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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was born in 1898 in Norway, coincidentally the same year Jack London, some 19 year old kid from California, made his trek up to Klondike country in Alaska/Yukon. Later to gain fame as a writer of short wilderness stories. Most famous of which was Call of the Wild. I read this story in 1916 the year of London's death. Read it so many times, I wore the little book out. It would have great influence on me and my future. Norway put out some hearty men, Norsemen, sometimes they were called. I could only hope to grow up to fill these shoes.
Living in Norway got me accustomed to cold weather and hard times. By the time I was in my 30's, there was a deep depression on in America which rippled throughout the world. Times were hard. I was 5'8" and strong of body and quick of mind. The hard work chopping wood gave me oak like arms and the same for my legs, as I was used to walking great distances hauling wood through the snow. With thoughts of the '98 goldrush in mind, I was determined to go to this open and free country, where it was said gold could still be found, trapping was bountiful and a man could live free. Lots of men came north during the depression with thoughts of striking it rich. They left wives and families behind. I was no different. The Canadian authorities tried to make sure everyone had enough supplies and experience to make it in the cold. My background in Norway made it easy for me to convince them to let me in. I made it to the Yukon in 1930...and started trapping and gold prospecting. I found it all to be true, this new free bountiful country. Game was plentiful and color was to be found here and there in the creeks and streams...and the best part was that a man could do what he wanted without government or manmade interference. My first cabin took me 1 week to build. I dug 3 feet down in the ground for added insulation, cut a small front door, made a rock chimney and my 8 x 10 foot cabin was complete. This would suffice and be easy to keep warm in the typical 40-50 degree below zero temps, and the occasional 70 below weather. Kindling and pinecones were kept in good supply to start my fires.

Monthly trips into the wilderness supply store, to sell my furs and gold were at first a welcome treat. I'd get decent money for my furs, more than enough to pay for beans, flour, a few new traps, and ammo for my 30/30 and .22. The gold was extra icing on the cake. I accumulated over a $1000 in cash, half American and half Canadian bills for my gold, but always kept extra color as I didn't trust paper money. But it was a necessary evil to trade and easy barter. Later, this gold I had, would convince the Canadian Police that I was a deranged murderer that local lore had it was killing prospectors in their sleep and taking the gold fillings out of their mouths. Balderdash. More likely the undertaker or first who found dead men, were the ones that got their gold teeth. Funny how history gets written. The only fellow that might have fit that description was an ole geezer called Hank Thomas. I sat around a campfire at the supply store and heard him tell a story of how African cannibals would behead their enemies after getting what they wanted, food, knives and ivory. Then they'd throw the heads in the river. Maybe ole Hank was talking about himself that starry night. I never did trust him after that.

But then it could be understood. Living alone will do funny things to a fella. Make him go crazy. Start confusing reality with fiction. Anyway, at the end of my ordeal, when they found some gold on me, the geniuses put 2 and 2 together and claimed I was the Mad Trapper. Even called me that in a couple of movies and books.

So the monthly trips to the store used to be good. It kept ME from going crazy. Life was good. I'd built 4 caches in a 80 mile circle from my original cabin. Even built 2 smaller cabins in that circle. This was on my trap line. The 2 cabins were 6x8', took 2-3 days to build them. The RCMP never knew of these, nor my caches. The caches held extra food which would help sustain me on my trap runs and much more so on my last run. They could sustain me for several weeks with the food I had in them. Always good to have a backup cache somewhere, be it food or ammo or firewood, pine cones or what not.

Pfffftt, they called me 'taciturn' in one of the books they wrote about me later. I reckon it was true...I got to dislike the company of men more and more. Much more preferred the company of my wild animals and pet coyotes, which I fed when I had extra food. I'd feed the deer too. Whenever skinning beaver, wolverine, badger and fox, the entrails I'd feed to my 2 pet coyotes. Animals are MUCH more honest and have no hidden agendas, quite the opposite of men, and the polar opposite of politicians and government men. So I reckon I became more and more secluded and liked the company of men less and less. Speaking of animals, the wolverine is the meanest and oneriest animal out there and quite unafraid to take on a wolf or bear. Plus they stink to high heaven. I had no problem trapping them. Their fur is one of the best and makes good cover for your coat hood. But I don't trap coyotes. I admire them. They are one of the most intelligent of animals and true survivors. Good luck trying to outwit one, they are smarter than most people. They'll be here long after most species die out and may outlast cockroaches. Often these two coyotes were my Guide when it was dark, as they would lead me to the cabin from miles away.

