Klondike Joe Boyle was a Yukon Lumberjack Commando Secret Agent who managed a Stanley Cup hockey team, outfitted a World War I machine gun company, received astronomically high military honors from England, Canada, France, Romania, and Russia, stole the Romanian crown jewels from a vault in Moscow, hijacked a train, probably banged a Romanian princess, and once fought a shark in hand-to-hand combat armed with nothing more than a hunting knife.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here, but how’s that sound for a comeback?
Joseph Whiteside Boyle was born on November 16, 1867 in Toronto, Ontario. His dad bred racehorses in a town called Woodstock, and his super-loaded parental units had a bitchin-ass huge farm where young Joe could spend his days swimming, riding horses, shooting guns up in the air for no reason at all, and discovering how many times he had to bash a Maple tree with his boner before the trunk would explode into a stack of identical two-by-fours and a jar of Aunt Jemima’s. When he was 17, Joe went on a business trip to New York City with his father, and while they were hanging out there Joe went down to the docks and made friends with a salty, badass old sea captain. The captain was like, “hey buddy, wanna go spend the next three years on a wooden sailing ship in the middle of the goddamn Atlantic”, and Joe was like, “fuck yeah”, so he jumped on the ship immediately and had some random nearby dude bring a letter to Joe’s dad saying, basically, “hey, I’m a sailor now, so don’t wait up for me.”
Even though he probably hadn’t been on a shitload of boats in his lifetime, Joe Boyle immediately endeared himself to the crew when he chucked a knife between his teeth and jumped overboard in the middle of a thunderstorm to save a shipmate who was being eaten by a motherfucking shark. A few years later, Boyle survived a nasty shipwreck and ended up being washed ashore in Cork County, Ireland, and because he had no cash to buy a trip home he ended up working as a Cork County tour guide for several months until he could save up the dough. I can’t imagine it’s an incredibly easy job to become a tour guide in a foreign country you only visited because your ship was demolished by gigantic ship-murdering rocks, but when you’re talking about a dude who knife-fights fucking sharks and crawls his way out of devastating shipwrecks I guess you have to readjust your expectations for what would be considered impossible.
Boyle eventually earned enough cash to get back to NYC, and when he got there he ended up marrying a woman he’d known for less than a week – because if there’s one thing that kind of defines Joe Boyle, it’s that when he saw or thought of something he wanted, he went after it one thousand percent. Building a life in New York City, Boyle started an animal feed business, had seven kids (!), and managed a boxing club full of up-and-coming boxers.
Well I guess Boyle’s marriage flamed out like a supernova, because when word came down in 1897 that gold had been discovered in the Yukon, Boyle left his family behind, divorced his wife, and went out on an insane life-threatening overland journey to take part in the Klondike Gold Rush. Leaving his family with his business, Boyle and an Aussie boxer named Frank Slevin became some of the first men to survive a hellaciously-terrifying frozen passage known as White Pass, making money along the way by setting up Fight Club style boxing exhibitions and earning cash with their ability to face-punch jackholes for sport. When the two men arrived in Dawson City, Yukon, they had 22 dollars between them.
By the time they left, they’d both be up to their balls in Klondike Gold.
badass Klondike cowboy bar
Living in a cowboy-style frontier town in the middle of a mountainous, unsurvivable permafrosted glacier, Joe Boyle scrounged cash by working as a manual laborer, boxer, and horse jockey, then blew all that cash on his attempt to try and mine some of the gold that was hidden underneath several feet of rock and ice at the top of a snow-covered mountain. He tried panning for gold, but that didn’t really work out, so instead he decided to use a technique called dredging, which is where you build a huge-ass machine that drags the river bed and sifts out more gold than any one man could pan by hand. Naturally, this worked, Boyle found gold, used that gold to buy a logging business, set up a hydroelectric power plant, and become so goddamn rich that he was known as “The King of the Klondike”. Not bad, especially when you consider that the vast majority of people who tried their hand in the Klondike Gold Rush either froze to death or went broke.
A rabid sports fan and endless promoter, in 1905 Klondike Joe put together a crew of hockey players and took them all the way to Ontario to play for the Stanley Cup. Which sounds bizarre as shit, but back in this time basically any jackass team could challenge the champs for the Cup, which is such an awesome concept that I kind of wish it was still the way shit went down today. Could you imagine some beer league pub team from outside Edmonton drunkenly challenging the Pens to a best-of-seven, only to have their team captain barf on Sydney Crosby halfway through the first period? I’d finally fucking pony up for Center Ice if they aired shit like that.
The Dawson City Nuggets.
Klondike Joe is the guy seated in the middle.
Anyway, the insane thing here is that Dawson City is 4,000 miles from Ottawa, and this is a trip that was going to be undertaken through vastly uncharted territory at a time before the automobile was invented. It took the Dawson City Nuggets 23 days to reverse-Oregon-Trail their shit over mountains, rivers, and forests, traveling by dog sled, train, steamer ship, and then train again. They battled seasickness, rain, and iced over roads in an epic journey just for the chance to challenge one of the most unbeatable super-teams in hockey history, and the sheer determination involved was impossibly epic.
The route. It's basically the Oregon Trail in reverse,
undertaken by men whose parents were old enough to have made the original Trail ride.
