What separates Alaskan roughnecks from their counterparts in the lower 48?
The following blurb from the November 18, 1916 issue of the Iditarod Pioneer has this to say about the men and women of the frontier:
“The following paragraph in answer to a query was published in the Literary Digest recently:
Roughneck is a slang term for a tough or a rowdy, such as a member of one of those gangs that at one time terrorized the people of the slums of New York of Chicago. The term is also used to denote a person who lacks manners or refinement, in contrast to one who has a good address and the appearance of culture, as “Oh! he’s a roughneck!” In the Evening Post (New York) of August 17, 1903, we find the following: “His (Sam Parks) stated income amounts to union wages from his union of roughnecks, as the ironworkers call themselves, as walking delegate.” Also in “Colonel Crockett in Texas,” published in 1836, we read: “You may be called a drunken dog by some of the clean-shirt and silk-stocking gentry; but the real roughnecks will style you a jovial fellow.”
In Alaska the term “roughneck” has an appropriate meaning distinct from any of the above definitions. Far from being a term of reproach, it is in large measure complimentary. It refers to that large class of Alaskans who, meeting and combating natural obstacles in an untamed wilderness, overcomes them and glories in the task. The Alaskan roughneck may have been reared amid the refinement or luxury, or he may have been a product of the slums; but the trials and difficulties met with the Northland lend that touch of nature which makes them all kin. The roughneck of today is apt to be the capitalist of tomorrow, and even then he is not ashamed of being designated as a
“roughneck” [emphasis added].”