With the image of those two beavers inside their den I could scarce think about or talk about anything else as we made our way back to the cabin. By the time we got to the last set it was near dark and we discovered a fine red fox recently caught. Jerry dispatched him, reset his trap and off we went. The fox was amazing and very exciting but the beaver still had my attention.
It was getting colder and despite the quick pace we moved at I was not heating up like I had earlier in the day. My coat that I had shed when we started no longer seemed adequate to keep me warm. It was by now very dark in the woods despite a half moon and like every kid in every dark forest through out history I started to see things moving in the shadows, sounds that were NOT there in the daylight! Suddenly my brother stopped, he must be seeing and hearing the same thing! I swung around to check behind to see if I was about to be overtaken by....... Jerry turned and pointed ahead of us, "Do you see that?" I peered ahead into the darkness and saw a glow of light on up the hill towards the edge of the timber. My brother cautioned me to move quietly till we could see what was going on. Now you all remember what it was like to be 10 years old, a long way from home, dark woods, cold, wind picking up and unknown glow ahead. It could be robbers hiding out from the Sheriff, or moonshiners...
So, here we are, its sure to be...before I could finish my thought my brother stands up and hollers out, "Hello in the camp, we're coming back from checking our trap line, do you mind if we come in?" Why would he do that, give away our position??? From behind the glow, which by now I could clearly see was a camp fire, I heard a voice holler back to come on ahead. By now I am shaking, might have been the cold but mostly I just remember being scared at that point!
The closer we got my fears were vanquished a little with each step as it became increasingly obvious that there was just one man sitting in front of his lean-to cooking over a camp fire. His Winchester was leaned up against one of the poles holding up his canvas, some traps were hanging off the pole on the other side. Behind him was a bed roll with a red Hudson Bay blanket on top. A trappers basket was at the pole with the traps hanging and he was sitting at his fire pushing some coals closer to something on the other side. He asked us to come on in and sit under the lean-to, said it would be warmer there and it was. Then he told us we were just in time to have some of his desert. Next thing I know to my wide eyed amazement out from across the fire came a pan with a chocolate cake. He told us he was sorry there was no icing for it but he said its pretty tasty just out of his reflector oven. He was right! Warm cake, a warm fire and out of the wind, I thought this was the life for me, I was going to become a trapper, a man of the woods.
Returning to the cabin my brother got the fire going in the wood stove and opened up a couple cans of corned beef hash. He said after supper we would skin the beavers and the fox.
We had stayed a Steve's camp for almost an hour, enjoying the cake, swapping trapping stories and finding out that he knew our Grand parents by way of his grand parents that lived about five miles from ours. What a day, I was sure it couldn't get any better than this!!!
This hunt which I am about to relate took place Novemher 17, 1908. It was just after an electric storm on said date that I decided to try my coon dog recently purchased. My cousin, who lives a few miles north of here had been telling of seeing so many coon tracks coming and going from Stonellck Creek, seeking water, for we have never experienced such a drought in Ohio before.
I hitched to the buggy and started for my cousin's, seven miles distant. On arriving there I found that he was just as anxious as I was, so we, four In number, J. Soth, H. D. Conner, S. E. Crossnickle and myself, started for the big woods. Just before reaching the forest my dog gave a yell that almost sounded like a panther and started toward the timber, and we in pursuit.
Some of you brother hunters may imagine how many falls we got In that race, but I cannot. We were almost run down when he barked treed, and we were pleased to think that it was not a fox, as we supposed. We all hurried to the tree and found It to be a big sugar, but no coon was on the outside.
We had noticed a hole just above the first limb so I decided to "coon" it up to the hole and look in, but when I got up there I found the tree hollow clear to the ground.
We didn't have an axe so the boys got to hunting around the tree and found a little decayed place and commenced cutting a hole with their pen knives, and I didn't like the idea of climbing down without seeing Mr. Coon, but the boys couldn't get a hole through the tree so I got down and picked up the old shot gun and three shots rang out on the night air and a hole was thru the tree. We tried to smoke him out but failed.
Just at that moment two more hunters came to us and wanted to know what we had treed. Cut that hole bigger and let the dog decide the matter, spoke one of the hunters. We did so, for we had an axe to work with this time, and we knew his dog claimed to be the best in the country.
So he put his dog to the hole and he smelt and took a circle of the tree and started down through the woods. The coon had left the tree every one of the party said and started in pursuit of the supposed coon and I thought my new dogs was a fake so I followed, but my dog still stayed at the tree.
We followed the other dog about four or five hours and he gave it up, so we all came back to the tree where we left my dog, and he was still there. My cousin decided to settle the matter, so he climbed up and told us to hand him a Are brand. We gave him one, and as soon as he ran It up In the tree Mrs. Coon pops out. A fight took place in which my dog was the winner, and three more peeped their heads out of the same hole but fell dead before my cousin's pistol.
We started for home just at the break of day with four coons, three opossum, six skunk. The old she coon weighed 32 lbs , the biggest one that I ever saw In Southern Ohio.
-John Stouder, Warren Co., Ohio.
*from the February 1909 Issue of the Hunter Trader Trapper magazine