A Big Deal over One Dead Toe

I found a street sign in an rv park up here in Dawson City, Yukon, that says “Margaritaville.” Really, could there be a place on Earth less like whatever Margaritaville is like?

It’s true that even here you can order a shot of tequila at the bar. But, it doesn’t come with a wedge of lime. It comes with a human toe. (Okay, that’s only if you pay extra.)

The story goes that a pair of brothers were gold mining, and one had to cut the other’s toe off to prevent gangrene. He plopped it in a jar of liquor, which was found in the 1970s by an old riverboat captain, who turned it into a money-making drinking experience that’s been going strong ever since.

Here’s what you do.

First, you’ve got to go by the Sourdough Saloon to find out what the Toe Time is for the day. We’d gone to town to meet Doug and Melanie for lunch and had hung around until the bar opened at 4:00. Turns out the bartender begins the signup sheet at 5:30 for a Toe Time of 6:00 that day. This was already a lot of work to drink one cocktail. We were in for a toe though, as it were.

Tracy rode his bike back to the ferry that took him across the river to the campground so he could walk Banjo (more on that later), and I taught Doug how to play Gin. Moral at this point of the story: Always travel with a deck of cards. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a saloon (with real wooden swinging doors) where a game of cards of a must.

Come 6:00, and the Captain called our names over the PA system. We entered his parlor (a table by the bar) with our unadorned shots in hand.

He sits you down, makes sure you know the rules (there’s a $2.5k fine for swallowing the toe) and then waves around the blackened, shriveled toe and chants, very much like you’re at a slumber party.

“You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch that gnarly toe.”

When it was my turn, I’d seen how the toe got stuck at the base of the shot glass with Melanie and Doug, so I swirled mine and gave it an extra pat at the end there. I wasn’t going to be disqualified!

The Captain has two toes going right now, so he can soak one in disinfectant while the other is being used, then switch. I read that one of the toes had been donated by an ultramarathon runner who got frostbite. I wonder if he comes to visit his toe? Does he have to pay the extra $5?

I have to admit I was super nervous to do my shot. Jacqui had told me that, if she’d been doing it, she’d choke on the liquor and then swallow the disgusting toe by accident. You can believe that image was forefront in my mind as I waited my turn. That’s why I look a little badass in the video: I’m psyching myself up so hard that I’m ready not just to kiss the toe but marry the damned thing.

So, Tracy got back to the bar on time and we all did our shots and got our certificates and stepped out of the bar into the perpetual sunlight and looked at each other. That was a big deal over one little dead toe.

But, you know what, we did it! And only now can I say it’s not a big deal. Believe you me, it is a big deal when you’re watching others do the shot as you wait for yours!

5 thoughts to “A Big Deal over One Dead Toe”

  1. I’m going to allow you the artistic licence on my contribution up there but down here the “facts” are that I simply warned you not to swallow the toe. I think the rest is just your own personal (totally reasonable!) fears 😄 Congrats on being a real Sourdough now, or perhaps more correctly a Sour Toe as per the certificate. And you really do look like a badass downing that drink. But not the toe! Yay!

    1. I must’ve gotten you mixed up with myself! 🙂 Actually, I got you mixed up with my sister once, so I think we’re just all too much alike for me to guess who thought what. Thanks on the congratulations!