Famed miner of the Klondike gold
rush Sam McGee has returned from the ashes and found the weather in
Alaska to be a little warmer than when he last wandered its frozen
Notoriously sensitive to the cold, McGee gained worldwide notoriety as the protagonist of Robert Service’s popular poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” a 1907 ballad memorized by every self-respecting Alaskan as a middle school English assignment.
According to the ballad, McGee was last seen over one hundred years ago on bitter cold winter night inside a blazing coal boiler of a derelict barge – on the marge of Canada’s Lake LeBarge, in which his companion stuffed his frozen corpse as his last dying request. Shockingly, McGee was reanimated by the boiler’s inferno, and he declared it was the first time he’d been warm since having left his home in Plumtree, Tennessee.
The world last knew of Sam McGee in this memorable moment of rising from the dead, comfortably curled inside the searing heat of the coal boiler. At McGee’s request, the author of the poem shut the stove door to keep the cold out.
Many have wondered what became of McGee since that time, but he has not responded to interview requests for the whole of the last century.
Recently, McGee appeared back in the public sphere as the keynote speaker at the annual Alaska Forum on the Environment in Anchorage. He spoke of a day in March 2021 when, for the first time in his hundred year huddle inside the coal boiler, he finally stopped shivering. Tentatively, he opened the door and found this spring’s weather to be acceptably pleasant.
“Like I said, It’s darn toasty out here now,” said McGee over a Zoom interview earlier this week. “The weather’s done finally caught up and warmed to where a creaky old codger like me can p’reciate it. My old frostbit nubbins’ are even startin’ to give feelin’ again.”
At first glance, it would seem that McGee has found a role as a powerful symbol of the unintended effects of climate change. Attendees at the Alaska Forum on the Environment vouched for the value of direct experience like McGee’s to underscore the urgency of Arctic climate issues.
“Alaska is warming faster than any other state in the US. We will be on the front lines of learning how to adapt to this challenge,” said Forum attendee Jeff Plaidflannel. “Sam’s awakening is the most charismatic evidence yet that our world is changing in ways that are challenging to predict.”
While climate advocates cheered a new face for their cause, McGee’s own position on modern climate policy appears to be malleable.
“I’ll keep showin’ up where the bacon an’ hotcakes are at,” he said when asked about his future as a spokesman for the ramifications of climate change.
When provided with a basic description of how man-made pollution drives the greenhouse effect and subsequent warming, McGee nodded and inquired as to how, earlier in the twentieth century, humanity had managed to overcome the challenge of horse manure piling up in large cities as horse carriage traffic grew.
After the interview, McGee was seen by Forum attendees stepping into the passenger seat of a lifted dually F350 truck with custom modified “coal roller” exhaust stacks to join Pete Fuller, director of the petroleum industry advocacy group Powering The Future Alaska (distinct from the similarly named Power The Future Alaska), for a luncheon at the annual meeting of the Resources Development Council, distinct from the similarly named Resource Development Council.
When contacted later for a follow up interview, McGee’s new spokesperson Kerry Respol stated that McGee was unavailable for comment at this time but was loving his new stretch Hummer custom outfitted with a hot tub and sauna.