The Legend of the Ice worm began in the early days of Dawson, Yukon Territory during a blitzkrieg of blizzards. Stroller White, a Klondike newsman, was sent forth to rustle up any item of interest as the town was hunkered down against the weather and no new story could be had. Stroller was empty headed as he made his way through ice fog back to his editor’s office to give up on fresh news when he heard sled runners on the dry packed snow. Or was it?
According to Stroller, the Great Iceworm thrives in extreme cold and at 70 degrees below, breaks loose with a tremor from a glacial blue ice Shangri-La followed by a new years’ batch of babies. At a predictable time the joyous Iceworms would commence to serenade the Citizens of Dawson with their squeaky chirping late at night ‘til early morn beneath a kaleidoscopic aurora.
In the early days, news traveled slow and grew along the way. In London and Washington D.C. scientific communities were excited to send expeditions to confirm this Icewormipuss strollerinsus. Then a writer from the Philadelphia Ledger printed the original story, adding his own choice editorial comments. Stroller White’s Iceworms were left unmolested by science. However as urban spread reached Alaska with the early Gold Rush, sightings and serenades became more frequent. Usually near local Saloons such as those frequented by the Bard of the Yukon, Robert W. Service who wrote “Ballad of the Iceworm Cocktail” about the primitive tradition of mixing drinks with a featured worm:
“There’s been a run on cocktails, Boss; there ain’t an ice-worm left.
Yet wait . . . By gosh! It seems to me that some of extra size
were picked and put away to show the scientific guys.”
Then deeply in a drawer he sought, and there he found a jar,
That which with due and proper pride he put upon the bar;
And in it, wreathed in queasy rings, or rolled into a ball,
A score of grey and greasy things, were drowned in alcohol.
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