Mad Trapper of Rat River’s diary: two pages unearthed

Archaeological note: Mounties laid siege to Johnson’s stronghold for fifteen hours, with bombs and gun fire but were forced to retire when their food supply ran low.     –The New York Times, Jan 4, 1932

Jan 9, 1932

I hear, collecting in the failure
of a winter siege, a frozen silence as the answer
to the steady knocks on the other side of this door. I hear,
as I heard yesterday,
and could hear again and again today
silence explain the details pure cold uncovers—
details caught in the rush of a thousand naive prospectors
dreaming golden specks tumbling
in the gravel under the ice—it knew, no,
it knows sullen smoke only means the dynamite
must thaw to blow me from this cabin.

Look at them. Mounties so obsessed
they talk and talk relentlessly into the day.
Sieges have such a history of lengthy boredom
their impatience radiates in the cold,
and their ignorance surprises me to the marrow of my bones.

I watch them move stiffly around their conversation
planning fire, planning to make their small fires
deliver the shattering stars
to the crumbling earth. This is my house they hate—
as if a history of sieges and a red boiling oil
could pour itself on this snow like blood
and let the steam rise—when I built this cabin without nails
metal was forged and beat out with the steam—
metal created only for my Savage 30-30s,
the Ivor Jonnson shotgun, my .22 Winchester.
I knew I shouldn’t have lost my pistol.
Why don’t they attack.

Feb 17, 1932

The Eagle River stretches
until it breaks a white pallor,
shreds roaring in it own fall. When I move torn muscles
and grab this painful warmth, veins surge through granite cliffs
gripping my hold, my holding.
Death, stretching out in heavy snow
is sanity here.
I still reverberate the explosion of a thaw, a gun shot, the river breaking
into the heart of winter.
I barely hear snow silencing chaos
and muffled movements of my veins:
the screams this landscape voice
are only my brilliant arteries breaking up and flowing downstream
over the frozen current.



Another Note: Wop Mays Bellanca aircraft and the two-way radio may have been the first time these technologies were combined to track down a fugitive whose super human effort would normally have made the escape successful despite the cold, the heavy snow, and the mountainous terrain.