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Bill Gates and the famous 'Klondike Egg Story'

as told by Pierre Berton

    Williams Charles Gates was a very successful Klondike gold miner among other things, but he may be best remembered for the way he dealt with a woman who scorned him.

    Bill's favorite was Gussie Lamore, a comely strumpet of nineteen who had come to Dawson from Circle City in the spring rush, and who shared top billing with him in an incident which has become the liveliest of the Klondike’s imperishable legends. Gussie, it developed, was inordinately fond of fresh eggs, possibly because they were as scarce as diamonds in the Dawson of 1897. One day, so the tale goes, Swiftwater Bill was seated in a restaurant when, to his surprise and chagrin, he saw Gussie enter on the arm of a well-known gambler. The pair ordered fried eggs, which were the most expensive item on the menu, and it was then that, in a fury of jealousy, Swiftwater achieved a certain immortality by buying up every egg in town in an attempt to frustrate Gussie’s cravings.

    There are many versions of this tale. Arthur Walden, the dog-puncher, who claimed in his memoirs to have witnessed the incident, wrote that Swiftwater had the eggs fried one at a time and flipped them through the window of the café to a rabble of dogs outside, commenting to the gathering crowd on the cleverness of the animals in catching them. Other versions have it that he presented the entire trove of eggs to Gussie as a gesture of his true emotions; or that he fed them to other dance-hall girls in order to awaken Gussie’s jealousy. Belinda Mulroney, a famous Klondike innkeeper who arrived in Dawson early that spring, recollects that there was about half a case of eggs involved, and that these had been brought over the ice from the Pacific coast and were fast growing mellow. Mrs. lola Beebe, one of Swiftwater’s several future mothers-in-law, wrote that there were two crates of eggs and that Swiftwater paid for them with with a brace of coffee tins filled with gold. The details of the story have thus been obscured, for there was no writing-paper in Dawson at the time to set them down, and no scriveners either, since every would-be historian was too busy seeking a fortune to attend to such footnotes. Whatever the details, the fact remains that the incident brought Gussie to heel, at least temporarily. She offered to meet Swiftwater Bill in San Francisco that fall and marry him, failing to mention that she was already wed to one Emile Leglice and had been since 1894.

This story is copied from Pierre Berton's classic Klondike history, Klondike (in the US, it was published as Klondike Fever. Over 40 years after the first press run, it is still in print, and is available widely.

Read more about Swiftwater Bill in Michael Gates' article.

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