I'd been living here for just over a year when all the trouble started.

There was an unwritten law not to trap in another man's territory. If you found another man's traps on your territory, it was common practice to take his traps down and hang them in the trees where he could find them and still use them. This told him he's out of his territory but still leaves him his traps. Some Indians had been trapping in my area. Maybe they thought ALL the land around was theirs and I was the interloper. But after twice finding their traps near mine, I hung them in the trees. This happened three times. The 3rd time was near Christmas time. Later I was to find out, these Indians had reported me to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and said I was the one illegally trapping. Well, I didn't have a license, because I figured there was plenty enough for everyone and this was free country. Plus I didn't really care about these 'new' laws. We never had to have a license in Norway. What, one has to have a survival bill of sale to live out here?
Well all hell broke loose the day after Christmas in 1931. I was half asleep in my main cabin when I heard some dogs barking and men talking. Someone was pulling up on a dogsled. Turned out to be one Mountie and 2 other men. It was 40 below outside and my front walkway was a sheet of ice. There was banging at the door...

Here's where the books depart from the truth. The Mountie banged on my door without announcing his arrival. Out in the bush, you don't do that. It's like you don't just walk into a man's camp without permission. I was still half asleep and groggy and didn't answer, unsure what trouble might be afoot. The Mountie had his firearm in his hand and and I guess while trying to knock again, he slipped on the ice, for I heard a shot go off. A groan was all I needed to know someone had been shot. He'd shot himself. My guess is that fearing embarrassment or wrong guessing by the other two men, a misunderstanding of what happened insued. I heard one man yell out that I'd shot the Mountie. All retreated to their sled and took off. Later I'd overheard from the men chasing me that that is what had happened. I got the blame for shooting the Mountie. In a book years later there was the quote "Johnson suddenly with no provocation shot through the door and hit the Mountie" This was the biggest crock. First, I don't know if a bullet would go through my 5" door. Certainly I wouldn't "shoot with no provocation". This quote attributed to me, just doesn't ring true. Funny again, how history gets written.

I knew they would be back. I was in a quandry as to what to do. Two days later, I heard the ravens in the nearby trees give alarm. I'd always liked the raven...somehow they were mystical. As if spirits calling out when something was wrong or to alert. Sure enough, they were alerting me and like a good shepherd, leading me to get out. The Mounties were back... in force. There wasn't much talk but they commenced shooting. My cabin was small but well built and I just hunkered down below ground level. I fired back a couple times. But it was useless, as I couldn't see well enough to hit anyone. Now the movie about me got many things bass ackwards. It said Edgar Millen shot me in the end. But it was I who shot Millen half way through their death hunt. But one of the most outrageous things of the movie was true. They brought dynamite. And used it on my cabin. They put it under their arms and coats to warm it up, bundled it all up and lobbed it onto my cabin. Luckily I was buried deep in my fox hole inside when the cabin blew. It made a mess of the cabin. Somehow I survived and as they came walking in, I fired upon them with my 30/30 and they jumped and ran back for cover. I took off with my bug out bag. Containing shells, gold, cash, a little meat and my .22 and 30/30, and homemade snowshoes of course. A man can't travel in deep snow without them. I called them my babes. Gun, babes and cash and I was off. It was late December and 40 below. Little did I know what the next 49 days would bring. The biggest manhunt in history was about to get ugly.
I had built my cabin with a cliff in the back, so ever need be, I could get away quickly and quietly. Little did I know I would need it this soon. My motto, "always have a backup plan and backup supplies" had served me well. The cliff was actually a big rock in the shape of a J. I grabbed the lower part of the J and in 2 minutes I was over the cliff and snowshoeing straight toward my next cache. The sled and dogs couldn't follow. They would have to go 2 miles out of their way and pick up my trail. I could hike twice as fast as those dogs could pull the sled and so I was 4 miles away by the time they found my tracks. Knowing this, I put my shoes on backwards and laid a false trail for them. My brother and I had done this many times back in Norway and were pretty efficient at it. Observing them from 4 miles off, I saw they took the wrong trail. This gave me maybe another mile lead. But I'll give them Mounties credit. They were smart and tough. Reminded me of a bulldog. Tough and won't let go. They discovered their mistake and kept coming after they found my correct trail. The RCMP had the reputation for always getting their man and not giving up. It would turn out to be a well deserved rep.

