Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Lost in the Canadian Wilderness by Vern Seefeldt

       "Lost in the Canadian Wilderness" by East Lansing's Vern Seefeldt, (Xlibris, $19.99) is creative non-fiction that offers an intriguing look at an unsolved, puzzling disappearance.
       Subtitled "What Happened to Louie Harris?" it opens in the 1920's, when young Barney Seefeldt, the author's father, journeys by motorcycle from his home in Appleton WI to Fargo, North Dakota.
       He's hired by wheat farmer John Lorenz as a teamster, leading one of eight teams of draft horses pulling grain binders to harvest the 2000 acre crop.
       After a brief fight, experienced Barney takes over as foreman, turning a potential disaster into a profitable venture.  The former foreman turns into a foe, but Barney meets Louie Harris, who's also working on the harvest.
       Barney and Louie become fast friends; when they're through with the job, Barney tells Louie his real goal is to become a Canadian homesteader in frigid British Columbia.
       They form a partnership, journey to Winnipeg, sell their cycles and take a four-day train ride to Prince Rupert.  They want to homestead a 160-acre plot of land, not by farming, but by trapping and hunting in the wilderness.
       The territory is teeming with wildlife - their plan is to build a cabin and get enough beaver, mink and marten pelts to sell to the furriers.
       The author deftly leads the reader through a wide variety of unusual experiences of the pair, including setting up trap-lines and dealings with bears, wolves and other animals.
       Other challenges occur, particularly when Barney falls through the ice and when Louie encounters a young Indian girl fleeing her tribe.
       With only three days left in the trapping season, Louie mysteriously disappears without a trace.
       Disheartened Barney continues his search, but eventually returns to Prince Rupert with a full sled of valuable pelts.  The local authorities don't seem to care, but Louie's loss will haunt Barney for the rest of his life.
       The self-published paperback features excellent illustrations by Riccardo Capraro.
       Vern Seefeldt is Distinguished Professor and Director Emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at MSU; he's written over 160 articles for scientific journals and edited eight books.

       Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.

This book review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal in April 2012.

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