believe he needs one.”
The bartender reluctantly poured a whiskey into a glass and pushed it toward Cap.  
Cap looked at Kate, not quite knowing what to make of the large lady.   “Thank you, but let
me buy you the next one, since you decided we’re all equals here. And you can
call me Cap.”
She looked back and smiled.  Cap still was not sure about that smile.  He felt like he was
looking at a she-devil when Kate smiled.
“Now that’s a gentleman I hear.  And a remarkably handsome one at that.  You do know that,
don’t you?  I size up men for a living.  You’re a real gem. Thankyou for the
offer young man, I accept.”
Cap turned around to view the pool table. No one else was in the room but Kate and the
bartender.  Kate understood what Cap wanted.

Young Cap
Young Cap and his father  Chief Goodlataw at a camp near Taral   --USGS photo
“You’re a player? So am I, ” Kate spoke up in her overbearing voice.

“Let’s see what you can do, sweetie.”
“You ever find Johnny?”
“Haven’t been down at the Row yet.  He’s got to be there.  You know how he likes that Rose,
“Do I ever.  Call me Cap.”
He changed the subject.
“Small town, McCarthy. It ends very suddenly, just like Chitina.  So tell me Kate, why does
it seem so quiet around here--almost like a ghost town?”

“Well, sweetie, sometimes it does seem that  way.  Kennecott is still going strong, but the
Chisana boom died out, and all those promising claims along the Nizina never did
amount to much.  Only a few camps are operating out there.  Since Kennecott quit
expanding it’s not the same anymore.  We used to have workers down from Bonanza
and Jumbo and Motherlode and Green Butte all the time.  No longer.  Some
families have already left. Businesses have boarded up.  Not me.  I’m the spirit
of the town. I’ll be here to the end.  No one runs old Kate out.”
Cap took a sip out of the glass, then leaned over above the table to make his first shot. He
heard the door open behind him.
“Hello, Cap! Where you been?”
He turned around. It was Johnny. Rose was with him. She was almost over-dressed.  If it
was possible, she was wearing even more makeup and heavy perfume than before.
This time Cap hugged Johnny, much to Johnny’s surprise.
“What happened to you, Cap?  Something’s not right, is it?”

McCarthy Hotel fire

McCarthy Hotel fire: A fire like this one took out the McCarthy Drug Store block in 1941      --Dick Anderson
“Are we leaving tomorrow, Johnny?  There’s not much to do here and this place is beginning to
give me the creeps.”
“Have Kate find you a woman.  I see you’re dressed for it. Bubbles is still around. I didn’t see
you turn her down last time.”

Cap had only taken one shot of whiskey so far.  He reached to the bar to grab his glass, when
something caught his eye.  He couldn’t believe what he saw through the mirror. 
He whirled around to face the outside window. Sure enough, it was the lone
figure of Nicolai staring at him through the glass.  A raven stood on his
shoulder.  Cap dropped the cue stick he had been holding. Everyone else looked
in the direction of the window, but only Johnny appeared to be startled.
“Did you see that, Sla’cheen?”
Cap did not wait for an answer. He set the glass back on the bar and headed for the door.
The ghost of Nicolai, if that’s what it was, had vanished, as had the raven.

“Do what you want, Johnny.  I’m getting some sleep. I’m out of here tomorrow, whether you’re
ready or not.  Had enough of this town.”

Johnny let loose of Rose and followed Cap out the door onto the sidewalk.
“I saw him, too Sla’cheen.  He wanted me to see him.  Him and his raven. Where are you
Cap pointed to his open window directly above.
“I’m sending Rose home.  I’m afraid after seeing Shee-ya I might want to get drunk.
I’d probably mess everything up if I did.  Especially after seeing him.
I’m staying up there with you, Sla’cheen.  I’ve had enough to drink,
already. Need to get out of here, too.”
“Rose won’t understand.”
“Yes she will. I paid her this time.  She said Kate needs the money. It’s all about the money.
I’m tired of it.  Don’t leave. Wait right here for me. I’m going up there with
“Rose, I’ll see you later.  No, don’t wait for me.  Just see you later.”
“You got room up there, Cap?”
“We’ll manage, Sla’cheen.  We always have.”


Even Cap's hometown of Chitina would be considered by many to be a ghost town once the railroadpulled out in 1938.   

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