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He was called Wigwam Harry... By Rolly A. Chabot

Updated on October 1, 2013
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Welcome

Hi again all and welcome to the Fireside, a place where I hope you find some peace and well deserved rest. We are chilly here this morning at -5 degrees Celsius. Now if you are in the US which many are that is 23 Degrees. No matter where it is chilly. We are closing in on October soon. The snow came the 31st last year and never left till mid April and looks like we are heading in the same direction this year.

Hope you are bundled up and after you warm just toss your gear over in the corner, settle in while we look at another of the colourful people of the Yukon. Be sure and get a coffee or tea, help yourself to the cookies. Sorry they are the store bought ones.

Please understand and know for sure that you are all dearly loved.

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Wigwam Harry

Wigwam Harry was the name most knew this man as. His story was told many times over because of his character we all came to love. Harry was different from most of society, he did not need anything fancy, never had anything fancy. Simple was all he wanted, and simple was all he had.

Over the years, I heard many a story about Harry. If you were lucky enough to get close enough to Harry he would tell you some stories that would make you, laugh and stories that would touch your heart. Harry was a very private person and little was ever known about him except for the stories we heard.

I owned a Security Police firm at the time, and part of my duties was to deal with traffic violations and keep the peace on the streets. I was also licensed to carry a sidearm, and Harry was fascinated with the weapon. One glance and he told me one night the make, model and calibre. I questioned him of his knowledge, and he just looked at me and smiled. "Some day I may tell you." Harry was a peaceable when he was sober or when he had a few too many.

After some time and once trust was established. Harry would allow me to drive him home. Harry lived in a small one room shack he had built from materials he had salvaged. No power, no washroom, just the essentials and all very well used. His wood stove was an old 45 gallon barrel sitting in the middle of his shack with the stove pipe poked through the roof. "Good enough for me, I have all a man needs," He would say.


Tannis Mountain

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Tannis and Harry

Tannis came into my life by accident one night, and after a rough start we became the best of friends. Tannis was actually a registered American Cocker Spaniel but cared not for all the primping. No sooner have it done, and she would find something sticky to roll in like a dead fish just to let you know she was the boss.

Tannis had a sixth sense about people. Some she instantly hated, and others she would just love in a quiet way. Harry was one of those people, Harry would make a fuss over her, and she would turn away like it was not needed and yet she would climb all over him when he climbed in my cruiser or my old van.

In hindsight now, I can see just how similar they were. Caring but from a distance, reserved with a calm resolve knowing whom they were. Independent and could do just fine alone if need be. Harry would call her darling and kiss her, and she would turn away with the most undignified look on her face. It was comical to watch.

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Clean Harry

Harry would take pride in his city, he never drove that anyone knew. His mandate as he walked about town was to pick up the trash people would just toss. Candy wrappers, cigarette butts, papers etc. He took it upon himself to do that small but necessary job most people overlooked. Anyone who drove past would see Harry doing what he called his job. I can well imagine over the years he must have picked up a great deal of trash.

One hotel restaurant in town gave Harry his morning toast and coffee for the cleaning he did on their property. One particular morning there were several of us sitting in uniform went Harry came in. I called the waitress over and ordered Harry steak and eggs. He sat and grumbled about his toast not being ready. When they set the plate in front of Harry, tears rolled down weathered cheeks and he proceeded to gum that entire steak down. You see Harry had no teeth.

I offered him a ride home and just as we pulled up to his shack he turned and looked at me and smiled and spoke two words, "God provides." Maybe another peek into Harry's life he would someday tell me about.

Two old stories about Harry that I recall was someone needed a basement dug. Harry decided he could make a dollar or two and took on the task for the better part of the summer. Word has it the fellow keep putting off paying Harry so the following night he went back and filled it all in again.

Yet another story is on the location where the SS Klondike a restored riverboat sits today was the location for one of Harry's more elaborate homes. You see it was a crate from a grand piano. He had converted it into a home. Yes, Harry was a character, the day I was leaving the Yukon I stopped in to say goodbye at his graveside. Harry had lived a good life, simple but good. Thank you Harry for all you taught me and others.

It was not uncommon to see Harry dancing in the streets, sometimes a jig other times a Fox Trot, Two Step or a slow waltz. He never had anyone in his arms but it was easy to see that Harry had been a gentleman at one time. It would have been a lucky lady to have been guided across the dance floor by this man.

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Who Was Harry

I do not think there were many people who knew Harry by his real name. To most he was just "Wigwam Harry." There are not many left like him. Harry was indeed a special character.

In all the years, Harry lived in the north no one ever heard his real story of where he was from, what brought him north, if he had ever married or had family. Research as much as you like and I doubt you will find anything but a few stories passed on.

Today Harry lies high above the city of Whitehorse overlooking the river valley he so loved. It is an appropriate place for him to be. He earned a place high above most of us who knew him.

The inscription on his tombstone reads

This old timer was unique/It's not the same in Whitehorse without "Wigwam Harry" Fieck

The Yukon will never be the same without you Harry. You are dearly missed and thank you for opening the door to your life, even just a crack. Thank you for all the years you helped keep the city cleaned. Rest well my friend... rest well.

© Rolly A. Chabot

Hank Karr

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    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Carol... why thank you and should you find a Harry sometime in your travel fail not to buy the man a coffee or a sandwich. You will be amazed at what can happen not only in their hearts but you own.

      Hugs and Blessings my friend...

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi CM... thanks for seeing Harry through my eyes and the compliment you have humbled me with. Harry would be so proud reading all your comments... Thank you

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi aviannovice.... they are in so many ways and they are rarely looked on other than with shame. No matter who we are, what we may look like a simple smile, a kind word and a little help we can indeed be like them and bless others, just as Harry blessed many...

