Steven G. Trosper
On February 9, 1985, I had17 years at Continental Can Company. This meant I was eligible for E.E.P. getting 13 weeks off. E.E.P. was a program where employees with 15 or more years seniority, got, once every 5 years, 13 weeks off. The theory was, it allowed employees with less seniority, a chance at a higher paying job. E.E.P. was never utilized as it was intended, and later dropped from the union contract. I took 4 weeks, out of the 13 allowed. These four weeks were in November,1985 from November 2nd, a Saturday, to December 1st, a Sunday. I planned to trap fox and coyote from the 2nd, to the 15th, the season opened in Indiana October 15th. ‘Coon, ‘rat and mink season opened November 15; I planned to add these starting the 15th on to December 2nd, when my vacation ended.
Never before had I entertained the sort of enterprise, a month long trapline would consist of. I had, during my school years in the 60's, trapped the whole season; but not with the intensity planned for the `85 season! Not to mention, now I had a car and could drive to far off and exotic lands. Furs were still selling at a good price, it would be 2 years yet, before the bottom fell out. I daydreamed, at work during the year, I would make up to $2,000.00 per week the first 2 weeks of November. Then, after the 15th, I expected to pull in $3,500.00 per week! I figured, in my head, at work, I could make $11,000.00 for the month of November! HOT DIGGITY-DOG!
I commenced the preparations for the 1985-86 trapping season in January, 1985. Every minute of spare time, I tried to set aside to study all my back issues of THE TRAPPER, and FUR-FISH-GAME. And read, once again, all trapping books I owned. Not only did I have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, but countless fox pelts hanging in the garage by the opening of the 15th, the beginning of the regular trapping season. I had dreams also, after the 15th, lots and lots of ‘rat, ‘coon and mink pelts hanging alongside those fox and coyote pelts.
Like the big boys, writing the trapping books, advise, I gathered dry dirt over the summer months; and felt secure in the knowledge, I would have no concern with what rain we might get. Rain in November, here in west-central Indiana, is not novel. In fact, rain in November is so common-it goes just about unnoticed. In 1966, after Thanksgiving, we got a lot of rain. I was up at Purdue University that year and some of the Engineering students were talking about building an Ark. In 1968, the first season after I started at Continental Can, the first day of trapping season, it rained. I managed to set out some ‘rat traps that day. Trapping season began at noon during 1968, it was changed to 8:00 in the morning a few years later. I worked 2nd shift and on my way home that night, I stopped at a bridge where I had some traps set. I got out of the car and put an old rain coat on, so I would not get too drenched. With a flashlight, I looked over the bridge at the traps near it, the crick had come up about 5 inches since noon! So, like I said, rain in November is not a big deal! We trap around it, and move on with our lives. Then too, like the modern trapping books advised all the big boys do; I got more farms to trap, than I could possibly trap.
My oldest daughter, Veronica, would start school in the fall, I wanted my two daughters to go to the same school I did. Veronica would be 6 years old September 16th and Kathleen would turn 4 on August 12th. We moved from Warren County to Perrysville, in Vermillion County, on August 5, 1985. A week and a half after we moved to Perrysville, Veronica started kindergarten.
Also, in August, I received a number of trapper supply catalogs for 1985. I do not know about you, but I love to pour over these catalogs. The list I made out, of "needed" items, was so long, I could open my own dealership. After a period to cool off, and think it over, I shaved the list down from what I "needed", to what I needed.
September 21st, we went to the Indiana Trapper’s Convention, at Clay City. I bought a couple of books on beaver trapping. Beaver season, here in Indiana, begins November 15th, and ends March 15th of the following year. I planned, then, to take a week of vacation in March and do some beaver trapping. 2 weeks after the Indiana Trappers’ Convention, October 5th, we went to the Illinois Trapper’s Convention at Eureka. I bought a few items at both, plus more trapping books. I read these new books at least twice, before season opened.
