“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Saturday, May 21, 2011

J. McKenzie Young. Part Three: "Mac Of The Mounted"

Roy Chapman Andrews tells the following version of Mac Young's life between the end of the First World War, and Young joining the United States Marine Corps:

[Excerpt from This Business of Exploring.  G. P. Putnam's Sons., 1935.  pp. 104 - 106]

So he wandered northward to Canada, lured by the legends of the Northwest Mounted Police. But it wasn't what he hoped it would be. He was too valuable at headquarters. For several years he was a "mountie" but did not reenlist.

There at the edge of the great country stretching northward to the Arctic Ocean tales came down of 
trappers and fur traders in the Mackenzie River region. Mac and two of his buddies decided to seek their fortunes in the north. None of them knew much about trapping but they could learn. They did learn too and it was a bitter experience during a long winter. 

They got plenty of furs, but Indians stole a cache of food. They struggled to a trading post just on the verge of complete starvation. The trader did not run true to the traditions of the north. In return for enough food to take them out he made them give him their best furs. At last they arrived in Seattle and the remaining skins were sold. Eight hundred dollars apiece was the net profit. 

Of course they had a night of celebration. Until I had been on a long cruise myself and away from civilization for many months I never could understand why sailors at the end of a voyage want to raise Cain and spend every cent of money they have worked so hard to make. I found out because that was just what I wanted to do. Every shop looked enticing; every girl was beautiful; all music was intoxicating. The contrast and the sudden change upsets one's sense of values. You are happy to be back and you have to show it or burst. It is a natural human outlet, just as a volcano explodes when too much steam has accumulated. 

Mac awoke next morning in a hotel with all his money gone. He never knew just what happened or how he got there but the fact remained that he did not have a nickel. It was one of Seattle's grayest days, than which nothing can be grayer. Mac was hungry, his head ached like the devil, his spirits were far, far below zero. He passed a Marine Corps recruiting station "Join the Marines and see the world."

[It is a great story - but only that, a story.  But who told it?  Did Mac Young spin this yarn over Gobi campfires?, or did Andrews conflate events with other tales he had heard from other men of adventure?]

R.N.W.M.P. 1919 - 1920

Unfortunately due to a type of institutional insanity, the Original Personnel Records for the Royal North West Mounted Police [a precursor of our modern Royal Canadian Mounted Police] were destroyed in accordance with government regulations. 

In 1986, I received a reply from S. W. Horrall, Historian at the RCMP in response to my request for any information on Young.  I was told that from 'scattered sources' at the Public Archives he could tell me that Young had enlisted in at Toronto in August 1919, was transferred to the training Depot at Regina, and after basic training was employed on office duties until he purchased his discharge on August 5th, 1920.   No photographs existed of Young in Royal North West Mounted Police archives.

In 2004, I was introduced to Don Klancher, a retired RCMP officer, and major private collector of the Forces' history, documents, photographs, and uniforms.  I learned that not all information had been destroyed, and that there was an ongoing effort to compile as much information on all the force's personnel from day one onwards.  A daunting task indeed.

Don Klancher had known a fragment of Young's story, and I traded him what I knew for what he could access from the project's files.  

Young had joined the RNWMP / RCMP service on August 11, 1919, was assigned Regimental Number 8592, as a Sgt., and purchased his discharge from a 5 year stint, on August 5, 1920.  His burial place was given as Fortuna, California.  However, as I will reveal, that is not where he is buried.

Undated photo of Mac Young in the Gobi

From this point on, the story told about John McKenzie Young, or the story he put around about himself, begin to have large and small inconsistencies.  

I have a photocopy of Young's complete Marine Corps service record.  In the file it shows that Mac Young applied in person to join the USMC, in Seattle, Wash., on August 31, 1920.  

This allows a scant twenty-six days between leaving the Mounted Police Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan and arriving in Seattle.  Certainly not enough time to spend a winter trapping furs in Canada's Arctic..... 

I do not know what it would have cost Young to buy out his remaining four year contract with the RNWMP, but I expect he did not have much money put aside, and that after visiting family and friends, Mac Young was looking for gainful employment that needed the skills of a former soldier and Mounted Police officer.  The Marine Corps was likely more enticing than returning to being a bank clerk.

Or, did Mac Young actually join the Secret Service?

Stay tuned.....