An interview with a holiday icon

Every year a few weeks before Christmas I have the opportunity to sit down with one of the holiday’s most iconic figures. This year I was fortunate to interview the legendary prospector Yukon Cornelius:

Kelly Van De Walle: “Thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’m sure you’re a busy guy, what with being a peppermint tycoon and all.”

Yukon Cornelius: “I’m Yuuuukon CORNELIUUUUUUSSSS!”

KV: “Yes, sir. I’m aware of that.”

YK: “Oh. Right then. You see, not everybody knows that.”

KV: “Yes. You seem to like announcing that. Speaking of which, that’s an interesting name.”

YK: “Thank you. Want to know a secret?”

KV: “Of course.”

YK: “Yukon Cornelius isn’t my real name.”

KV: “I had my suspicions. So what IS your real name?”

YK: “Samuel Jabidah Rutherford.”

KV: “Really. That’s…interesting. Why did you change it?”

YK: “Can you imagine a prospector named Sam?”

KV: “Of course not. That would be silly.”

YK: “Speaking of silly names, have you ever thought about changing YOUR name?”

KV: “Maybe. Do you have any suggestions?”

YK: “How about Hector Alaska? Or Tundra Permafrost. Shiver Livingstone!”

KV: “Did you always want to be a prospector? How did you come to the vocation? And in the North Pole, which I can only assume is difficult digging, especially by hand with a single axe.”

YK: “Before this I was in a dead-end job as a printing press technician.”

KV: “So you decided prospecting? I wasn’t aware that was still a vocation.”

YK: “You have to remember, this was the early 1960s. One day a story came through the press about a guy who died in the Yukon territory after finding a bit of gold up there. I thought to myself: ‘Samuel, people have found gold in Alaska but nobody has tried looking at the NORTH POLE!’ So I packed up, bought a pickaxe and the rest is history.”

KV: “A guy died and you decided you wanted to get in on that?”

YK: “Mama raised a warrior, son. I’m YUKON CORNELIUS!!”

KV: Moving on. You call yourself, ‘The greatest prospector in the North.’

YK: “That’s right.”

KV: “Do you have a lot of competition?”

YK: “I’m not sure I follow you.”

KV: “To call yourself ‘The greatest’ implies you’ve beaten out others.”

YK: “Oh, that’s just something I say to keep my spirits up. It gets pretty lonely up here. I also take the honor of ‘Gingeriest Man’, ‘Squirrliest Mustache’ and ‘Most Tools in a Belt’.”

KV: “I’ve noticed. A knife, gun, hammer and pickaxe?”

YK: “I’m like Winter Batman up here, you know.”

KV: “Sure. So you were up at the North Pole prospecting for gold and silver. We see is you tossing your axe in the air and tasting it as your primary method of precious metal detection. Is this standard mine-detection procedure?”

YK: “It’s the Yukon Cornelius procedure, sonny.”

KV: “I see. But we see you’re excited about finding a ‘peppermint mine.'”

YK: “That’s right! It was right beneath our feet!”

KV: “Gold is currently worth $1,266 per ounce. Silver is currently worth about $16.21 per ounce. Peppermint, on the other hand, is roughly $11 per pound, or about 68 cents per ounce. Did you really think you’d make a profit?”

YK: “Well people really like peppermint. Especially in those days. I planned on digging it up and kind of figure it out from there.”

KV: “Here’s where you lose me. You do realize you can’t ‘mine’ peppermint, right?

YK: “I…um…”

KV: “Because peppermint is an herbal extract made from the essential oils of peppermint leaves. It’s not a mineral.”

YK: “…”

KV: “Was your declaration that you’d discovered a ‘peppermint mine’ a hoax to try and save face after years without finding a single ounce of gold or silver?”

YK: “…I…uh…thought this interview was going to be about my many legendary achievements and maybe my ridiculous mustache-beard combination.”

KV: “Mr. Cornelius, just what have you been doing in the North Pole since 1964?”

YK: “Alright, alright. You caught me. I provide security for Santa.”

KV: “Security? From what?”

YK: “Oh you know, stuff. Abominable snowmen, mostly.”

KV: “Oh? Have there been others?”

YK: “Well, no. But that’s obviously because they caught wind of how I single-handedly fought off the Bumble with my bare hands!”

KV: “That’s right. I have to say, it was an incredibly selfless act to go out in that storm.”

YK: “If being up here has taught me anything, it’s that life is precious and friendships should be fought for. We all share this planet together; toy-making elves, elves that want to be dentists, talking reindeer and burly red-haired prospectors. I’m the best one to traverse this land. So if not me, who would’ve?”

KV: “I see our time is almost up. Looking back, are you happy with your decision to turn your back on civilization in pursuit of gold and silver?”

YK: “That’s a good question. Sure there’s temperatures around -20 to -50 degrees, threats of hypothermia and scarce food, vegetation and life in general but I occasionally get news of what’s happening back home and, to be honest with you, I think it’s probably less stressful up here.”

KV: “Thank you Mr. Cornelius for your time today. I think our readers will very much enjoy hearing your story.”

YK: “I would think so. I’M YUKON CORNELIUS!”


Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at