Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Review The Mad Trapper of The Rat River by Dick North

This book review is sponsored by LL Beamish for people who kick A$%^$^%.

It is rare that a book is so compelling that I read all 300 pages in one sitting. However, the book is quite interesting. I picked up the book because it was the inspiration for a long forgotten movie in 1975 called A Challenge to be Free starring Mike Mazurzki.

The real life inspiration for the movie was a mysterious trapper who appears out of nowhere as Albert Johnson who was previously Albert Nelson. He wasn't social man and went out of his way to say little or nothing.

However, inthe Great Depression many men headed to the North to hide from their pasts and seek a fortune or just survive in the frozen North. A simple trapping dispute sent a Mountie to Johnson's cabin. The cabin was little more than a ditch in the permafrost covered by logs. However such structures were common. Johnson ignored the Mountie and said nothing. Throughout the lengthy chase he never said a single word.

The Mounties returned in force, but Johnson refused to see them. It was seventy below and a mountie was shot. A desperate dog race saved the mounties life, but Johnson remained in the cabin waiting his fate.

The third time the Mounties called out to Johnson letting him know the Mountie survived and he would not be facing murder. Johnson had the advantage in that it was warm in the cabin, but seventy below outside. The dog teams had to be reprovisioned. The mounties used dynamite but Johnson survived.

He left the cabin on snowshoes and led the Mounties on a chase through the Richardson Mountains. Professional climbers with modern gear do not even attempt this in winter. Johnson survived by snaring small gameso as not to make a sound.

He was surrounded and shot a Mountie to death. He escaped by climbing a ice cliff with an axe
in forty below. Eventually he out smarted himself by circling back trying to get behind his pursuers except his circle placed him in front of the posse twice. In the last desperate shootout
he died trying to cross a river clutching his rifle. Unlike Che he knew what he was doing and fought till his last gasp.

The identity of Johnson was never established. He carried no ID and said few words. The author
makes a convincing case that he was a North Dakotan Scandanavian immigrant. In fact this immigrant uses several aliases in Wyoming and Califonia jails before vanishing. I am not one hundred percent convinced of the theory. However, great historical mysteries are ripe for such detective work.

The long forgotten movie was part of the Mountain Man craze in the Grizzly Adams era. Of course the trapper played by Mike Mazurski was made more cuddly than Johnson ever was. They added a old Wolf who the trapper saves from a snare. In the movie he sends the wolf away but the wolf returns with meat. An indian tracker and a sharpshoooter who respect the trapper are part of the story. In the movie the trapper sends the wolf away as he climbs to freedom. He is hit by a bullet that causes an avalanche, but the body was never found in the spring thaw.

This would be a great film role for Beakerambo. Beakerambo's speech impediment gives the mounties the wrong idea and gunfire ensues. Beakerambo leads the Mounties on a similar chase trying to explain he has a speech impediment. The Indians mistake his Me me me for demonic posession and chase him too. After a long bloody shootout Beakerambo is found to be innocent of everything because of his deficient NYC public school education. It seems Mayor Bloomburg placed too much money in schools for Gays, commies and now Jihadis and left Beakerambo without speech therapy.

The moral of the Beakerambo movie is being incoherent can be dangerous to your health.

Beamish in 08.

Excellent book for late teens.


Always On Watch said...

The long forgotten movie was part of the Mountain Man craze in the Grizzly Adams era.

I well remember that time. Being a mountain man was very idealized. A lot of people couldn't hack that kind of life.

beakerkin said...

I think the Mountain Man has become passe with animal rights. In reality they were a mixed lot of desperate men, some criminal and others resourceful.

My favorite fictional Mountain Man was Pasquinale from Centenial.

I think the Beakerambo version of this story will be a hit.

Always On Watch said...

My favorite fictional Mountain Man was Pasquinale from Centenial.

Wasn't Centennial one of those mini-series based on James Michener's book of the same title?

That book is one of my favorites. One of my avid-reader students read the book last term for a book report. This morning, I posted that student's winning essay on reading.

Anonymous said...

I'd pay money to see the Beakerambo movie...

beakerkin said...

Farmer John

I don't think the Canadians would be happy to see the Mounties Spoofed. Sonia might be an exception to the rule.

Centenial was one of Mitchners best and Pasquinale is in the early part of the book. I think he was played by Chad Everet. Charlton Heston played a Mountain man once and quite well. It was not Broken Arow with the underated Katy Jurado who suffered with dignity and bad dialouge.

Ducky's here said...

Farmer, a very fine film is Dick Proenneke's "Alone in the Wilderness".

He pretty much decided to chuck it all and took off for Alaska but he brought a movie camera with him and filmed his various activities such as building his cabin, finding food and general exploration. Very interesting.