The ‘mad trapper’ story always comes up in this cold

At this time of year, while mothers hollered at us to carry in firewood, we’d all be listening on the developing legend of Albert Johnson, “The Mad Trapper of Wolf River.”
It was made into a recent TV movie, too, but the realism has faded and nobody today could be expected to take that story in with the same excitement as we did.
We all heard the song that came out later, around the time of that other sad piece of history—the cave-in of the Moose River gold mine in Nova Scotia, which also kept us engrossed for days and also lives on in a song.
As boys, we could not get home from school quickly enough to hear whether the RCMP had “nailed” Albert Johnson, whose story lives among the greatest Arctic events.
I can’t remember a great deal of the song, except one verse:
“Deep down in the snow for shelter,
With the bullets flying low,
He aimed another deadly shot,
Laid another Mountie low!”
I believe there were seven officers killed in that epic manhunt, which kept going for days while Johnson never seemed to run out of bullets—and the coffins piled up!
Even the stirring northern poems from gold rush days by Robert Service cannot match the drama that accompanied the Albert Johnson saga.
Of course, the current daily reports on the ever-mounting tsunami death toll in South Asia have Canadians listening for more every morning. And except for World War II reports, not many other events have held our attention like the “mad trapper” did so many years ago.
• • •
Over lunch, we met one of the present owners of Larsson’s Camp near Nestor Falls, Christine Dutka, whose husband, David, his brother and wife, Darryl and Brenda, played host over the holidays to the local Whalen clan saluting an uncle’s birthday.
With nine cabins in that popular old resort, the Dutkas had no trouble accommodating everybody. They purchased Larsson’s in May, 2000.
• • •
I’m keeping in touch with the Tim Shortreed family of Emo through his wife’s folks from Holland, Arie Borger of Emo and Peter Borger of Barwick, sociable folks who frequently lunch at McDonald’s.
Peter tells about a complete Christian school system at Stratton (the Sturgeon Creek Annex) I never knew about. He also discusses Mine Centre, one of my favourite topics.
Tim, a cousin of my late wife, Emily, occupies the former Cooper farm with its high barn just east of Emo, and now has six children.
• • •
Local authorities from town council to Rainycrest’s board need to be listening to Joe Gray when he gets going on his regular series of complaints. I don’t meet Joe frequently, but he can be found mornings in McDonald’s wearing an annoyed expression concerning one topic after another.
Such as when the town forgets to clean snow off the downtown sidewalks like on Sunday, the police remain frustrated by our small store robber, or even that our doctors can’t cure many people.
Or that income tax officials grab a man’s new truck via the bailiff because the owner went broke supporting the needs of a mother in Rainycrest.
Just what is the world coming to?
Well, Joe will tell you all about it. Maybe we should have more like him around to help us spot stuff going wrong with our hard-earned tax money? But is the town really going all the way down the drain?
Oh yes, Joe has such prominent complaints as to why aren’t children riding school buses wearing seat belts like everyone else on the road?
His own schooling came at Arbor Vita after strolling three miles both ways.
• • •
Much of the town and district went into mourning with Ken Munn when his wife passed away. The funeral home was overflowing with sympathizers.
Phyllis Munn had been ill a long time, but her many friends never forgot her.
• • •
I’m dismayed by the number of younger natives from Couchiching who don’t remember our old riverside fish house or its operators, Dan McCarthy and partner, Spike Struve (the latter was photographed riding a moose in Rainy Lake).
This colourful pair seem not to have left us very long ago and were once very well-known while employing several Couchiching workers.
• • •
One TV news report estimated the force of that Tsunami wave that claimed 160,000 lives equalled one million atom bombs such as were dropped on Japan in World War II.
• • •
As if we don’t have enough troubles already, I’m told we cannot collect insurance any more on damages caused by sewer back-ups or hailstorms, and there also is some trouble collecting on car insurance.
• • •
While I’m frequently into difficult issues with peoples’ names, saluting an old acquaintance and boyhood neighbour as “Natalie” rather than “Nadia” Hedman, we could reminisce on how tremendously the North End neighbourhood here has expanded since we grew up near the CN subway!
Nadia’s maiden name of Druzyk is related to the Fichuks, my old friends of long ago. I remember the year she topped the district music festival with her accordian, which I hope she still plays.
• • •
My grandson, Jordan Vandetti, the guitarist, is getting settled at the University of Winnipeg, having quit Carleton Univesity in Ottawa, which was still a college when I studied there after World War II.
• • •
Garnet Paul came along wondering where he could buy a farm. He was responding to my suggestion here last week that life could be made happier for many through life on a farm.
So if you can help him with this idea, don’t be worried about getting the money because it’s well understood that Garnet can cough it up!
Mind you, there are others also wondering where they can find some place to milk cows and collect eggs.
Did you know that one Emo farm was eyed a few years ago as the site of a gold mine? It still may be owned by the Stratmat mining company of Winnipeg, whose activity caused three banks to open branches here.
Who says there’s no money in farming?

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