Florida Man writes “Tenderfeet in Alaska, or, Scared by Miner’s Yarns”

george graham currie

George Graham Currie (image credit: Find A Grave)

What an odd find!

A comedic stage-play script by Quebec son, businessman, politician, and “poet laureate of Florida” (!) George Graham Currie, who spent a good deal of time reporting news stories in the new urban areas of the Pacific Northwest circa 1885-1894, and consequently built a bunch of Chinook Jargon into these lines.

“Tenderfeet in Alaska, or, Scared by Miner’s Yarns: A Musical Comedy in Four Acts” appears after Currie had moved to Florida, in the pages of his 1912 collection “Epitaphs, Epigrams and other Ephemera” (Jacksonville, FL: The Drew Press).

(The music was written by Francesco Fanciulli, the successor to John Philip Sousa as director of the US Marine Corps Band..)

The whole piece is lightweight. Here’s a sample of its silliness. (Although a century later, Willoughby’s comment seems less humorous than heartrending.)

tenderfeet 01

page 184

Stereotypes of Jargon users abound, including the “Christian missionary faced with the daunting task of communicating in a godforsaken language” (the “children of the forest” joke gets recycled as well):

tenderfeet 02

page 195

A running…overused…gag is that characters forget to translate their slangy use of Jargon words for others’ benefit:

tenderfeet 03

page 197

The play lends its support to the claim that “hoochinoo” (alcohol; “hooch”) was a Chinuk Wawa word in Alaska:

tenderfeet 04

tenderfeet 05

pages 223-224

Ah, there’s that telltale question mark, the sign of the post-frontier urban legend that Chinuk Wawa’s greeting exclamation łax̣á(w)ya(m) comes from a question “Clark, how are you?”

I’d be curious to find any reviews, if this play was ever performed. It almost surely had to be, given the social prestige associated with its author and its composer.

What do you think?