Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908

 

“THE CLIMATE HAS CHANGED AND IS STILL CHANGING.” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908

 

teddy-roosevelt-national-forest

 

 

Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908

 

As a Canadian, I’ve never had much to do with party politics.

OK, I’ve posted the occasional Patriotic Rant, but then, being a big teddy bear by nature, moved on to laughter, love and a good cold glass of Moosehead Ale…

My favourite Canadian Prime Minister remains Conservative John Diefenbaker. As a boy, I loved his fierce loyalty to country and his sense of personal independence. I’ve mentioned elsewhere his historic speech introducing his Bill Of Rights (“We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage”). [1]

I’ve applauded Conservative Brian Mulroney for his work on the environment, earning him the title “Canada’s Greenest Prime Minister.” Although I’ve also lamented his joining with Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher in that whole Free Trade thing. Still unsure about FT after all these years.

I’ve celebrated Justin and Sophie’s appearance on the world stage, not for political reasons, but because of the cred they’ve given Canadian culture. As of this writing, there’s a number of women positioning for leadership of the Conservative party — a good sign for the Dominion.

My Mom is an English war bride and I lived in Yorkshire from ages 4 to 8, so I’ve followed all things British over the years. Those old Britcoms still break me up (“Are you free, Mr Humphries?”). Cheer for England in the FA Cup. The Brexit thing — well, I kind of agree with it, sort of, but it’s not my place to go on about it either way.  Except to cheer: “God Bless England!”

American politics?  I keep out of it.  There’s one exception. Teddy Roosevelt.

teddy-roosevelt-climate-changeI read a library book about him as a kid and he earned a respect that has stayed with me. Probably the Rough Rider charge up San Juan Hill first caught a youngster’s imagination. Ranching out in the Wild West. Exploring the Amazon jungles. A young asthmatic growing up to lead a Strenuous Life outdoors. Bully stuff.

Later, it was his dedication to Conservation and National Parks that kept my interest. He later said that these were his proudest achievements.  A true outdoorsman to the end.

In his “Eighth Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives” of Tuesday, December 8, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a long and astute summary of the State of the Union and, in fact, much of the world. [2]

Among detailed accounts of Finances, Business, Law, Education, Public Health and Soldiers’ Homes, he certainly caught my attention with his Forests, Inland Waterways and National Parks sections.

“The climate has changed and is still changing? And Teddy wrote that in 1908?”

Well, yes.  There it is.  Word for word.

Today, when it’s taken for granted Fossil Fuels are the primary cause of extreme climate change, I’ve drawn some fire by saying, “No. Deforestation is the Number One Cause of global climate change.” Not that I’m letting Fossil Fuels off the hook. Three and a half centuries of coal-fed industrialism, with oil and gas following along, have added immensely to real eco-callapse. [3]

Thing is, many petrochem industries are now beginning to invest in Green technology. The recent announcement that Japan has now “more electric car charging stations than gas stations” caught our own Green Techies by surprise.  Our Green tech and Green Energy sectors are already scrambling to catch up.

But Humankind has been busily hacking down those thriving magnificent forests for the entire Age of Civilization — for over 5000 years. And the destruction has been clearly affecting the Earth ever since. The Industrial Age has seen a gigantic leap in that forestland destruction.

The cure is no longer “Plant A Tree” but PLANT ENTIRE FORESTS – OR ELSE!

And Teddy Roosevelt gave us the reasons why in his 1908 Message:

“If there is any one duty which more than another we owe it to our children and our children’s children to perform at once, it is to save the forests of this country, for they constitute the first and most important element in the conservation of the natural resources of the country,” Teddy said.

“Shortsighted persons, or persons blinded to the future by desire to make money in every way out of the present, sometimes speak as if no great damage would be done by the reckless destruction of our forests…

“All serious students of the question are aware of the great damage that has been done in the Mediterranean countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa by deforestation. The similar damage that has been done in Eastern Asia is less well known.

“A recent investigation into conditions in North China by Mr. Frank N. Meyer, of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture, has incidentally furnished in very striking fashion proof of the ruin that comes from reckless deforestation of mountains, and of the further fact that the damage once done may prove practically irreparable…

The climate has changed and is still changing. It has changed even within the last half century, as the work of tree destruction has been consummated….”

Teddy concluded: “What has thus happened in northern China, what has happened in Central Asia, in Palestine, in North Africa, in parts of the Mediterranean countries of Europe, will surely happen in our country if we do not exercise that wise forethought which should be one of the chief marks of any people calling itself civilized.

“Nothing should be permitted to stand in the way of the preservation of the forests, and it is criminal to permit individuals to purchase a little gain for themselves through the destruction of forests when this destruction is fatal to the well-being of the whole country in the future.”

Well said.

teddy-roosevelt-bearI really recommend that you read Teddy’s entire Forests report. And the Waterways and National Parks sections that follow.

Maybe you’re not an American and all you know about Teddy is that he once spared the life of a bear while hunting — and a stuffed bruin was named after him.  Entire generations have grown up with fond memories of their childhood teddy bears…  No matter — you should read it.

Here’s an unquestionable fact, my friend: Just over a Hundred Years after Teddy Roosevelt gave his impassioned warning, we’re seeing the global climate change effects, the results of inattention, indulgence and inactivity are here…

It will be the entrepreneurial free enterprisers who will put in the hard work and reap the rewards of our new Green Economy.  For a look at these issues from a Conservative voice,  SEE  Global Climate Change Facts: COP21 Climate Change Conference Paris 2015

 

[1] For more on Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, see Old Stock Canadian vs Newcomer: A Patriot’s View

[2] To Read the Complete “Eighth Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives” by President Theodore Roosevelt, Dec 8, 1908: Click Here  (Note: if page doesn’t immediately load, you may have to click on Reload)

[3] Besides investing in Green Tech, the Petrochem industry could really up their public relations game by explaining the disastrous results of Deforestation — and Planting New Forests!

Brian Alan Burhoe
 CivilizedBears.com

 

Teddy Roosevelt Called it Climate Change in 1908

Keywords: climate change, climate change effects, deforestation, forests, destruction of forests, global climate change, global warming, greenest prime minister, patriotic rant, teddy bear, Teddy Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, wilderness

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Canuck Movies: Mounties, Nell Shipman & the Canadian Spirit

 

Canuck Movies: Mounties, Nell Shipman & the Canadian Spirit — A Patriot’s Rant

 

Nell-Shipman-Brownie-Back-Gods-country

Nell Shipman & Brownie in BACK TO GOD’S COUNTRY
 

“The leading man wasn’t a very good swimmer and when we got into that wild, white water, he forgot what little he knew.  I was lucky enough to reach him and we made that big rock out there in the middle…  Well, I’ve never been doubled — yet!  But, Gosh!  It sure makes me sore to sit in a picture theatre, watching myself pull some crazy stunt, and hear people say, ‘She didn’t really do that!  It’s a trick!  They do it with a camera!'” – Nell Shipman

“Canada gave her all in this war and I think that our understanding of what it means to be Canadian was actually forged in the crucible of the Western Front.  And yet, mysteriously, our cinematic record is all but silent on this subject.” Paul Gross

 

cameron-royal-mounted-movieIn 1921, Canadian independent film producer Ernest Shipman released a rousing silver screen version of Ralph Connor’s best selling novel CORPORAL CAMERON OF THE NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE.

Retitled Cameron of the Royal Mounted, it quickly became one of the top moneymaking movies of that year worldwide, drawing long line-ups of excited film-goers in every town and city throughout the Dominion — and beyond.

Books, magazine stories and movies about Canada’s Mounties were immensely popular with the public and Cameron of the Royal Mounted was the latest product of that success.

The huge popularity of Shipman’s earlier Canadian-set movies, like Baree, Son Of Kazan and The Black Wolf and Back To God’s Country (all of which starred his wife Nell Shipman), coupled with the rise of nationalistic fervour that burst out like a bonfire during the emotion-charged “Free Trade” Election of 1911 and our patriotic entry into the Great War of 1914, fueled the demand for popular Canadian-made movies based on our own Canadian stories.

When Liberal Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier had signed the Free Trade deal with President William Taft of the U. S. in 1911, Canadians remembered Sir John A MacDonald’s vehement “Free Trade is Treason!” and had voted Laurier out in a landslide victory for Nova Scotia-born Conservative Robert Borden, killing the “Taft Deal.” [1]

Canadians at that time passionately believed in cultural independence and an abiding love of the Mother Country, England.

And we stormed the recruiting stations to join the battle in Europe to defend the Empire.

Patriotism ruled the True North Strong and Free.

We wanted stories that reflected this.  The most popular movies with Canadians were The Battle Of The Long Sault (1913 – a realistic re-enactment of the Châteauguay battle with the Iroquois), The War Pigeon (1914), The Pine’s Revenge (1915), Self Defence (1916), The Black Wolf (1917), The Scorching Flame (1918), The Great Shadow (1919), God’s Crucible (1920), The Girl from God’s Country (1921), Cameron of the Royal Mounted (1921), The Rapids (1922), The Man From Glengarry (1922), The Grub-Stake (1923) and The Trail of the North Wind (1924).

Nell-Shipman-Back-To-Gods-CountryErnest Shipman’s 1919 production of Back To God’s Country (his wife Nell wrote the screenplay based on a James Oliver Curwood short story and starred as the heroine, including a scene where she swam naked in a waterfall-fed northern river [2]) eclipsed all other made-in-Canada productions in box-office ticket numbers and popularity, before or since, becoming our biggest motion picture success of all time — and that’s well-nigh a hundred years ago!  

By the mid 1920’s, the Hollywood Movie Moguls had begun their ruthless destruction of competing independent movie makers and theatre owners throughout North America.  The U.S. government — spurred on by what Ernest Shipman called “New York financial interests” — imposed a “special tariff on the importation of Canadian films” into the States.

The Ottawa governments of Arthur Meighen and then William Lyon Mackenzie King refused to respond to Ernest Shipman’s impassioned public plea for a “retaliatory tariff” against Hollywood films.

Thus the pertinacious extermination of Canada’s vibrant nationalistic film industry was a done deal.  The new Canadian Spirit that had been born during the fiery 1911 election — and in Flanders Fields and the bloody battles of Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge — was crushed by a closer enemy.  Ernest Shipman was among the first of our cultural casualties.  No major Canadian motion picture producers survived the cold-blooded pogrom.

Although Nell Shipman bravely carried on by herself for a brief but brilliant time, writing, acting in and producing her own independent wilderness films…

Known today as “an early pioneer of Hollywood film-making,” the British Columbia actress Nell Shipman achieved overnight success as the star of the 1916 silent movie God’s Country and the Woman.  She turned down an offered seven year contract from an ambitious motion picture producer from Poland named Szmuel Gelbfisz (who was in the process of changing his name to Samuel Goldwyn).  Instead, Nell choose to make a series of popular independent Canadian movies, first with her husband, then on her own.

A passionate believer in animal rights, she created a sanctuary of over a hundred animals, who often starred in her movies as friends who would save her from “men of prey more heartless than the beasts of the forest.”

Nell’s silent movies became a passionate visualization of her love of the free creatures of the wilderness, the Canadian Spirit — and the first ecofeminist art.

Over two decades later, a much older and wiser William Lyon Mackenzie King, again Prime Minister, had the opportunity to restore nationalistic movie enterprise in Canada.

In the years just after World War II, nations around the world were pouring scarce resources into building their own national film industries.  England, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Australia, Japan and so many more were all rebuilding movie production companies that would soon thrive.  And represent their unique cultures.  (Is there anything more British than the Carry On films?)

With that in mind, Prime Minister King established the National Film Board — and then allowed it to be gutted by his own Minister of Trade, American-born C D Howe, in favour of continued foreign control.  (See “Canadian  Co-operation, Hollywood Style,” Part Four of Pierre Berton’s essential HOLLYWOOD’S CANADA, in which Pierre describes what has to be one of Canada’s worst acts of cultural treason.)

Today, nothing has changed, eh?

3-Passchendaele-Canadian-movie-paul-grossDue South‘s Paul Gross has written, starred in, directed and produced two major Canadian films — Passchendaele, about the WWI bloody battle in Flanders, where Canadian soldiers took huge losses but fought to victory over the Germans — and Hyena Road, a true story of a Canadian military unit in Afghanistan.

Neither movie was given much distribution in our foreign-controlled theatre system.

Passchendaele still won three Gemini Awards, including Best Picture of 2009, The Golden Reel Award and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to Paul Gross.

And Afghan veterans still continue to call Hyena Road the most realistic and authentic depiction of what they really went through, including young vets I’ve talked with.

“My experience with Hyena Road and the many, many, many soldiers I came to know quite well in the course of making that film, they did talk to me,” Paul said in a recent interview with Jim Day of The Guardian. [3]

“And I suppose one of the greatest things I ever heard about the film was a veteran from the conflict came up to me and was quite moved and he was crying and he shook my hand and he said  ‘I thank you a lot and now I can show this to my family because I’ve never been able to tell them what it was like.’  And I think that is a struggle with a lot of the soldiers.”

There’s a genuine Canadian sentiment and reality to both movies, especially Hyena Road, that foreign reviewers didn’t get — which is my whole point.

 

Hyena-Road-Paul-Gross-movie

 

“LET’S NEVER, NEVER, GIVE IN TO THOSE WHO ARE SELLING OUT CANADA.” Mel Hurtig

 

 

==>> To Read More About the Life and Art of Nell Shipman, See Women Pioneers of Animal Rights

==>> To learn more about the essential place our Mounties once had in Canadian Culture, go to  “The GREATEST WRITERS OF NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE FICTION”

==>> A WILD WOLF, A HALF-WILD HUSKY, A WILY OLD TRAPPER!   If you want to read my free story in the Jack London & James Oliver Curwood Tradition, Click Here to Read My Popular Online Northwestern WOLFBLOOD! 

