Cullen Crozier said inspiration struck while he was listening to hours and hours of his grandfather's voice recorded onto CDs and audio cassette tapes.
Crozier's grandfather, Peter Fraser, was well-known in the North for his many talents. Fraser recorded himself telling stories upon stories before he died in 2000. It was for an autobiography that never happened.
"For years I knew about these tapes," recalled Crozier, a videojournalist with APTN based in Yellowknife. "I didn't have any plans on writing a book or anything like that, but I knew there were gems in there."
Then Crozier came across a simple, yet intriguing story about his grandfather and a duck. It was a story of friendship, as the late Fraser described finding an injured duck while out trapping, taking the duck home and mending its broken wings.
I really got a kick out of stepping into his snowshoes to write this story. - Cullen Crozier, Up Here's Sally Manning Award winner
Crozier wrote a short story in his grandfather's voice. The Duck Caller recently won Up Here magazine's Sally Manning Award for Indigenous creative non-fiction.
According to an Up Here news release, Fraser was a Métis hunter, trapper, forestry officer, cab driver, politician, an RCMP special constable, and a notable storyteller.
Fraser was born in 1920 in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., and went to school in Hay River, N.W.T. He later returned to his hometown, where he hunted and trapped near the Richardson River as a teen.
"It was nice just hearing his voice again," Crozier said.
Fraser a 'larger-than-life figure'
Crozier said he fleshed out all the missing parts in his grandfather's story by imagining what might have happened.
"It was fun to kind of write in his voice, or what I imagine he would have sounded like as a 14-year-old kid," he said.
Some lines were taken directly from his grandfather's tapes. Crozier said he wrote the story in a few days.
"I really got a kick out of stepping into his snowshoes to write this story."
Crozier said his grandfather often told funny stories.
"They were just crazy stories, just hard to believe. More often than not, there was always truth to them — always humour."
"He was just this larger-than-life figure," said Crozier, recalling his childhood being around Fraser.
"Anywhere we went, everybody would come up to him and shake his hand and talk to him," he said.
"He was a big part of the North."