The first Sunday of October, I cut maple saplings for stakes for water trapping. I cut them into 18 inch lengths and chopped a point on the smaller end with the hatchet. The other end, number 14 wire was wrapped around twice. I twisted the wire ends together tight enough, the wire cut into the bark.
I also, during October, cut thinner stakes to use as bait sticks for ‘coon trapping. I read about this in Donald Bierman’s COON AND MINK TRAPPING book, I bought in 1974. These stakes were no longer than10 inches long. I whittled a point on the ends of these sticks with my knife.
When we moved to our house, the renters did not mow the grass. The woman we bought it from mowed the grass once, and I mowed it the day before we moved in. There was plenty of dry grass and most of it long; I stored some of this dry grass in a plastic bag. After whittling a point on these small stakes, I took some of the dried grass, wrapped it around these stakes. I wired the grass bundle with a short length of thin copper wire.
Also, while in the woods, I found a dead sapling and pushed it over. The root came up and I cut the sapling off about a foot from the base. The roots were cut so one stuck up and the others were short. I charred this when I dyed the traps. I read about doing this in a book by Tom Krause.
I dyed the traps the 19th of October, a Saturday and waxed all but the canine traps the next day. I read in Jim Helfrich’s fox book to let canine traps air out a week, before waxing them. I did this the previous 2 seasons. The last Sunday of October, the 27th, I waxed the fox and coyote traps. I had all pre-season chores done!
Perhaps, you question why I dillydallied around, until the last minute, dyeing and waxing the traps. In light of the fact, nearly all modern trapping books lecture to dye and wax traps in the spring, so it is out of the way. These books always, so it seemed to me, make dyeing and waxing a detestable nuisance; to be gotten out of the way and forgot about, as soon as possible.
I genuinely enjoy dyeing and waxing traps. The weather is cool and there is a "something" in the air to stir the blood. The "spirit of trapping" is not dead. The "spirit of trapping" has been stifled by too much taint from "Harvard Business School" chicanery! When I was a kid, dad dyed and waxed the traps a couple of weeks before trapping season. He used walnut hulls at the time. After he went to logwood powder, he still dyed and waxed the traps a week or so before the season began. I grew up with this and viewed this as being the signal the pre-season is over, and it is time to trap!
After the traps were dyed, I placed the wooden stakes in the dye water, with the top end in the water. These were allowed to stay this way for a few days. This turned the white wood, from the stake being cut, to a dull, dark grey color. In the water, this looked like some old snag the farmer cut years before. It essentially eliminated any chance Johnny Sneak’um would recognize the stake for what it is. We still have Johnny around, most of the time, anymore, he is some hunter who thinks he can lift any trap he sees. Understand, not all hunters are like this, but there are those few who make it hard on everyone.
During all of this, we also bought the kids some new clothes for winter. Veronica walked to school, so we knew she needed warm clothes and boots. Kathleen, a lot of times, walked with her mom to school to take Veronica, or pick her up; kindergarten was only half a day. Because it does rain around here, we bought both kids a bright yellow rain coat along with the new boots. Yellow was picked so they would stand out if it was raining and dark, no driver was going to have the excuse he did not see either of my two daughters!
At last! Friday, November 1st, came! All day at work the hands on the clock seemed to have stopped. But after what seemed like a Century, 3:00 p.m. finally arrived. I got home in good time and spent the evening in the garage. It rained good the night before, and this Friday night, it was raining also. Like I spoke of before, rain in November is not unusual. I spent the evening of the 1st putting everything in the trunk of the car. I had a list of items and as I placed each in the trunk, I checked it off. I did not want to waste time the next day, driving back home to get some forgotten doohickey. After I put everything in the trunk, I went through it again to double check. The list I had was one I made back in April. Of course, between April and November, I went through the list several times and changed it a half dozen times, or more.
The next morning was cloudy and windy, but the rain had stopped! Another typical trait of November here, it will rain one day, then quit-so I was not alarmed about the rain the night before. I ate breakfast, made a lunch and headed off to set traps, and planned to be out all day. A typical first day of trap setting. I went to the farthest points first, and worked my way back, the first farm was up in Warren County.
At this farm, I set 3 traps for fox and 3 on the farm next to it. I had a dirt-hole, flat and trench set at the first farm. At the second farm I had 3 flat sets, one of which was a scent post set. All, but the scent post set were lured with Helfrich, Milligan, or Lenon Red Fox lures.
The one flat set made as a scent post was lured with fox urine only. I still had fox urine I bought in 1980, the year I discovered it was not a cure-all. I used but a few drops of urine, the post was the burnt root alluded to earlier. The burnt wood was eye-catching and the urine functioned more as a curiosity factor. I feel fox investigate more readily when there is a hint of urine smell. The heavy concentration, a couple of ounces give, I assert, satisfies the fox’s curiosity and it moves on. If fox stopped at every urine spot, they would do nothing else. I do not accept, for one second, they are going to investigate every urine spot up close and personal. Their nose tells them all they need to know; and sometimes, all they need to know is decoded 10 feet away.
While setting fox and coyote traps, I also looked for sign of ‘coon and ‘rat and, hopefully, mink. I did this so I would set only where the animals were, and not waste time setting at non-productive sets. I was not going to leave anything to chance this season! I wrote in a small pocket notebook all sign I saw and where.
In Vermillion County, Warren and Vermillion Counties border each other, I set fox and coyote traps in the afternoon. One farm, I checked for ‘rat and ‘coon sign along the creek after setting 4 traps for fox. A small branch, less than a foot wide and no more than 3 inches deep flowed into the creek. This small branch came from a wash out in a hill.
The farmer, in years gone by, placed a couple of 2x8's with a 2x8 on end under each of the top boards. He had nailed short pieces of 2x8's to hold the edge boards together and also nailed the top boards to these short pieces. This bridge, by the looks of it, had been here for several years, the boards were grey in color, but still held up strong. As I crossed over, I looked down, next to a rock were mink tracks! I examined them for a few minutes, mink tracks are few and far between. I stepped down into the water and splashed water over them. I did this so I could learn when the mink came through again. With no tracks, any left by a mink would be new. This would let me speculate, after the season opened, when to expect the mink again. The next morning I caught nothing. I spent the rest of the day getting more fox and coyote sets out. Like I mentioned earlier, I got a lot more territory to trap on, than I could ever hope to trap. But, any farms not producing, I could go to another one.
Monday, November 4th, I caught a large ‘coon. This ‘coon was the biggest ‘coon I ever saw. From the rain on Thursday and Friday, this field had water standing in it, and the ground was muddy. Not the kind of muddy you sink to your knees in, but rather the kind you can slip if not careful. I used some of my dry dirt, gathered over the summer to bed the traps, in this field. The ‘coon was wet, muddy, and needless to say, more than just a little upset. He looked at me like he hated everybody and me most of all! I had to release it, ‘coon season was not in yet. I tried to place the walking stick I use, with a fork on the end, to hold the ‘coon away while releasing the spring levers. This did not work and my hand almost got shredded.
I stood there for a while, I glared at the coon, he returned my glare, and then some. I came up with the idea of using the pack basket to cover the ‘coon. I placed everything in the basket on the ground near the set. With a small stick, I poked the ‘coon. The ‘coon showed considerable enthusiasm tearing into this stick; this allowed me to place the basket over the ‘coon. The ‘coon growled, I hollered, which probably sounded like growling too. I leaned on the bottom of the basket with my chest, to keep it on the ‘coon. My feet could not get any traction, I kept slipping. But, the basket was still on the ‘coon and I managed to pull the levers down on the trap. The ‘coon’s paw was free.