It was about 4 a.m. now and had warmed up to 30 below zero. The sun was just coming up. We only get about 3 hours daylight and I knew I'd need to make the best of it. Six hours is twilight with the sun just moving under the horizon, so I could still see well enough to do things. I figured to go to my cache 15 miles away and the Mounties would give up and in a few months the whole thing would be forgotten. Sometimes things just don't work out like you plan. I got to my cache that evening after 7 hours of shoeing. There was still a week's worth of food there. I brushed out my entrance tracks and laid a trail around the cache. I wanted to keep my caches secret in case I had to come back. Sleeping about a quarter mile from there, I had made my first mistake. I underestimated those Mounties. They were on me. Loud shouting by the musher awakened me. I peaked over the log I was sleeping under and there they were within easy rifle shot distance. They saw me too. One tall Mountie got down on his knee and aimed his rifle and fired. The bullet whizzed by my ear. I took quick aim with my 30/30 and returned fire. It hit him. Later it was found to have gone through his forearm, his bicep and into his heart. They thought he'd been hit 3 times, but it was the same bullet. He dropped instantly and was dead before hitting the ground. Turned out his name was Millen, Edgar Millen. A veteran Mountie of 23 years. His buddies crawled in behind him to help him. I didn't shoot at the rescuers but ducked down over the hill and kept going. Figured they'd be there for awhile dealing with their dead and be unwilling to storm me again. Turned out they were short on food and supplies and decided to turn back at this point. There were 15 men and 8 sled dogs. They'd only brought 2 days supplies and were out. So they headed back to base, 30 miles away.

I felt badly about the Mountie. But HE was shooting at me. I asked for none of this. I had to keep my wits about me. Had to remember what my Father up in lower Norway had taught me. He was a true southern Scandanavian survivalist. Think like your prey. Think like the hunter. Stay ahead of them. I built a snow cave and spent the night there. It was a toasty 0 degrees inside. Outside it was 50 below.
This time I knew they'd be back, with lots of supplies. I made it to my next cache. It pays to have more than one cache out there. Food was still plentiful for me. This must have puzzled the pursuers. How I could keep going with what they thought was no food. Also glad I'd bought some frozen apple slices from the store owner. JD was his name, he was a young guy and had suggested the apples. Said lots of men get scurvy out in the wild. Jack London as I recall had gotten a bout of scurvy in '98. Almost lost his teeth. They didn't know much about fruits, vitamin C and scurvy back then.

Four weeks had gone by and they had picked up my trail again. Later I was to find out that this hunt was all over the northern news on the radio and down in the States too. People were glued to their radios every evening waiting to hear more about the Mad Trapper of Rat River. This is what they'd dubbed me now. I was the one that was MAD. Leave it up to the victors to write history.

Although I was 8 miles ahead of them now, they had traveled in wide and numerous circles to pick back up my trail. Three days from now would give another close call. I had relaxed a bit and rested at my last cache near a huge mountain range which was at the end of a valley. I was tucked away at the end of that valley. They were coming in the front of the valley and I had no place to go. Turns out at this point they were a half mile from me. It was night and they planned to move in in the morning and get me for sure this time. It would probably be successful for them. They blocked my way out and there were only sheer cliffs behind and both sides of me. That night I sang my favorite song, "Clementine" I dreamed of my oil paintings I used to do in my spare time back in the old country. I dreamed of my pet coyotes and animals back at the main cabin. I dreamed of the love of my life back in Norway, and her blonde hair and blue eyes. I slept soundly...for about 3 hours...