The Nuggets got the shit kicked out of them, naturally, because how much gas can you have left in the tank when you’ve been riding a fucking dog sled for three weeks and then hurling over the side of a steamer ship. In a best-of-three series, the Dawson City Nuggets lost the first game 9-3, but made up for it by getting into a shitload of fights on the ice and having a few of their players ejected – from a hockey game – for being too violent. They lost the second game 23-2, which to this day is still the record for the worst defeat in the history of the Stanley Cup. Ottawa’s star was Frank McGee, whose 14 goals is still an NHL record for most goals in a Stanley Cup series. McGee was a badass himself – he was one of the original nine members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but was killed in action in France a few years later, fighting the Germans in World War I.
As an awesome side note to this Stanley Cup story, the day after the finals were over the Ottawa team invited Dawson City to come hang out and party with them… the two teams slammed a billion beers, got hammered out of their minds, and got in trouble because they were taking turns trying to drunkenly drop-kick the Stanley Cup across the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa.
Ok, so World War I began in 1914, and even though he was 49 years old you can be damn sure Klondike Joe wasn’t going to miss out on the action. When the war started he used his own money to recruit a 50-man machine gun company of the Canadian Militia, outfitting them with uniforms, equipment, and guns he paid for himself. The Canadian militia made Boyle an honorary Lieutenant-Colonel, and he was so proud of this that he would never be seen in public again without his dress uniform – even when he was supposed to be performing spy missions and special operations behind enemy lines, and even when the British and Canadian command pleaded with him to take the fucking uniform off before he got himself executed.
In July of 1916 Boyle headed for England, but he was deemed too old to fight in the Infantry so he was appointed an officer of the Royal Engineers. He was sent to Russia to aid the Nationalist cause in their struggle against the Germans and the Communists, taking over the Russian Transportation Department in 1917 and immediately opening up rail lines between Petrograd and Odessa.
But, yeah, you can’t put Joe Fuckin’ Boyle that close to the action without expecting him to get his hands dirty, and in August of 1917 he “somehow” found himself in the middle of the Battle of Tarnapol. With the German army overrunning Russian positions all throughout the area, and no Russian officers taking charge of the action, Boyle pulled out his nutsack, organized the defenses of the city, and personally commanded the successful defense of the important rail hub city from enemy attack. For his heroism on the front lines, the Tsar of Russia awarded him the Order of St. Stanislaus, inducting Boyle into an order of knighthood that dates back to the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Tsar in 1917, but even though Boyle was a Westerner the Reds knew a good thing when they saw it. Not only did Boyle stay in Russia, but he got promoted to the awesome-sounding title of Railway Commisar and was tasked with getting 10,000 train cars full of men, weapons, and gear to the front lines of the war. Boyle took charge, had some of the train cars dragged down the sides of mountains, engineered some crazy shit, and got all the cars moving in under three days. Lenin was so happy that he gave Boyle another mission – delivering food and clothes to the war-torn people of Romania.
Klondike Joe chilling with the Queen of Romania.
But, as you might expect, Klondike Joe Boyle was no big fan of the Marxists, and he decided he was going to deliver a hell of a lot more than just food and clothes to the Romanians – he knew that the Bolsheviks were holding the Crown Jewels of Romania and a large portion of that country’s gold in a bank in Moscow for “safekeeping during the war.”
Yep. That’s right. That’s where this is going.
In 1918, Joseph Motherfuckin’ Boyle stole hundreds of pounds of gold and the crown jewels of Romania out of a secure facility in Moscow, loaded it onto two commandeered railway cars, and charged that shit 2,500 kilometers through a fucking Civil War to deliver it back to the Romanian people.
At one point along the way, the Communist station manager at Vapnyarka refused to let Boyle pass, even though Boyle was still officially a senior official in the Russian Transportation Department, but Boyle didn’t panic. In fact, he organized a party – he put on a huge concert, invited all the guards and train employees to attend, then fed them a bunch of tea spiked with 151 whiskey until a bunch of them passed out. Then he cut the telegraph wires, hijacked the train, and peeled the fuck outta there.
If that’s not good enough for you, when this guy got to Romania and delivered the goods, he also quite possibly hooked up with the Queen of Romania.
Queen Marie of Romania was a granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria, and she was a big fan of Joe right from the very beginning. She’d hang out with him at parties, wrote a lot of really nice stuff about him, and had a personal correspondence that she kept up for the rest of his life. There’s speculation about whether she and Boyle actually banged – they sure liked each other, but she was also, you know, technically married to the King of Romania and it would have been super super fucking not cool for them to hook up, but if you held a Dacian falx to my head I’d guess that these two at least had some pretty spicy DMs going on from time to time.
Well, Joe couldn’t really go back to Russia after this, so he ended up working with British Intelligence, helping the proto-SOE help run badass undercover spy rings in Southern Russia and Romania. His agents spied on the Germans, the Bolsheviks, and others, relaying crucial intel back to London about that the Enemies of Democracy. His crowning achievement was when he personally negotiated the release of 50 Romanian nobles who had been taken prison by Bolsheviks in Odessa – his role in freeing these high-ranking Romanians without bloodshed earned him the Star of Romania, the country’s highest honor. He became a national hero, and was declared by the King to be a “Saviour of Romania”.
Klondike Joe Boyle attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I, and after the war he personally secured and oversaw the distribution of nearly $25 million in humanitarian aid to the people of Romania. He was awarded the Star of Romania, the British Distinguished Service Order, the Russian Order of St. Stanislaw, and the French Croix de Guerre for his service during the war. He died in England in 1923 at the age of 58.
Every year, on the anniversary of his death, a woman dressed in all black would appear at his gravesite and leave a handful of flowers. This woman was seen every year from his death until 1938, which is the same year that Queen Marie of Romania passed away.