I had both hands on the bottom of the basket, to keep the ‘coon from charging me. I had the walking stick near enough to reach and with one hand on the basket, I reached for the stick. I wanted something to protect me in case the ‘coon decided to attack me. I pulled the bottom of the basket toward me and jumped back. The ‘coon stayed in the basket. I nudged the basket to get it to come out, but the ‘coon stayed in. I picked the basket up a foot or so and shook it, the ‘coon stayed in the basket. I walked away and waited. After what seemed like several hours, but was really several minutes, the ‘coon poked its head out of the basket. I waited until it was far enough from the basket, it would not run back to it. I ran toward it yelling, and it ran off. The set was a muddy mess and I pulled the trap. The ‘coon was the only thing I caught for the day.
Wednesday, November 6th, I took Kathleen with me on the trap line. This was the first time she went with me and she had a great time. In Meadows’ woods, I caught another ‘coon and released it. This one was easier to release but Kathleen wanted to pet the ‘coon. I told her to stay back, and I released the ‘coon standing between it and her. The ‘coon ambled off and seemed to be none the worse for wear. Kathleen ran after it and it ran from her.
It rained a little the night of the 6th, but like I mentioned before, rain in November is typical. I spent little time worrying about it, in fact, it was more like a gentle drizzle. On the 7th, I had a grey fox paw in the trap I caught the ‘coon in Meadows’ woods the day before. I was using number 1½ Big Bear and Montgomery traps, plus, in secure areas, a dozen Helfrich 450 Eliminators. I do not know why the fox escaped. I guess it is just one of those incidents along the trapline. Saturday, November 9th, Veronica and Kathleen went with me and it rained. Both girls wore their new yellow rain slickers with hoods, and new boots. I caught nothing on this day. I showed them tracks of deer and other animals.
The 9th was the dawn of a rainy period; the rain came and decided to stay for a spell! When it was not raining, it rained some more! I used the dry dirt I gathered during the summer, to cover the traps, the next day the dirt was mud. Places I set traps dry, the next day or two, the trap was under water. In desperation, I went to the water set for fox. I used the bait sticks I made up I spoke of earlier. I placed a stick in a mud puddle, set a trap between it and the ground and poured lure on the grass. The field and pastures were covered with many little ponds and I felt it would work. No dice. It rained so much, the animals stayed holed up. Makes you wonder how intelligent people really are-if animals are smart enough to stay out of the rain.
When Kathleen went with me, she wore her little yellow rain slicker and boots. Most places she could go with me to the traps, a few places, because of the creeks out of their banks, I left her in the car. She had gotten good at recognizing deer tracks.
On Wednesday, the 13th, I took all traps up, hoping the rain would quit, before the 15th. I planned to set traps the 15th and try to salvage something from the season. I still had a couple of weeks of November to trap and it would not rain the whole month. I was confident of that!
The 15th, a Friday and the first day of trapping season for ‘coon, mink and ‘rat trapping, I did not take Kathleen with me. I wanted to concentrate on trapping and not have to worry about her. She and Veronica would go with me the next day and I hoped to have something to show for my efforts. I got out a few ‘coon sets but no ‘rat sets. The cricks were up so high, I dared not wade them. It was raining on this day also! I kept thinking it would stop raining and I could get some ‘rat sets out. I placed a couple of number 11 long spring traps in the field I caught the large ‘coon, in hopes of catching him again. I never did. By now, the field had became a gigantic quagmire of mud. Mud which I now sunk into and had a hard time walking in.
The small branch I saw mink tracks on the 2nd, the bridge was swept away by the raging torrent of water. The rain made the branch rise fast, I had to re-route to the fox sets on the other side. I never did learn if the mink came back, and if so, when. Before the water got any higher, I took these fox traps up.
When my daughters went with me, they most of the time had to stay in the car, the mud was deep and the cricks were up, I was afraid they might get drowned. At the few places they could go with me, they enjoyed looking at everything they found. They both got good at spotting deer tracks, plus, know what they were. I told them by Thanksgiving, the rain ought to stop and I would catch something then. Thanksgiving would be the 28th.
