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Horace Goudie, Labradorian who trapped for 70 years, dies at 94

Goudie was part of a bustling fur trade until construction of an airbase ushered in a new era

Horace Goudie on the banks of the Churchill River 1975

"He was a man of the country,” said Joe Goudie of his older brother Horace. “That mattered more to him than anything else he’d ever done.” (CBC)

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A man who devoted most of his life to the Labrador wilderness, and one of the few trappers old enough to remember the height of the fur-trading economy, has died.

Horace Goudie, who trapped for more than 70 years, died Monday after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. He was 94.

"I think it's fair to call him a Labrador icon for a lot of people," said younger brother Joe Goudie. "He was a bit of a hero to me."

Joe Goudie 2016

Younger brother Joe Goudie says Horace was "a hero to me." (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Horace Goudie was born in North West River in 1922 and grew up in Mud Lake. His mother, Elizabeth, is well-known across Newfoundland and Labrador for her book, Woman of Labrador.

Horace had his first taste of trapping at nine years old, when an aging uncle took him along on a two-week trip. Horace was immediately hooked — and delighted to miss school — and intrigued by the hunt.

Remembering Horace Goudie 4:03

For the next few years he accompanied his father on the trapline, before heading out on his own at 17.

"Horace was the last of the Height-of-Landers," brother Joe said, describing the group of trappers who, every year, canoed from the Upper Lake Melville area upstream past Churchill Falls, roughly 300 km away.

The journey took a month or more, depending on the weather. The trappers stayed in the bush for three months, and returned home on snowshoe each winter — a gruelling practice that would soon end.

"When he was a young man, the trapping industry was going a bit downhill, the population of the fur-bearing animals was getting lower, the prices were dropping," Joe said.

"Then all of a sudden in 1941, they heard that there was a base was being built."

Military construction ushers in new reality

Construction of 5 Wing Goose Bay began while Horace and his uncle Walter Blake were on their traplines. The pair wondered what a base would look like, having never seen one before.

When they returned home, they found changes had already begun. Trees had been cut down and work camps were built.

"It would have been quite a transition for all those people to come from a trapping society," said Joe Goudie, who added that people in Labrador back then didn't have much contact with the outside world.   

Horace Goudie Land and Sea 1975

Horace Goudie, seen here in a Land and Sea documentary from 1975, died Tuesday at 94. (CBC)

Soon, Horace joined many other trappers who left the old way of life to earn a wage on the base. He traded his snowshoes for an oil truck, but the trapline called him back.

"That's the way it went throughout his life," Joe Goudie said.

His brother tried several jobs: driving trucks, managing fish camps, even working as a security guard in Toronto for a few years. However, he longed to be back on the land.

Lucky for the Leafs

As he ventured out into the world, Horace built an ever-widening circle of friends, said Joe.

One summer, Toronto Maple Leafs players Darryl Sittler and Jack Valiquette showed up at a sport fishing camp Horace managed in Voisey's Bay.

"They became very good friends," Joe explained, and when hockey season rolled around Sittler sent tickets to Horace, asking him to come spend some time with the team.  

The whole week, Joe said, Horace sat on the bench with the team, and proved to be a good luck charm.

"As it turned out the Leafs, that week, won all of the games they played."

'A man of the country'

Horace will also be remembered for a generous spirit, demonstrated in a willingness to talk to or teach anyone who wanted to learn -- his younger brother included.

Horace Goudie in canoe 1975

Trapper Horace Goudie, canoeing the Churchill River in 1975, as seen in a Land and Sea documentary about the trip. (CBC)

"He was a very patient teacher, a great mentor when it came to dealing with the trapping industry and living off the land."

Horace's willingness to teach was born out of genuine love of the land and desire to pass on knowledge.

Taking a cue from his mother and channeling that passion for the outdoors, Horace wrote his own book in 1991, an autobiography called Trails to Remember.

"He was a man of the country," Joe Goudie said. "That mattered more to him than anything else he'd ever done."

Horace Goudie 2010

Goudie in 2010, holding a copy of his autobiography, Trails to remember, which was re-issued that year. (CBC)