Here we go with Part Four of our summer audio diversion: Burning Daylight - an unusually sweeping novel from Jack London, in which the finely observed primal Arctic drama is a mere prelude to subtler drama down south.
In tonight's episode, it looks like it's gonna be a long night at the snake-room:
They lined up against the long bar, in places two or three deep, stamping the frost from their moccasined feet, for outside the temperature was sixty below. Bettles, himself one of the gamest of the old-timers in deeds and daring ceased from his drunken lay of the "Sassafras Root," and titubated over to congratulate Daylight. But in the midst of it he felt impelled to make a speech, and raised his voice oratorically.
"I tell you fellers I'm plum proud to call Daylight my friend. We've hit the trail together afore now, and he's eighteen carat from his moccasins up, damn his mangy old hide, anyway. He was a shaver when he first hit this country. When you fellers was his age, you wa'n't dry behind the ears yet. He never was no kid. He was born a full-grown man. An' I tell you a man had to be a man in them days. This wa'n't no effete civilization like it's come to be now." Bettles paused long enough to put his arm in a proper bear-hug around Daylight's neck. "When you an' me mushed into the Yukon in the good ole days, it didn't rain soup and they wa'n't no free-lunch joints. Our camp fires was lit where we killed our game, and most of the time we lived on salmon-tracks and rabbit-bellies—ain't I right?"
I don't believe that Bettles' "drunken lay" is the same "Sassafras Root" song as Green Day's, but you never know. "Titubation" is mostly a medical term these days, but Jack London employs it rather appealingly as a synonym for woozy barroom staggering.
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Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Five of Burning Daylight.