 

[1] Perhaps the fatal shot came to the Taft Deal for Canadian voters when Democratic House Leader Champ Clark gave a speech in the United States House of Representatives supporting Free Trade and concluded with his much-quoted: “I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole!” — revealing the real forces behind Free Trade.

nell-shipman-nude-scene

[2] Back To God’s Country.  Nell later admitted that she was surprised that the nude scene wasn’t cut when shown in America.

Taking advantage of the moral outrage from some groups who wanted the film banned, the Shipmans bombarded the American motion picture theatre owners with full page ads in Moving Picture World that announced: DON’T BOOK “BACK TO GOD’S COUNTRY” — Unless You Want To Prove That The Nude is NOT Rude.

Because her tame bruin cub Brownie was also with her in the river during that shot, she later joked that she wanted to title that scene “In A Dark Pool With A Bear Behind” but knew that those words would get the film banned for sure.  Hey, it WAS 1920.

Click on “Is The Nude Rude?” Image above to see the complete controversial Moving Picture World ad — as well as the more sensational Vancouver World ad.

[3] “Actor and director Paul Gross says Canadians should honour soldiers”
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2015-11-10/article-4338684/Actor-and-director-Paul-Gross-says-Canadians-should-honour-soldiers/1

 

– Brian Alan Burhoe

 

 

Canuck Movies: Mounties, Nell Shipman & the Canadian Spirit

Keywords: Brian Alan Burhoe, canadian spirit, canuck movies, first ecofeminist art, Hyena Road, jack london, james oliver curwood, mounties, nell shipman, north-west mounted police, nude scene, patriots rant, Paul Gross, Paul Gross quotes, Pierre Berton

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Greatest Writers of Mountie Fiction

 

The GREATEST AUTHORS OF NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE FICTION

 

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Or WRITERS OF THE SCARLET SERGE

 

“To the sweet-voiced, dark-eyed little half-Cree maiden at Lac-Bain, who is the Minnetaki of this story; and to Teddy Brown, guide and trapper, and loyal comrade of the author in many of his adventures, this book is affectionately dedicated.” – James Oliver Curwood

 

On July 1st, 2013, Turner Classic Movies decided to celebrate Canada Day by showing “Canadian Classics” like Men of the North, an MGM “Northern” starring Gilbert Roland as the falsely accused trapper Louis the Fox; Rivers’ End, based on a 1920 bestselling novel by James Oliver Curwood; Peg O’ The Mounted, a parody of Hollywood’s vision of Canada written by Bert Sterling and starring child actress Baby Peggy; Rose Marie (of course!) with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy; God’s Country and the Woman (1937) with George Brent, also based on a Curwood novel [1]; Northwest Rangers, with William Lundigan as the tormented Mountie who must arrest his boyhood friend, played by James Craig; Northern Pursuit starring Errol Flynn as the RCMP officer tracking down Nazi spies; and Cariboo Trail with Gabby Hayes and Randolph Scott.

All of them were Northwesterns, with lots of Mounties, horses, dogsleds and the Great Northwoods…

My favourite Northwestern movie, The Wild North, based on the true story of Constable Albert Pedley, wasn’t shown.  And I grumbled about that.

Today, except for Jack London’s writings, the Northwestern genre is mostly remembered because of those Hollywood movies.  Over 300 of them.

But it wasn’t always that way.

The Northwestern genre first appeared in published book form.  Then in popular fiction magazines.  And it thrived! [2]

The best, like Ralph Connor’s CORPORAL CAMERON OF THE NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE: A Tale of the MacLeod Trail, sold millions of copies each. [3]

 

grey-owl-original-sajo-book-cover2Since early boyhood, I’ve been given, borrowed, bought and collected the great writers of the Canadian wilderness.  Writers like Sir Charles G D Roberts, E Pauline Johnson, Jack London, Grey Owl, Ernest Thompson Seton (WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN) and (later) Farley Mowat.

When older folks heard of this, they began to give me treasured old copies of books by writers I’d never heard of, such as Ralph Connor, Samuel Alexander White, James Oliver Curwood, George Marsh, H A Cody, William Byron Mowery and James B Hendryx.  Most were tales of our own legendary Mounted Police.  And those red-coated Mounties had heroic adventures that kept you glued to the pages.  I still have most of those books…

And, luckily, there were still authors struggling to keep the bright flame burning…

So here, mon ami, is a look at my personal Top 10, my favourite WRITERS OF THE SCARLET SERGE:

 

IAN ANDERSON   “By age six, the Australian Ian Anderson had already decided what he wanted to be when he grew up — a red-coated Canadian Mountie. By the age of seven, he also knew he wanted to be a writer.” These words began the author’s bio in Seal Book’s first printing of CORPORAL CAVANNAGH in 1983. With the publication of CAVANNAGH, Anderson had achieved both dreams.

Ian Stuart Anderson was born March 3, 1930, on the outskirts of Melbourne, which lies on the temperate southern tip of Australia.  Amid the bustling city streets lined with Victorian Age stone buildings with “gargoyles and cast-iron lacework” and the “idyllic views across the Yarra River” he lived a typical Depression era boyhood.

He grew up at the height of the Northwestern movie craze: films like Call of the Wild (with Clark Gable), O’Malley of the Mounted, King of the Royal Mounted, Red Blood of CourageNorth of the Yukon and Cecil B DeMille’s North West Mounted Police packed local theatres in Caulfield and Melbourne.  Ian saw and thrilled at them all.

Besides loving the wilderness and sports, Ian was an avid reader…

Ian began his quest of becoming a Mountie by serving with the South Australian Mounted Police, where he “learned to ride a horse, fight bush fires and battle with sword and bayonet.”

ian-anderson-rcmp-writer2In 1948, age 18, he journeyed to Canada, where he achieved his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Regimental Number 15812) a year later.  His postings were in Alberta: Corporal in Charge of Jasper Detachment in the soaring Rocky Mountains, as well as Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, Coutts and Medicine Hat — the very settings of the early exploits of the NWMP.  He was an RCMP officer until 1965.

After serving as a sub-inspector in the Royal Papua-New Guinea Constabulary, including a stint at the Bomana Police College in Port Moresby — Ian returned home to Australia.  There, he and his wife Mary settled into life in Melbourne.  As well as working as a private investigator, he sat down to write.

In 1982, he began writing his Scarlet Rider Series, starting with CORPORAL CAVANNAGH. “After leaving the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, John Tarlton Cavannagh rides north, where he joins the newly-arrived North-West Mounted Police.” The novel was first published by Seal Books in Canada, who published his next two:

THE RETURN OF CAVANNAGH

and BEYOND THE STONE HEAPS.

BEYOND THE STONE HEAPS dealt with arrival of Sitting Bull’s Sioux in Canada after the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

When Zebra Books of New York bought the World rights to the Scarlet Riders Series, they republished his first three titles and put out four more up to 1988:

SERGEANT O’REILLY

FORT TERROR

THE FLYING PATROL

and DEAD OR ALIVE.

ian-anderson-scarlet-ridersThe character of Sergeant Hugh O’Reilly “who hailed from Halifax… was loosely based on Inspector Fitzgerald — or perhaps inspired would be a better word — of the Lost Patrol of 1911 fame,” Ian explained in a letter to this writer.

While working on an article about the friendship between Sitting Bull and Inspector James Walsh of the Mounties for Wild West Magazine, Anderson decided to “broaden the article into a book.” The result was SITTING BULL’S BOSS: Above the Medicine Line with James Morrow Walsh, an excellent study of the subject.  He had first happened upon the story of Major Walsh while visiting the RCMP museum in Regina.  “As for Major James Walsh, I feel as though I knew him personally,” wrote Anderson.

Ian passed away on April 10, 2013.  He was 83.  See http://www.rcmpvets.net/obits.htm#15812.

His SERGEANT O’REILLY remains one of my favourite adventure yarns, any genre.  I treasure my well-read copy…

 

RALPH CONNOR   When Charles William Gordon (1860-1937) first began to publish articles about his experiences in the Northwest during the mid-1890’s, he didn’t know that he was embarking on a literary career that would make him one of the best selling authors of the early 20th Century.

ralph-connorEducated at the Universities of Toronto, Canada and Edinburgh, Scotland, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1890. After three years of missionary work in Banff, he returned to Winnipeg, where he began to write and publish stories under the pen-name “Ralph Connor.”

His stories, published in Westminster Magazine, reflected his belief in “red-blooded Christianity.” When they were collected in book-form as BLACK ROCK: A Tale of the Selkirks, he gained an international readership.

His next book, THE SKY PILOT, became a best seller. His life after that was divided between that of writing and of serving Church and Country. During the First World War, he served overseas as Senior Chaplin of the Canadian Armed Forces in France and the 9th Brigade British Expeditionary Force.

It was the publication of three adventure novels that made his reputation as an author.

THE MAN FROM GLENGARRY told of the rowdy Highlanders from the Glengarry region of colonial Ontario — their exploits in the lumber camps of the Northwoods, their fights with wolves and men, the joyful maple-sugar parties, the passionate church meetings… They were men, as he wrote in his autobiography, “as wild as the wild creatures of the forest in which they lived, fearing no man or beast or devil.”

The other two adventure novels were

CORPORAL CAMERON OF THE NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE: A Tale of the MacLeod Trail (1912)

and THE PATROL OF THE SUNDANCE TRAIL (1914).

corporal-cameron-ralph-connorBoth told of the exploits of Allan Cameron of Her Majesty’s North-West Mounted Police. Connor based the character of Cameron on the real-life Sergeant William Fury. In fact, the first book recounts a fictionalized version of Fury’s arrest of the violent railroad strikers at Kicking Horse Pass in 1885.

SUNDANCE TRAIL deals with the unrest of the Blackfoot Nation during the bloody Northwest Rebellion. Connor’s technique of using real cases and real Mounties as the basis for his stories became common for Canadians writing about the NWMP.

“Ralph Connor,” as Dick Harrison puts it in his BEST MOUNTED POLICE STORIES, “did more to create the literary image of the Mountie than any other writer, probably because he had a gift for telling uncomplicated adventure stories.”

Two Canadian-made movies based on his adventure trilogy — Cameron of the Royal Mounted (1921) and The Man from Glengarry (1922) — dominated the box offices worldwide.

In these three classic novels, Conner would establish many of the essential archetypal characters of the Canadian Northwestern: the stalwart red-coated Mountie, the independent heroine, the wild Anglo Saxon lumberjack, the avaricious fur baron, the good hearted French Canadian trapper, the wise old priest, the endangered Aboriginals, the passionate Metis (although these last two groups were ofttimes depicted with little understanding)…   Adding these to the already established Klondike era characters such as desperate prospectors, saloon girls with hearts of gold, ruthless outlaws, devious bankers, crooked Eastern politicians, not to forget the ferocious huskies and wolves and the savage Northcountry itself — and these characters would play out their stories in print and on film for decades to come.

Ralph Connor’s autobiography is POSTSCRIPT TO ADVENTURE.

 

RIDGWELL CULLUM  Englishman Sidney Groves Burghard (1867-1943) had already lived an adventurous life when he arrived in the Canadian Yukon Territory to try his hand at trapping and trading.  In Africa, he had been involved in diamond and gold mining and fought in the Kaffir Wars.  His venture in the Yukon was less successful, almost costing him his life from starvation.  After leaving the Yukon, he tried his hand at ranching in Montana and briefly served in the US Army, where he became embroiled in the Sioux uprisings at the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations.

one-who-kills-ridgewell-cullumAfter returning to England in 1904, he began to write Westerns and Northwesterns, using the pen-name “Ridgwell Cullum.”  His adventure fiction quickly gained a popular following, both in book form and pulp magazine short story form.

His first novel, THE DEVIL’S KEG (released in the US as THE STORY OF FOSS RIVER RANCH), was set in southern Alberta and involved a murder investigation.

His second novel, THE HOUND FROM THE NORTH, was based on his own misadventures in the Yukon.  The opening chapter began dramatically with a man staggering alone under the pallid sun of an Arctic winter, lost and starving: “The poor wretch was swathed in furs; snow-shoes on his feet, and a long staff lent his drooping figure support…  Every now and again he raised one mittened hand and pressed it to nose and cheeks.  He knew his face was frozen, but he had no desire to stop to thaw it out…”  The story caught on with a public eagerly seeking more adventure yarns in the Jack London tradition and a best selling literary career was launched.

Although he didn’t create a continuing Mountie character, Cullum’s Mountie novels were among his most popular, including:

THE LAW BREAKERS

THE LAW OF THE GUN

THE HEART OF UNAGA

THE RIDDLE OF THREE WAY CREEK

THE CHILD OF THE NORTH

THE NIGHT RIDERS

THE WOLF PACK

THE MYSTERY OF THE BARREN LANDS

THE BULL MOOSE

ONE WHO KILLS

Cullum also wrote traditional Westerns based on his Montana experiences such as TWINS OF SUFFERING CREEK and THE WAY OF THE STRONG as well as some stories set in Africa, such as THE VAMPIRE OF N’GOBI.

 

JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD    When James Oliver Curwood (born in 1879) was expelled from school in his birthplace of Owosso, Michigan at age 16, it was a blessing in disguise. It began a wandering life that took him to the wilds of northern Canada.

He traveled by canoe, by snow shoe and by dog sled, throughout the Peace River country, the Hudson Bay wilderness and the Arctic tundra.

He spent as much as six months out of a year in the Canadian wilderness, even building log cabins to live in.  He enjoyed hunting for meat and for sport, until an encounter with an enraged grizzly bear that could have killed him — but didn’t. [4]

First as a reporter, then as a short story writer and novelist, he would spend the rest of his life telling of his wilderness travels.

back-to-gods-country-james-oliver-curwoodHis translation of the Cree meaning of Manitoba — “God’s Country” — would become a world renowned phrase.

While best remembered for his masterwork KAZAN THE WOLF DOG, his many other Northwesterns were best sellers in the 1910’s and 20’s.

