Non-fiction


My Trapping Memories, Page 2

As told by Henry Herridge


‘No,’ he said, ‘why?’ And then he told me, ‘I watched you, watched every step you made.’

After that, I was going in to Southwest Hill and Juniper Droke to set beaver traps. I had an otter trap in there and Fred Rose wanted to go in with me. I told him about the bad walking and asked if he had any snowshoes.

He said ‘Doc, I can walk with you with nothing on.’

‘We will see about that,’ I said. The next morning I put on the snowshoes. Fred and I started off for Southwest Hill first to set the beaver traps. The walking wasn't so bad first, but as we got to tip down over to the hill, it was hard going and Fred started to fall behind. I stopped for him to get up close.

‘What's the slowdown?’ I asked.

He said, ‘Doc, I never thought I'd see the time you would have to wait for me, as you are much older.’

‘I told you so,’ I answered. As we got near the house, I wanted him to stop while I went on and set the trap.

‘No, I want to watch you set the trap,’ he said and we went on.

I cut a little gap in the dam to let a small amount of water out. The beaver would miss the water, leave his house and come to where the water was running. I put a Conebear trap in the gap. Fred wanted to see the house. I showed him where it was but all you see was a big pile of snow.

‘I can't see a beaver coming all the way under the ice where you got this trap,’ Fred said doubtfully.

‘You will see tomorrow,‘ I told him.

‘You sound like you're sure,’ he answered.

‘No, Fred, I am not sure of anything but I have done it so many times and never missed.’ When that was done, I asked him if he felt like going to the Droke.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I want to go in to see if that trap is touched.’

We got in there after a while and when we got near the spot I pointed it out to him. ‘You see that stick drove down over there? That's where the trap is, on that stick.’

He went over to it. ‘I don't see anything,’ he said, and then looked closer. ‘Oh yes, I do. There is some kind of animal half covered in mud.’

I told him to pull up the stick and it was an otter. I took him out and was going to throw him back in the hole as he had been in the trap for a long time and the fur was coming off his paws. Fred wanted to bring him home.

So we started off. After a while Fred stopped and asked, ‘Would you take the otter now?’ as he was getting tired. So I put the otter in my packsack. When we got to Fred Lake's farm he said to me, ‘I will try all around Fortune for a pair of shoes. I want to go back to see if the beaver came down to the hole where the trap is at.’ He went to James Keeping and he found an old pair of snowshoes up in the attic of his old house. Then he phoned me and said, ‘I'm going in. Don't go and leave me.’

The next morning we put on the snowshoes and away we went. We got about half way in when one of Fred's shoes broke in half as they were mouldy and very old. He went to the beaver dam with a shoe and a half. He wanted to go on ahead to see the trap. ‘Doc, you got the beaver, b'y. A big one too. I guess you knew it would work.’

I took him out and we left for home. When we got out part of the way, Fred was in front and suddenly he sank down, almost to his waist in snow. I laughed. ‘What happened, b'y?’

‘The middle is out of me other snowshoe, Doc.’ It was hard going for him but after a while we got home. I skinned and dried the otter we got; sent it away and got 30 dollars for it. I gave Fred half the money for wanting to take it home.

I did a lot of walking and covered a lot of ground in my years of trapping. I started from Famine below Grand Bank, went as far as the Goose Grass Pond to Danzig Point, covering both sides of the road.

Starting at Famine, I would go up the brook as far as the pond, which took about one and a half hours. I would cover that area and come back to the road about three o'clock. After that was done I would go to Little Barasway. All of this was not done in one day. I would go up Little Barasway Brook for about three hours and then cover all that area. Each day would be another area covered.

Sometimes I would have someone with me as they were interested in seeing how I caught the beaver. Then I'd go to the Woods Road area, cover the small brooks and back again, and then up to Lance au Loup and the Cross Brook, which was another area. Then it was up to Country Pond and the Rocky Pond. Another day, after that, I'd go to Gunville Brook as far as the pond. It took all day to go and come, cover that, and then up to Matthews Drive.

After that I followed up Grand Bank Brook on the south side as far as the pond, which is several hours from Grand Bank Pond, over to Flourdies. That's between Fortune and Lamaline. That area would take several days. After that I took the brook on the north side, as far up as the First Western, up to the Fortune water supply, then follow Grand Bank Brook to the Second Western, in back of the Southern Spots, and then to the Southwest Pond, a distance in back of Fortune Hill. Then I'd leave Fortune, go to Round Hill, in to Southwest Hill, and across to Juniper Droke, down to Hawkins Brook, up to the north side of Grand Bank Pond, several other ponds, up to the Northwest Brook, to the Northwest Pond.

Then I'd go in as far as Tobacco Road and Seed Brook Pond. I covered all of these areas and I went in to Fortune Bridge, took the brook on the south side and up to several small ponds as far up as Fortune Pond. Then I walked up through Hamilton Brook, between the Middle Ridge and the highway, as far as Hungry Pond and then to Snooks Pond. From that I’d go on to Lorries Three Ponds, Loo Pond, Lorries Long Pond, and then down in the Northeast Pond. That is the areas on the south side of the highway from Famine, below Grand Bank east to Hungry Pond West. Then on the north side of the Highway, I'd go up the Horn House Road to the top of the hill, go in to Mark Tree Pond and then to Burnt Hill Pond, up over from Fortune Bridge. Then I'd go in to Kings land, go up over to Little Otter Pond and several other small ponds, then into LaBeach Path to Gull Pond and Long Pond, out in Big Otter Pond, which is up between LaBeach Hill and Danzig Cove, where the area ends. All of those areas I would travel every year.

