Oral History Interviews:
Fred Thomas has lived the life that many people dream of. He has hunted and trapped in the Fort Yukon area his entire life. Fed has developed a well-deserved reputation as an expert lynx trapper. At 82 years of age, he is still running over 100 miles of line.
Fred was born into a family that lived a subsistence lifestyle. They hunted and trapped for food and income. Fred's father used an old poling boat with a 3.5 horsepower motor to haul freight up the Porcupine River to their homestead. Fred used a home-made picture-wire snare to catch his first lynx at about age ten.
Fred's dad always used tents for trapline shelters. Fred was determined to build cabins when he began trapping on his own. He followed through on that promise and built many cabins over the years. Most were small and easy for two guys to throw up in three to four days. He makes it sound easy.
Fred describes the time that the general store in Fort Yukon changed hands. The new owners decided to clean out some of the old merchandise. Fred found a barrel of #4 Newhouse double long-spring traps with a price tag of $8 per dozen. He bought a couple dozen. He quickly determined that they were excellent traps, so he went back and to purchase the entire barrel. Imagine that... 67 cents for a #4 Newhouse!
One year in the 1950's, Fred learned of a new potential market for furs in New York. He selected his 25 best adult male lynx, 25 best adult females and 50 best kittens. He shipped the furs to the buyer and waited for his big payday. When he finally received a check, he was shocked by the enclosed statement. The females sold for $2 each. The highest two to three males brought $8. The total check for the 100 furs was $421. Even at 1950's prices, that was a rude insult. Fred never sent furs to that guy again.
Fred has some interesting observations about nature based on his many years of experience. He comments on the effects of autumn floods on beaver survival and on the effects of wildfire on succession of ponds and lakes.
Fred loves the outdoor lifestyle. It has brought him a treasure of memories and experiences, even if it hasn't brought him loads of money. But then again, "I ain't doin' it for the money," he says.