His popular BACK TO GOD’S COUNTRY was a collection of many of his best short stories.  Six of them were Mountie stories, including “The Fiddling Man,” “The Case of Beauvais,” “The Match,” “The Mouse” and “Wapi The Walrus.”  The last was made into the 1919 box office smash hit Back To God’s Country, a silent movie starring Canadian Nell Shipman.

Among his best selling Mountie novels were

PHILIP STEELE OF THE ROYAL NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE (later retitled STEELE OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED)

THE HONOR OF THE BIG SNOWS

THE GOLDEN SNARE

ISOBEL: A Romance of the Northern Trail

THE COUNTRY BEYOND

THE RIVER’S END: A New Story of God’s Country

THE VALLEY OF SILENT MEN: A Story of the Three River Country

and THE FLAMING FOREST: A Novel of the Canadian Northwest.

james-oliver-curwood-bioBy 1922, Curwood’s writings had made him a very wealthy man.  He lived out a youthful fantasy by building the “Curwood Castle” in Ossasso.  Built in the style of an 18th Century French chateau, his castle overlooked the Shiawassee River.  In one of the home’s two large turrets, Curwood built his library and office, where he would do the rest of his writing.

His fiction, Curwood once explained, “is eighty per cent fact so far as country, environment, geography, customs and manners go.”

After an adventurous and sometimes arduous life, James Oliver Curwood died in 1927, at the age of 49.  His autobiography is SON OF THE FORESTS.

 

JAMES B HENDRYX   James Beardsley Hendrix (1880-1963) was born in Sauk Center, Minnesota. Hendryx worked as a traveling salesman, insurance agent, tan bark buyer, sheepherder in Montana, and a cowhand on a Saskatchewan ranch, before heading for the gold fields of the Klondike.

james-b-hendryx-authorIt was Hendryx’s experiences in the Klondike that inspired him to write Northwesterns. While working as a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, he began his career as a fiction writer.

With the publication in 1915 of THE PROMISE: A Tale of the Great Northwest, his career was launched.

DOWNEY OF THE MOUNTED (1926) gave the world one of the great Mountie characters. Told with humour, at times wry, Hendryx’s vision of the Northwest was closer to reality, and a canoe-load of fun.

As well as Corporal Cameron Downey, the author also created Black John Smith, leader of an outlaw community at Halfaday Creek, just inside the Alaska border.

His popular fiction, both full-length novels and short stories, was published in the top fiction magazines of the day, including Adventure, All-Star Weekly, Short Stories and Western Story Magazine and then published in hard cover books.

Among his best works of Mountie fiction are:

OAK AND IRON: Of These Be the Breed of the North

CORPORAL DOWNEY TAKES THE TRAIL

BLOOD ON THE YUKON TRAIL

BLOOD OF THE NORTH

THE YUKON KID

EDGE OF BEYOND

LAW AND ORDER ON HALFADAY CREEK

and AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

The short story “Routine Patrol,” originally published in Western Story Magazine, was reprinted in Dick Harrison’s BEST MOUNTED POLICE STORIES.

downey-of-mounted-james-b-hendryxOnce he became a full-time author, Hendrix worked and lived in two homes in the magnificent Northwoods on both sides of the Canadian-US border: one on Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan and one in Thessalon, Ontario.

An avid fisherman, hunter and poker player, he still made time to write.

Family members remember the sound of him at work — alternately tapping away on his old typewriter and laughing out loud at a new scene.

All in all, he published 36 Northwestern novels and story collections.

 

W RYERSON JOHNSON  Walter Ryerson Johnson (1901-1995) was born in Divernon, Illinois.  He attended the University of Illinois and worked as a coal miner, warehouse manager and seaman, as well as travelling extensively throughout the US and Canada.

At age 21, Johnson sold his first short story “Nimble Fingers,” published in the February, 1923 issue of Detective Tales, a pulp magazine. [5]

Under his own name, he became a prolific author in the western, horror and mystery magazines.  He also published works under the names Matthew Blood, Peter Field, Brett Halliday, Robert Wallace and (with Lester Dent) Kenneth Robeson.

His writing career really exploded when he took the advice of popular Northwestern writer William Byron Mowery to “write Mountie stories!”

Johnson said, “I didn’t know a mounted policeman from a uniformed doorman, but Bill loaned me books and I got more from the library. Official Mounted Police Bulletins and a book by Wasburn Pike — The Great Canadian Barren Lands — supplied fundamentals.” Soon he published his first Northwestern, “Cougar Kelly Gets a Break” in Wild World Adventures, May, 1930, and his career was picking up.

complete-northwest-w-ryerson-johnsonHe published a number of Mountie yarns and “Northerns” in the pulp magazines, producing some of his best work.  Among them were “The Avalanche Maker,” “The Carcajou and the Loup Garou,” “All Trees and Snow,” “The Eskimo Express,” “The Phantom of Forgotten River” (Complete Northwest Magazine, Dec 1938), “Webs for One,” “Caribou Gold,” “Back Trail Shadow,” “Mountie Trick,” “Wood on the Snow” and “The Dangerous Dan McGrew.”

You’ll find Northwestern stories by Ryerson Johnson, as well as other writers mentioned here, reprinted in THE NORTHERNERS, edited by Bill Pronzini & Martin H Greenberg, and in SCARLET RIDERS: Pulp Fiction Tales of the Mounties, edited by Don Hutchison.

He also wrote a number of Doc Savage novels, under the pen name Kenneth Robeson, including LAND OF ALWAYS NIGHT and THE FANTASTIC ISLAND.

He won the The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in 1963 for his popular children’s story THE MONKEY AND THE WILD, WILD WIND.

Ryerson Johnson once described pulp fiction as “A never-never land that existed only in the glowing imagination of the writer and the transient ‘suspension of disbelief’ of the reader. Bigger than life. Adult fairy stories.”

 

T LUND  Trygve Lund was born in the city of Bergen, on the mountainous west coast of Norway, on September 10, 1886.  Of Norse-Viking descent, he grew up in a military family, becoming a personable, tall, athletic man with piercing grey eyes.  After serving in the 1st Norwegian Dragoons for three years and then training as a civil engineer, he and his young wife Helga sailed to Canada in search of adventure and employment.

Trygve found both when he became a member of the Royal North-West Mounted Police.

With the outbreak of WWI, Lund left the Force to join the newly re-mobilized Lord Strathcona’s Horse (of Boer War fame), rising to the rank of Captain.  He shipped out with other members of Strathcona’s Horse for Europe in October of 1915, where they joined the battle in France and eventually became attached to the 1st Canadian Cavalry Brigade.  As part of that brigade, the Strathconas took the lead in the victorious “Last Great Cavalry Charge” at the Battle of Moreuil Wood.

His Canadian Army records noted that his conduct and character were “good” although a medical history sheet once stated “Temper.”  His paybooks showed that Helga moved from Winnipeg to 2073 Hillhurst Court, Los Angeles, California.

Lund finished off his active military career as a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, 1918 – 1920, returning to temporary duty in 1922 at the rank of Flight Lieutenant to help establish the new Royal Air Force training centre in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire. [6]

t-lund-lone-trail-mountiesFollowing that, he settled in the UK for a decade and a half, and spent those years writing well-received Northwesterns.

His novels garnered good reviews in England and beyond:

“Capt. Lund, late Strathcona’s Horse, has written a good story of police work in the lumber camps of the North-West.” – Times Literary Supplement

“Capt. Lund’s characters are thoroughly alive; his dialogue is particularly good; and he vitally suggests the atmosphere of Manitoba…  Adventure and excitement there are in plenty, and Capt. Lund has an ample fund of humour.” – Bookman

“IN THE SNOW is a most entertaining description of the life of a trapper in the frozen North-west of Canada by Mr. T. Lund, whose novels of the North-west and the ‘Mounties’ have earned for him a well-deserved reputation.” The Brisbane Courier

Like other former Mounted Police members who had turned to writing fiction based on their own personal careers [7], Lund set his stories in the northcountry where he had actually served — along the northern reaches of the Saskatchewan River and in the Great Northwoods.

And like fellow Norwegian writers Sigrid Undset, Per Petterson, Mikkjel Fønhus and the great Knut Hamsun, Trygve Lund loved and understood the Northlands and the effect that living there had on the human soul.

Lund brought a sure knowledge of the day-to-day life and duties of a Mountie to his adventure yarns (unlike many pulp writers who got everything from our police routines to our proud history so wrong).

And his love of the Northcountry, so much like his own Norway, was there in his writing:

“They paddled up lakes, rivers and creeks, which were always bordered by the silent, majestic pine and spruce forests, with a belt of birches, poplars and willows.  They forced the minor rapids and portaged around the bigger ones, but even the hard work involved in packing their outfit and canoe on their heads across those often miles long portages was a delight to Weston.

“He loved the camp at night and the aromatic smell of the camp fire.  He loved the calm, clear mornings when only the ripples made by rising fish disturbed the glassy surface of the water, and when only the weird melancholy cry of a loon would break the vast silence.  Then the sun would rise, and the western banks would be bathed in gold…”

Trygve Lund’s series character was Richard Weston, of the Portage Bend RNWMP detachment, who would appear as the central character in eight published stories.  Five of those were full-length novels:

WESTON OF THE  ROYAL NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE

UP NORTH: A Tale From Northern Canada

THE MURDER OF DAVE BRANDON

ROBBERY AT PORTAGE BEND

THE VANISHED PROSPECTOR

In his yarns of Richard Weston, Lund followed the life and adventures of one Mountie from young Constable to seasoned Inspector, in much the same way that C S Forester would later recount the life story of Horatio Hornblower. The first three Weston novels were collected in the eagerly sought-after THE LONE TRAIL OMNIBUS, published in 1936 by T Werner Laurie of London.

1-blood-in-the-snow-t-lundThree other Richard Weston tales — the novelette  “Beyond The Barrens” and short stories “Blood In The Snow” and “Red-Coated Law” — appeared in 1937 editions of the American pulp magazines Real Northwest Adventures and Complete Northwest Novel.

Other published books by T Lund are IN THE SNOW: A Romance of the Canadian Backwoods (a story about Northcountry trappers, their lives, loves and battles, in which Richard Weston of the Mounted makes an appearance) and STEELE BEY’S REVENGE, a mystery novel set in Egypt and England.

Lund’s last known address was back in Canada, in Ontario, in 1935.  Except for his 1937 magazine appearances, nothing is known of him since…

 

WILLIAM BYRON MOWERY   William Byron Mowery (1899-1957) was known as “The Zane Grey of the Canadian Northwest.”

A mentor, naturalist and novelist, Mowery was born in the village of Adelphia, a farming community of Ross County, in the forested Appalachian region of Ohio.  From earliest boyhood William was dissatisfied with what he called his “backwoods” existence.

In an article in a 1933 edition of the Auburn, New York, Citizen-Advertiser, introducing their upcoming serialization of a Mowery Northwesten novel, the paper wrote:

william_byron_mowery_biography“William Byron Mowery, writer of stories about the woods and out-doors, was himself born in the ‘backwoods’ country but throughout his childhood wanted to escape from an environment he thought cruel and barbaric. He is the author of the Citizen-Advertiser‘s serial, FORBIDDEN VALLEY.” [8]

“At the age of 11,” the article continued, “he left his family’s migratory ‘chicken-wagon’ home and started out to see the world. For eighteen months he tramped about the country…

“After a winter’s trapping in the Athabasca north country of Canada, he roamed the United States for another two years and then entered high school at 18.

“His writing career started when he read a ‘North Woods’ story in which description and details were so inaccurate that Mowery determined he could do better himself. Editors seemed to agree and in three years he produced more than 400 published stories. He did not receive wide recognition as an author, however, until he began taking more time on stories and sharply curtailed his output.

“The Mowery family, headed by the man who once wanted only ‘Civilizing Influences,’ now spends the major portion of the year in out-door activities, exploring, mountain-climbing and camping.”

Mowery served in the Tank Corps during the last year of World War I.

Graduating Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he taught English and creative writing at the universities of Illinois, of New York and of Texas.

william-byron-mowery-northOne of his students, Mary Higgins Clark, later described Professor Mowery as “an elfin-sized man who wore a tie so long that it gave the visual illusion of scraping the tops of his shoes.” [9]

Clark added that “His talents as a teacher, however, were huge and he set my feet firmly on the path that I had been seeking all my life.”

“Take a dramatic situation from real life, one that sticks in your mind,” Mowery would advise his students.  “Ask yourself two questions — ‘Suppose’ and ‘What if?’ and turn that situation into fiction.”  In 1953, Thomas Y Crowell published his PROFESSIONAL SHORT STORY WRITING: An Authoritative, Practical Guide to Basic Problems and Craftsmanship.

Besides the newspapers, Mowery’s 450 short stories appeared in a number of popular American magazines.  His first published work was “Be Sure He Is Green” in 10 Story Book, October, 1921.  He also appeared in Argosy All-Story Weekly, Adventure, Munsey’s Magazine, The Blue Book Magazine, Short Stories, North-West Stories, Redbook Magazine, The Country Gentleman, Complete Northwest, Liberty and The Saturday Evening Post.

It was his hardcover books that brought him his fame.  From 1929 to 1948, William Byron Mowery published fifteen novels and short story collections that, as a total work, may be the most literate and realistic of the Mountie genre.  His stories were set throughout the Canadian Northlands, from towns and villages to the wildest places.

Some of his best works are:

HEART OF THE NORTH

PHANTOM CANOE

THE BLACK AUTOMATIC

CHALLENGE OF THE NORTH

VENGEANCE TRAIL

THE GIRL FROM GOD’S MERCIE

PARADISE TRAIL

and RESURRECTION RIVER.

Mowery’s THE LONG ARM OF THE MOUNTED (1948) collected some of the best short Northwesterns ever written, including “The Long Shadow,” “The Constable of Lone Sioux,” and “A Lamb and Some Slaughtering.”

