Update 9/22/99
Dawson City, NWT

By Michael Slade

Upon arrival back at the Downtown Hotel,we met Dick for dinner, and after proving 'worthy' with some witty and introspective conversation, the
entourage moved into the Sourdough Saloon to meet our destiny and partake of the Sourtoe Cocktail Society induction ceremonies!!

I dashed to my room to grab the cameras and when I got to the Saloon the 'Captain' (Dick) had taken his place of honor and had all of the accoutrements decorating the corner table.

Dick was wearing a riverboat captain's hat and had spread out in front of him several certificates and a logbook of all the previous Sourtoe Cocktail inductees. Laying on top of one of the certificates was a pile of rock salt and sitting next to it was the blackened shriveled pickled toe that was to eventually find it's place resting on our upper lips.

Maybe I'm getting too poetic writing about our experience in the Sourdough Saloon, but as the ceremony progressed it took on a surreal atmosphere. We all realized that this was indeed an actual human toe and that it had been attached at one time to a living breathing, and assumedly walking human being.

Over the years that the ritual has been enacted, several toes have been lost, stolen and in fact swallowed by those wishing to drink the petrified cocktail. Standing by in a small glass jar packed in it's own rock salt is the Sour Foot (which is actually 5 toes), the second-string toe if you will, incase the starting toe disappears.

Dick recited the oath of the Sourtoe Cocktail and Jim bellied up to the bar.
After the mantra was recited, in plopped the toe into a glass of "the best
damn Brandy the place could provide". Before you could count to three Jim
had the brandy down his throat and the toe resting on his lips. Maybe Dick
couldn't get a good look at it, and maybe he was just milking the experience, but it was a few seconds before Dick said it was official and let Jim lower the glass.

Andrew was next, the same ritual followed, and the toe was dropped into his glass of Yukon Jack, the traditional beverage for the Sourtoe Cocktail. Up
went the glass and down it came; only the toe wasn't in the bottom. Andrew
had it grasped firmly in his teeth and let out a primal growl and shook his
head triumphantly.

Finally it was my turn to join the ranks, and my drink was poured. I don't drink alcohol, and respecting my beliefs, Dick allowed me to partake of the Cocktail using Coke instead of Yukon Jack. I didn't think I'd be able to drink the entire glass in one shot, so I took a healthy sip so that the actual toast wouldn't take as long.

The oath was recited and in went the toe. As black as the toe was it was difficult to see swimming in my Coke. I wondered if I was dreaming when I saw it sitting at the bottom of the glass. I grasped the glass and thought I must be crazy and started to drink. I sipped the Coke through my lips, parted just enough to allow the liquid in and keep the toe out. I wasn't going to let that ugly thing enter my mouth and risk gagging on it or even swallowing it whole.

The glass was raised high and the drink was gone and the toe was stuck to the bottom. I couldn't believe it! I had to jiggle the glass and I felt the toe fall onto my upper lip. I made sure to turn my head so that Dick could see it and give me the passing mark. I lowered the glass and looked inside to make sure it wasn't still stuck to my lip. As I put down the glass, I realized and said out loud that 'this was the stupidest thing I'd done since college'. Not that college was stupid, but that generally many stupid things get done during college.

Certificates were signed, membership cards were passed out and we were official members of the club. Yet another memorable night in Dawson City.

The following day we all split up and toured Dawson again at our own pace. Dick arranged for me to go to the museum and look at the photographic archives and help identify several photographs and attribute them to the photographer. Many images were taken with a circuit camera, and composition, exposure and subject matter were so amazingly close, that the odds of it being anyone else than this one photographer were low.

I ordered several prints, toured the impressive facility and we packed the cars and left Dawson richer than when we arrived.

The trip west out of Dawson took us on the Top of the World Highway through Chicken, Alaska. The entire town was shut down except for the gas station, which was located at the edge of town. Arriving in Tok, Alaska team Lab-Rover settled in for a relaxing evening.

The initiation into the ranks of the Sourtoe Society is no laughing matter, and is not taken lightly in Dawson City. Downtown Dick, right, reads from the Sourtoue Certificate and administers the oath to Jim at left. Andrew, center, has a moment to reconsider what is about to occur.

Attaining legendary status, the acoutraments of the Soutoe Cocktail are treated with relic-like reverence. The Mahogany box to the right is where the 'official' toe resides between each incantation of the oath. The 5 black shrivled objects are indeed toes off of one human foot, and usually packed in rock salt are dehydrated and quite well mummified. Dick takes the 'don't ask don't tell' attitude when toes show up mysteriously in the mail. Fans and initiates from the world over send in potential replacements should some misfortune occur to the toe.

Photo goes here
What might be too graphic for many of our younger schoolchildren to see in person, is nonetheless a worthy study in human anatomy. This indeed is The Sourtoe Cocktail. Holding the infamous drink is team leader Jim Wilmerding. He promptly threw down the vile potion after several photographs were taken. Unlike his son Andrew, he did not take the toe between his teeth and growl like a dog.

Dawson City sits on the banks of the Yukon River and was the terminus of the Gold Rush of 1897. Thousands of make-shift rafts floated down the river ending up beached and abandoned at Dawson City while the Sourdough's high-tailed it for the hills expecting to find canyons lined with gold. Unfortuately by the time the masses of goldrushers got to Dawson, most if not all of the best claims had been struck. Working day after day on someone else's claim must have just about killed them making another man rich after all they had been through just to get to Dawson.