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A Change of Luck


Bruce Roady

         I was trapping fox and coyotes in the southern part of the state and having a fair amount of luck.  I had been at it for twelve days and was averaging eight critters each night.  Mostly red fox and gray fox.  I also had several yotes.  The yotes in this area are somewhat mangy and I was trying not to catch them for the most part.  The red and grey fox are in good shape and they are as prime as they will get so I was really going for them.  Of course I was also catching a few racoons and skunks along the line too.

I had finally got done with todays skinning and was sitting at the camp fire sorta feeling to good about the way things had went so far.  I have trapped long enough to know better than to do this but I couldn't help it today. 
What could be wrong?  The prices were up a little, the weather was cold but no rain or snow, and I was in good shape to run this line for a few more days at least, maybe longer if the catch stayed high. No one else had
trapped this area for several years and in all reality it needed trapped.  So i went on feeling real good, almost defiantly asking for trouble.  Take my advice, don't ever do this.  It will knock ya up side the head so hard and fast ya won't have chance to do a thing about it.

As well as things had been going, the next morning they turned right around and got so bad it was completely humiliating.  It started the same as all the previous twelve mornings, up at four thiry A.M., cook a good warm breakfast on the fire, start the truck to let it warm up, and hit the line.  First thing I noticed was that it was really cold this morning.  I had no idea how cold, but real cold and windy.  I can stand the cold, but the wind will cut ya in half.  Next, the fire had went completely out and I had a heck of a time getting it going again with the wind blowing so hard.  Once I did get it going again I put the bacon on to fry and low and behold, as I moved to get something I knocked the skillet off and lost that pile of bacon.  Burnt my hand getting the skillet out of the fire too.  So, I fry some more bacon, and finally get something to eat.  I am only a hour late now.  As I finish breakfast I go to start the truck. This is a bad day, the truck won't start for nothin. I have a one ton diesel truck and it has gotten cold enough that the fuel needs warmed up to fire the thing up.  So I figure I will have to walk to parts of my line that are close enough and maybe once the sun gets on the truck it will start.  Had no other choice really.  I decide to pack a lunch to take with me partly because of the cold and partly I knew I would need some extra energy today with haveing to walk
instead of drive.  So I get a lunch packed, get my pack basket out of the truck and head out up a ridge to the south of me.  The wind is getting stronger all the time now.  Once on top of the ridge it is really blowing.  I had set my camp in the bottom of the holler and I hadn't realized how much wind it was blocking.  I started to go back to camp and wait this wind out but decided I needed to get the traps checked one way or another.  I knew I had probably had a good night because of the weather change.  I coudn't think about some critters being held in my traps and having to stay there.  That does not sit well with me atall.  So off I go on a trip I guess will take four hours.

  It is not hard walking to the first part of the line. Except for the cold and wind.  I have on the proper amount of clothes for walking, only a light packbasket, and my pistol for dispatching.  I get to the first trap and find a nice red fox.  I pull the pistol and am about to shoot the fox when it made a mighty leap and pulled out of the trap!  It realized it real fast and was running when its feet hit the ground.  I stood dumb founded, couldn't have shot if it had meant my life.  I was not use to fox pulling out of any of my traps and couldn't believe what I had just seen.  I look the trap over and only can figure that I did not get a good catch on the foxes paw. the trap seemed plenty strong and everything was in working order.  All I could think was that things happen sometimes and go on.  I remake the set and head for the next trap.