 

HARWOOD STEELE  Harwood Elmes Robert Steele (1897-1978) may have been in the best position of any would-be writer to tell the story of the Mounties — he was the only son of the greatest Mountie of them all: Sam Steele. [10]

Harwood Steele in the Arctic, 1925

Harwood grew up in a household hearing all the adventures and tribulations of being a Mounted Policeman in turbulent times.

He got the inside scoop of Sam Steele’s life and character, as well as hearing the stories of police vets and serving members who “took time out for a chat about old days or for a rest from a tough patrol,” and later wrote it down in fictional form.

Harwood’s own life was almost as adventurous. After growing up in Fort MacLeod, Alberta and in rural Ontario, he joined the Canadian Army, rising from Captain to the rank of Major in the 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars during the First World War.  He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.

His non-fiction dramatic account THE CANADIANS IN FRANCE 1915-1918 became an essential military history of the Canadian involvement in WWI.  Reflecting some of his own experiences during the Great War, he described our soldiers’ part in the deadly battles from the Somme and Ypres to Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Mons in taut, immediate prose: “The grey, heavy-winged dawn at last came slowly over the far-flung Canadian line and found a gaunt, haggard little handful of men still making an incredible stand in the path of enormous forces of the Kaiser’s best…”

After working as a journalist and as a press representative for the Canadian Pacific Railway, Harwood was part of the historic Canadian Government Sovereignty Expedition into the High Arctic in 1925.

Harwood began writing Mountie fiction in the early 1920’s.

His first short story “Rufus, the Outlaw” was published in the February 7, 1924 edition of The Popular Magazine (Street & Smith, New York), which published five more of his narratives, including one of his best: the novelette “To Effect an Arrest.”  During that time, he also published in ArgosyShort Stories, and Prize Story Magazine.

He would later collect his stories in book form.  One of those books, TO EFFECT AN ARREST, for instance, collected stories like “Horse de Combat,” “Storm Child,” “Snow Blind,” “Rufus, The Outlaw,” The Boundary Line,” “Old-Timers Played Straight,” “The Prestige of the Scarlet,” “The Force Can’t Fail,” “The Ace of Huskies” and others, all of them appearing first in popular American magazines.

Harwood’s technique was to take actual police cases and characters and fictionalize them, “to present fact in the form of romantic fiction.”

Two novels, SPIRIT-OF-IRON: An Authentic Novel of the Northwest Mounted and THE MARCHING CALL, were based on the life of his father.

Harwood’s 1950 novel GHOSTS RETURNING dealt with the early days of the first Mounted Police detachment at Fort MacLeod.

Based on “an almost forgotten official report of the U. S. government” about the forbidden Indian Ghost Dancers, and personal accounts told to Harwood over the years by retired Mounties and Blood Indians such as Chief Joe Bull Shields, GHOSTS RETURNING is the rousing story of the pursuit of a murderer and kidnapper into the Land of the Long Knives.

Sergeant “Scarlet” Grier, Constable John Mayne and (“ex-war chief and medicine man of the Bloods”) Mounted Police scout Calf Shirt lead the chase…

Other Mountie novels and collections appeared between 1923 and 1961:

I SHALL ARISE

THE NINTH CIRCLE

TO EFFECT AN ARREST And Other Stories of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

TALES OF THE NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE

THE RED SERGE: Stories of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

harwood-steele-red-sergeTHE RED SERGE contained dramatizations of the harrowing Northern experience of Constable Pedley (“Lunatic Patrol”), early exploits of the Police Service dogs (“Pal” and “A Dog Won’t Lie”) and Yukon Gold Rush incidents (“The Race For Molly Scott”).

In his Foreword to SPIRIT-OF-IRON, Harwood Steele laid down his philosophy of all of his fiction: “to present the Force as it was and is and not as portrayed by well-meaning but ignorant writers of the ‘red love, two-gun’ variety, and it is my hope that, through this book, the reader may obtain a clearer conception of the marvellous devotion to duty, the high idealism, the splendid efficiency which have made the Mounted Police famous than any to be derived from these inaccurate romances.”

 

SAMUEL ALEXANDER WHITE  Son of Canadian naturalist James White, Samuel was born in the community of Edmonton (later renamed Snelgrove), Ontario, in September of 1884.

After graduating the Brampton Model School for Teachers, Samuel taught for five years until 1907.   During that time he began to publish song lyrics, poems and short stories in a number of papers and magazines, including The Toronto Mail & Empire, The Toronto Globe, Saturday Night, Outing Magazine, Toronto Star Weekly and later the popular American pulps Adventure Magazine and North-West Stories.

"The priest noticed the pistol's muzzle thrut deeper into the gunpowder." EMPERY

“The priest noticed the pistol’s muzzle thrust deeper into the gunpowder.” EMPERY

Samuel published his first novel, THE STAMPEDER, in 1910, followed two years later by THE WILDCATTERS.

In 1913, White published his first novel to get good reviews and sales, EMPERY: A Story of Love and Battle in Rupert’s Land.  It was published first by Musson Book Co. of Toronto; and was reprinted a year later as LAW OF THE NORTH by Outing Publishing Co. of New York.

EMPERY introduced a common theme and setting in White’s work: the Hudson Bay country, the Fur Brigades, wild voyageurs boldly paddling the whitest of rivers (“Vive le Nor’westaire!”), greedy fur company factors — and spirited women.

With these sweeping, thrilling, detailed adventure stories of the savage Northcountry, editors were soon calling White “the Jack London of Canada.”

In 1914, he began to sell his stories to Adventure and other popular pulp magazines.  As well as Northwesterns, he started writing short stories and novels in his second major theme: the Sea Story.  He impressed his readership with tales like “The Ocean-Borne” (Adventure, June, 1916), “The Bank’s Fleet” (Sea Stories, April, 1927) and “Gold of the North” (Pirate Stories, July, 1935).  Hardcover books in the nautical genre included THE FOAMING FORESHORE and GRAY GULL WINGS WESTWARD.

Some of White’s Sea Stories, THE WONDER STRANDS is just one, were set in the Canadian North, combining both of his favourite genres.

He would continue to publish short works and complete novels in magazines including Hunting and Fishing in CanadaMaclean’s MagazineComplete Northwest Magazine, Sea Stories, Western Action and Wild West Magazine.

White’s New York literary agent was Otis Adelbert Kline, who represented a number of popular pulp writers of the day, including Robert E Howard.  Kline was also an accomplished adventure author in his own right.  At Otis Kline’s suggestion, Samuel began to concentrate more on the “stories that readers really want from Canada.”

White-His-Majestys-mailWith NIGHTHAWK OF THE NORTHWEST (Phoenix Press, New York, 1938), Samuel began his third major theme: the North-West Mounted Police.

Although he had long published short stories that featured Mounted Police characters (such as “His Majesty’s Mail” in the December, 1910 issue of People’s Ideal Fiction Magazine, and “Ambush” in the April, 1918 Adventure Magazine), it wasn’t until the late 1930’s and through the 40’s that he concentrated almost exclusively on Mountie fiction.

NIGHTHAWK OF THE NORTHWEST tells the story of Alex Nash, a former buffalo hunter who joins the newly arrived NWMP as a scout.

White’s most popular Mountie novels were:

MORGAN OF THE MOUNTED

NORTH OF THE BORDER

THE CODE OF THE NORTHWEST

NORTHWEST WAGONS

NORTHWEST LAW

CALLED NORTHWEST

NORTHWEST PATROL

NORTHWEST CROSSING

After the death of Otis Kline in October, 1946, White began to find it difficult to sell his adventure stories in the fast-changing post-War market.  All those glorious pulp magazines were suddenly gone, replaced by paperback books.  Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer was the hot new cultural hero: tough, street-wise, cynical, violent, at times a sadistic killer.  With Hitler and Hiroshima still in the rear view mirror, tales of romance, green wilderness, traditional rural values, chivalry and honour no longer suited the times.  This, of course, applied to the Northwestern genre as a whole.

Samuel’s last two published novels in his lifetime were NORTHWEST RAIDERS (1945, a Mountie novel) and FLAMING FURLANDS (1948, a Fur Country yarn).

samuel-alexander-white-french-editionLike a number of other Canadian wilderness writers, White’s northwestern novels continued to find a receptive readership in northern Europe, especially France.  His Paris publisher kept reprinting his popular titles through the Fifties and into the Sixties.  They are still avidly collected in French translation today.

Samuel Alexander White died in Toronto, on October 3, 1956, survived by Vennie, his beloved wife for 44 years, as well as their two daughters and two sons.  And the manuscript of an unpublished autobiography with the intriguing title CANADIAN SAGALAND: Wild Editors I Have Met — By Letter, Telephone, Telegraph, Cable, Word-Of-Mouth, and Hand-Shake.

 

==>> To see more about our Canadian Mounted Police in popular media, from published books to Hollywood movies, go to THE GREAT PULP FICTION MOUNTIES: From Corporal Cameron to Sergeant Preston

 

 

1-short_storiesA NOTE: This article, of course, deals with authors who wrote about the historic North-West Mounted, at least in part.  The Mythic Age of our Mounties, if you will.

The many great authors of literature dealing with our modern day RCMP would take another article.  Laurie York Erskine, Jack O’Brien, Charles Stoddard, Alisa Craig, L R Wright, Don Easton, Roy Innes, Mike Martin, come to mind.

There are more.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] God’s Country and the Woman.  The 1937 Warner Brothers release shown on Turner Classic was a lesser remake of the classic silent movie version 0f 1916, made by Vitagraph Studios.  Although the Vitagraph offering was the first feature film appearance by Canadian stage actress and script writer Nell Shipman (as “the Woman”), she was such a hit in Hollywood that Samuel Goldwyn offered her a seven year contract.  The independent Nell turned down Goldwyn and set out to make her own Canadian movies.  An act that would lead to both triumph and downfall.  (See Nell Shipman)

 

1-northwest-stories-mountie-fiction[2] Other writers contributed to the fictional Mountie Myth.

The pulps saw the success of a number of writers who specialized in Northwesterns, making a living at it.  Among them were Victor Rousseau, Robert Ormond Case, Harry Sinclair, George Marsh, H H Matteson, Jack Bechdolt, Leslie McFarlane, A DeHerries Smith, LeRoy W Snell (John G Rowe), Frank Richardson Pierce and Frederick Nebel.

Even Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage, wrote a series of Northwestern pulp stories featuring Constable Andy Frost and the Silver Corporal.  Science fiction writer Sewell Peaslee Wright occasionally dipped his paddle into the genre with tales like “Pards of the Snow Frontier.”

Under the pseudonym Luke Allan, Canadian writer William Lacey Amy (1877-1962) wrote a series of novels about Blue Pete, a mixed-blood former cattle rustler who served as an undercover agent for the Mounties in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Blue Pete first appeared in a short story in the January, 1911 edition of The Canadian Magazine, entitled “The Sentimental Half-Breed”.

 

north_west_stories_1930-mountiesNorth-West Stories first appeared on the magazine stands in May, 1925.

Soon, each issue of North-West Stories was eagerly awaited by thousands of fans.  A typical issue was the June, 1930 edition, which included yarns like “The Phantom Pack” by Jack Bechdolt, “Sheriff Bill — Peacemaker” by E R Vadeboncoeur, “Peril Claim” by Samuel Alexander White, “Northland Magic” by H S M Kemp, “Fightin’ Wages” by Walt Coburn, “Ghost Grizzly” by H F Miners, “The Devil’s Luck” by Richard A Martinsen, and “Trail Tales of the North: Shaman Trek,” an article by T C Casey.

Other magazines were produced to cash in on the “Northwestern craze.”

An example of Real Northwest Adventures is the Table of Contents of the March, 1937 issue, which contained the stories “Red Water” by Frank Richardson Pierce, “The Wolf Trail” by Victor Rousseau, “Roaring Bill” by William Byron Mowery, “White Magic” by Samuel Taylor and “The Runt” by Cliff Campbell.

And the April, 1937 issue of Complete Northwest Novel Magazine, presenting “Red-Coated Law” by T Lund, “Lost Catch” by William Byron Mowery, “In Spring Thaws” by Will F Jenkins and “The Private God” as by Murray Leinster (Will Jenkins).

Authors such as Alberta-born Harold F Cruickshank and American Dan Cushman wrote well-received Mountie yarns, but also published stories in many other genres.  While best known for his serious books like THE FIGHTING MEN OF CANADA and his darkly comic MR GUMBLE SITS UP, Canadian professor of literature Douglas Leader Durkin also wrote some well-crafted Northwesterns such as “Haunted Valley” (Action Stories, Dec, 1924) and “Scarlet and Gold” (Flynn’s, Jan, 1925).  Ontario-born mystery writer Hulbert Footner published a number of Mountie stories, often based on his own adventurous canoe trips in the Northcountry.

While women made up half the loyal readership of the Northwestern genre — especially of the romances of James Oliver Curwood and Samuel Alexander White — few women published in the genre.

But there were some wonderful Northwestern stories by women.  And one magnificent classic…

mrs-mike-freedmanWith her husband Benedict, Nancy Freedman wrote the Literary Guild selection MRS MIKE, a fictionalized first-person account based on the real life of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, a Boston woman sent to the Canadian Northwoods to recover from pleurisy.

There, she met and married Sgt Michael Flannigan of the RNWMP, living with him in his northern outpost.

The First Nations people around them were soon calling her “Mrs Mike.”  She made friends with many of the natives  — including a tragic girl named Oh-Be-Joyful.  Two sequels are THE SEARCH FOR JOYFUL and KATHY LITTLE BIRD.

American writer Ethel Smith Dorrance published her first short story, “The Lucky Thirteenth,” in the August, 1910 issue of Ainslee’s Magazine.  Ethel gained some notoriety in 1924 over the risqué content of a screenplay based on her own novel DAMNED: The Intimate Story of a Girl, “a girl who was so beautiful that she meant ruin for any man who beheld her — even for Satan himself.”  But her most popular novels were her Northwesterns — such as GET YOUR MAN, BACK OF BEYOND, NEVER FIRE FIRST and LONG ARM OF THE LAW.  Many of her stories were coauthored with her husband James French Dorrance who, after her death, reprinted them under his own name only.

