Eighttoes makes a play, a short story by Robert E. Howard and Tevis Clyde Smith. Written with two different endings. This is a dog-team racing story set during the Alaskan gold rush. 

From the letters:

In a letter (#136) to Tevis Clyde Smith circa July 1930 we learn:

I haven’t heard from our story but that’s not unusual, seeing that I haven’t heard from a story I sent to Weird Tales some time before I sent the other; the editor may be taking a vacation or something.
I believe you’ll sell that story to Fiction House. Have you heard from the stories you had out to Snappy and the like? I hope you’ll have sold something by the time you get this letter.

The first story is probably “Red Blades of Black Cathay“, and the other one is most likely “Eighttoes”.

Another letter (#146) was written circa November 1930 :

I’m working on the second draft of our collaborate story and will try to get it to you in a few days.

It’s either “Eighttoes” or “Diogenes of Today“.

The story

“Eighttoes Makes a Play” is a tale set in the rough and ready days of the Klondike Gold Rush, featuring the adventures of the narrator and his acquaintance, Eighttoes Coogle. The story opens with the narrator returning to Dawson, eager for some gambling and drinking after a fruitless search for gold. Despite his losses at roulette, he runs into Eighttoes Coogle, a fellow prospector with equally bad luck in finding gold but grand schemes for getting rich by capitalizing on the foolishness of others.

The narrative quickly turns competitive when Ice Face Hennigan challenges the narrator to a dog sled race from Sixty Mile to Dawson, wagering a significant amount of money against the narrator’s claim of being a superior musher. The narrator, seeing an opportunity to finally strike it rich, plans to secure victory by employing Bosco, a superior lead dog owned by Cooto Colvin. However, a mix-up involving Colvin’s drunken incapacity to participate in their scheme and the unexpected superiority of the narrator’s own hired dog team leads to an unforeseen outcome.

The race unfolds with strategic positioning and the harsh realities of sled racing in the Yukon, including a dramatic entanglement of dog teams that nearly costs the narrator the race. Despite these challenges, the narrator’s newfound team, led by the legendary Grey Ears, propels him to victory, much to his and Eighttoes’s surprise and financial gain.

In the aftermath, it’s revealed that the true identity and reputation of the narrator’s lead dog were unknown to them, showcasing luck’s paramount role in their success. The story concludes with the narrator and Eighttoes eavesdropping on a conversation that reveals their windfall was even more fortuitous than they realized, highlighting the unpredictable nature of fortune in the Gold Rush era.

Alternate ending

The alternate ending of “Eighttoes Makes a Play” presents a different conclusion to the story, diverging significantly from the initial outcome where the narrator wins the dog sled race thanks to unwittingly having a superior dog team. In the alternate ending, the focus is on the race’s final stretch, where the narrator attempts to catch up to Ice Face Hennigan, who has gained a significant lead due to a mishap with the narrator’s dog team. The tension builds as the narrator hopes for a strategic intervention by Cooto Colvin, which never comes, leading to a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to spur his own team to victory by calling out to Bosco, a lead dog that is not even part of his team.

In this version, Ice Face maintains his lead and wins the race, leaving the narrator to face the humiliation and financial ruin of his lost wager. The character of Eighttoes Coogle, who initially seems to be a cautious and somewhat skeptical partner in the narrator’s schemes, reveals that he has bet all of their combined stake on the narrator’s victory, driven by the narrator’s confidence and the seemingly surefire plan involving Bosco. The revelation of Eighttoes betting the entire stake and their subsequent need to flee Dawson to avoid the consequences of their actions adds a layer of irony and desperation not present in the original ending.

The alternate ending shifts the narrative from a tale of unexpected triumph to one of comedic misfortune, emphasizing the unpredictability of luck and the folly of overconfidence. It also deepens the portrayal of Eighttoes Coogle, transforming him from a simple side character into a more complex figure whose actions directly impact the story’s outcome. His decision to disguise himself as a Native American and prepare an escape plan illustrates his foresight and fear of retribution, contrasting with the narrator’s more impulsive nature.

The camaraderie between the narrator and Eighttoes, despite their dire situation, is highlighted in the closing lines, suggesting a resilient partnership that endures beyond the misadventure of the race. This ending serves as a reminder of the harsh realities of the Klondike Gold Rush era, where fortunes could be made or lost on the turn of a card—or the outcome of a sled race—and where the bonds formed in the face of adversity were as valuable as gold.


  • The Narrator: A down-on-his-luck prospector turned musher who enters a high-stakes dog sled race.
  • Eighttoes Coogle: The narrator’s friend, known for his bad luck in prospecting and his clever, albeit risky, plans for making money.
  • Ice Face Hennigan: The antagonist who challenges the narrator to the dog sled race, confident in his own mushing skills.
  • Cooto Colvin: The owner of Bosco, initially part of a scheme to ensure the narrator’s victory in the race.
  • Bosco: A highly prized lead dog that the narrator intends to use to win the race, although he ultimately does not.
  • Grey Ears (The Nome Ghost): The legendary lead dog of the team the narrator hires by chance, unknowingly ensuring his victory.
  • Billings and Henley: Relay men stationed with the narrator’s dog teams for the race.
  • Yukon Jimpkins: The official who starts the race.
  • Indian (Eighttoes in disguise): Eighttoes disguised as an Indian, intending to stay incognito to avoid the repercussions of the race’s outcome.

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