I think Valdi Stefanson and I were in the minority watching this film in Minneapolis the night of it’s premiere. I believe we were the only vintage sled enthusiasts in there.
The theatre was full, but most attendees had something to do with the film, or the families of those in the film. Or they were film buffs, or just fans of Minnesota history. The audience also contained the film maker and several people from the film. The movie is a documentary. The movie is pure folk lore. Minnesota folk lore. It’s a lot of fun. I found myself laughing or smiling all the way through it.
“Wild Bill Cooper” was, by all accounts, was an adventurous man from Willow River Minnesota. Back in the 1970’s, he looked at the trip Ralph Plaisted took to the North Pole on sleds some years earlier. For that trip, the sleds were loaded on planes and brought to within 300 miles of the pole and the rest of the trip was done from there.
Wild Bill thought that only driving the sleds 600 miles was a very sissy thing to do, and he planned on making fun of Plaisted by traveling all the way from Willow River Minnesota to Moscow Russia.
They didn’t get there the first year. So they left the sleds and came back a year later to try and keep going. They never did make it. But those who were on either the first or second trip are interviewed throughout the movie. They all have that thick northern Minnesota accent (which I love) and they were hysterically funny recounting what a grueling, difficult trip this was, and all the adventures they had on the trip. Clearly it was the memory of a life time.
Now you’ve probably never heard of Wild Bill. He doesn’t have a web page, isn’t on facebook and doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. But he was clearly a larger than life character that many people in the Willow River area remember with affection. But Bill’s life after the trip didn’t go so smooth. There were allegations of drug running and bank robberies that put him smack on the top of the FBI’s most wanted list.
Bill got in his airplane one day and was never heard from again. To this day, no one has any clue where he is – or even if he’s alive.
The movie is very worth seeing if your a vintage sleds fan. There’s not a ton of stuff about the sleds in the movie (one of the sleds used on the trip still exists) but the picture you get of what sledding was like back then in harsh conditions is wonderful
The film will make the rounds on some other film fairs for about the next year, then the film maker plans to put it on DVD and make it available from the films website: http://www.wildbillsrun.com/
When it’s available… we will let you know. You will want to see it.