  On the way to the second set I have to cross a small shallow creek bed.  I had been driving through it for two weeks and knew how deep it was so I had to find a spot to get accross it dry. I was not wearing any waders since I was not water trapping at this time.  Well, as I get to the creek I see it is ice covered.  I thought then that it must have really gotten cold last night to have froze the creek in one night.  I test the ice and it seems plenty strong enough so I start easing out onto it.  It holds well, till I
got to the middle!  with one quick, loud, snap it gave way and down I went.  Knee deep in some cold, cold, water.  Now I am peeved!!  I have to use my trapping axe and break the ice in fromt of me for about ten feet before I could get out of that water.  My legs were almost numb just that quick.  As soon as I get out I start gathering wood to build a fire.  I always keep some tender in my packbasket for just such perdicaments.  Well...... I had lightened my load and left it at camp.  No real problem, I would make some more real quick.  It took about half an hour to get that fire going.  Everything was wet down here in the creek bottoms.  My outside pair of pants had frozen into a solid sheet around my legs making it very difficult to get them off. I knew I had to get them off though to let the fire warm and dry the inner pair, along with my long johns.  Only then would I get warmed back up. I was cold I tell ya.  As I am getting dried out I am thinking I had better head back to camp and get that truck going somehow.  I have a plan in my head so I reckon that is what I will do.  It took quite awhile for me to get dried out and warm before I could even think about heading back to camp.   When I did finally get going I had to go down the creek about half a mile to find a place to cross back over it.  There was some rocks there and I was real careful about stepping right on them so not to slip and fall.  I made it to the other side and was relieved.  I took two or three steps and fell right through some ice into a little hole of water about two feet wide and almost knee deep again.  Only one leg though,like that really helped.  I am
madder than a hen by now and just head for the truck wet.  At this point in time I don't really care about anything but getting back to camp and getting that truck going.

As I head back up the ridge, I had just a little while ago came down, I decide to go a little different way.  I knew it would be shorter but a little harder to navigate.  I should have went the way I had came down it.  For every step up, I went two down.  the frost was on this shadowed area of the ridge and it was like trying to climb MT. Everest!  By the time I got to the top of that ridge I was completly worn out, not to mention even madder.  I decide to take my time now as the day is all but wasted anyway.  So, I get some of my lunch out and eat a few bites.

  I feel a little better now but as I was eating I was looking at the sky and it was not telling me anything I would have wanted to know.  It was getting to be a very grey sky which usually means snow is on the way.  I get up and make a bee line for camp.

  As I get back to camp I see a sight.  My tent has been blown over, or so I thought.  When I had taken all the extras out of my pack basket I had laid some bottles of yote lures and bait inside the tent.  I still don't know why I did, but I did.  What had happened was, while I was gone off on my miserable mornings hike, a yote had came along looking for a meal before this weather set in even harder.  I am convinced the spilt bacon grease had called it in and then the strong smell of lure and bait had made him tear the side out of my tent getting to it.  Now what was I to do?  I was ten miles from the closest house and this weather was coming fast!  I had to get that truck running at any cost.

  I went to to the truck, toggle the glow plugs three or four times and varoom it starts right up!!!!   wow!!  I am going to make it after all!!  I leave the truck running and go to get some clothes and other stuff out of my tent.  I have decided to stay in a motel or something tonight and do all my laundry and have a nice warm bed to sleep in.  I load the truck and head for town about fifteen miles south of my camp.  As luck would have it a ranger who I have known for a few years had thought about me camped out here and I met him coming to warn me about the storm heading this way.  We talk for a few minutes and he actually got a good laugh out of the whole affair.  I wasn't in the mood to laugh about anything yet.  He says if I don't make it
back for a day or two he will keep an eye on my stuff at camp.  Not that anyone else would think of being in that area this time of year.  I tell him I will be back in the morning and that I had to get going to run the rest of my line. I knew it would be well after dark before I finished today.  It was about then it started to snow.

   The first flakes were not to big and the wind was blowing it all around to give ya the impression that it wouldn't amount to much.  I am going like a mad man running the line now.  I did in fact have a good catch as I suspected I would.  I caught several fox and a few yotes, to go along with five coon and two skunks.  I later wished I had not caught the skunks.  It was almost 7:30 P.M. when I made it to town to find a motel.

I found a Motel Eight and registered, even got a room with an outside outlet to plug my diesel in. Life was getting better.  A good hot shower and shave I would feel like a new man.  Figured I would go and get some food at the restaurant and then settle in for a good nights sleep. While I was in the shower I had put my clothes in the laundry room machine.  The shower felt very good and I stayed in it for awhile basking in its warmth.  When I did finally get out I headed for the laundry room to switch my clothes and put another load in the washing machine.  That is where the evening took the inevitable turn for the worst.

