Feet, don’t fail me now!
I need a younger group of friends! Not much I can do about family members putting on the years as quickly as the pounds. Guilty as charged.
Needless to say, I’ve done my fair share of wandering cemeteries over the past few years.
In fact, my latest foray into Woodlawn Cemetery was just yesterday. May Jimmy’s cousin, Alice, rest in peace. She was laid to rest surrounded by family, both the living and the dead; plenty of love and history to go around.
Few had a past with as much 'spirit' as Jefferson Randolph Smith (no relation).
Violet drove us straight away to Skagway’s Gold Rush Cemetery to deliver the dirt on one of the most notorious con men in the history of the West, one “Soapy Smith,” a leading conman in much of Skagway’s history.
According to legend, Smith earned his nickname while working a confidence game in the lower 48 (well, actually it was the lower 45 at the time) involving the sale of soap wrapped in tissue paper. As advertised, Soapy promised a few lucky customers would find the $5 bars of soap also wrapped in a $100 bill. Sales were usually brisk following confirmation of their good fortune by one or two people in the crowd; people who were part of Soapy’s gang of swindlers.
Soapy’s specialty (alas, he was a man of many talents) while in Skagway involved fleecing gullible new miners hoping to send a telegram. Soapy assured each customer a mere $5 would see their message sent anywhere in the world. Only thing is, there were no telegraph wires to or from Skagway during the early years (1897-1898) of the gold rush.
So much history on so many levels! Love it!
Reid died of his gunshot wounds 12 days after killing Soapy Smith during a gunfight on July 8, 1898. The vigilante’s tombstone reads, “He gave his life for the Honor of Skagway.”
Experience tells me Soapy may just be the poster child for every merchant (diamonds were as plentiful as the gold once was) up and down State Street hoping to cash in on the stampede of 21st century tourists.
“$250?” I’d asked, emphasis on the incredulous when I saw the price of an item that had caught my eye, something more culturally significant than a diamond.
“Anything less than $250 and you won’t be buying the real deal,” the sales clerk countered, a savvy girl who looked all of 16 if she was a day over 12.
I have a granddaughter who is 12! And I have my pictures of Alaska, but no totem pole.
Where's Frank Reid when you need him?
All honor aside, I'm here to tell you Skagway, Alaska is still a place for dreamers and schemers. And you can take that to the grave!
You May Also Like: