Most of us never will go to Alaska. And none of us can time travel.
But Doug Kelly enables readers to do both, at least vicariously, via his new book, Alaska's Greatest Outdoor Legends. Incorporating historical records, anecdotes, and interviews, he profiles 27 of them who hunted, fish, trapped, explored, settled, managed, and promoted "the last frontier" during the past century, right up to present day.
Black and white photos add spice to the tales of adventurous men and women who blazed trails for the millions who followed, either to fish and hunt or to live. For example, the cover features a shot of Charley Madsen, Kodiak Island's original professional bear guide, packing out a brown bear carcass on his shoulders.
But so intriguing were the exploits of more than two dozen others, Charley didn't even merit a chapter of his own! In fact, Kelly said that "hundreds of other men and women could justifiably be included as legends of rod or rifle in Canada."
Consider colorful Capt. Andy "Frosty" Mezirow, who has put clients on fish for 25 years, and continues to do so, with giant halibut his specialty. On one trip, though, what was supposed to be a halibut turned out to be a 250-pound salmon shark. In helping to subdue it, "Andy leaped on the shark's back like a rodeo rider and concussed it with multiple swings from an aluminum bat," recalled a friend who was on the boat that day.
And within the chapters of many of those who are featured lie stories worthy of adaptation as movies. Missourian Nellie Neal Lawing didn't make it to Alaska until she was middle-aged. But once there, she was an unstoppable force, as she operated way stations for anglers and hunters. In 1920, she drove her dog sled into the teeth of a blizzard to rescue a mail carrier. And then, knowing the importance of mail in frontier Alaska, went back for the pouches and delivered them on time to the train station.
And as Nellie was making her mark, so too were hunters like Frank Glaser, Bill Pinnell, and Morris Talifson. The latter two awakened hunters in the Lower 48 to the allure of hunting on Kodiak Island with magazine advertisements and video presentations. Glaser started as a wolf hunter for the feds, but later became an important voice in debates about predator control in Alaska.
If you like hunting, fishing, history, and colorful characters, you will enjoy Alaska's Greatest Outdoor Legends.