  The man in charge of the motel came in the laundry room looking for his cleaning equipment.  I spoke and he said something about a dog getting hold of a skunk. I cringed. I took a big breathe and asked him what exactly had happened.  He said one of the folks that lived next door to the motel had a dog that had some how caught a skunk and had stunk up the whole place!!  I
turned on my heels and lit out for my truck.  When I hit the door I almost puked, the smell of skunk was thick!!  I knew what had happened right then.  As I made it to my truck I looked and not only was one skunk gone but both
of them were. Still acting like I had no idea what was going on I asked the man in charge if they had found the skunk, he said yea but they couldn't get rid of the smell and it seemed to be getting worst!!  I had to find that
other skunk, hopefully without anyone knowing where it came from.  I did find it, in the furnace room!!!   That stupid dog had gotten it out of my truck and he must have known that the door was open in the furnace room and headed straight for it.  I got the dog out first and then grabbed some plastic laying there and wrapped the skunk up in it.  I took it out back by a creek and threw it as far as I could.  I knew I had skunk juice on me and I also knew how to get it off of me and out of the furnace room. so I head back to my truck to get the ingrediants to mix my potion.  One problem.  I had left the baking soda at camp!

  I have no choice but to head back out to camp and get the baking soda.   Luckily I made it all right.  It was really snowing now and although I had to take it slow, I did make it alright.  I grab the baking soda and the hydrogen peroxide and the dish soap.  I see right away that I did not have no where near enough to do all the cleaning that needed done.  So I head back to town to buy some more.

  Ya know how when ya smell something long enough that ya don't smell it anymore?  I had gotten used to the smell and figured it had left my clothes enough that I could go to the grocery store and get what I needed.  It did not take long after I got there that I realized I still stank powerful bad!!    As I entered the store a little boy about ten years old gave me a funny
look.  I was a stranger here so that didn't give me a clue yet.  As I walked up and down each aisle I was getting the feeling that something was wrong.  It was finally an elderly gentleman that just out and asked if I had been fighting a skunk or what that putred smell was.  I turned on my heels once again and headed for the door as fast as possible.  On the way back to the
motel I was trying to figure out how to get everything taken care of without being thrown out!

  I got to my room and mixed up what I had to clean myself of this smell.  When I was done with me I snuck out to the laundry room to wash my skunky clothes and switch my others.  Just as I put my skunky clothes in the washer the man in charge came back in.  He had a look on his face that made me sure I was caught sure nough!  He said the smell had not gotten any worst but the furnace room stank real bad.  I closed the lid on the washer right quick and told him I had heard if ya mixed equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide with a little liquid dish soap that it would take the smell away.  Quick thinking on my part.  It worked too!  He said he would try it and thanked me.  I headed for the restaurant!

  I had a good meal and headed back to the motel feeling alot better now.  It had been a bad day from the word go and I was praying that it was about over.  when I went to switch my clothes for the fianl time here comes the man in charge again.  He was really happy at first. Said that the potion had worked great and couldn't thank me enough!  I was starting to feel kinda bad
about now when this little kid came in.  He had came down to get his folks some ice or something and up and says, " hey mister, what else did you have in your truck besides them skunks?"  I about died right there and then!  the man in charge had a look of bewilderment and asked the kid what he meant by that.  The kid told him he had seen me pull in and seen some traps in my truck so he had looked in the back to see what was in there.  Said he seen the skunks when that dog had gotten them out of the truck.  For the third time tonight I was turning on my heels right quick when the man in charge flat out blew a gasket!

  Now this fella was a nice enough soul I reckon, even if he was a foreinor.   He cut into some type talkin that I had no idea where it came from but I knew, or figured, that it wasn't good for me to stay around right then.  I reckon I was right too.  He was making it quite clear to me that I was leaving his place and right now.  I couldn't understand a word he was saying but I knew what  he meant.  I gatherd all my stuff, threw it in my truck and left as fast as I could get that truck going!  When I pulled out onto the hi-way I had to stop and back back into the motel parking lot.

This man came on the dead run.  I think wanting to know what I was doing now.I told him I had left my clothes in the washer and that I needed them real bad.  He cut loose with that funny talkin again and I made haste gettin the clothes and leaving for good.  Good ole buzzard luck was with me as it was snowing like a full blown blizzard now!!

