Way back when I was a lad, about 10 or 11, learning the ways of forest and trail I was allowed to spend a few days with my oldest brother Jerry working his trap-line on the Des Moines River in Boone County Iowa. I was dropped off one very cold December afternoon at the cabin my brother was using as his base camp for trapping beaver, muskrat, mink and coon in the woods owned by our great uncle Jim Brooks.
Jim was a feisty old boy, my grandmother Flossie's brother, who was always telling tales or pulling pranks. Most vivid in my memory was at the funeral of my Grandfather Verne's brother Frank. We had gone through the service, been to the cemetery and were back at the church for sandwiches and punch. Jim, always a talker, was going around the room from one group to the next. There always seemed to be a bit of a stir as he left each group but from where I was I could not see what was going on. Soon Jim approached the young people all gathered in one corner of the church basement and began to tell us about his brother-in-law Frank. He seemed to be getting very emotional telling us the story of Frank telling him how he wanted to die when that time came. Next thing I knew he was acting as if he was feeling ill, dizzy and as he reached for the table to steady himself he turned his head bent over and vomited in his hand. Oh my, he turned back to us displaying to us what he had just deposited in his hand. There was a great gasp and then he started to laugh and dropped his "vomit" from one hand to the other, gave us a smile and a wink and moved on to his next victims.
Now you ask, "What does that have to do with trapping?" I will tell you straight up, nothing! It is just one of those "bunny trails" sometimes story tellers go down. So, I arrive at the cabin just in time to go check the trapline. Temperature was in the teens but the work of picking our way through the timber was keeping me so warm I had to shed my coat. By the time we got to the first set I was huffin and puffin and the trap had been sprung. Jerry reset it and off we went to the next and the next and the next. I marveled that he could remember where they all were, so I asked, unable to figure it out for myself. He said he made of a map when he put all the sets out, if he moved a set he noted it on his map. After the two weeks that he had already been there he was able to remember and only pulled out his map to note a change.
On we went finally coming to the river to check his water sets. The river was mostly frozen so he got out his axe to break the ice so he could check the trap below. I remember a couple of beaver that day, they seemed much larger than I expected. As he was packing them into his pack I saw the dome of a beaver house at the rivers edge. My questions started to fly. How do they cut all those sticks? What's inside? How do they get inside? Jerry answered the questions than did the unexpected! Out came his axe and he started to hack a hole in the side of the den. Finally he had an opening for me to see, he handed me a lamp and I slowly and carefully moved to where I could see in. The den was empty, ice was all the way around and there was a hole in the middle, their entrance. I'm sure I was all grins as I turned my self and the lamp away from the den, then the sound of a splash. The sound caused me to jump back a bit, Jerry told me to look back inside. I was astonished to see a beaver had come up and was sitting on the ice shelf, presently a second beaver appeared from the black hole of water. They seemed mostly unconcerned about the breech in their fortress home, but with the light in their eyes they were probably quite perplexed.
As we pulled away to prepare for the return to the cabin checking, a few more sets along the way, I asked how or if they could fix the hole. My brother told we would find that out when we check the line tomorrow.
Part Two coming Soon
David Book, Kentucky