A portrait of one of the last subsistence trapper/hunters in Alaska.
Journalist Campbell spent parts of two years living with and observing his cousin Heimo Korth, Heimo’s Eskimo wife Edna, and their two teenage daughters in their cabin hundreds of miles from civilization. Born in 1955, Heimo spent his boyhood years in Wisconsin. Realizing that he didn’t fit into his father’s blue-collar world, Heimo moved to Alaska, planning to live off the land. Like many others who made that move, he barely survived his first exposure to the far north. Campbell vividly depicts the hazards of a world in which temperatures can run 40 below zero—on a good day—and even the slightest mistake can kill a man. Mentored by an older trapper and by native Alaskans who taught him wilderness skills, Heimo gradually began to make a living selling the pelts of wolves, martens, wolverines, and other animals he trapped. He learned to bring down a moose or caribou with a single shot, butcher it in the field, and carry the meat to his hand-built cabin. Every member of the Korth family contributed to their support, with the two girls becoming as adept at wilderness skills as their father. But by the time Campbell visited them, the lure of the modern world was making itself felt. Heimo’s daughters longed for the “normal” life with friends their own age that they experienced when the Korths spent part of the year in town. Alaska was changing, and now Heimo could barely earn enough from his trapping to sustain his family’s lifestyle, into which modern devices such as cell phones and computers began to creep. Heimo’s endurance and courage are admirable, and Campbell does his best to portray them in a way that even citified readers can appreciate.
A powerful evocation of a vanishing way of life.