Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk

In 1953, photographer Wallace Kirkland explored the archetype of the Northern woodsman for LIFE Magazine, with a photo profile of the perfectly named Rock Robertson—”Strong Man of the North,” per the article’s headline.

Rock, at 31, six feet tall and 205 pounds, got his name from a grandfather who, predictably perhaps, had acquired the nickname due to his great strength. As a professional hunting and fishing guide, Rock Robertson regularly carried 300 pounds for miles and could pull off a moose mating call good enough to draw in the bulls that hunters wanted most. He once went more than a week without food, because of a storm, before walking 48 miles in snowshoes to get out of the woods. He faced the forest with a smile and a shrug, embracing the outdoors lifestyle that his ancestors—French-Canadian, First Nations and Scottish—had likewise lived.

“He has been known, when the mood takes him, to pick up a stove and heave it through a cook-shack wall,” the article noted. “But generally Rock’s moods are sunny and his broad shoulders are put to practical and picturesque uses as a woodsman and as a guide.”

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Out camping deep in the Canadian north woods, Rock Robertson grinned through the doorway of trapper’s birchbark tepee.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Robertson smoked some fish in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Rock (right) and brother Harry arm-wrestled. After winning, Rock said, `He’s good, and I’m good.'”

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

On a portage Rock packed 300 pounds.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Rock’s moosecall got answering grunts from an amorous bull who came up from half a mile away.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Rock carrying a moose haunch. North woodsmen preferred moose to beef or venison.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

A battered canoe leaked furiously but was still afloat, patched up with spruce gum and boughs.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

A snared partridge flapped futilely after Rock pulled it from a tree.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

The fire broiled the partridge and also dried out a pair of wet socks dangling from the box.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Seeing a black bear in the water, Rock paused to determine the size of quarry and to which shore he would try to herd it.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

As the bear neared the shore, Rock raised his rifle. When the bear reached water’s edge he brought it down.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Rock approached the bear warily.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Bringing back the bear, Rock easily balanced the canoe on his head. Rock said he could walk for hours with this kind of load. `I sweat like hell,’ he said. `Man who don’t sweat get tired.'”

`Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Canadian woodsman Robert Rock in the wild country between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence.

Rock Robertson with his wife and child.

Wallace Kirkland The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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