    It took several stops to find another hotel in town that wasn't full up cause of the storm.  I was about to go to Wal-mart and buy another tent and set my camp back up when I found a little hole in the wall place right at the edge of town.  I re- registered and went straight to bed.  I had had enough for one day and was not about to try to do another thing.  I was almost alseep when I realized how cold it was in this room.  I had been camping for so long that I was pretty well acclimated to the weather but this room was not getting any warmer.  I made myself get out of bed and check the room heater.  It was turned up all the way and it was blowing luke warm air.  I called the main desk and they came to check on it.

  When the fella got there I was fully dressed again and even had on a heavy shirt to stay warm.  He looked at the thing and said he was sorry but he couldn't fix it tonight. So I had to get a different room.  I turned the heater on in this room and it started to get hot right away.  I thanked the fella and layed down to go back to sleep, it was now 3:oo A.M..  I had been getting up at four thirty for several weeks now but I had planned on sleeping later this morning.  I woke up at 5:00A.M.!   I started to get up but decided to sleep a while longer.  That was a futile attempt.  Having critters in my traps still don't sit well with me so I get up and get dressed for trapping in the snow.  How much snow had we gotten anyway?  I went to the window and looked out and almost just took my clothes back off and went back to sleep.  There must have been two feet of snow out there!!  I go out to see if my truck is going to start and I am happy that it does right off.  I go back into my room and let it warm up.  I walk down to the
office and get some hot water to make my morning hot chocolate.  The fella there tells me that all the roads are shut down and no one is supposed to go out unless it is an emergency.  I go back to my room and cipher out what to do.

  I have a four wheel drive truck that goes real well in the snow so I figure I will go to the store and get me another tent and get back to camp.  I am sure they have plowed the roads enough for that.  So I head out. 

   I didn't get far when I came to a road block set up by the police.  They ask where I am going and I tell them the whole situation.  He says I must be crazy for trying to get back out to camp but he can't really stop me.  he says the local discount store is open because no one could get home last night.  Just as I am about to pull away he hollers at me to stop!  I do and
ask what is wrong now?  He says he needs me and my truck to go get an elderly couple out towards camp.  I am not about to say no so he tells me where to go to get another officer to go with me.  I get the other officer and we slowly head out to this house.  The storm had knocked out alot of power around in different parts of the county and this couple was without heat so I was going as fast as I could possibly go.  We did make it in about an hour or so.  Them old folks was happy to see us too!  That is until we told them they had to go with us right away.  They said they had livestock that had to be fed before they could leave and wasn't leaving until they were fed!  I knew how they felt so I volunteeered to feed all their stock.  This took about a half hour or so and I was a solid sheet of snow when I was done with the chore.  We get the folks into my truck and head for town. we make it ok to the high school which had been set up to house folks that needed the shelter.  As soon as I could I got out of there and headed for the store.

   The Wal-mart was bout one mile out of town on the east side.  The police was aware of where I was going and tried their best to get the roads plowed for me.  Some really nice fellas to be honest.  But they couldn't do a thing about the store being closed when I got there.  Not fifteen minutes before I got there their power went out.  The firemen had taken them all home. Looked like I was going to spend another night in a motel.

  It was pushing noon when I startd to run my trap line.  It was slow sure enough and I could not find any of my traps that did not have a critter in it.  Not that I tried to hard mind ya.  All I was worried about was the critters I had caught.  As I suspected I had another great catch.  The best so far.  I wish I could have pulled the rest of my traps but in the snow that was not possible and I was lost as to when I could find them.  The only thing good was that nothing else could find them either, so I didn't have to worry about running them for a day or two at least.  I headed to my original camp to try and get the rest of my stuff.

   The ranger that had seen me the day before was at the top of the hill when I started down to camp.  I stopped and he said top leave the stuff as he had walked part of the way to camp and there was trees down accross the road.  I had no choice but to do as he said.  We sat and talked for awhile and I told him about my traps still out.  He made a call on his phone and got permission for me to stay in a barn not far from where we were at.  He showed me over to it and he even stayed for awhile as I set up my new home for awhile.

  I wound up staying for another week and although I had never trapped in so much snow I did catch a few more critters.  I was also able to help get few more families out.  The farmer that owned the barn said I could trap his land anytime I wanted to and that was good.  We eventually became good friends and even fished and hunted together over the years.

  So, what started out as a great trip, then by my arrogance became a nightmare, then  turned around again and  became a great trip again, finally ended.  What goes around comes around I reckon!!!!