When Bjorn Norheim was growing up in the wilderness of Norway, the howls of wolves stirred his blood.
His native country had plenty of mountains and forests but few wild animals sharing the land with the dwindling wolf population. He longed to live somewhere with no such false advertising - where the bush was still a thriving ecosystem and a human had to carefully negotiate a place in that environment. He dreamed of the wild west.
First, though, there was the small matter of a Nazi invasion.
This formative, dangerous, adventuristic period in Norheim's life is where he begins his autobiography. Viking to Canuck was released this week, adding the title of author to his 86-year-long list of accomplishments.
Writing was not a personality stretch for the Prince George elder. He grew up with ink in his veins, the son of a printing house owner with his own newspaper. When Norheim did finally arrive in Canada, he wrote a regular column of his experiences in bush camps and sawmills, living in the mythical Canadian backcountry.
It was less tense than blowing up bridges, vandalizing German military property and smuggling Jews from mainland Europe to Sweden and England. That's how he spent his late teens. Looking back he said he and his fellow resistance fighters felt the invincible rush of national duty and youthful zeal "but when we looked back, wow, yes, it was certainly very dangerous, we could have been shot any day."
He felt right at home in northern Canada, with all the tall trees and Nazis around. When he arrived in Quebec (he stopped there because his Industrial Psychology university program in Seattle fell through, stranding his initial goals for North America) he quickly got physical work in the forest industry. So did a lot of fleeing soldiers from Hitler's defeated army.
"I ran into a hell of a lot of Nazis there," he said. "One in particular was a German officer and he just needed a place to hide. He just sat on a stump, smoked cigars and drank brandy all day, never once did he lift a finger to work. He had plenty of money coming in from Germany. There were a lot of guys like that."
There was no one to report this too, since being a former Nazi had no criminal connotations in Canada until later.
By then, Norheim had moved on to Ontario, then B.C. where in 1954 he married the teacher at the Hixon school. He and Gwen have been based in the Prince George region ever since, although their world and regional travels have been extensive.
Even when they were stationary, they were moving. Norheim worked for private sector forestry companies at times but also in the public service with the Ministry of Forests and BC Parks. He was a sparkplug member of many outdoors groups over the years - the Sons of Norway, the Caledonia Ramblers, the formation group behind the Greenway Trails, the Historic Huble Homestead, etc. - and his personal stamp is on many of the recreation features peppered throughout the community. He is still active almost daily in outdoors groups in the region.
"All that outdoor life brought me in contact with so many interesting experiences, so many people," he said. "This book is an outdoor biography."
One of the people Norheim struck up a friendship with was Rob Van Adrichem, who is now a vice-president with UNBC but was then a young man with a northern European background (Dutch) like he had. When the autobiography idea took hold, Norheim also remembered Van Adrichem's passion for the university. He seized on the notion that all proceeds from the sale of the book should go to UNBC's Northern Medical Program.
The book is for sale now at Books and Company where Norheim will hold a launch event on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.