#10: ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Written by Lyndon Froese // Artwork by Seth Heinrichs
You live alone in a cabin in the wilderness. No road access. No electricity. It’s a rare day to come across another soul, especially in the winter. You gashed up your hand pretty bad the other day with an ice chisel. This one isn’t healing right. It’s infected – spreading-up-your-wrist infected.
Being a pretty self-reliant fellow, you’ve decided to attend to it yourself. You’ve frozen it as best you can and now you have your hewing axe in hand as you kneel by the chopping block.
You close your eyes.
Your hand is in the snow.
A trail of blood follows your zig-zag, dizzy-walking tracks back inside. The oil stove is ready – hot as hell. You lean your fresh stump down towards the stove top and... goddamn… cauterize it to stop the bleeding and prevent more infection.
Alec Kalinsky, a trapper, amputated his own hand with an axe.
There are different stories told about why he did it in the first place – some say it was because of an infection, others say it was because the Bible told him so. But, what we know for sure is it was well into spring when Alec Kalinsky was next seen by his friend, Hugh McInnis. Like Alec, Hugh was a trapper along the Caddy Lake chain, not far from Falcon.
Surprisingly, when Hugh came across Alec, the meat down to the bone had healed up. It looked really good for a DIY job. It’s an amputation we’re talking about here and the guy was still alive, right? True, there were three-quarters of an inch of bone sticking out beyond the flesh, and that was oozing. He had been using pine tar on the bone to plug it up, but it wasn’t the most convenient thing in the world to still be doing months after the operation.
His friend Hugh suggested Alec come into the city to get it fixed up and he agreed.
After the operation, Alec Kalinsky returned to the woods. There, he lived out the rest of his life alone and one-handed, getting around in his canoe with a special paddle he made for his stump.
“Alec was a great guy,” Hugh said. “He was just in the bush too long!”
Check out the song written about Alec by our friends Roger Roger:
Some more great stuff about hermitting:
The Whiteshell has been home to a great number of hermits and trappers over the years: Jim Finley, an engineer who hated rules and preferred to be out of reach. Bicycle Pete who lived alone with his dogs at the closed Star Lake mine. Bill Scogman who liked his cabin in a dark ravine, preferred to chop wood at night and had thick curtains around his bed. Many people were scared of Bill but those who knew him said he was the nicest guy. And there was also the jolly Frank “Live For The Moment” Hardisty who lived in the woods full-time and didn’t seem to mind that his wife and kids lived back in civilization.
If hermiting away is what you need every now and again, Falcon Trails has you covered. The cabins out at High Lake, where rarely do you hear a boat or see another soul, are the antidote to the busy world out there.
Brooke Christie and Ben Pries just finished building a new cabin at High Lake. It has been their home all year as they have been worked on it. Being off grid in a partially built cabin, they went weeks without a proper shower. Brooke would snowmobile into civilization with her fiddle strapped to her back and their new puppy zipped into her jacket. They would go skating on the lake, sometimes hauling a canoe behind on the ice to go hunting. They saw wolves chasing down a deer on the freezing lake. They got really good at Settlers of Catan, watching otters for fun and saving Emily's dog Sumac from snapping turtles.
It’s a beautiful cabin. Ben has some perfectionistic tendencies and puts more care into the design and build than almost anyone. But at some point you’ve just got to call it done. As the Pries family saying goes, ”It’s perfect, but it’ll have to do”.
Head over to falcontrailsresort.com/kingfisher to have a look, and book it for this summer.