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi wheelinallover... I have read your story and of the things you are doing to help the many. God Bless you for what you do as it is important and you have learned it through life's challenges. It makes me proud to call your friend and brother... keep up the great work my friend. With love and kindness there is always hope for the lost. Sometimes it is all that is needed and they go out and do the same. You live your testimony and that my friend is a blessing to see and read about.

      Blessings from Canada

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Lastheart... Thanks for reading this and I heard a sermon by a great speaker a number of years ago that spoke those same words. He had us all close our eyes and imagine we were looking down over the proceedings of our own funerals and asked the question what would they say.

      It is a sobering thought really and one which certainly opened my eyes to how I was living and treating others...

      Well written comment and certainly a reminder for us all...

      Hugs and Blessings from Canada

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
      Author

      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi drbj... What a kind thing to say and thank you so very much. One look at Harry's picture when I wrote this brought a tear to my eye. He was a man who knew the true value of life and it centred around love to those he allowed close...

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Alecia... that it would but Harry was a very private man when it came to sharing his past. To tell you the truth there was probably no one who really knew Harry. Even though I was fairly close to him and even came close to mentioning anything he would clam up, take another chew of tobacco and moves onto another story... That was the mystery Harry took with him. It was a guess is all he came out of the Seattle area and was predeceased by a sister.

      Hugs

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Abby... yes indeed a man with a great deal to offer to people. Sadly most avoided Harry because of his dress and appearance. For those who did they missed out at being blessed by this man.

      The Yukon is actually a very clean place in comparison to some cities I have lived in. The year after Harry passed away I started a annual event where as many people who could come would carry on Harry's tradition. People take great pride in the pristine setting and Harry set the marker for us all.

      Hugs and Blessings from Canada

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi bravewarrior... A man should never go without a marker of some sort and Harry had his. I am told there are a few who stop and say hello to Harry and that is a blessing to know.

      Tannis well she was with me for many years after I left the Yukon. She lived till she was 16 and it was a sad day when I had to have her put down, everything began to fail her. She stood with me through so many hard times, faithful, loving and caring she was. It was the day a grown man cried his eyes out. I buried her on an acreage I owned and the wildflowers still mark the spot.... smiles.

      Hugs and Blessings from Canada

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Jackie... you are so right and a simple cup of coffee, a wave o the street and yes a ride home when he had tipped a few to many would insure he had a warm fire going in his little shack, a few dollars tucked in his pocket and maybe a bag of groceries once in a while saw Harry a happy man. He was teacher of survival and always had some advice.

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Billy... thanks for the comment and yes people do make a difference in outr lives. My wish and desire is I can return something to others. There were many of those characters I ran across over the years and they were all special and loved equally.

      Hugs and Blessings

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image
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      Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Hi Judi... Thanks for the visit and so sorry it has taken me this long to respond. Harry was an interesting man indeed, you could not help but love the man.

      Hugs and Blessings from Canada

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 3 years ago from Arizona

      i read from start to finish...You did such a good job ..getting us into the story. As always so well done!

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 3 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      Rolly, the way you have written this makes this reader fond of Mr. Wigwam Harry. He sounds like one of a kind, just like the writer of this story. This hub is Impressive!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are the simple souls that inspire and keep a city great.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 3 years ago from Central United States

      As I have aged, my life has become about meeting the needs of others. But for the grace of God I could be in the same shoes. Since I have moved I see more people who live in whatever they can put together to call home.

      I came here to change this world for as many as I can. Some will never change. They are who they are and how they live for a reason. These are not the ones I am concerned about. It is those who are ending up this way young. Mostly because there isn't a way for them to earn a living.

      I am again living my story. This one is new to me. Never have I tried to help an entire county change before.

      This has nothing to do with politics. It is about giving a hand up. Those who can't survive without a hand out will be helped only with basic needs.

      Right now we have no place to house anyone. This is something we are working on. We feed as many as we find who need it.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Rolly happy to read from you. Here in Puerto Rico it has been so hot that it is draining us.

      I love true stories like this, because you honored him while he was around in body as well as after he left this earth.

      We all ought to learn from this...how will others talk about us when we leave.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      Harry was a memorable character indeed, Rolly, and may be smiling down on you right now for this fascinating tribute. You made him come alive with your words, my friend.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I loved this story about Harry, Rolly. He sounds like an interesting and very memorable character. It would be fascinating to learn about his past.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Beautiful story about Harry. Thank you for sharing him with us, Rolly. I got a kick out of Harry digging the basement and then filling it back in when he didn't get paid. Picking up trash along his way had to have been a huge job. What a compassionate soul he must of been to care so much. :-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      What a wonderful thing for you to do, Rolly; to carry Wigwam Harry's legacy on. It pleases my heart to know someone paid for a gravestone to mark this lone man's burial site. Whatever happened to Tannis?

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Beautiful story Rolly. What would life be with people like Harry. They make us see what life is really all about that money cannot buy.

      Hope you are well. GB

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So many people pass through our lives, almost nameless and faceless, and make huge impacts by the strength of their character. What a wonderful story for this rainy morning. Thank you Sir!

      love from rainy Oly

      bill

    • Judicastro profile image

      Judicastro 3 years ago from birmingham, Alabama

      Good Morning Rolly my friend! Was so nice to cozy up to the fire after being gone for so long. Thanks again for another wonderful tale! Hope this finds you and your lovely wife doing well! Many many blessings!

      Judi