Canadian writer Muriel Denison found success with her novels about young Susannah Winston.  Denison’s novel SUSANNAH, A LITTLE GIRL WITH THE MOUNTIES was made into a 20th Century Fox movie starring Shirley Temple.  Sequels included SUSANNAH OF THE YUKON and SUSANNAH RIDES AGAIN.

In late 1937, with sales slipping slightly because of the increased competition on the stands, North-West Stories was renamed North-West Romances, ensuring its place as the most popular and longest in-print pulp of them all.

The issue shown here is the second under the new title.  Cover art was by Norman Saunders.  Born in “the northernmost wilderness of Minnesota,” his mother was part Iroquois.  Saunders was known for his authentic depictions of the Northcountry — and of strong female characters.  His cover illustrates “The Golden Girl of Whispering Valley” by Jack Bechdolt.

While North-West Romances continued to publish men’s action yarns, more stories featuring women, romance and undying love were printed.  Writers like Eli Colter (May Eliza Frost), Helen Castle and Donna M Newhart appeared.

North-West Romances was one of the last great pulps, publishing its final issue in Spring, 1953.

In the genre’s heyday, even writers of traditional American Westerns saddled up and rode North of the Border.  Zane Grey, of  course, created King of the Royal Mounted.

And William MacLeod Raine, Charles Alden Seltzer, Max Brand, Les Savage Jr, Luke Short and — later — three of my all-time fave Western writers, Will Henry, Louis L’Amour and Giles A Lutz, all headed north.

Under the pen name Wade Everett, Ballantine Westerns published Giles A Lutz’s THE WHISKEY TRADERS in paperback in 1968. THE WHISKEY TRADERS tells the story of “half-breed” Brent Bargen. Conscripted by a US Federal Marshal, Brent is sent as an undercover agent north into the lawless Canadian Northwest Territories to infiltrate the notorious whiskey traders, wolfers and outlaws at Fort Whoop-Up. During the story, the newly-formed North-West Mounted Police arrive. Major James Macleod plays a featured role.  Brent, who had lived a lifetime of being ashamed of his native blood, is surprised at the even-handed and honourable way the Red-coated policemen treat the Native Peoples.

While Ian Anderson may have been the last writer to contribute major works to the North-West Mountie genre, a number of present day authors have helped keep the flame flickering.

Terrance Dicks, best known as an early writer on the BBC series Doctor Who, published a North-West Mounted trilogy in 1976, starting with THE MOUNTIES: THE GREAT MARCH WEST.

Alberta-born Janette Oke has included Mounted Police in her Christian novels of the Frontier.  WHEN CALLS THE HEART is her modern masterwork.

Tim Champlin, bless him, has appeared with stories like “Color At Forty-Mile” and “Maintien Le Droit” — the second story was published in Jon Tuska’s ODYSSEY OF THE NORTH: North-Western Stories, Five Star, 2003.

North-West-Mounted-Police-badge[3] WHAT’S IN A NAME?

A Short History Note:  Shortly after Prime Minister John A MacDonald led the Confederation of our new Dominion of Canada in 1867, he was made aware that Rupert’s Land (an area as big as Europe, soon to be renamed the Canadian North-West Territories) was falling into a state of chaos.

Upon Confederation, the small number of red-coated soldiers of the British Army who had patrolled Rupert’s Land, keeping peace and good relations with the Native Peoples on behalf of “The Grandmother” (Queen Victoria), were recalled to England.

By 1870, First Nations tribes were being devastated by a smallpox epidemic, losing an estimated fifty percent of family members.  Every village, every tipi, echoed with their death songs as the people suffered fever, delirium and death.

American whiskey traders were moving into the emptied land to build fortified trading posts offering potent trade whiskey for furs, buffalo robes and hides to an anguished, desperate native people.  And then…

Fort Whoop-Up, Canadian Northwest Territories, 1872

Cyprus Hills, June 1, 1873.  A ragtag group of drunken whiskey traders, wolfers, buffalo hunters and outlaws calling themselves the “Spitzee Cavalry” (based in Fort Whoop-Up, in what is now southern Alberta) massacred a band of Assiniboine men, women and children.  When news of the atrocity reached the East, the Catholic Church and Protestant newspapers hotly demanded that MacDonald finally do something.

MacDonald announced that a field force to be named the “Canadian Mounted Rifles” would be created and sent west.

President Ulysses S Grant informed MacDonald that if Canada sent that military field force west, it would be considered an Act of War against the USA.  This was the time of Manifest Destiny — in the late 1860’s, Secretary of State William H Seward, who was purchasing Alaska from the Russian Empire, had spoken publicly about “next annexing British North American territories.”  American trading posts in the Canadian northwest, including ruthless outposts like the stockaded Fort Whoop-Up, Fort Stand-Off, Fort Slide-Out and Robber’s Roost, were already flying the Stars and Stripes.

Prime Minister MacDonald took the Act to Create the Canadian Mounted Rifles out of his desk, dipped pen into inkwell, scratched out some words, and renamed the force the “North-West Mounted Police.”  The name change, he explained in Parliament, reflected the non-military goals of the new force, adding that a company of “fewer than 300 brave men” was no danger to our neighbour to the south.  The new force’s motto — “Maintien Le Droit” — meant Uphold The Right.

President Grant read his ambassador’s report from Canada, then the old soldier looked at the map of US and Canadian western territories.  He knew that he had already sent over 2000 soldiers — infantry and cavalry — just to counter the “Sioux problem” and that he had thousands more troops throughout the Wild West.  US Marshal Charles Hard, based in Fort Benton, Montana  Territory, had reported that “over 5000 American toughs and outlaws” were hiding over the Canadian Line.  And there were thousands of native Blackfoot, Blood, Cree and Assiniboines just as hostile as the Cheyenne and Sioux.

Grant lit up a stogie and watched the rolling smoke thoughtfully.  This Canadian Field Force, or whatever MacDonald was calling it now, had to march over two thousand miles just to get to the Canadian West.  And then fight for control of a wild lawless territory bigger than Alaska.  “Fewer than 300 men,” he concluded.  “Let them go.  They will never make it.”

NWMP Long March 1874

NWMP Long March 1874

The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) began their historic Long March west to bring the Queen’s Law on July 8, 1874.  They reached their goal — the treacherous Fort Whoop-Up — on October 9.  (For more, see “Sam Steele” [10] below…)

In 1904, their heroic achievements received recognition when King Edward VII granted the Force the prefix “Royal” and it became the Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP).

In February 1920, the Mounted Police were amalgamated with the Ottawa-based Dominion Police, which had carried out federal policing and security in eastern Canada, and given their modern name, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

(A Heart-felt thanks to American writers Burt Kennedy, George Sayre, John C Higgins, Gil Doud, Frank Fenton and William Beaudine — all of whom inspired my love of history and true national mythology, and showed me how to write it.)

From their beginning, fictional stories have been told of our Mounties.

John Mackie, who had served as a Mounted Policeman from 1888 to 1893, published popular romances from 1894 to 1913, such as THE RISING OF THE RED MAN, CANADIAN JACK and THE LAW BRINGERS.

Another ex-member, Welshman Roger Pocock, who had served as a Constable in the Force during the 1885 North-West Rebellion, also published early stories based on his experiences, his best being THE CHEERFUL BLACKGUARD (1896), a tale told with barracks humour.  His autobiographies are THE FRONTIERSMAN and CHORUS TO ADVENTURE.

Pocock drew some official fire when he criticized the government for its treatment of the First Nations people.  On his return to England in 1905, Pocock formed the patriotic Legion of Frontiersmen, which proudly survives even today.

It was Roger Pocock who convinced his reluctant friend Sam Steele to begin writing his own memoirs — they were published to much acclaim in 1915 as FORTY YEARS IN CANADA: Reminiscences of the Great North-West by Col S B Steele, CB, MVO, Royal North-West Mounted Police.

Canadian-born writer of historic novels Gilbert Parker, who in the first decades of the 20th Century battled with writers like Edna Ferber and Booth Tarkington for top spot on the New York Times best seller lists, published an early literary work of the Mounties, THE PATROL OF THE CYPRUS HILLS, in 1893.

Robert W Service’s ballad Clancy of the Mounted Police (“In the little Crimson Manual it’s written plain and clear, that who would wear the scarlet coat shall say good-bye to fear; shall be a guardian of the right, a sleuth-hound of the trail— In the little Crimson Manual there’s no such word as ‘fail’—”) appeared in 1909.

Then came the man who called himself Ralph Connor…

[4] When the bear spared Curwood’s life, the avid outdoorsman gave up hunting forever, except with a camera.

And that harrowing bear encounter in the wilderness of British Columbia inspired his 1916 bestselling novel THE GRIZZLY KING.

In his Preface to THE GRIZZLY KING, James Oliver Curwood wrote: “It is with something like a confession that I offer this second of my nature books to the public — a confession, and a hope; the confession of one who for years hunted and killed before he learned that the wild offered a more thrilling sport than slaughter — and the hope that what I have written may make others feel and understand that the greatest thrill of the hunt is not in killing, but in letting live…”

THE GRIZZLY KING was made into the Jean-Jacques Annaud movie L’Ours (The Bear), released in France in 1988.  Annaud had already achieved international fame with his productions Quest For Fire and The Name of the Rose.  The Bear won four Feature Film awards, including the 1990 Genesis Award.

In 1989, Newmarket Press released a new edition of “this long-lost American classic” THE GRIZZLY KING.  Retitled THE BEAR: A Novel, this edition starts with an Introduction by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who explains that Curwood’s story “is not only an adventure of two bears and the men who hunt them, but also a beautifully moving drama about a full range of emotions — that we are used to thinking of as human, but that are, in fact, universal.”

[5] Most sources reference “The Squeeze,” appearing in the March 20, 1926, issue of Adventure, as Ryerson Johnson’s first published short story.  But recent researchers list the 1923 Detective Tales appearance.

[6] discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D8286353

[7] Such as Ralph S Kendall (1878-1941), a retired Sergeant in the RNWMP, who set his novels in the Calgary area, where he had been posted.

After serving in the Boer War, Kendall returned to Canada and joined the RNWMP (Reg #4351).  In 1910, he left the Force to join the Calgary City Police Force mounted unit until 1924.

Kendell’s novels were BENTON OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED and THE LUCK OF THE MOUNTED.  BENTON rose to #3 on the Canadian best seller lists.

Along with Samuel Alexander White’s LAW OF THE NORTH, Kendall’s two “Mounted” novels were collected in the NORTHERN TRAILS OMNIBUS: Three Complete Novels of Adventure in the Northwest, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1920.

[8] The Citizen-Advertiser, Auburn, New York, November 11, 1933.  “FORBIDDEN VALLEY is a story of the Canadian forests, packed with action, drama and a full-sized helping of romance. The first installment will appear in The Citizen-Advertiser Monday, November 13.”

[9] KITCHEN PRIVILEGES: A Memoir by Mary Higgins Clark, Pg 85, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2002

[10] Sam Steele.  As every red-blooded Canadian knows, Samuel Benfield Steele is one of our true-life mythic heroes, perhaps our greatest.

As a Staff Constable, Sam was one of the 275 original members of the North-West Mounted Police Force, riding with them on their arduous 2000 mile Long March westward to establish the Queen’s Law in a lawless land the size of Europe.  His Regimental Number was 2.  Each of those 275 few good men would forever have the honour of calling himself an “Original.”

Sam-Steele-Canadian_Mounted_PoliceDuring his quarter century as a Mountie, Sam trained new horses and acted as a riding instructor, arrested whiskey traders in their fortified posts, fought outlaws who hid like rats on the Canadian side of the Medicine Line, met with Sitting Bull when the Sioux sought refuge in “The Land of the Grandmother” after Little Bighorn, tracked down cattle rustlers who raided the ranches that had grown with the Mounties’ arrival, patrolled the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, led the building of Fort Steele in the Rocky Mountains, and during the bloody Northwest Rebellion, he formed Steele’s Scouts —  a cavalry unit of Mounties and volunteer Texas cowboys from local ranches.

He had reached the rank of Superintendent when he led the Yukon Detachment north during the frenzied Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.  He kept Law and Order in Dawson City and the vast, rich goldfields, earning the epithet “Lion of the Yukon.”

Sam took leave from the NWMP to take command of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, a Canadian mounted unit formed to fight in the Boer War, and stayed after the war to form the South African Constabulary, essentially a mounted police force.  After serving as a Major-General with the 2nd Canadian Division during World War I, he was knighted by King George V for his years of heroic service to Crown and Country.

Sam Steele lived a Life, eh?

 

A CONCLUSION OF SORTS:

Since first putting this article online, I’ve been asked “What would you recommend…” and “What are the best…”

All I can list are a few of my favourites — those books I love to pick up and reread passages.  You might want to start with one of these…

Ian Anderson – SERGEANT O’REILLY

Benedict & Nancy Freedman – MRS MIKE

Ralph S Kendall – BENTON OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED

T Lund – WESTON OF THE  ROYAL NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE

Harwood Steele – GHOSTS RETURNING

Now this next one’s a surprise title.  A lot of the old pulp writers got Canada, our history, our mythology and our Mounted Police routines wrong.  Just plain out wrong!  And that’s continued with those more modern paperback action-packed Western series  — as soon as our gun-totin’ hero crosses north of the border, he leaves the real world behind.  Basic research doesn’t apply.  The author doesn’t give a damn.

But a good read that not only gets our Mounted Police right but is a great old-fashioned adventure (well, a bit steamier) is LONGARM AND THE MOUNTIES (Longarm #16) written by Lou Cameron under the house name Tabor Evans.