On the morning of the 25th, it was raining this morning too! Kathleen and I were going north on Indiana Route 63 and about a half mile south of Interstate 74 a State Cop went around us fast with the siren going. I could see him turn east onto a gravel road north of 74 . When we crossed over 74 I looked east and saw a lot of cars with lights flashing on the overpass at old 63. That afternoon, after we picked Veronica up at school, we all went to Covington, Indiana to a store selling vacuum cleaners. While we were in the store, we knew Dick Shelby, the owner, a woman came in and told him about the wreak on old 63 that morning. A teacher, at the school Veronica went to, lived in Covington and was late. She drove too fast over the overpass, and lost control of her car and hit another car and was killed. The next day, Veronica brought home a note from school saying school was canceled for the next day. This was to let the other teachers have a chance to go to the funeral. Veronica was able to go with Kathleen and me to look at the traps. We took all but 3 traps up, it would be a few more days and I would have to go back to work. The 3 traps left were in Meadows’ woods and I felt I could perhaps catch a ‘coon there.
On Thanksgiving day, I took the 3 traps in Meadows’ woods up, and got soaking wet. When I came home, I said it was raining cats and dogs outside. Veronica ran to the window and looked out. She looked back at me with a quizzical look on her face, said, "I don’t see any cats or dogs." Her and her sister had been wanting a dog for a couple of years, and I told them we would get a purple dog. If they should see a purple dog, we would get it.
On December 2nd, I went back to work, all the dreams of a large fur check were gone. Looking in my trapping log for 1985, we ended the month of November with12 plus inches of rain. Also, I see we had 13 days it did not rain in November. 17 days of rain is the most rain I ever saw in any month. I have no idea what the record is, but I will wager November 1985 is a record or if not, it is close to one. Not every day of rain was a gully-washer, but it rained enough to make everything wet. By the 15th even a slight shower was more than the ground could absorb, making the fields that much wetter.
In retrospect the 1985-86 season was a sure ‘nuff bust, even with all the months I spent carefully planning for any and everything which might go wrong. I did catch a few ‘coons and possums, but they were released because the season was not in for them yet. My dreams of furs hanging in the fur shed, washed away with the cricks.
I do have fond memories of the 1985 season, after all, it was a month of trapping! However, the most unforgettable memory, of the 1985-86 trapping season, has got to be; it was the first time my daughters went with me on my trapline. Both of my daughters went trapping with me until they reached their teens, then they lost interest. I guess it is normal for girls to more or less lose interest in such things.
The day after Thanksgiving, we went to Market Place Shopping Center in Urbana, Illinois to do our Christmas shopping. On a local television station, they had advertised "SESAME STREET LIVE " was to appear at the Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois campus on the 29th of November, this very day. We told the girls, when we were eating supper at the shopping center, we were going to go see "SESAME STREET LIVE", you can imagine how excited Veronica and Kathleen were.
To all you with small children, if the "SESAME STREET LIVE" performance is going to be within an hour’s drive, and you can afford the tickets, take the kids to see it. I would not advise you do it every year, once is plenty. It is a lot of fun for the kids, plus, both of my daughters remember going.
The following June, we went to the FTA convention in Salem, Indiana and both of my daughters entered the trap throwing contest. They each got a tennis ball and got to throw it at a set trap. If the ball hit the pan and the trap went off, they would win that trap. Veronica went first and hit the spring lever of the 1½ coil. Kathleen, because she was only 4 was moved up closer than an adult or older kid would be. She threw the ball and the trap went off. Everyone yelled and cheered which scared Kathleen, she ran under the rope toward me. She thought she did something wrong and was going to get in trouble. Only after the man running the trap throw gave Kathleen the trap did she understand she had done nothing wrong. Both of my girls were better athletes in school, than I ever was.
Veronica and Kathleen have graduated from high school. Veronica
now married and has 2 little girls, both were born in May. I am looking
forward to taking Sierra Michelle, and Brianna Harley, my
trapping with me when older. I hope to find a little yellow rain
with a hood for them to wear. Although, I hope it does not rain 12 plus
inches in November when I take them with me! I have had my fill of rain