December 9, 2010
by Chris Feeney
I think it was in "Where the Red Fern Grows" that I first heard about trapping and coon hunting. That was back in second or third grade, and my teacher read the novel to us over a period of days. If you've never heard of the book, it is something akin to Old Yeller, retelling the story of an Ozark boy, Billy, and his two hounds.
What got me to thinking about that part of my past, was what I believe to have been a piece of those tales, when the boy reveals a coon trapping secret. I apologize if I don't get this exactly right but it's been a few decades since the second grade. Anyway, the way I recall, he would place a shiny piece of metal in a small hole drilled in a downed tree. The opening would be just large enough for the raccoon to slip his arm into to grab the bait. However, once the animal had a hold of his would-be-meal, it could no longer pull its hand back out, since the fist exceeded the hole size.
I'm not sure if this was the concept behind the modern-day "coon-cuffs" trap but I suspect the process was tried and tested over the years. If only Billy's grandpa had patented the idea, the youngster wouldn't have had to walk 30 miles barefooted to pick up his two hounds and could have afforded a hotel room instead of the cave he spent the night in on the way home.
My fond recollection of the literary works of my youth does not denote a conversion over to the pelt packing side of the household. I still offer a wrinkled nose and sigh of discontent when trapping season introduces those aromas that put my daughters frequent gas attacks to shame.
I guess I would be a little more considerate of my trapper's daily routine of running the line if there was some silver lining waiting in that cloud of skunk scent.
Perhaps that day will come, and maybe sooner than I expect. It's a well known fact, no one will ever get rich running a trap line. While our neck of the woods may have originally be settled by folks that followed the lucrative fur trade, anyone counting on making a living trapping likely would have to go back to living in a tent and traveling by canoe to make ends meet.
Of course that doesn't stop most trappers - they do it because they enjoy it. However, judging by the number of catalogs we get in the mail each week, I'm guessing the market for trapping products might be a different story.
Well, the patent is still pending - so I cannot go into any great details, but I think the trap artist that lives with me may have hit the jackpot.
I might be jumping the gun just a bit, as her invention has yet to catch anything, but I'm sure prototype #1 will be filled with a bobcat in the next day or two.
I placed the blueprints in the gun vault for safe keeping and I've sworn our two house cats to secrecy. I don't want them blabbing like that silly dog on TV that's always trying to give away the secret recipe to the family's baked beans.
I've notice neither of the Siamese siblings is walking around minus an appendage, or even limping for that matter, so I'm not sure if they were true guinea pigs or only served as inspiration for the brainstorm.
Even if I wanted to offer a few hints about the top secret design, I'd have to adlib since I was locked out of the garage/workshop and all of the windows were covered to avoid any sneak peeks of the masterpiece.
Even if the master plan has to go back to the drawing board a few times for modifications, I'm sure the ACME company will be willing to market it as it has far more likelihood of success than anything Wile E. Coyote ever concocted.
Worst case scenario, maybe I could devise a book deal out of the experience, something like "Where Wild Cats Do Not Go?" Then again, in a few weeks I may be doing an article entitled "The Non-Trapper Who Was Forced to Eat Crow." If I keep the rhyme going I could go with a Dr. Seuss style....