When I was 12 we moved to the outskirts of Greenwood and I started 7th grade at Whiteland. I became friends with 2 neighbors who were also in the 7th grade. The neighbors were both named Steve and we had some good times together.
It was about 1953 that we came upon a great idea. We were going to become trappers. There was a creek between our property and the Cooper farm. I think it is Pleasant run creek. There appeared to be lots of muskrats living in the creek and if we caught them we could sell the pelts for $.75 each. Wow think of all the money we will have.
We pooled our money and bought ten or twelve steel traps and left them outside so they would rust and look more like the bottom of the creek. We read everything we could find about trapping and when the weather turned into winter we were ready.
Muskrats live in burrows in the creek or pond banks and have slides that they use to leave and go into the water. You set the traps so that when the muskrat is trapped it cannot get out of the water and drowns. Wow, another $.75. We were doing pretty good when we learned that the fur buyers, Babbet Brothers bait house/ice house, would pay $.50 for an unskinned “rat”. Man, I have skinned my last muskrat. It’s a lot of work for a quarter so trapping got a lot easier.
I don’t remember how many muskrats we trapped but it was getting close to spring when it turned very cold and after several days the creek froze over. We were out of business for several/many days waiting for the weather to warm up and the ice to melt.
During this waiting period we visited my grandpa Isley and while there I read through 2 or 3 “Field and Stream” magazines. One article in particular may have saved my life or at least kept me out of the hospital. One other point was that I would get up at 5:00 AM ,get dressed, put on winter coats and knee high boots , go out and light a lantern and hang it on the handle bars of the bicycle and ride the ½ mile to the Cooper farm to meet Steve and run the traps.
This became a real problem because Steve was never there and I would have to run the traps by myself. I said something to Steve’s mother Arlene and she said we never lock our doors so just come in and wake Steve up so he will go with you. So I did. Every morning I became Steve Cooper’s alarm clock.
The ice started to melt and break up so on a Saturday we went out to check the traps. We found 2 or 3 muskrats and I knew that we had 3 or 4 more traps downstream and so started walking south and I saw a large hunk of ice and surmised that I could ride that to the next trap. So I stepped out onto the ice and it broke free from the bank and off we went. It didn’t take long until the ice floe and I came upon the next trap with a muskrat ensnared. What to do? Oh! grab that tree limb hanging out over the creek and pull my way to the bank. NOT! The instant I took hold of the branch the Ice floe was gone from underneath my feet.
There I hung. I now have two choices. Hand over hand to the bank but there is no place to land safely or drop into the water and climb out. The water doesn’t look too deep so that is the 1st choice. I let go of the branch and in an instant I was sure wrong about the depth of the water. All of a sudden I am wet, cold wet, freezing wet almost to my waist and my boots are full of almost freezing water. It seems that water, clear running water, affects your depth perception.
Steve came along, even though he was laughing, he helped me out of the creek. Now I am freezing. We decide that Steve’s house is closest and we start walking, maybe slogging is a better word. Steve suggested that we should empty the water from the boots and I almost agreed but then I remembered an article I had read in one of those “Field and Stream” magazines at my Grandpas. The article said that if you ever fell into ice cold water and your boots have water in them don’t pour it out. Let the water keep your pants legs and socks from freezing and your legs and feet from frostbite. Looking back that was really good advice. Although I thought I was going to freeze to death before we got to the Cooper house.
It seemed like it took us forever to get to the back door of Steve’s house but we finally made it and as soon as his mom, Arlene, saw me she took charge. Richard take those wet clothes off. Steve, go get a pair of warm socks and get a pair of jeans from your dad’s closet. Now it really was strange and embarrassing to be standing in my underwear in the kitchen of a neighbor with her and her daughter running In and out. The embarrassment didn’t last too long because I was soon wearing a warm pair of socks and a pair of jeans that were 8 to 10 inches too big around and way too short but they were warm.
Mrs. Cooper made hot chocolate for all of us and I was soon warm enough to go home. She drove me home and Steve rode my bike home. I spent the rest of the day inside until time to do chores. The only productive thing I did was to decide to end the great trapping enterprise.
Thanks for listening
The Crotchety Old Man
Edited and approved by Linda.