I awakened suddenly, having this foreboding feeling. My sixth sense was telling me something was afoot and I'd better get out now. It was starting to get light so not wanting to go toward them, I started climbing the mountain behind me. Turns out these were the Richardson Mts. Noone had climbed these in the winter and the local Indians said it was foolish to try. But I had no choice. Luckily I had my gold pick which I used to scale the icy parts. In 3 hours I was over the main hump. It was clear sailing for awhile. No way they could get their dogs up that cliff. Plus they'd been tracking me for about 10 days and HAD to be running out of supplies. I'd restocked at the cache and had about a week's food left, a little over $2000 in cash, and about a pound of gold. At $21 an ounce, that was about $250. Plenty to get me set up in Alaska and start all over. Noone had much of an idea what I looked like and it would be easy. I just had to go about another 100 miles where I figured I would be in Alaska. I'd just have to be careful. Jack London said once of Alaska, that there were 1,000 ways it could kill you. Freezing to death, starving, a moose stomping you, and many other unexpected ways.

Turns out, the pursuers were indeed running low on supplies. They had just enough to get back to civilization. I seemed to be home free.

The next few days I rested up after putting in another 30 miles. This night I started to relax. The Northern Lights were out. I thought of the irony of it all. Here I was in the beautiful wilderness watching the Aurora and about to start a new life. Down below and all over the north, people were glued to their radios in their warm cabins and houses "leading lives of quiet desperation". And here I was feeling fully alive and a free man.

But the wilderness has a way of changing your plans. "The best laid plans of mice and men..." The Unexpected lay right around the corner. It was early February. A lone wolf howled in the twilight.

That damn airplane. I would have gotten away, except they hired a World War I ace named *** Mays to hunt me by plane and help keep the pursuers supplied. *** wasn't the cocky arrogant pilot as portrayed in the movie. He was a real war hero who had a hand in getting the infamous Red Baron of Germany. He volunteered to take on this risky job of tracking me. Arctic winds and landings in February weren't easy. He spotted my tracks near Alaska. It had been about 44 days and I'd hiked nearly 150 miles. He radioed the ground and the pursuit was on again. They were on to me again, this time with unlimited supplies.

My food was getting scarce. They found my trail and were closing in. I was getting tired and very hungry.

On the 49th day they were within a half mile. I climbed up in a tall pine and saw them coming down the frozen river. This was my big mistake. I outsmarted myself. The river twisted round and round so that it was hard to tell where it was going next. I thought I knew. I climbed down the tree and went to where I thought was behind them on the river. I would go in the opposite direction BEHIND them. But it turned out I would come in ahead of them and run right smack into them. That's what happened. Coming around a bend in the river, they spotted me and I spotted them. We were heading straight toward each other and only about 80 yards apart. I tried to run to a bank in the bend but it was too steep and I slid back down. They were 50 yards away and started shooting. I ran about 20 yards and felt a slap on the shoulder. I'd been hit. They kept firing. I lay down and returned fire. I think I got one of them but 4 shots hit me the next second. This is all I would remember. I read in a book later, probably accurate, that the plane flew over me once more and tipped its wings, indicating that I was a goner. They found my only food left on me, a squirrel and a small bird. Then they found the cash and gold. It was then that they started the rumors that I'd been killing men and stealing their gold fillings. Them Mounties are tough... and lucky. I'll give them credit, they always get their man.

Now I find myself in the 21st century in 2008. Things are different and things are the same. Gold was $21 an ounce in 1931 and now it's $860, about 40 times as much. Government is making more laws and feeding off itself. It's good to find a forum like this with like minded intelligent people. My advice, stay as far from government and state people as you can. Be the elusive coyote. The coyote doesn't make big fanfare and draw attention to itself. It prepares and survives by keeping a low profile. And learn to expect the unexpected.

Mountain Critter
914 Posts
Welcome! I've always believed there must be more than one side to your story, and very much wished there was a way to hear it from your perspective. You've always kind of been a hero of mine, despite the things they said about you.

Apparently little has changed from your time to the present, in regards to the spin the authorities will put on things and the way they'll use the media to create a villian out of an honest man who just wants to be left alone. Quite an amazing journey you made, sir! Glad to have you here.


So were you born Sigvald Velsvik?

11,613 Posts
Welcome, Much to learn here.

Things to ponder follow:

Have a BOL (bug out location, if needed)?

Self-sufficient? Garden? Stored food?

Reload? Cast bullets? Practice with your firearms?

Practice permaculture? Gather wild foods?
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