His hands never got cold…at least he never led on. Sitting in the canoe shivering uncontrollably sends ripples across the pond, I watch in amazement as he thrusts his arm into the ice-cold water and pulls the trap out of the water. Pressing the trap against the top of his thigh, he releases the near-frozen muskrat to fall into the canoe.
My job is to hold the canoe steady and learn. He reaches into the white 5 gallon bucket for a crab apple that he sticks on the end of a nail in the platform. The platform is an 8″ square piece of 3/4″ plywood attached to a pole, driven into the mud. The platform is right at water level. Now comes the part that has always made me so nervous – setting the trap. He squeezes the spring of the trap between the palm of his right hand and the top of his thigh. Meanwhile, the canoe is tipping and moving and it’s my job to hold it steady and keep it from drifting. He folds down the jaws of the #1 spring trap with his left hand, reaching under it with his fingers to lift the trigger against the spring as he’s releasing the tension, until the trigger is properly secured against it. Now mind you, he had already been running the first half of this line without any gloves on, getting his hands wet, paddling the canoe, and puffing away on his trademark cigar. It’s about 25 degrees outside and not quite 6 o’clock in the morning. The steam is rising off the pond and the sun is a long way from offering a perception of warmth.
“How does he do that?”
I have learned a lot from him, and hope to continue learning. The days of cashing in on fur-bearing animals are long gone, but I am blessed to have been able to be part of one of the last years it was around. It still goes on, there are a lot of trappers, but not to the extent that it was back when I was a smart-aleck 15-year old.
We trapped a lot of animals, some on purpose, and some — not so much. All made for great memories. He’s still tough, but it’s harder for him to show it. Time has caught up to him – and his body is showing the signs of a hard, but rewarding life.
He is my step-dad. I am blessed with two wonderful dads, one I celebrate at peace in his memory, and the other I visit as often as I can.