Sunday, December 8, 2013

“Trapping Furs” by Sally Wylie

In November we trapped muskrats. By then the leaves had fallen and the water had a skiff of ice on it, even the creeks and rivers. 

We anchored the traps into the ground where the ground was marshy and soft. Water traps consisted of a raft of two boards. The trap was in the middle. Traps on the water were anchored to a branch or a sturdy brush nearby, or by a chain to a cement block so it wouldn’t get pulled too far out by current or a thrashing animal.

If the animal was dead, I was allowed to free its leg, take it out of the trap and reset it. I had to be careful in resetting the trap so it didn’t spring back and catch a hand or finger. Dad looked after the animals caught on the floating traps. He waded into the water with hip boots to retrieve the animals and reset the traps.

Once in awhile we’d catch a wild mink. It was a nasty creature who Dad treated with respect. When he killed it, he made sure it was dead. We threw the dead bodies into the back seat of the car. Sometimes I would ride in the front of the car with Dad and other times I would ride in the back seat in case one of them wasn’t dead.

Before dad skinned them, he’d make sure the fur was clean and dry while checking their quality. Dad set up skinning the muskrats on the open porch. He was quick. It didn’t take long unless there was a problem with the hide or the physicality of the animal. Occasionally, the muskrat would have a leg missing or scars along his body.

Dad would hook the back leg just before the ankle joint. The leg was thin there. He would cut around each of the back legs, the tail and then he’d make a cut from the back let to the tail. Then, he’d cut around each of the front legs. He cut around the eyes, and cut across the nose hard so it would come off easily. 

When he began to pull the hide of the animal, it usually came off easily. He would turn it inside out. Then he would pull it over the drying stretcher, clasp down the hide pulling it as taunt as possible without stretching or tearing the hide.

We hung the furs in the attic to be cured. It was my job to go in and tap the hides to find out which ones were dry and ready to go and which ones weren’t. Often my long blond hair would get stuck on the fleshy hides as I walked through the lines of them hanging there. I didn’t like that. When they were dry, Dad would carefully take them off the racks and drive them over to a man who bought the hides for the furriers. When he came home, we finally had our Christmas money.
Sally Wylie has recently retired from her career in Early Childhood Education.  In 2012, she co-authored her 4th edition of Observing Young Children:  Transforming early learning through reflective practice with Nelson Publishing.  She has published numerous articles in Canadian journals on subjects relating to early childhood.  Every summer you will find her and her husband working the ramp at air shows in Ontario and New York.  Happily much of her time involves fun times with their grandchildren. When she’s not traveling or doing Tai Chi, Sally enjoys writing.

"Trapping Furs" was originally published on as an entry in the Your Bloodlines contest – true family stories of 400 – 500 words with an accompanying photo.

See Brian Henry’s  schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Algoma, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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