Minnesota Historical Society

Trapping the Boundary Waters: A Tenderfoot in the Border Country, 1919-1920

$ 18.95

On May 4, 1919, Charlie Cook set off for a year of adventure in the Minnesota-Ontario Boundary Waters. Soon abandoned by his comfort-loving companion, the restless World War I veteran spent an enlightening year learning--often the hard way--how to paddle and sail on windy lakes, hunt and fish for food, bake "rough delicacies" in a reflector oven, and build winter-proof shelters. His how-to descriptions of trapping beaver, mink, and other game are unsurpassed in their detail.

Cook also found his way into the border community of Ojibwe and mixed-blood families and a motley assortment of mysterious travelers, game wardens, and loners, including trapper Bill Berglund (who "adopted" Cook until the tenderfoot's eagerness to harvest pelts came between them).

Cook's adventure climaxed in a 700-mile expedition by dogsled north into Canada, where he reached the limits of his endurance--and just barely lived to tell the tale.

For anyone who loves the Boundary Waters or wonders what this rugged region was like not so long ago, Cook's story reveals a world still ruled by nature but on the brink of change.

  • By: Charles Ira Cook Jr.
  • Format: 192 pp., 5-1/2, paperback
  • Publisher: MNHS Press
  • Product ##: 9780873513791


CHARLES IRA COOK JR. was born on November 30, 1892, in Menominee, Michigan, gateway to the Upper Peninsula. In 1917 he enlisted in what became the U.S. Army Air Service, rising to first lieutenant, earning his wings, and later instructing pilots. Returning from the service in January 1919, he worked--when he wasn't hunting or fishing--in his father's many businesses in the Upper Peninsula. In the spring of that year, at his father's prodding, he headed north to begin his adventure.


In 1949 Cook retired from a restless career as a manager and owner of numerous businesses. He died on February 6, 1965, at the age of seventy-two, content with his love of the outdoors and his contributions to his world. Cook's wilderness experiences, like other young people's risky undertakings, remained the high point of his life.



Praise for Trapping the Boundary Waters:


"Charlie Cook fills in a largely untold chapter in the rich history of the Boundary Waters, and along the way he spins a classic adventure story. This book will captivate anybody who ever once dreamed of an escape into the wilds." -- Paul Gruchow, author of Boundary Waters: The Grace of the Wild


"A fascinating book. . . . Trapping life has never been better chronicled." -- Bob Cary, outdoor writer and author/illustrator of Root Beer Lady


"Cook's account provides a unique glimpse into a little understood time in the region's past. . . . This is must reading for anyone who loves the wilderness, plans to canoe into Quetico-Superior country, or who wants to know more about northeast Minnesota's past." -- Marvin Lamppa, historian and host, Minnesota's Iron Country, Duluth Public Television



More information about this book:


Read what John Husar, the Outdoors columnist for the Chicago Tribune has to say about Trapping the Boundary Waters.

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