Whitehorse Daily Star

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Left: 1906 Whitehorse Star editor "Stroller" White. Right: Taylor and Drury Department store goes along with the Ice Worm story and advertises "Before the Blue Snow Falls - Make Your Selection for Protection!".

Ice Worms & Blue Snow

Whenever there was a lull in local news or the overland telegraph broke down, Star editor "Stroller" White lapsed into memories of the deep south, or "interviews" with local colourful characters whose authenticity was left to the readers imagination.

By Whitehorse Star on July 18, 1990

This article appeared in the Whitehorse Star's 90th Anniversary edition.

Ice Worms & Blue Snow

Whenever there was a lull in local news or the overland telegraph broke down, Star editor "Stroller" White lapsed into memories of the deep south, or "interviews" with local colourful characters whose authenticity was left to the readers imagination.

He brought up many subjects in his columns and many of them are with us to this day.

Here then was Whitehorse's introduction to those greasy little critters "Ice Worms", from the Stroller's column January 20, 1906. Incidentally, the actual temperature in Whitehorse on that date was -68(F).

"It is not generally known that the father of the venerable Indian who resides in the village across the river from Whitehorse, and who is known as "Canadian Doctor" is still living. As "Doc" claims to be 88 years old his father must, at the least calculation, be 108 and, judging from his looks , the Stroller would not be surprised if he was even 30 years older; in fact, from information gleaned from conversation with the old man, he is evidently not less than 120 or 125 years of age."

"Hearing of the existence of this venerable member of the primeval race, the Stroller sought the village one day recently and, by means of a plug of T.& B. bribed "Canadian Doctor" to show him his father, which he did by unrolling a large bundle of furs in which the old man was wrapped, finally revealing the most unique specimen of bric-a-brac the Stroller had ever seen."

"Not until the Stroller had operated on the old man with his hypo-gun could he get any thing out of him, but no sooner had the "hop" began to work than a spark of life asserted itself in the eyes, which before had resembled burned leather work, and he became quite communicative. Asked for some ancient history regarding the weather of winters of this locality one hundred years or more ago, the relic of two centuries of the past said:"

"Many snows ago when I stood six foot three instead of three foot six, as I do now, the figures having been reversed by the ravages of time and the great weight of years upon my shoulders, there was weather here that was worth talking about."

"I recall an incident of the cold of the first winter after I had annexed my wife, Sore-Eyed Sage Hen, she was called. I had gone out to pole rabbits and toward evening I returned to find Sore-Eyed Sage Hen firmly fastened to a tree."

"She had stepped out of the wigwam to see if I was coming and had breathed against a tree where it had froze and anchored her right there. She had neglected to back up while emitting her breath and if I had not arrived just when I did she would have been frozen stiffer than a wedding reception and as cold as a pastoral call on wash day."

"The only way we kept from freezing to trees and other fixed objects that winter was to eat plenty of ice worms which, being very greasy, made the breath so slippery that, while it would freeze, it would crumble easily, the grease serving as a sort of shortening."

"The winter of 1821 was also a cold one... a veritable corker. Then the ice in the river froze solid and by spring there was none, as it had all been eaten up by ice worms. Me and Sore-Eyed Sage Hen dried enough ice worms that winter to make soup for the next fifteen years. In fact, that boy Doc was raised principally on ice worm soup."

"Since 1850 I have seen ice worms but seven times and blue snow only four times oftener. Not for thirty snows have I been forced to drink carbolic acid to keep my innards warm... The above statement by me to the Stroller has been read over by him to me in my own language and I hereby certify that it is correct in every detail.'"

The Stroller had already introduced his readers to "Blue Snow" in a January 12, 1906 story headed "Tenderfeet Think It Cold".

In the article The Stroller said that although first year residents might think the present -45 degree weather was cold they could count themselves lucky that blue snow hadn't fallen because "when it comes it's time to combine the family bedding. Perry Davis' Pain Killer freezes, and rabbits freeze so stiff they run in a straight line because they cannot turn their heads gee or haw." But it could still come, warned the Stroller, and when it does everyone will know that the temperature is at least 74 below, for that was as warm as blue snow ever fell.

Quick on the uptake, in the next issue a quarter page ad from Taylor & Drury's department store trumpeted, "Before The Blue Snow Falls - Make Your Selection For Protection."

Much to the Strollers surprise the temperature DID fall to below -74 degrees on January 22 and he quickly ran the following column under the headings "Regarding Blue Snow - It Only Falls When The Wind Blows From The East - Numerous Ice Worms Reported Short Distance North Of Town".

"In explaining to its chechako friends the peculiarities of blue snow, the Star neglected to state that it never falls except when the wind blows from the east; therefore, notwithstanding that the temperature for the past several days has been favourable to blue snow, the wind has not been right. We are sorry to not have explained this before as we learn that several of our chechako friends have lost considerable sleep by staying up to look for blue snow."

"Numerous ice worms are reported in the neighborhood of the steamer Monarch about a mile below town. While they are not yet larger than vermicelli, they are growing rapidly and if the weather should remain for a month as it was last night, they will have rattles and a button."

"Should the cold weather continue one more week Burns and Co. may as well close up as everybody will be eating ice worms."

"They may be stewed with dumplings, fried, fricasseed, roasted or eaten raw with salt, pepper and vinegar."

"Ice worms have no scales until after they obtain a length of four feet. They grow a head on each end."

Calls "We" a Liar

The following from the Philadelphia Ledger was reproduced in PUCK of March 27, 1907:


Whitehorse Y.T. Jan. 25 1907.- Last Sunday at Yukon Crossing the temperature went to 82 below zero...Nearly an inch of blue snow fell at Tantalus... At Minto ice-worms began to chirp at midnight Saturday, and many of them attained a growth of several inches by Monday, when the temperature rose to 45 below, causing them to die of heat. If the temperature rises many more degrees, the suffering caused by the intense heat will be terrible - News item, Whitehorse Star.

Oh, liar, we address you, in humble awe,

And prey that heaven bless you, with tardy thaw.

Blue Snow we all admire, But seldom see,

For news of it, great liar, We look to thee.

The ice worms here are dumb, No chirp have they;

Yet in our ice are some, Bad germs, they say.

To Yukon, land august, Where zeros burn,

The local liar must, With envy turn.

    -Philadelphia Ledger

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