Books To Read On A Trapline

When the evenings get longer, we enjoy reading a good book. We used to use kerosene lamps and candles, but the eyesight doesn’t get any better as we get on in years. Now we use a 5-Watt LED bulb, which the solar battery doesn’t really notice. So here we go with the books to hunker down with on a cold, dark night:

Eric Collier’s Three against the Wilderness, an international bestseller, tells of his family’s move to the Chilcotin area of British Columbia in the 1930s. The beaver is trapped out, but Eric reintroduces them to Meldrum Creek. The title is not well chosen, as Eric and his family would surely have moved back to the city if they’d had a horrible time in the wilderness! But they thrived in it.

From the same publishing house comes The Rainbow Chasers, by Ervin Austin MacDonald. He tells of his father who prospected for silver and gold from Colorado to Mexico, drove Montana cattle to remote camps in British Columbia and ended up in the Cariboo region in 1907. There, he and his sons built a ranch on pristine land next to a lake.

TouchWood Editions, Surrey, B.C. 

Read about A.L. Karras’ rugged trapper life in northern Saskatchewan, where in the 1920s and ’30s, escaping the Depression, he and his brother brave the howling winds and learn to live off the land. North to Cree Lake and Face the North Wind are both illustrated with authentic drawings.

PaperJacks, Ontario; and Burns & Maceachern Ltd., Ontario

Are you fond of short adventure-packed stories that highlight life in the bush? Well, Terry Wilkinson, a long-time guide and trapper, has written a book: That Red Headed Yukon Guide and Trapper. You will enjoy the mostly short, sometimes-hilarious stories from more than 40 years in the wilderness, with his wife Ruth and their two children Joel and Chelsea. There are also stories highlighting various travels with his family.

FriesenPress, Altona, Manitoba

For all bird lovers out there, Canadian author Katherine Govier’s Creation has sensibly captured J. J. Audubon’s expedition to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1833. Audubon’s story is smartly intertwined with Captain Bayfield, of the Royal Navy, whose job it was to chart this labyrinthine coast.

Vintage Canada, Toronto

James Michener wraps countries’ beginnings and histories into very readable novels. Say you want to visit Mexico, Poland or Alaska—he wrote the book. You might start by reading his short story “Journey,” about an overland trip to the Yukon goldfields. Imagine floating from Lake Athabasca to Dawson City. Some tried, fewer arrived. This journey took gold seekers from the Slave, Mackenzie and Peel rivers to the promised land, only to find out that all of the gold claims had already been staked. But before getting to Dawson, those men had to quickly set up winter camp, for two consecutive years, so as not to freeze to death out in the bush.

Fawcett Crest, New York

From master storyteller Ken Follett comes an epic trilogy that will knock your socks off: Fall of Giants, Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity tell the story of five families that span 97 years, from 1911–2008. English, Americans, Germans, Welsh and Russians meet each other and are torn apart by the big wars of the twentieth century, as well as by civil rights, Vietnam, the Wall, and rock ’n’ roll.

Dutton, New York

Wilbur Smith is on the same level as Ken Follett, to be sure. If you can only take one box of books with you, take his—especially River God. Escape to warmer climates like Egypt: there, in 1988, a tomb was found and opened. In a hidden niche were located 10 sealed alabaster vases. The scrolls from the vases were translated and, subsequently, Wilbur Smith was tasked with rewriting this original transcription into a style that would make it more accessible to the modern reader. He’ll draw you into a magnificent saga of pharaohs, kingdoms, wars, and one very wise eunuch slave named Taita. Once you’ve read River God, you’ll go on to read the following Taita books, although, at this time, “merely” imagined.

Pan Books, London, England

Tired of that long Yukon winter and looking to book a trip to the beach? Take with you an entertaining Robin Cook medical thriller. Pick up Critical, where Laurie, a New York City medical examiner, must find out what’s behind a surge of infections in three hospitals. Time is against her as she has to rush to save her husband’s life as well.

Berkley Books, New York

Have you got sore muscles from all of that snow shovelling? Bruised an ankle from tripping over a snow-covered log? Get Beverley Gray’s award-winning, beautiful coffee-table book (and definitely a workbook) Boreal Herbal, and prepare yourself for next winter. It’s quite amazing how a tree heals itself after I make a blaze mark with an axe; the tree starts to bleed and that blood is called sap or pitch. Collect spruce sap, which works by itself as a lozenge for coughs and sore throats. Or mix it with grease to treat cuts. Use aspen and willow leaves and bark to make a tea. They contain salicin, also found in store-bought aspirin tablets. Dandelions: Do you love them or look at them sideways? Either way, make dandy-oil with blossoms (and roots), olive oil and vitamin E oil to draw out tension and toxins. It works like a charm.

Aroma Borealis Press, Whitehorse, Yukon

Once you’re done reading all of your books, you can start again or take an old newspaper:

The scene: Two old-timers named Bob and Ted are sitting on stools in their trapper cabin.

Bob reads the five-month-old paper, muttering more to himself: “Says here, ‘Win a return trip for two.’”

Asks His buddy Ted, “Where to?”

Replies Bob, “Well … back here!”

(Thank you, Frantic Follies!)

And if you never tire of snow and ice, then read about the 1991 discovery of Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old Stone Age man in South Tyrol, Italy. Found laying around him were arrow shafts, his cap, some clothes, fragments of a birchbark container and more. With many pictures. The author is Konrad Spinnler and the book is titled The Man in the Ice, Harmony Books, New York

Check out what Mac’s Fireweed Books in Whitehorse has to offer. You’ll find a plethora of books on the North: from seafaring to canoeing, and from hiking to cooking. Then next time you’re in the big city, check out our lovely second-hand bookstore Well-Read Books. I predict an unexpected find and maybe even a new favourite author! And if you would rather have someone read to you, visit one of our cozy community libraries and check out the audio books.

Be safe now and read on!

Sonja Seeber, Yukon Trapper

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