Part of this book’s charm is, as James Reasoner has said, Lou Cameron’s distinctive voice: “it reminds me of the dialogue in the TV series DEADWOOD, without all the cussin’.” Rough Edges – JamesReasonerBlogspot.ca

And there are a number of Northwesterns that don’t feature Mounties as central characters, but are just downright faves:

James Oliver Curwood – THE GRIZZLY KING

Jack London – THE CALL OF THE WILD

George Marsh – THE WHELPS OF THE WOLF  (See Wolf Whelps & Lead Dogs: Tribute to Wilderness Writer George Marsh)

And if you want to read a passionate non-fiction account of our Mounties and our history, try Pierre Berton’s KLONDIKE: The Last Great Gold Rush 1896-1899.  Pierre knew his stuff.  He was born in the Klondike.

So there’s my Top Ten, mon ami.

– Brian Alan Burhoe

CivilizedBears.com

 

Update: Jan 5, 2017

Greatest Writers of Mountie Fiction

Keywords: bear encounters, Bio, Biography, Ghosts Returning, Harwood Steele, Nell Shipman, North-West Mounted Police, NWMP, passion for books, pulp fiction mounties, Ralph Connor, RCMP, RNWMP, Samuel Alexander White, William Byron Mowery, William Byron Mowery Biography

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Gentle Giant George: Rescue Dog Rescues Human – Book Review

Free Days With George: Learning Life's Little Lessons from One Very Big DogFree Days With George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog by Colin Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone who’s read my reviews probably noticed this: I only review books I like.

I generally like yarns about animal/human relationships. Rescue dog rescues human. What’s become the Marley Trope. FREE DAYS WITH GEORGE is that and more.

It’s about finding a friend, travelling together and surfing. A Canadian in California. What really made it so enjoyable was the personality of George.  A Landseer Newfoundland gentle giant. Big dog.  Big as a bear.  Big heart – love and loyalty.  It was nice meeting George – Colin Campbell seems like a nice guy, too…

Yup, read it.

Brian Alan Burhoe
www.CivilizedBears.com

 

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Gentle Giant George: Rescue Dog Rescues Human – Book Review

Free Days With George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog

Keywords: book review, Colin Campbell, dogs, dog story, Free Days With George, gentle giant, rescue dog

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Trail of the Elk: Discovering the Northcountry of Mikkjel Fønhus

 

Trail of the Elk: Discovering the Northcountry of Mikkjel Fønhus

 

 

Elk-Norway-Mikkjel-Fonhus-trail

 

“This is the story of a wizard elk — Rauten, as people called him. He was a human being in animal guise…”

 

The Northcountry in literature has captured my heart from earliest boyhood.  Why not?  My earliest memory is of the green living forest of fir and spruce and white birch behind our newly built house in the rolling Appalachian hills of New Brunswick.  And of all the creatures of fur and bright feathers who moved through it.

I first discovered the wild animal fiction of Canadian writer Sir Charles G D Roberts in our elementary readers and school library.  And found my first literary hero.  He told yarns of the very same New Brunswick woodlands that I was growing up in.  In the 1890’s, Roberts created what would be called the “Realistic Animal Story.”  And matched writers of his time like Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling in sales and popularity, in the same international magazines.

As Roberts said about his realistic animal fiction, “It helps us to return to Nature, without requiring that we at the same time return to barbarism. It leads us back to the old kinship of earth…”

And my own youthful quest soon took me on the trail of writers who had been inspired by Sir Charles and had followed him themselves.  Ernest Thompson Seton.  Jack London.  Grey Owl.  George Marsh.  Henry Williamson.  And, eventually, Farley Mowat. [1]

The wildlife genre, especially with the success of Jack London, found popularity worldwide, achieving an almost spiritual connection with readers throughout North America, the British Isles, Northern Europe and beyond.

Recently, Norwegian author Mikkel Fønhus’ THE TRAIL OF THE ELK has been re-released in English translation.  And I’m here to celebrate it.

Norwegian literature today seems best known for its mystery writing.  Stieg Larsson.  Jo Nesbo.  Karin Fossum.  They’re perhaps more easily understood than earlier Norwegian authors — mystery fiction has a more modern urban story structure and sentiment, if not setting.

But my favourite Norwegian writers to date are Knut Hamsun and Trygve Lund.  Older writers.  Northern writers.  Writers born with the ancient wilderness in their blood.

Hamsun, I read over four decades ago: GROWTH OF THE SOIL deeply caught me up at the time and never left me alone.  I discovered Trygve Lund (born September 10, 1886) one novel at a time in old book stores.  A Norwegian who traveled Canada and served in our North-West Mounted Police — he wrote and published his major works in England, as T Lund.  He moved back to Canada, and then his trail vanishes.  Both men had a deep love and feeling for the Northland and it came out in their writing. [2]

 

 

Mikkjel_F_nhus_8

 

Norwegian Mikkel Arnesen Fønhus (1894-1973) was renowned as a short story writer and novelist, writing of his native land’s forests, mountains and their wild inhabitants, making him a literary heir to Charles G D Roberts and Jack London.  He wrote 77 books.  But few made it into English translation.

Just one book for me so far, this TRAIL OF THE ELK, but I certainly count Fønhus in the same company with Hamsun and Lund.  And have begun the hunt for more of his works.

Fønhus grew up among the family farms and forests in the Valdres Valley of inland Norway, with roots going back for long centuries.  He listened as a child to the traditional storytellers and the folk tales of his people.  Drawing on that life, which included hunting and fishing as well as a joy in watching the arrogant freedom of wild animals, he began to put his feelings on paper.  His early writing reflected that love and that romanticism of the wild places.

His first novel, SKOGGANSMAND (THE OUTLAW), was published in 1917.  Danish author Johannes V. Jensen praised it in his book review: “Mikkjel Fønhus makes his debut as a fully qualified writer. It is Norwegian air, Norwegian rough and inexhaustible nature. A new man who understands it, has it in him and can express it, has now come forward.” [3]

But the new century was changing the land.  He saw the spread of ugly industrialism, life replaced by machines.

His fourth novel would reflect some of the darkness he foresaw.

Fønhus published that fourth novel, TROLLELGEN, in 1921.  It was reprinted next year in Germany (DER TROLL-ELCH) and England (THE TRAIL OF THE ELK).

It’s the story of the Northcountry Ré Valley, its mountains, forests and waterways and wildlife.  And a man known as Gaupa (The Lynx), his deer-hound called Bjönn (Bear) and a majestic male elk called Rauten.  Gaupa “does not walk like other people, he is always half on the run. When his path is barred by a fallen tree or such like he does not stride across it, he jumps…”  Gaupa believes that the giant elk Rauten is a human wizard reborn.  And Gaupa is a hunter of elk.

With TRAIL OF THE ELK, we are in the Northcountry of old beliefs — and not so long ago.

 

trail-of-the-elk-Mikkjel Fønhus2

“Still the bull elk on Bog Hill did not move a muscle. His head stood out clearly against the dawn which flooded the eastern sky like a lake of yellow light. His antlers resembled young bushes…

“It was no mortal animal standing there; it was a ghost from dead generations, an animal spirit from the eternal hunting-grounds.

“Daylight grew more and more while the elk stood still.  A bird chirped a while and then became silent again, like a life that dies just as it is born.

“Then the elk’s head turned, quite slowly from west to north. In his slightly curved muzzle there was the dreaming melancholy of wooded dells…”

 

This is a story of lives and years in the riverside Lynx Cabin and the ancient Northcountry.  The beliefs and folkways of the people.  What Tolkien called the “Northern Thing.”

It’s the story of an elk hunter who lives alone with his dog, but could tell enthralling stories of their homeland to his neighbours.  And play wild tunes on his fiddle.

And it builds slowly to the Chase – a chase years in the making.  Elk, dog and man — racing finally for 4 long days and nights — and for 7 short breathtaking chapters…

Down into the dark trees and across a river and up a mountain glowing white with the small soft snowflakes of a late summer storm, down again into the dense spruce forest and across a lake, Bear the dog swimming fiercely in the giant elk’s wake…

Fonhus-dog-elk

…in what has got to be one of the most exquisite, hot-blooded chase scenes ever written.

But the story doesn’t end with the chase.  There’s tragedy.  And then old age.  Then myth and legend and the deep truths of the Northcountry.

Read it, my friend.

 

– Brian Alan Burhoe

 

[1] To learn more about the inspired, visionary animal fiction of Charles Roberts, go to “The Bear That Thought He Was A Dog” A Complete Short Story by Sir Charles G D Roberts

[2] To read more about the Life & Works of Trygve Lund, go to  “The GREATEST WRITERS OF NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE FICTION”

[3] Rolf Brandrud, MAN IN NATURE: Changing attitudes to nature – as seen through the life and authorship of Mikkjel Fønhus: http://www.rolfbrandrud.com/man-in-nature/#home

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WOLFBLOOD, a Northwestern yarn in the Jack London Tradition, FREE TO READ ==> CLICK HERE  WOLFBLOOD: A Wild Wolf, A Half-Wild Husky & A Wily Old Trapper

 

 

 

trail-elk-m-fonhusNote On Artwork: The two line illustrations above are by Harry Rountree, from the original 1922 Jonathan Cape, London, edition of THE TRAIL OF THE ELK.

Born in New Zealand, Rountree moved to London in 1901, age 23.  He quickly caught on as a talented animal illustrator, even writing some of his own books.  His cartoons appeared in Punch magazine, and he illustrated the top authors of the day, including Arthur Conan Doyle and P G Wodehouse.

This edition was translated by Sara Helene Petersen Weedon.  I don’t read Norwegian, of course, but take for granted that some of the magic of this book is due to Sara Weedon’s own ability to handle the English language.

Trail of the Elk: Discovering the Northcountry of Mikkjel Fønhus – a Book Review

Keywords: book review, Charles G D Roberts, English translation, George Marsh, Grey Owl, Jack London tradition, Mikkjel Foenhus, Mikkjel Fønhus, Mikkjel Fonhus, Northern Thing, Tolkien Northern Thing, Trail of the Elk, Troll-Elch, Trollelgen, wilderness, wildlife

 

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Knut Hamsun’s GROWTH OF THE SOIL – A book review

Growth of the SoilGrowth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over the years, I’ve discovered writers who take you into the very heart of Humankind: which means they really took me into the living heart of all of Nature.  First, Charles G D Roberts.  Then Grey Owl.  Farley Mowat.

Adventure writers (most of ’em were writing before I was born) like Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Marsh, Tolkien, Will Henry, Andre Norton…

Later, Henry Williamson.  And Knut Hamsun.

I’ve just re-read Knut Hamsun’s GROWTH OF THE SOIL after maybe fifty years (a brand new shiny copy from Penguin Classics).  And that wonder of working the hard land all came back. Why I took so long to re-read SOIL, I don’t know.  At the same time I discovered Hamsun, I also discovered Edgar Pangborn, but I dip into a few pages of DAVY with wondering regularity.

I don’t remember what led me to first pick up that copy of SOIL.  Not because the author had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.  Didn’t know then that SOIL had been a favourite of der Führer (if I had, I would have put it back, out of love and respect for my father and all the other War vets I grew up with as a boy).  Didn’t know that he had been praised by Hermann Hesse, Ernest Hemingway and Isaac Bashevis Singer.  In fact, I didn’t know anything about Knut Hamsun.  I’m just glad that I discovered that book when I did.  Took it down from the shelf.  Opened to the first page…

I grew up with forest lands and pastures and horses and barns — helping (and loving it) when I could.  And when I first read Hamsun’s simple words, I was hooked: “A man comes walking north. He carries a sack, the first sack, containing provisions for the road and some implements.  The man is strong and rough-hewn…”

GROWTH OF THE SOIL isn’t about heroic battle, which our pop culture loves.  No – it’s about heroic Work.  Every country boy and girl who grew up watching father and mother working the green lands, and working hard, feels the power of Hamsun’s words.

And is gently shaken by the ending: “She walks slowly about her house, tall and stately, a vestal lighting a fire in the stove. Well and good. Inger has sailed on the high seas and lived in the City, now she is home again. The world is wide, swarming with tiny dots. Inger has swarmed with the rest. She was next to nothing among those living beings, just one…

“Then comes the evening.”

Knut Hamsun’s GROWTH OF THE SOIL isn’t so much about us as it is the story of where we all came from.  Our ancestors.  And about our deepest yearning for a simple and loving Homecoming.

FIVE STARS, all right.

Brian Alan Burhoe
www.CivilizedBears.com

 

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Marlice van Vuuren – Cheetah Rescuer

 

Marlice van Vuuren – Cheetah Rescuer

 

“I knew that my husband-to-be was the right one for me when I introduced him to the baboons on the farm.  Their reaction toward him was friendly and that’s when I knew that he was the one.”  Marlice van Vuuren

 

As I wrote in my posting Women Pioneers of Animal Rights, women have been the essential founders of the Animal Welfare and Animal Rights movements.  From Englishwoman Mary Tealby, who in 1860, first established the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in an abandoned stable — and Canadian silent movie star and producer Nell Shipman, who created a sanctuary for over a hundred rescued animals in her beloved “God’s Country” — to more modern activists like Ingrid Newkirk, of PETA fame, and Pamela Anderson — the animal movement continues to grow.

In 2007, conservationist and actress Marlice van Vuuren, with her husband Rudie, opened the N/a’an ku sê’s Charity Lodge & Wildlife Sanctuary and in 2008, began their Big Cat rescue service, saving local cheetahs, leopards and lions…

Here, from Peter Horsfield, is a Guest Blog celebrating the life and contributions to the Animal Rights movement of actress Marlice van Vuuren…

WHY MARLICE VAN VUUREN IS EXTRAORDINARY

Marlice & Rescued Cheetah

Marlice & Rescued Cheetah

Marlice van Vuuren has the looks of a model. Googling her would give you an impression that she was a celebrity first before she became a conservationist.

Further reading belies that notion.  Born in Namibia as Marlice Elrethra van der Merwe, she “grew up surrounded by animals on her parents’ farm.”  Marlice has been a “woman of the wildlife” ever since she was a girl. It’s her love of animals that catapulted her to celebrity status.

