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A letter from the end of the Dempster

INUVIK, North West Territories ? Coming into Inuvik you will see this sign.

It says "The End of the Dempster," not "The End of the World," but there are those who say you can see it (the end of the world) from here.

The Dempster is the only all-weather road (gravel) north of the Arctic Circle in North America.

It connects Inuvik, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson to Dawson, Whitehorse and civilization and people and smog and whatnot.

But whoa! Civilization has arrived in Inuvik.

The good townsfolk have decided to get some funds together and build a nine-hole golf course just before you enter Inuvik.

Yes, we will soon be wearing mismatched polyester clothes in god-awful colors (plaid and shades of yellows and pinks) and chasing a little white ball around, all the while cursing like we just lost bingo again!

There is also the Northern Store ? the only department store in Inuvik.

It has a KFC and a Pizza Hut.

The only thing missing is a Tim Hortons, which for you peoples in the states is something like Dunkin'Donuts.

Tim Horton was a hockey player who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their glory years (in the last millennium).

He started a small business that took off soon after he died in an automobile accident.

Northern also has Levi's and Northern Jeans. Levi's are around $50 while Northern Jeans are about $20.

They also have a bakery, but they still haven't perfected bannock.

They have fresh produce and fresh eggs and meats galore.

Hey, they even have arctic char at $30 per filet and caribou at $70 per hind quarter! Hamburger is still a favorite though.

I bought a family pack this afternoon for $9, so it's hamburger and fries tonight in the Alexie household. I add an egg, some onions (not much) and some squished up crackers, a touch of ketchup (catsup) and broil it in my George Foreman broiler and it's the best on the block, or so my family says.

Northern used to be the Hudson's Bay Company, which was established in the 1600s and made their money selling guns, beads and other junk to the natives for furs.

Rumor is that they sold one gun to the Indians for 16 beaver pelts. One beaver pelt in them days could buy 16 muskets in England.

Now they're selling our fish and our caribou to us at prices that only Northern executives could afford! Some things never change.

Then there is the Mad Trapper saloon ? the most famous watering hole in the region. The "Mad Trapper" was Albert Johnson who came floating down the Peel River in 1931 and up the Rat River. It was rumored that he was running from something, but no one knows what.

He had what they called 'cabin fever'back in them days.

Today, like everything else, they have a fancy name for it ? S.A.D., or seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms include sleeping problems, overeating, depression, family problems, lethargy, lower resistance to infection, sore joints and behavioral problems.

Hey, I've got them all!

Anyhow, Al Johnson was a weird man in a weird place, but he was nuts or he had S.A.D.

He began trapping and setting his traps where the locals set theirs and he even sprung some of theirs and hung them up in trees. When the law (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) came calling, he shot one of them, but didn't kill him, just winged him.

After a long chase, they kilt him on the Eagle River in the Yukon and brung him back to Aklavik and buried him and stuck a large tree in his grave. Far as I know, he wasn't no vampire, but I guess people of them days was just taking precautions.

He's now a tourist attraction, but no one knows his real name. Some say his real name was Arthur Nelson. Some say he was an outlaw from the States. Some say he was a loner and wanted to be left alone. And now he has a bar named after him!

Some people's fame gets better the longer they stay dead!

One of the many things the people in Inuvik do is go to the Trapper and cut loose.

Those who don't drink, and yes, there are quite a few of us, like to park across the street near closing time on a Friday and Saturday night, take out the popcorn, open a can of Pepsi, put on a George Jones CD and watch the people exit the Trapper.

There is the occasional fight, lots of yelling and antics that you don't see on "Leno" or "Letterman" or "MAD TV."

You might see some of them on "RealTV." That's it.

It's overcast and threatening to rain in Inuvik again!

There is smog over India and over the Maritimes and flooding in Europe and drought in Alberta. Global warming is coming! Why, back in my day ?

Forget that!

That makes me look old! I am old, but only in my mind.

Have a good day, eh.