The Mad Trapper Didn’t Wear Tubbs

A friend of mine turned 30 on the weekend and to celebrate, about a dozen of us hiked into Rainbow Lake, 20 kilometres south of Haines Junction.

Those with snowshoes fared better on the hike then those without, but I was somewhat disappointed to find that there was not a traditional pair of snowshoes to be found.

You know the kind that I mean; they look like elongated tennis rackets, they’re meshed with rawhide and anyone that wears them just looks badass.

Instead, my friends wore these newfangled things — lightweight and small — with brand names like Tubbs.

Now I’m sure any wrinkle-shirted physics major could sit me down and explain the relative advantages of the new footwear over the old, but let’s briefly consider Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River.

A few days after Christmas 1931, three RCMP officers arrived at Albert Johnson’s cabin to question him about a trap line that had been tampered with.

They spotted him inside but Johnson had no intention of talking. They left and reported his strange behaviour to headquarters in Aklavik, NWT. A four-man posse was dispatched to Johnson’s cabin to investigate further.

When Constable Alfred King loudly stated that they had a search warrant, Johnson shot him in the chest. They retreated again; King survived.

Finally a third group of nine men was sent on a raid. Upon arrival at Johnson’s abode a firefight ensued, during which Constable Edgar Millen was fatally shot. After a 15-hour standoff the police left empty handed.

Not wanting to push his luck further, Johnson packed some supplies, strapped on his snowshoes and headed out on the land. What followed was a legendary five-week manhunt, during which Johnson evaded both land-bound and aerial search efforts. Finally, fate caught up to him and he was killed near Eagle River in northern Yukon.

A lot of mystery surrounds the true identity of Albert Johnson, but of this I’m certain: he wasn’t romping through the wilderness on a pair of Tubbs.

In our quest for efficiency we typically sacrifice mystique and nostalgia; and footwear is no exception. However, here’s one suggestion:

The next time you strap on a pair of state-of-the-art snowshoes take a moment to think about stoic old Albert Johnson and quietly acknowledge to yourself that you’ll never be as badass as him.

Adapted from a blog post by Author Peter Jickling at

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