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13 years old and lots of money

Posted by Larry, 26 December 2016 · 1196 views

The year was 1969. It was the beginning of muskrat and raccoon season for two boys from Iowa. One was cousin a Farmer Kid raised just 3 miles east of Marion Iowa. The other was me a urban kid at the other end of that 3 miles. We both had been trapping for around three years. Last season at 12 were trapped a small creek and roadside ditches by ourselves. I would trap the weekends because I could ride my bike and my cousin would do the weekly stuff as he had to chores at the other barn some 3/4 mile from the farm house.


For my birthday that year Mom and Dad went all out. I received 2 dozen victor #1 long springs and one dozen 110 conibears. In todays prices those would of cost 1.75 each then they were $10;00 dozen for the long springs . It was allot of money for my parents and I promised them I would pay them back 1/2. Then my Dad worked at an electronics factory and Mom ironed clothes in our home to make ends meet. We did not have much in material stiff but we had each other and we worked.


Between my new traps and hand me downs from my cousins Dad/Grandparents we 47 traps. The 2 double springs some 7 of them were for coons in the barn and log sets. The rest were 1.5 old spring jumps and a few 1.5 long springs. Then we had my 3 dozen brand new visitors for muskrats and mink. Plus an occasion skunk. Then skunk brought a 1.75 fleshed, degreased and dried. (good Money if your 13.


The year started off slow. I had lost 5 new traps under the creeks bridge because of thieves. They were placed with tin foil on the pans for mink and perhaps the front paw of a coon. I cried that night it was a major blow. The only caveat was one they did not find held a nice bore mink that had crawled behind a log so they could not see it. He was worth $17.50 and I remember him well as I cut his scent glands and they were on my gloves. Those gloves hung in the barn for a full season.


We also had a time at the creek. It was a wet November and the creek was always high then low. Made it tough as we didn't have waders just 5 buckle boots. Our leather boots were always wet. It was bad cleaning the hog house of manure and doing chores in wet leather boots. But we knew if we complained we may not get to trap the creek, so we said nothing and just put up with the soggy socks.


One day were pheasant hunting on a friends farm adjacent to my cousins grandpas fence line. We had tracked a dozen or pheasants mostly roosters to the edge of Squaw Creek and some wetland that could never be tilled. My cousin went to the other side to block and I was to be the dog and flush the grass. Pheasants were all over the place, I had a single shot 20 and my cousin had a bolt action. We got our two birds. Understand we pheasant tracking fools and could often catch roosters by hand by simply jumping where the roosted in the cornstalks. Having a gun increased our success 2,000 fold. It wasn't long we had our limit by the time the creek ended.


We put out pheasants in our borrowed and hand me down brown duck pheasant jackets. AS we walked the creek we started noticing holes in the middle. It was time to get permission as this creek bed was full of muskrats. We knew when the population rises small rats used the middle.


Mr. Dostal and old family friend told my cousins Dad that yes we could. But being a retired colonial in the Air Force we were told only we could run the line and no adults or older brothers. We had to do it ourselves. Deal!


In the next two weeks we trapped 75 muskrats with most from the conibears in the center. All were $3.50 to $4,00 per when we sold them for Christmas. When added with 27 mink averaging $22.00 and 67 raccoons a over $25,00 we had a pile.


Mind you we did it the right way, we fleshed all, salted them down and always had a good one turned fur side out for presentation to the buyer. Mr. Mitvolski the owner of the asked how we learned all of this and how we had so many muskrats. Before we could answer my cousins Dad and my Dad replied in unison, these two boys learned the basics, read books in the library and worked damn hard.


MOM and dad were paid back 1/2 of my traps I got for my birthday as promised. Mom got a new iron from me that actually held water and with the push of a button steamed the clothes. Dad got a new wallet with a picture of me and my cousin with our haul. My brother got 1 dozen plastic Victor decoys from sears when he went into to buy 2 dozen. My sister got money for the gas in her Corvair as she took me to run traps 4 times.


Being off Christmas break let us hit the bran coons and fox. Along with some mink along wet waterways and broken feild tile not yet frozen. The fur continued to come in. Especially the big boar coons in the barns looking for sex. We had trapped our areas hard, the season closed Jan 31st except for bever, but that's okay we had no bever traps.


