One of the most amazing books I’ve read was “The Trail Led North,” which I first heard about in The Seattle Times in their series of articles regarding the 1897 Alaska Gold Rush This book was dictated by an older man to his grown granddaughter in the 1940s, and it was about his journey to the Yukon to search for gold in the 1897. Not in a million years would I have heard his story, but it was interesting and I learned a lot of things. (Note: I think this is the book, although it has been 20 years and I got it for free from the library).
For example, he worked in a Portland timber mill when Portland was a young and small town, and at one point a man shot another man in cold-blood when the first man issued an insult to the man; the man went to trial for murder but the jury ruled that the killing was justified, since the man had it coming to him for issuing insults like that.
Later, he decides to try his luck in the gold fields, so has to purchase many many crates of supplies to house him while he was there, then took a steamer to Skagway. Along the way, a steamer ahead of them just sank and disappeared without a trace – all the riders were drowned and forgotten in time.
When he journeys to the fields, he relies a lot on pancakes, but can’t find the syrup, so has to eat his pancakes dry. He promises to exchange words with the shopkeeper when he returns home, but then later finds the syrup in another crate.
Finally, at the fields there are many people he meets (in fact, it seems quite crowded out there with people hoping to find their fortune). At one point they are crossing a frozen lake, and a man and his young son fall break through the ice and drown.
These are just some stories I remember off the top of my head outside of facts that I already know about the Yukon Gold Rush. It was a fascinating book, like having an old man tell you about his experiences of long forgotten days. How many books are out there like that? Of interesting stories told by forgotten people?
I’d like to — and plan to — invest some time in the coming months/years to read these kinds of stories. The first one – for the simple reason it is already on my kindle – is With the Old Breed, a book written by a World War II marine about his experiences in the Pacific. I believe this book was used to research for The Pacific, which is why it’s on my kindle, but still, a book written by someone I’ll never meet or hear of again about his personal experiences as an everyday person in The Pacific.