Angelina Jolie discovered Marlice’s wildlife sanctuary when filming Beyond Borders in 2002. Angelina fell in love with the place and even gave birth to her own child Shiloh in Namibia.

 

FOUNDING THE NAANKUSE FOUNDATION
The Naankuse Foundation was established by Marlice and her husband Rudie van Vuuren in 2006. They focus on:

* A Lifeline Clinic which provides free primary healthcare and an ambulance service to the San community in Epukiro, in rural east Namibia. On average around 3,500 patients are seen each year, 84% of whom are San with 45% being children (a quarter of whom are under 5 years old). This is a vital service for this remote marginalised community.

* The Clever Cubs Pre-primary school which provides education to 11 children and support to a further 16 children who are in mainstream schools in Windhoek. These children are all family members of our employees and largely from the San community.

* Employment on all our sites for the San community.

* A wildlife sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned or injured animals. Where possible we re-release these animals. If release is not possible we provide a loving home for these ambassador animals who help us to teach people about conservation.

* A carnivore research project which provides consultancies to farmers and landowners and advises them on issues of carnivore conflict mitigation. (SOURCE: TFWA)

MARLICE – A VISION FOR AFRICA
In 2008, Philip Selkirk discovered Marlice and Rudie’s work. He was taken by Marlice’s personal struggles to achieve what she has now been enjoying as an accomplished individual. The documentary titled Marlice – A Vision For Africa, sensitively tells her captivating story, from tending to her animals at the sanctuary to living a harmonious life with the San Community.

But even with the help from the Jolie-Pitt Foundation and other partners, the couple is still wanting to do so much more. Their school for the San community and the newly acquired vineyard provided the people additional income.

They’re hoping to protect more animals and they are looking into widening their sanctuary so that the wild lions, tigers, hyenas, and cheetahs can freely roam and coexist with them. Indeed, Marlice is a true-blue African.

TOP REASONS WHY MARLICE VAN VUUREN IS EXTRAORDINARY
1. She co-founded the Naankuse Lifeline Clinic with husband Rudie and two other partners.
2. She and her husband started the Naankuse Foundation with the help of donors.
3. Angelina Jolie is an international patron of their sanctuary.
4. She started Naankuse Carnivore Research Project with husband Rudie.
5. She opened Clever Cubs School with husband Rudie through the help of Clabile Trust.
6. She was featured in an ad for Volkswagen with her pet, Lucky.
7. Naankuse received the International Health Promotion Awards (awarded first place in the prestigious Community Health Awards).
8. She worked with Angelina Jolie on the film set Beyond Borders by providing them with vultures from her sanctuary.
9. She is only one of the few white people who can speak the Bushman language fluently.
10. A documentary of her life, Marlice – A Vision For Africa, was released in 2008.

Thanks, Peter.  To read more about extraordinary people, visit Peter’s  www.thextraordinary.org

And, yes, women continue to be the heart and loving soul of the movement.  Jane Goodall. Doris Day.  Brigitte Bardot.  Laureen Harper.  And so many more…

==>> To Read More About Women Animal Welfare Heroines Past & Present, See Women Pioneers of Animal Rights

Brian Alan Burhoe

 

Marlice van Vuuren – Cheetah Rescuer

Keywords: Cheetah rescuer, Pamela Anderson, Laureen Harper, Marlice van Vuuren cheetah, Marlice van Vuuren quote, Nell Shipman, Rescued Animals

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Howling with Wolves at the International Wolf Center

 

Howling with Wolves at the International Wolf Center

 

gray-wolf-civilizedbears

 

INTRODUCTION BY BRIAN ALAN BURHOE:

Here, along the forested rocky coast of Atlantic Canada, we howl with coyotes.

They yip, hoot and kind-of bark.  But not a real a-whooooo like a wolf.  Our own first dog as a couple — a beloved and much-missed husky mix we named King — could do a better wolf howl, and scare the bejezus out of our neighbours.

But while there’s fun in coyote calling, we’d love someday to howl with real live wolves.  Wolf is the big brother of all canine species — Wolf is the original companion of early Humankind.

Did you know that Anthropologists have believed that we adopted wolf puppies 33,000 to 50,000 years ago?  But it’s looking like the early wolf dog was part of Humankind’s adventure looong before that.  And that THEY adopted us.  Which explains how an upstart species of greedy, self-centered, promiscuous (but also brainy) Primates developed such UN-primate behaviour as pack loyalty and mating for life. [1]

But Wolf no longer prowls our local forests.  Frightened European settlers declared war on the entire species (as a grizzled old war vet I once knew used to say, “There’s nothing more dangerous than a frightened man.”).  The last wolf sighting in Nova Scotia was in the year 1900.

But they do survive — further westward…

Here, from Heidi Hunt, representing Spirit of the Wilderness, is a fascinating, beautifully written guest blog relating her first wolf howling.  Listen!

“Howling With Wolves in Ely, Minnesota” a Guest Blog by Heidi Hunt

Best known as the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Ely is a small town in northeastern Minnesota. It’s also an area rich in wildlife and wildlife adventures for those not so ambitious as to attempt a trip through the Boundary Waters.

I joined a program one May on Wolves, Eagles and Bears (Oh my!) through the International Wolf Center. Over the course of a long weekend, we howled with wolves, sailed a lake in search of eagles and viewed bears in the wild.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wild lands and the human role in their future. It conducts a number of learning programs for adults and children year-round.

Day 1: Our introduction to Wolves

We stayed at Timber Trail Lodge in Ely and met our fellow participants the first night at the White Pine cabin. Jesse, from the International Wolf Center, was our leader, and there were six other participants/wildlife enthusiasts. Most were from Minnesota, although one woman came all the way from Albuquerque.

We had an immediate camaraderie as we all had an interest in wildlife. It was nice to meet a group of people who possessed the same love of wildlife as I do.

We dined together in the common cabin, then had our first lecture on wolves and wolf behavior — specifically how wolves communicate with each other (body language, howling, etc).

Some facts I learned: wolves require about 10.5 square miles of territory each. Packs can average 5-7 wolves, so each pack requires about 50-70 square miles of territory. The alpha wolf is not always the dominant wolf, it can be a respected elder wolf. They hunt bison in Yellowstone, although it can take 8-10 hours to bring one down and kill it. Wolves and coyotes are enemies and hunt the same prey, so in places where wolves proliferate, coyotes do not.

We traveled by bus that evening to howl with the wolves. We went to three places around Ely: a scenic overlook, a dirt road which had some old wolf scat, and a gravel pit.

Someone was nominated to be the lead wolf (who starts the howling), then the rest of us joined in. We howled three times, waited for a response, then howled again three times. We did not get any responses from wolves, which was disappointing, although the experience of wolf howling was still quite exciting.

Day 2: Tracking Wolves

We began day two with radio telemetry, which is tracking wolves that have radio collars. The telemetry consists of a box and a large antenna. One person holds the antenna and moves it around in a 360 degree circle. A second person holds the box and listens for the beep on the specific frequency of the wolf we were tracking.

We went to four different spots to try to track a female wolf in the Moose Lake Wolf Pack. At the third spot, Lookout Point, we got a faint beep, meaning the wolf was within 2 miles, which gave us a thrill. Also at this stop, something smelled funky, like an animal had died there.

Jesse went into the woods and found what was left of a wolf kill — hair & hide from a deer scattered just inside the woods.

Based on the three spots we visited, Jesse tried to triangulate where the wolf might be, then we went to a fourth spot within that area that may have been closer to her signal. That spot had a lot of wolf activity, wolf scat in two spots, plus some animal hair.

Jesse told us that wolves eat the bones of their kill because the marrow is nutritious. They also eat the fur, which helps protect the intestines from the bone fragments. Jesse poked around in the scat to show us all the hair and bone fragments. At that spot, I was the only one who thought she caught a very faint beep.

Eagles & Bears

Although this course was put on by the International Wolf Center, there is other wildlife to learn about in Ely, and this course included a look at eagles and bears in the area.

After tracking wolves, we took a sail on a pontoon on Basswood Lake to look for eagles with Bill, our bird guide. Bill gave us some facts on eagles. For example, a female eagle will copulate with the male eagle when he brings her a stick for her nest.

Nests are worked on from year to year and can weigh two tons and be six feet by six feet. There were three eagles’ nests along this lake, two of which were empty, but the third had an eagle.

You could see its head above the nest, although it was hard to focus on with the boat bobbing and weaving (it was cold, windy and there was a lot of wave activity).

We parked the boat in an area between two islands for shelter and ate lunch. As we were about to leave for shore, the eagle flew from his nest to a tree on the island we were near, paused to be admired, and then flew back to its nest, as if wanting to say goodbye to us.

Then we drove to the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary in nearby Orr. The sanctuary is an area in the middle of some woods where food (nuts, berries, etc) are set out for wild bears to come feed on as they pass through. Around 80 black bears visit the sanctuary each season, according to the facility.

There is a viewing platform for guests to watch bears and their natural behaviors. Vince Shute, for whom the center is named, lived in a cabin on the property and bears would ransack his cabin for food.

He’d shoot them, until one day he shot a bear and two little cubs came out of the woods looking for her. Thereafter, he set up food around his cabin for the bears. He developed a friendship with a bear he named Dusty.

When Shute died in 2000, he was buried next to Dusty. Now the sanctuary continues feeding bears, deer and birds (a lot of colorful birds such as blue jays, and yellow finches can be viewed here).

Nicole, our bear expert, gave us some background on the sanctuary and bear facts as we watched deer and birds feed. Finally, one of the British interns at the facility spotted a baby bear way up in a tree and soon, the mama came near to feed.

Howling with the wolves, a second adventure

That night, three of my classmates and I ventured out on our own to howl with the wolves again. We drove down Lookout Road to Lookout Point, stopping several times to howl. A wolf may have returned our call at the Point. We thought we heard something, or perhaps it was just wishful hoping on our part for a connection with the wolves.

A couple of times we thought it was a wolf responding, but instead it was a loon. Next we drove up a fire road deep into the woods, stopping occasionally to howl. It was dark, eerie and we were all alone with nature. We spotted a nighthawk and ruffed grouse and a small bird with long legs no one could identify. We heard whippoorwills, loons and what could have been a bear.

When we got out of the car at one spot, we heard a small snuffle, which definitely was not a bird. We were all alone out in the middle of nowhere, but not really alone; we could hear, but not see, creatures walking through the woods. It felt very adventurous.

International Wolf Center

On our final day of the program, we spent the morning at the International Wolf Center. There are four ambassador wolves, new pups not yet on display (we could watch them on a monitor) and two retired wolves. The ambassador wolves included Maya & Grizzer (Timber wolves, a female and male) and Malik & Shadow (Arctic wolves, both male, and now retired).

Shadow was the dominant male in the pack, although Grizzer was challenging. The wolves were in a 1.25 acre outside exhibit, but we could only watch them through glass from the inside.

We listened to a lecture on wolf feeding habits, before Jesse dumped a dead deer (roadkill) into the exhibit. I loved to watch the wolves. Maya & Grizzer fed first, which was interesting as Shadow is the dominant male and should have eaten first with Maya (as the dominant and only female).

We were told Shadow doesn’t like to eat with people around watching, although he approached a couple times and Grizzer growled him off and once actually lunged at him as Shadow grabbed a scrap of fur.

Malik just watched pathetically. Maya carried around various leg bones (old and new), peed on her food to make them her own, then buried them.

There were various tug-of-war battles over the carcass. After eating, they all howled (finally!). Then Shadow dragged off the carcass & laid down next to it as if to guard it. Malik at some point snuck in and got some food.

It was a fascinating weekend learning about wolves, bears and eagles in Minnesota.

Heidi Hunt
Spirit of the Wilderness
2030 East Sheridan Street, Ely, MN 55731,
United States
(218) 365-3149
http://www.elycanoetrips.com/

Thanks, Heidi!

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WOLFBLOOD, a Northwestern yarn in the Jack London Tradition, Free to Read ==> CLICK HERE  WOLFBLOOD: A Wild Wolf, A Half-Wild Husky & A Wily Old Trapper

 

[1] Watching modern political, corporate and cultural leaders and celebrities makes you wonder if much of Humankind is reverting back to Apehood (sans L’esprit du Loup).

==>> To read more about the adoption of wolves by earliest Humankind (or maybe the other way around?), go to DOG INTELLIGENCE – The Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

Howling with Wolves at the International Wolf Center

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Muinej The Bear’s Cub – A Mi’kmaq Bear Story Retold

 

A First Nations Mi’kmaq Bear Story Retold

 

first-nations-bear

 

THE BOY WHO WAS RAISED BY BEARS!  A NATIVE CANADIAN MI’KMAQ STORY RETOLD & FREE TO READ…

Introduction by Brian Alan Burhoe.

Bears have long appeared in folktales and animal stories worldwide.

Especially among Northern Peoples.  Those of us of Northern blood, whether Northern European (Nordic, Germanic, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon) or First Nations of North America, come from cultures that believed that Bearkind was Humankind’s closest blood relative.  Hence, for instance, the numerous stories of bear-human children among the Vikings and Druidic Celts.  Many First Nations have family groups who call themselves the Bear Clan, claiming to have actual bear blood in their veins.

Talking bears and humans adopted and raised by loving mama bears are common story themes.

Here’s my retelling of a local First Nations folktale…

 

Muinej The Bear’s Cub

In the Old Time, before the coming of foreign seafarers and clamoring machines and civilized greed, when the forests were greener and the trees were bigger, there lived a Mi’kmaq boy named Mikinawk.

Mikinawk never knew his real father who had been killed during a battle with another tribe. Instead, he was raised by a brutal braggart of a man who believed his new wife loved her son more than him. The mother often had to stop her new husband from beating the boy.

But eventually the man seemed to accept the boy and began to speak kindly to him and she secretly shed tears of thankfulness.

The day came when Mikinawk’s stepfather said, “My wife, this is the day little Mikinawk must learn the ways of the forest. I will take him hunting with me.

