Johnny Least-Weasel and his grandfather Albert live in Alaska, where the winters are long and treacherous. Albert has been working traplines all his life. He travels out into the lonely wilderness and sets traps to catch wild animals. He sells the skins to make money to buy food and supplies. It is how his father and his father before him made a living. Now Albert is old, and although he knows everything about working traplines and knows the ways of the wilderness, he no longer has the strength of a young man.
His seventeen-year-old grandson Johnny worries when his grandfather Albert leaves on yet another circuit to check his traplines. Something tells him that he should check on his grandfather or follow him, but he doesn’t want to hurt Albert’s pride by making it seem as if he needs supervision. Still, Johnny worries, because he doesn’t know how long it will be before his grandfather returns.
Little does he realize, but far away in the Alaskan wilderness his grandfather has gotten caught in one of his own wolf traps. The steel jaws are so strong that the trap must be stepped on with both feet to open it. With one foot stuck in the trap Albert can not open the trap, and he can’t free the trap from its chain, which is bolted into a frozen tree.
Albert will have to use all his knowledge of the Alaskan wilderness to survive. All his supplies, comforts, and tools are on a snowmobile that is within sight, but there is nothing that he can do to reach them. All Albert has is the tree he is chained to, a few matches, and a pocketknife.
Meanwhile Johnny prepares to set off in search of his grandfather. But will he find his grandfather before the hungry Alaskan wolves do?
“The Trap” has a very calm and deliberate progression. Albert never panics despite his predicament. Instead, he uses his knowledge of the wilderness and its ways to survive. I found this story to be very reminiscent of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”
I think that John Smelcer has written a laudable book about survival and the clash between old and new ways for Indians living in Alaska’s wilderness. I definitely recommend “The Trap” to all readers.
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