One time Fred Lake saw me and wanted to know when I was going in the country, our way as he called it. I had been moose hunting with Fred and knew him quite well.

‘I am thinking about going in tomorrow,’ I told him.

‘Yes, b'y, what say if I goes in with you. Let's go in on my Argo.’

We left in the morning and went down to Hawkins Brook. I got down in the water, pulled up my sleeves, and put my traps down in the doorway.

Fred said, ‘Henry, my dear, how tough is your hands? You are making me cold,’ he said. ‘I heard tell of the Bay men, how hard they were and you are one of them. I can see it.’ We went back the next day. I got the beavers and took up my traps.

The next trip would be in Juniper Droke. Fred said, ‘Oh, my dear, Henry, I am going to enjoy this. We will come in again tomorrow on the Argo and boil up the old can and have a nice cup of tea, and you will set the trap.’

‘I think, Fred, we might run into some beaver trouble this time,’ I said as we were on our way the next day. ‘They are very hard to catch. I have been here before and I know what to expect.’ Sure enough, when we got there, it was all frozen over. I cut a hole near the doorway, pulled up my sleeve, and put my hand under the ice to feel out the spot for the trap.

Fred was looking at me and said, ‘Henry, you got a lot of nerve.’

‘Why, Fred?’

‘What if the beaver comes out and bites off your fingers?’

‘Fred, I don't even think about that. If I did, I would not be at this for almost 30 years.’ So I set the trap and Fred got down on the ice and looked at it.

‘Now, how can he get out without going through the trap?’

‘Fred, you'd be surprised what they can do. I may not get him tomorrow. If not, I will the next day.’

‘You're going to do something different,’ Fred said.

‘Yes, Fred, you will see tomorrow.’

‘Well, Henry, I hope you don't get him tonight as this would be interesting.’

So the next day we went back. The trap was struck up but no beaver. ‘Now then, Fred, you are going to see something I don't want to do but it is my only choice.’ So I started to lay down the traps. It took two traps to do the trick but soon I had it all done, ready for the beaver.

Fred said, ‘So, Henry, you think this will do it.’

‘This will do it tonight.’ I said, ‘When the beaver gets in the trap I don't know what will happen after. We will have to wait and see tomorrow.’

Fred said, ‘My dear, I think I am more interested than you are now, as you got an idea what to expect.’

We went back the next day and when we got close to the Brook, Fred said, ‘I can see something up through the ice.’

He stopped the Argo and he ran down over to the hole. ‘Henry! Oh my dear, you got the biggest kind of a beaver. You knew what to do.’

I took hold of the chain and pulled it up, the three traps and the beaver all at the same time. His head was in one trap; his tail was in another; and one leg in the other. I took all the traps off and laid him down on the ice.

Fred said, ‘Henry, I don't see anything that happened.’

‘Just walk up on the house, Fred,’ I told him.

When he did, he said, ‘Oh, Henry, come and see this. What's all of this here? Look, all that big trail leading down to Grand Bank Brook.’

‘Fred, that's the trail from all the beavers. They are all gone from the house.’

‘Is them beavers so smart as all that?’

‘Yes, b'y, I have seen it before.’

‘Now, would we find them if we go down to the brook?’

‘No, b'y, the brook is all open and they will leave no sign. They would go on for miles up the brook to the pond and then under the ice to some old house. They may never be back to Juniper Droke.’ And they never did in my trapping days.

Early in my story I spoke of the beaver I just barely got one year, and two more paws, before I gave it up. The next year I went back up to that pond again and the beavers had left the pond. I followed on down the brook, and the two little ponds, to Kings. You can see these ponds when you’re driving along the highway. That's where they had their house and everything was all ready for the winter. I looked at the house and said to myself, ‘B'y, you are in there with two legs gone.’

I went back when the season was open and set the trap. The next day when I checked, the beaver was there. I took him out, turned him over and saw only two legs. All that winter and summer, he’d come this far with two legs and he looked just as healthy as any other beaver I caught. So I thought about it. If I had my two arms gone, could I go in and set those traps? It's amazing how those animals will struggle to survive just like you and me.

Throughout my years of trapping, I often found houses where the beaver were hard to catch. They are smart and would become very cautious. After trapping for years in the same house I could cut a large hole in the ice near the house. Then, with my sleeve rolled up, I would put my arm down in the cold water and feel out the doorway to set my trap. That’s probably why I have arthritis in my shoulders now, but I didn’t mind it then.

During most of my trapping years, I would go fishing in the summer months. For the last five years I worked in the fish plant, on the night time cleanup. That left very little time for trapping so I only went sometimes to catch a few beaver.

By 1983 I had logged an awful lot of miles and was starting to slow up. The doctor told me to take it easy, no pulling or lifting anything, and no going up steep hills. It was time to retire from trapping and moose-hunting and put it all behind me.

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© F. Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, February/March 2012

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