Anyone who has read much history knows that some of the best details are in the footnotes. For example, in a brief endnote to comments about pestilent insects along the Yukon River in 1900, the late historian Gary C. Stein quotes an Army sergeant from the same summer who wrote, “we had hoped that there would be fewer mosquitoes around. post this spring as we burned over all the countries near here last week and burned up about 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,429,765,382,170,210,000 of them. But the loss that much seems invisible.”
This particular nugget can be found in “I Wish You Could Come Too,” Stein’s compilation and annotations from the diaries of James Taylor White, a doctor who made several trips north to Alaska as a member of several Revenue Cutter Service crews, and a keeper. personal notes about what he encountered along the way.