Most people might consider giving up life in the bush after a close call with an aggressive grizzly bear.
For Tor Forsberg, it took a multitude of close calls, three of which involved bears.
Forsberg finally made the decision to leave the bush after a 12-day beaver trapping expedition.
She’d worked 10-hour days subsisting on boiled beaver hind legs and rice.
Her knee was swollen from an accident at the beginning of the trip.
The day before, she’d been charged by a grizzly bear.
Sitting in a frigid spring rain, chewing on a cold piece of bannock Forsberg thought about the 20-mile slog to her cabin home.
It was time for a different line of work.
Now, nearly 40 years later, Forsberg has travelled back to her five years in the bush for her debut memoir, North of Iskut: Grizzlies, Bannock and Adventure.
“When I started looking back, I was absolutely stunned at the things that had happened that should’ve killed me,” Forsberg said last week, during a visit to Whitehorse from her home in Watson Lake.
“I was so stupid. Ignorant and stupid.”
After contributing to newspapers and magazines (Forsberg has contributed the occasional freelance piece to the News), she decided to write the book in order to take her writing career to the next level.
And as all good creative writing teachers will tell you, “Write what you know.”
“I’ve kept a journal since I was 10 and I thought this would be an interesting part of my life to write about,” she said.
Forsberg considered writing about her years spent ostrich farming on Vancouver island, but decided to leave that for next time. The call of the bush life she lived in the 1970s was too strong.
“The things that existed at that time don’t happen anymore. No cellphones, no radio phones, no bridge across the Stikine River,” said Forsberg.
“That was over 30 years ago and it was such a completely different era for bush living than it is now. I mean, it’ll never be duplicated.”
And the people she met can’t be duplicated either.
People like Lynch Callison, the father of an ex-boyfriend, who first invited Forsberg to his lodge just north of Iskut, BC.
At 23 years old, Forsberg had succumbed to the party life and bumped into Lynch after a particularly wild night.
He thought his lodge might help her get her head straight.
The very next day she was in his old pickup truck heading south down Highway 37 toward Iskut.
Callison, a charismatic old cowboy gentleman, who referred to every young woman as “Sis” and every older woman as “Ma’am”, spent the next five years teaching Forsberg about bush living and trapping.
Forsberg consulted her journals from those years to help her write the book.
“I’ve had a very busy life in different places doing completely different things and I don’t remember things,” she said.
“I’d used it to remind me of the people the places the events and how I felt then.”
“And I’d forgotten a lot of the things that had happened,” she continued.
“I fell in creeks, I fell through ice, I did so many things that should’ve killed me.”
Thanks to the journals, much of the book is written in Forsberg’s 25-year-old voice, with all the enthusiasm and naivete that comes with it.
“It made me so nostalgic,” she said.
“It was one of the favourite times of my life and I think I never appreciated it as much as it deserved.”
Despite all of that nostalgia, Forsberg isn’t exactly keen to get back out on the trapline.
“I wouldn’t live in the bush now if you paid me,” she said.
“I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I had that experience, but Watson Lake is about as bushy as I want to get now.”
Forsberg will be launching her book this Saturday at Mac’s Fireweed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will also be a reading at the Watson Lake library on Friday, May 7 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Contact Chris Oke at firstname.lastname@example.org