Five-thirty in the morning is a strange time. The air is still, quiet no indication that a day is about to begin; even the sun is nestled in the mountains, asleep. In the winter, it is cold, crisp and clean, and while most people are dreaming under their woolen blankets, the trapper stands ready to begin his day. Dressed warmly and wearing boots, his day starts with private awe at the world and a prayer of thanks. His packbasket and snowshoes await him inside the door of his trapping shed, ready to assist him that day in the deep woods. His heart beats strong with the expectation of a catch, and his lungs smart with the cold air. He is happy. For this moment, he and god are one; united by the world he lives in. This world is not that of the city, not the man-made world too many have come to look upon as the only reality, but that of the birch, the pine, the fox, and the world of nature. He knows it, and it knows him.
Months of preparation are brought together in this moment. The trapper has walked the trails, looked for signs, read the forest as if it were a book. He has used all his woodland wisdom to be the predator that he is now and everyday he learns more at the hand of his master, the teacher, the creator. A quiet man of simple but strong philosophy who seems to know something about everything. He is a trapper and proud of his place.
Inside his soul the sun is warm, the winds are still, and the sky is bright and clear. He looks on the world and sees a balance. This man can coax a flower from a seed and can feel the very heart of God in a field of grass. He knows how the fox thinks, and where the beaver will build his dam. He has a silent passion for what he does and sets out to do it well.
These are the words of Alex Troy, a sole lovingly possessed with purpose as a trapper, woven into the fabric of nature with a presence in the parlor of God’s world.
Alex was born November 29, 1913 in Massachusetts and was raised in Gloucester. When Alex was just a young sprout, he was walking home with a string of fish when a neighbor, Roy Parsons, stopped to give him a ride. In the back of Roy’s truck were some cages with live mink in them. Roy was trapping mink to stock his mink farm. Young Alex was overflowing with interest, a condition no old trapper can resist. Roy showed Alex, as much as can be passed to the novice, the rest will come to those who seek it through perseverence and experience.
Alex picked up potatoes in the furrows of a local farm to earn money for his first traps. At ten years old and with the proceeds of his farm labor weighing heavy in his pocket, Alex hooked a ride with an express truck into the big city of Boston. The express driver let him off at Iver Johnson’s an all around sporting goods store. Alex found what he needed and purchased one dozen size 0 jump traps for 75 cents each. Mother Troy wasn’t happy with her boy just up and going into the city like that, but the dust settled and dad encouraged his boy to pursue his trapping endeavor. Dad showed Alex what he knew and Roy Parsons continued to advise. There were others, like the door-to-door insurance salesman from Maine who told him about drowning sets for water animals and an old Indian who lives in the area and trapped skunks. Alex had his mentors, he read what information was available, and he set out on life’s journey to learn all that he might about the art and craft of trapping.
Alex’s life had all the elements, which are typical to a greater, or lessor extent in any generation, family, education, career, and military service. Throughout his long life of twists and turns, successes and failures, has been a parallel path along the trail of the trapper leading him deeper and deeper into the desire for a more natural life. As so often happens in midlife Alex came to a point of decision, and chose to follow the more natural path.
Alex had been trapping Massachusetts for thirty -nine years when in 1962 he resettled his family in the more rural town of Effingham, NH. For thirty years they had dreamed of owning a specific house and miraculously it went up for sale just when they needed it. Alex started trapping in New Hampshire right away. Gathering landowner permission slips and developing a trap line. Alex became friends with the local game wardens, joined the New Hampshire Trappers Association and became a director for Carrol County. Alex got together with Charlie Fraizer of Madison and established the Carrol county chapter of NHTA, which was the only county to ever have its own chapter. Alex was into trapping all year round, either on the line during the prime fur season, handling NHTA business, or putting on demonstrations, exhibits, or classes related to trapping. Alex’s wife Phyllis got her trapping license and they trapped together. Phyllis was a full partner in all their trapping related activities and was recognized by the NHTA with a trapper of the year award.
Alex continued to trap every season always learning more, staying close to nature, and feeling the presence of God. More and more Alex found his place by reaching out to the general public. Alex was the first person to provide trapper education classes for new trappers. Alex and Phyllis hauled the NHTA log cabin demonstration booth on a trailer behind their vehicle and set it up at fairs and public gatherings all over New England for twenty years and well into his eighties. Alex regularly spoke to 4H groups and schools throughout New Hampshire and was a natural history instructor to youth at Barry Conservation Camp in Belin, NH, he regularly assisted the Fish and Game Department in building natural exhibits depicting the outdoors. Alex authored a manual on trapping the fisher which has been in print since 1988 and has been read by most of the trappers who pursue that animal, he has also documented his love of nature and trapping with several talented poems. A few lines from one of his poems;
A Longfellow I’ll never be. But I know what I love, and I understand what I see. The birds and the bees, the plants and the trees, The fish and the game, all are God’s proof of his fame. Into my soul he has put love. This I know as I hear The howl of the wolf, the mourn of the dove.
Alex did all he could to communicate his love and knowledge of nature to the general public, he was continuously a talented ambassador for trapping, and is forever willing to pass on his skills and knowledge of trapping to others. Over the years there have been many complimentary newspaper articles about Alex Troy, he has saved a stack of formal letters of appreciation for the service he has provided. Alex received the New Hampshire Trappers Association Trapper of the Year Award in 1978. Alex was given the first honorary life membership in NHTA and was the first member to be inducted into the NHTA Hall of Fame. In 1997 at a special event to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, Alex Troy was presented with the New Hampshire Conservation Achievement Award.
Phyllis Troy died in 1991 and Alex has slowed his life style up a bit since then, he sold his home in Effingham and moved to Center Conway. The new place is a little easier to care for and closer to town. A couple of years ago he fulfilled a life long dream and made a road trip to Alaska. At eighty-eight years of age Alex is in pretty good shape, he no longer sets out traps but he does reminisce about a lifetime of fond memories.
Alex Troy is a fine old gentleman who has given more than can ever be repaid; I deeply enjoyed spending time with him for this article. When it was time for me to go he put his hand on my shoulder and offered the advice, which has defined his life.
Love and friendship cannot be bought. You have to earn them. This land is only loaned to you. Respect it and use it wisely. It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.
This picture was taken by Wayne Carter of NHF&G in 1985 for an article in the New Hampshire Natural Resources magazine Winter/Spring edition. It shows Alex Troy teaching about furbearers, trapping, and conservation at the Summer Conservation Camp in Berlin. This type of regular volunteer involvement by Alex was typical of the man who was the very first to achieve NHTA Hall of Fame status. This picture is utilized here by permission of NHF&G.
Alex Troy with Roger Burnham
Alex often wore his buckskins when talking to the public about trapping.
Alex holding a fisher mount, at the 2001 NHTA Rendezvous