We took our furs in for sale again. Mr. Mitvolski came down to inspect himself. After we got our check he invited my cousin Dad and us to his office. He looked at us both and asked if we wanted a coke. We both thanked him. He said you know I can get you some coco but its the kind you mix with water. We both said sure.


When he came back he said I wanted you two young men to know I have told my buyers in Chicago about you. We said thank you. He said know thank you, you have really made a name for my fur company this year with all of the fine furs you have brought in. So much I want to give you both $50.00 extra. He handed us brand new $50.00 bills. Then he handed us both a page of paper each with some typing on it. We read it, and it was him taking us for providing the best furs he collected in 1969. It also contained columns of what we sold and our total fees for the year. My cousins Dad looked at it and said..."I am very proud of you" Never in my mind would I have thought two hard working young men could of ever made more than $2500.00 trapping mink, muskrat and raccoons.


It was a quite ride back to my house in the Green 1965 Ford F100. I was left off at my house, 585 29th Street Marion Iowa, the white house with cement block garage right next to the railroad tracks. My cousin said should we try for a bever at big creek this weekend. I said we dont have anything but a 2 double long springs. He said but if we set two next to each other it mught work


The weekend came. We found a huge beaver slide. Never trapped beaver in our lives or researched Fur Fish and Game about it, We set two #2 long spring in the slides, just like you would for muskrat. We had no big steaks but we found 50 feet of rolled up barbwire next to the shed on the way to the creek. We bent it back and forth until it finally broke and we had around 15 to tie to an overhanging tree branch. I didn't sleep that night waiting for daybreak to check the beaver trap.


I met my cousin on my bike after he finished morning chores about 9AM. We road like banshees to the creek some 2 miles away. We turned the corner of the creek bend and we heard a splash. When we got to the tree branch we thought we must of missed the beaver, but could not tell the water was muddy. I grabbed the barb wire and it pulled back. I screamed we have one and I saw my hand was bleeding. Not having leather gloves we finally used our coats to wrap around the wire. We both pulled and finally got the monster up on the shore 8 feet from the water. One trap was firmly holding his front leg and the other was sprung and dangling. On the shore he reared up trap and all and then backed into a huge pile of dead timothy grass. We had no rifle. I found a solid stick and hit it behind the head, The blow right behind the back ear stunned it. My cousin advised me to do it again as we didn't want the monster to come alive on our bikes. I did it three more times.


Sweating when we got back to the bikes we tied the beaver on to my cousins banana seat with bailing twine. Its head was out through the hoop on the back and the tail was lashed to the frame. When we got to the farm we weighed it. It was a whopping 48 lbs. Never skinned a beaver before my cousins Dad helped and we did it like you would a steer. That worked and then we nailed it to a big piece of plywood. Then we fleshed it well, what a greasy mess I remember almost worse than fleshing a skunk or possum.


We salted it down and hung it from the rafters high enough the farm cats would stay off. ........... It was just before the season closed I remember and we sold it. We did not skin it correctly they said and if we had stretched it more it would of been blanket, but because we didn't stretch it enough it was a large. They gave us $27.00 and that was a little high the buyer said. Then he said I can go a little high as we really want you two back next year.

Those were the days.

I enjoyed your blog brought back a lot of memories of myself as a young trapper

Some real self-motivation and determination in those early days.  I can picture that beaver strapped to that banana seat and can only imagine the thrill of riding home that day.


Just shows how desire - a burning desire - will find a way.  A lesson in how one can achieve anything in life with some basic ingredients.

Great story Larry and nice courage working on those traps. Bet your mom and dad were really happy of their son . Got me thinking of going to my spot were muskrats are very plentiful and weading them out . Last time I was there I got my canoe stolen since brook trout just opened . Was still fun but I still remember getting my finger get caught in a victor 1.75  i think coil spring . My friend really laugh ... I kept cool and didnt swear much. I then watched myself and hoped he got bitten by one of those too lol  I also remember having a set of vice grips to cut wire on the paddle lying across the canoe . They flung into the water. I tried to fetch them but was missing about 1 inch. So close but yet so far. Another friend that traps always as those retractable magnets ....yes I bought one too :smile:

Never got to going back and getting those pliers. 

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