“But Mikinawk is so young,” she said.

“He will be safe with me. Have I not accepted him as my own? Today, we will only hunt rabbits.”

So she agreed to let them set out in the forest.

On his previous hunt, when he had gone into the rocky hills where other men of the band rarely went, the stepfather had spotted a cave. And an idea had come to him then.

They traveled for what the boy thought was a long time. Even he could identify rabbit droppings and pathways in the grass. But his stepfather kept them moving on.

And then the man whispered, “Listen! I hear voices of other men. I believe they are warriors of the band we once fought. The ones who killed your father.”

“I hear nothing,” whispered Mikinawk.

“I do. Quick! See that cave? Hide in there! I will lay under one of those cedar trees and guard us. Stay in the cave until I call you. Go!”

And so Mikinawk ran into the cave, crawling deep into its darkness.

Laughing, the man followed his stepson, keeping out of sight in the trees. He picked up a birch pole he had cut and hidden on his last trip here. The hill was covered with big boulders left there long ago, say the old story tellers, by ice spirits. He scampered up the hill and stuck the pole behind a boulder and set it rolling down the hill. It fell into place in the cave’s opening, blocking the boy’s way out. Trapping the boy he hated. He shouted out just one word, “Starve!”

But the shaking of the earth had loosened a bigger boulder further up the hill. The stepfather had only time to turn and see the rolling rock when it hit and killed him.

Almost feeling the weight of the rock walls of the cave, Mikinawk bravely fought his loneliness and fear. He listened intently for any sound beyond the great darkness that had swallowed him when the boulder had crashed into place. But he was only six and he wanted his mother, so he eventually let out a big sob.

He was startled by a voice from deeper in the cave.

“Who is there? Who are you?” The voice was not human, but seemed to be of something small and young like him.

“I am Mikinawk. Who are you?”

“I am Nidap. This is my sister Ebit.”

“What animals are you?” he said into the darkness.

“We are bear cubs. What are you?”

“I am a human.”

“Oh!” came two voices filled with fear.

“I am a friend,” said Mikinawk, hiding his own fear. “This is a time for friendship.”

And then there was a crunching noise and sunlight spilled into the cave as the boulder was rolled away.

“Ebit! Nidap!” came a deep growling voice. “What is happening? There is the smell of humans here.”

And Giju’muin, a big mother bear, crawled into the cave. Snuffing noisily, her hot breath poured onto Mikinawk’s face.

“You are dangerous, little human.  I –”

“He said he is a friend,” came another voice, who must have been the sister bear.

Giju’muin thought about this. She had found the body of a man on the hill. Knowing that the humans would blame her for the death if discovered, and kill her and her cubs, she had carried the body and thrown it in the fast flowing river.

“Why are you here, little one?” she asked the boy.

“My stepfather must have done it. He hates me. But my mother loves him. And the men of the village praise him as a mighty warrior.  I don’t know if I can go home.”

Now that there was light in the cave, the two cubs moved toward him and sniffed him. The she-cub asked, “Can he stay with us, Mother?”

The mother bear thought again.  She couldn’t let him return to his people and tell them about her family.  But she didn’t have the heart to kill this helpless little human.

“Perhaps. For now, the blueberries are ripe and we must get to them before the crows and the others eat them all.” So Giju’muin led the two cubs and the boy to the wild blueberry fields.

When they arrived at the fields, the bushes were blue with big juicy berries.  But there were many bears already there.  When those strange bears saw Mikinawk, some screeched “Human!  Run!”  And they scurried away.  Some adults growled mightily and charged at the boy.  Giju’muin put herself in front of the boy and warned them away, saying that she had adopted this human cub and that he would not harm them.

And so Mikinawk was adopted by the bears, who gave him a new name — Muinej.

The cubs were happy with their new brother and Giju’muin taught all three of the young ones the ways of the forest and meadowlands and waterways. Muinej rejoiced in his newfound life, almost forgetting his old life in the village. He loved the stories his mother bear told them. Indeed, he even learned to walk on all four paws at times. He almost came to believe he was a bear.

The next year, he and his brother Nidap thought up a sly plan to get more berries for themselves when they arrived again at the fresh blueberry grounds.  When they saw all the bears happily feeding on the sweet berries, Nidap ran among the bushes with Muinej chasing him.  Nidap began screaming “The humans are attacking.  Run!”  And many of the bears saw them and ran so fast they almost flew like the crows.

They stopped laughing when they saw the anger on Giju’muin’s face.  She growled a warning at them to never do that again.  But there was a hint of a smile from her when she shuffled away.

The brothers, sometimes with their sister’s help, were always up for tricks on other animals.  But never around their mother.  And so time passed happily.

One springtime, she was teaching them how to catch smelt fish in the slower shallows of the river. Sister Ebit had hurt her leg a few days earlier when she had fallen out of a leafing birch tree, although it was healing. So she sat on the river bank. They were eating fresh smelts when Giju’muin lifted her nose to the air. “Humans!” she cried. “Follow me, my children. We must run!”

The boy thought at first that she was playing her own trick on them in punishment for what he and his brother had once done at the blueberry fields.  She had a long memory.

But no.  This was no trick.

They ran for the cave. But sister bear still limped and slowed them down. The mother bear knew what she must do. “There! We will hide under that big cedar tree. Now!”

So they crawled under the low hanging cedar boughs and hid in the sweet-scented shadows.

Footsteps came closer. She knew the hunters had seen them. And followed their tracks in the grass and bushes.

Sadly Giju’muin said, “I am going out to face them. When I am occupying them, Nidap, you must run to the rocky hills and do not slow down. You are big enough now to make your own way in life.  Then you, Muinej, must go out and face them. Plead for your sister’s life. You are human, perhaps they will listen to you.”

And so Giju’muin scrambled out and ran away as fast as she could. The boy heard men’s excited voices. And the twang of hunting bows. The cheers of success. Spoken words he had not heard for what seemed a long time. But recognized.

“Yes, brother,” he said to Nidap. “Run that way. I will speak for our sister. We will all meet again.”

When Nidap ran out, the boy heard the men’s voices again, so he crawled out from under the cedar branches.

“See me!” he shouted to the hunters. Ten men or so stared at the naked boy in surprise.

Beyond them, he saw the body of the mother bear, arrows in her like quills from a giant porcupine. His eyes grew wet, but he had Ebit’s life to save.

“I am Muinej, once called Mikinawk! With me is Ebit, my adopted sister. Spare her!”

“It IS Mikinawk,” said one hunter. The shocked men lowered their bows.

Silently, Muinej and Ebit went over to the body of Giju’muin and shed their tears.

Around a campfire that night, the boy who was known as Mikinawk told his story, as I have just told you.

When they returned to their Mi’kmaq village, there was more weeping as his mother joyfully received him — and his new sister. His mother helped raise Ebit until the young she-bear was ready to return to the forest.

Muinej kept his bear-name.  He became a great hunter. But never killed a bear. And saw that his own people never hunted a she-bear when she had cubs.

He often met up with his brother Nidap and they would laugh and exchange stories of great deeds and greater meals. And when Ebit grew into an adult and had her own cubs, he would visit her and her new family at the base of a hollow tree where they denned and they would relive old times and celebrate the new.

And once a year they would join all the other bears in the wild blueberry fields.

THE END

 

UPDATE:  I want to thank readers who gave such positive feedback.  A common reaction was like that of Tylor Hugley, “Loved the story except mother bear’s death…” @TylorHugley.   Since this is a creative retelling of a fave local story, I considered reworking that plot element.  After all, I had created my own version of the characters.  “Let the Mama Bear live!” I told myself.  It was a sad moment when I realized that I had to keep that central scene to stay true to the source.

The story “Muinej The Bear’s Cub” and accompanying material on this page is copyright © by Brian Alan Burhoe.  You are free to reprint “Muinej The Bear’s Cub” but please credit me.

 

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October is Mi’kmaq History Month.

Muinej The Bear’s Cub – A Mi’kmaq Bear Story Retold – A free online short animal story

Keywords: American Indian, a bear story, bear stories, brown bear story, children animal stories, Civilized Bears, Indigenous, kids animal stories, little bear story, Mi’kmaq History Month, native american indian, native americans, short animal stories

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NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE DOGS: Huskies and Other Sled Dogs

 

NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE DOGS: Huskies and Other Sled Dogs

 

Companions

 

“On you huskies!”  It’s our most iconic Canadian image: a lone Mountie mushing his sled dogs across the savage Northern wilderness.   And not only loving it — but living it with joy.

Our Canadian Mounties were first known for their horses. They marched West in 1874 on proud Eastern stock, each Division on matched colours. Once they reached their destination, they had to purchase local remounts, many of them unbroken broncos. After 1946, they began to breed their own stock, the horses used today for ceremony and the Musical Ride.

But just as essential to the success of the Mounties, have been their dogs…

When the North-West Mounted Police were first assigned to the Yukon and other northern areas, they quickly learned that they would not be patrolling by horseback.

The North Country had few roads. Travel was by river and lake. In the summer, that meant boats and canoes. In the winter, when the rivers were frozen, that meant snowshoes and dog teams.

From the beginning, they adopted the native huskies and malamutes. Without the thick-coated huskies, which would curl up in the deep snow to sleep, the Mounties would never have accomplished their long winter patrols.

The Klondike Gold Rush began in August, 1896, when prospectors Skookum Jim, George Carmack and Tagish Charlie discovered a rich gold-bearing seam on Bonanza Creek in the Yukon Territory. Soon, Dawson City became a roaring boom town at the junction of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. Thousands of prospectors, land speculators, saloon keepers, gamblers, dance hall girls, bankers and other fortune seekers arrived. The Mounties arrived with them to keep the Queen’s Law.

Their dog teams became an essential tool in keeping that law.

The first dogs that they purchased from local natives were a wild breed, truly “wolf dogs” — the natives deliberately bred their huskies with wolves.

As Constable John B Watson wrote: “Though that young team earned my respect, they kept me on my toes with their temperaments and there were a few times when they scared the hell out of me. I kept them well separated at all times and was particularly careful at feeding times to do it quickly and evenly, for then the wolf shows and etiquette disappears into thin air.

“Their daily ration disappears so rapidly one wonders how they manage to digest it. Their winter ration was half a fish. I’d break a frozen salmon in two and each piece would average two pounds. In summer when they weren’t working, I gave them boiled rice with rendered fat, and an occasional piece of dried salmon.

“Each animal wolfed its food first, and then would try to reach the next one’s ration, but their chains kept them apart. Handling each one gave me a chance to read their moods and I tried not to play favourites. I seldom had to use the whip.”

By 1898, the Force had over a hundred dogs, distributed at Dawson City, Whitehorse, Tagish, Tantalus and other small posts along the trails.

The Mounties added Siberian huskies and Labrador dogs to their teams, these breeds proving to be more easily trained and safer to be around.

By the turn of the 20th Century, patrols were extended well into the Arctic, the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The Northern Patrols of the early years of the century were hard, often heroic journeys of hundreds of miles per trip.

Constable Charles R Thornback wrote: “One of my dogs became sick and dragged along in its harness, hampering the others of its team, and it appeared too ill to continue. It had earlier shown signs of faltering, and there was nothing we could do for it. A bullet in the head was a merciful and immediate end to its suffering. Sorrowfully, I dug a deep hole in the snow, cut a few branches of spruce for its bed and cover, and buried it.

“We were all attached to our dogs. We had worked with them for weeks, calling each by name. They displayed affection and faithfulness; they were obedient and hard working. The loss of a dog was not a small one.”

In 1905, Constable Albert Pedley made the news with his 21-day dogsled trip though the storm-ravaged Canadian winterscape — bringing an insane prisoner safely to Fort Saskatchewan.  The adventure became the basis of many written stories and even a Hollywood movie: The Wild North.

In January of 1911, Inspector Francis J Fitzgerald left Fort McPherson on a patrol that was to end at Dawson City. With the Inspector were Constables Kinney and Taylor and a Sam Carter. They would go in history as the Lost Patrol.

About halfway to Dawson, they seemed to lose the trail and became lost. They attempted to return to McPhereson. Their huskies would not eat the meat of the other dogs that had died. The Mounties fed them with what scraps of dried salmon remained.

Inspector Fitzgerald wrote in his diary: “Just after noon I broke through the ice and had to make a fire, found one foot slightly frozen. Killed another dog tonight; have only five dogs now, can only go a few miles a day…”

A second patrol later found the frozen bodies of Fitzgerald, Kinney, Taylor and Carter.  The surviving huskies had fled the scene, leaving the bodies of the four men untouched.  “The Lost Patrol” entered our cultural mythology.

By the 1920’s, the North was becoming mechanized. The Bush Plane appeared. Later came vehicles that could handle the terrain, especially the snowmobile.

The need for dog teams was gone.

The Force, now renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, still retained a few Northern dogs. But they were kept for sport and public events.  Modern huskies, interbred with southern domesticated and racing dog breeds, are much smaller than the part-wolf dogs of yesteryear.

“On you huskies!” had become a cry of the past.

But the need for all dogs had not ended. In fact, the new Dog Service would soon be a growing department in the Force.  As I wrote in my posting “ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE DOGS: The German Shepherd”, the brave, intelligent, loyal German Shepherd had appeared. In the role of tracker of criminals, lost persons, even explosives and narcotics, the Shepherd would become an essential new member.

==>> And, of course, those days of heroic men and dogs of the Canadian Mounties became celebrated here and around the world — an essential part of Canadian Culture: THE GREAT PULP FICTION MOUNTIES: From Corporal Cameron to Sergeant Preston

 

Brian Alan Burhoe

 

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NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE DOGS: Huskies and Other Sled Dogs

Keywords: dogs, german shepherds, Huskies, North-West-Mounted-Police, on you huskies, RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, police dogs, police dogs breed, police dogs matter, sled dogs, the lost patrol, watch dogs police, wolfblood, wolf dogs, wolfdogs

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