was recently in the Canadian Territory of the Yukon. Dawson City to be exact. Not to be mistaken for Dawson Creek. That is a 24 drive, and about 1,934 miles south east of Dawson City. Also, you should confuse it with the TV Show “Dawson’s Creek” with an “s.”
If you do, anyone living in either town will be quick to correct you.
The show, was filmed, in North Carolina. It pretended to take place in Capeside, Massachusetts. But, never too place in Canada. Anyone, heading into the Great White North, for a sighting of James Van Der Beek, will be disappointed. Dawson City is famous for something altogether different. An adult beverage, known as the Sour Toe!
Before I explain further I should describe Dawson City. It’s about a bazillion miles from any form of civilization. For those seeking space, this is it! To exit the North-Western part of town you access a FREE 24 hour a day ferry ride. Yes, the town could put in a bridge. But, they refuse. They prefer the charm of a 5-minute ferry ride. the ferry connects passengers to the Top of the World Highway and a town called Chicken! Yep, that’s not a typo. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, say hi to Sue, the Pie Lady for me.
Dawson City, features an old-style saloon complete with dancing girls. Rumor has it the performances become more risqué as the night goes on. The whole place is a step into the past. On the dirt roads, you can feel the ghosts of miners walking alongside you.
Many of the youth dress like extras from a Mad-Max movie. In contrast to the main part of town, restored Victorian houses line the river. Tourists, from cruise ships, travel hundreds of miles north to see the town. Some would describe Dawson city as quaint. Other’s might call it boring. I found it intoxicating!
Back to the Sour Toe story. The Sour Dough Saloon is inside the Dawson City Downton Hotel. Back in 1973, the saloon came up with a cocktail guaranteed to appeal and repulse in equal measure. The cocktail requires patrons to go to the bar and drop $5 Canadian, for a single spirit of choice. Then carry said spirit to a line of other brave souls. All waiting for a man who has clearly gone AWOL from the Pirates of Caribbean Ghost Ship.
When it’s your turn, you join the old sailor at a small table. You then hand him another $5 Canadian, or in my case US Tender, since I didn’t have any Canadian Currency. He then drops a human toe into your $5 single spirit. I’ll stop there for a moment, to let that sink in. . . . a human toe.
Now, for those wondering, the toe has been dehydrated, and preserved in Salt. It has less germs then the small bugs that make their way into our food. But, let’s be clear, you do NOT consume the toe! At least you are not supposed to.
Rumor has it, the first toe came from a rum running miner, Louie Liken. He lost his toe to amputation after frostbite set in back in the 1920’s. He preserved it in a jar of alcohol. He clearly had attachment issues; or would it be detachment issues? Either way, approximately, 50 years later Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar.
For fun, he brought it into the Sourdough Saloon and started dropping it into people’s drinks. Those who were brave enough finished their drink, while the crowd cheered. Remember, this town is pretty remote. Only 173 miles from the Arctic Circle. Entertainment can be scarce.
I the 80’s, unfortunately, the first toe was “lost.” Miner Garry Younger was attempting to set a sour toe drinking record. Upon his 13th glass, he fell backwards and swallowed the toe. It was never recovered.
Over the years, many people have stepped-up and donated toes. One even came with a note, warning others of the dangers, of mowing the lawn in open-toe sandals. Other toes have been swallowed on accident, as well as on purpose. This has forced the owners to raise the penalty of toe-consumption to $2,500. Yet, this past October, a patron stole the latest toe, so it is possible the fine may rise again.
When my turn came, the Sour Toe Captain dropped the toe into my single spirit. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe!” I nodded, made a wish, and I drank! I am not sure if the wishing was a part of it, but I thought it felt like blowing out birthday candles, so I went for it.
Those of us who “drank the toe” became bonded together. We became insiders to a bizarre ritual. Akin, to how cultures from around the world have bonded people together for centuries. Disgusting? Absolutely! Hilarious and a great way to bond with strangers. Definitely! Harmful in any way? No.
But, recently something happened that broke my heart. A video about the sour toe started circulating on the internet. The comments began as you would expect, with people being, “grossed out.” Many posting GIFs of people vomiting. Which I found more disgusting than the whole toe experience. But, then the unexpected happened, and fast. The conversation devolved into a race issue.
As someone who took part in the process, I take issue with this crass categorization. I can attest that there were people of all ages, color and races, participating side by side. In the middle of nowhere, with terrible internet connections. Having actual human interactions. It was such an immense night of bonding. To see it devolve into name calling and bigotry has been so disheartening. Especially, by people who were not there.
Fortunately, the moderators have caught and removed most of the comments. I am not sure why people feel like they have the right to attack others’ choices, when they do not them.
One commenter, addressed the haters best by asking, “Why do we want to conveniently pin things on a certain race or ethnicity when in all reality, all humans have their own things they do that are weird.” While the sentence could use the help of Grammarly, their point was clear. We need to learn acceptance and stop the hate that flows from all sides.
If we do not understand something. We should learn about it. If we do not like something, and it is not hurting us, we can walk away. There is no need to spew hate. The world has enough terrible new every day. We don’t have to fight everything. As a society, we have plenty of real work to do.
If a handful of people at the edge of nowhere (I was number 75,465 by the way), want to harmlessly sip on a, voluntarily donated toe, then I say, more power to them.
Oh, and in case you were wondering . . . My wish? A world with more tolerance and understanding. Yep, I’ll drink to that!
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