The solstice sky is murky and threatening showers. The evening forecast calls for thunderstorms.
RCMP Const. Shirley Telep hopes the forecast is right.
“I’m praying it’s going to rain all night — buckets,” she says through a smile.
Telep sits at her desk preparing for an all-night shift. The tools of her occupation hang from a belt around her waist. She’s wearing a Kevlar vest that adds bulk to her frame and creaks when she folds her hands across her lap.
“I figure tonight because it’s solstice we’re going to be on the go all night,” says Telep.
“We stopped a group of people last night and had them dump out their beer at quarter to three in the morning,” adds Telep. “One guy said he came to Dawson specifically for solstice.”
The summer solstice is often celebrated in Dawson City with round-the-clock outdoor parties. It may be the shortest night of the year but it usually means a long one for the RCMP.
Const. Walter Willingham is sitting at his desk across the room from Telep. He’s finished his shift and happy to be heading home.
“I had my share early in the week,” says Wallingham, and begins to list off the calls he’s responded to over the last several days.
Wallingham adds it’s no secret where action will be tonight.
“The (Midnight) Dome is the hotspot,” he says.
Recent construction on the road to the well-known party spot raises concerns over slippery driving conditions, explains Wallingham.
“There’s pea gravel on the road,” he says. “The thing to do is put up a check stop. Let them know we’re out and about. Hopefully we have sober drivers.”
Neither Telep nor Wallingham have worked a solstice in Dawson City but both are from Mayo originally and have experienced similar parties firsthand.
“Once, maybe twice,” says Wallingham, grinning. “The place to go is the Dome. Sit up there and watch the sun, have a beer.”
Telep remembers a trip she took to Dawson for a solstice gathering.
“I’ve been to one when I wasn’t working — years ago,” says Telep with a smile as she recalls the evening.
“I was at a party up at the Dome and a helicopter flew by and there were three persons that mooned the whole crowd. The crowd went wild. And that was probably 3 or 4 a.m.”
“You saw the biggest moon on the longest day of the year,” chuckles Wallingham and the two constables share a laugh.
Const. Dwayne Latham has a look of concentration on his face as strides around the office. After several minutes he settles at his desk and joins the discussion.
He says he’s worked the past two solstices in Dawson City but from his standpoint, it’s just another night.
“Lived and breathed it,” says Latham with a straight face, “but I didn’t find it to be any more or any less than what we normally have to deal with in a summer session here in Dawson.”
“Basically, we come in and do our job,” adds Latham. “We act and react to situations as they come up. We do the same on a night like tonight.”
Telep says she’s prepared for whatever situation might arise.
“I’m ready for it. I slept all day,” she says with a wide smile.
By midnight, and just over halfway through the shift, the clouds burn off and the sun emerges. Clearly, the forecast was wrong.
So, it seems, is Telep’s prediction of a busy evening.
“Still quiet. Haven’t gotten a call,” says Telep from an idling police cruiser on the side of the road. “Been up to the Dome and there’s quite a few gathered there. A few in their lawn chairs right at the very top. Maybe 15 vehicles about an hour ago.”
“Nothing I got excited about yet,” adds Telep.
She hopes the weather helps keep it that way.
“It’s a little cooler tonight. If they got little halter-tops and tank tops on I hope they get really cold so they go home,” she laughs.
Telep’s laugh continues as she contemplates whether it feels strange to police a party she attended as a youth.
Her tone gets serious, however, as she reflects on life under the microscope as an RCMP constable.
“If I could go out every now and then it would be nice but it’s very hard to do in a small community,” says Telep.
The fact that she’s from the area and people know her family has made it especially difficult and has limited her social activity, she says.
“You always seem to see a lot more when you’re not in uniform and you’re out,” says Telep.
“You see people that usually hide from the police but you blend in with the crowd. So you see people that have warrants out on them, or you’re looking for them. It’s not worth it to go to the bar.”
Telep and Latham are back at the detachment by 3 a.m. Their night shift has ended and the partying that was supposed to materialize, hasn’t.
“It’s very quiet,” says Telep.
“Calm,” Latham quickly interjects. A thin smile across his face suggests he’s pleased.
“One call all night,” says Telep, “It was nothing major. An ‘assist other agency.’ No one’s in the tank,” she adds with a grin.
“Aye, but the night’s still young,” jokes Latham.
Both constables say they’re happy the evening has been a quiet one.
“It’s cloudy. It’s during the middle of week. These are all factors why it probably isn’t busy,” says Telep.
That suits Latham just fine.
“I’d say, generally, it’s a pretty reasonable evening,” says Latham. “If the expectation of the public is to have fireworks, it’s not what we look forward to every day.
“We want to go home at night. A calm evening is a good evening.”
As Telep readies herself to go home she says that this solstice night was nothing like the one she attended on the Dome 16 years ago.
“Hell, no. No helicopters tonight.” She lets out a big laugh heads for the exit.