My older brother Rupert is one of those rare individuals who can laugh at his own foibles and loves to tell stories about many of his adventures and screw-ups. Now that his health is failing and he doesn’t read much, I feel more at liberty to relate some of his stories without offending him. My favorite follows.
Shortly after I moved back to Mason in the early 1990s, Rupert and Ina were still living in the old homestead. They were being disturbed by raccoons getting into their garbage cans just outside their bedroom window. Rupert first attempted trapping ‘coons in a homemade wooden box trap; this proved unsuccessful because, as he said, “A damn coon can squeeze themselves through an opening no more than an inch thick, even when I drive nails through the boards so that the picked ends of ‘em are stickin’ into the crack!”
Next, he tried steel traps, but “If you anchor a trap tight, a damn coon will pull his foot out of the trap when he gets to the end of the chain.” Then, he tried a novel idea: he set a beaver trap, one with all those picked teeth, and attached the trap chain to a heavy length of log chain. That way, the chain would slow him down, but it wouldn’t fetch up tight so the coon could pull his foot out of the trap. Next morning, the trap was gone – log chain and all! He finally located the trap and log chain, but no coon. “That coon had dragged the trap and chains down towards the barn and over the stone wall where he knew the log chain would fetch up between the rocks. Then he could get leverage and pull his foot out of the trap!”
That ended the coon trapping efforts, at least for a while, but later in the summer a woodchuck started eating stuff in the garden across the road from the barn. Rupert finally located the woodchuck hole in the blackberry patch behind the duck house. The duck-house sat at the end of the garden and was used for garden tool storage. The blackberry patch sits between the duck house and the road. Well, Rupert decided to set the beaver trap that he had used unsuccessfully on the coon. He carefully camouflaged the trap by the woodchuck hole and waited. No woodchuck. After about two weeks, he decided the ‘chuck had moved on, so he went to retrieve the trap.
With the blackberry bushes now bigger and thicker than when he had set the trap, he planned to just pick up the trap by the chain and lug it out of the berry bushes before springing the trap in the open. “As I started out of the bushes with the trap hanging behind me, one of those bushes grabbed me by the shoulder. Forgetting the trap, I kind of twisted around to get away from the briars. When I did, that trap swung around and hit the back of my leg and sprung – and I felt those steel teeth grab the calf of my left leg! Lucky for me, I had on a new pair of dungarees, because the trap teeth didn’t cut through too bad. Now, I was in a pickle. Where the trap was, I couldn’t reach it with both hands to spring it. I thought about hollerin’ for the Wife, but I knew that wouldn’t do no good, ‘cause her hands weren’t strong enough to spring the trap. How could I get the trap off? Then I remembered the water-pump pliers in the garage across the road by the barn. All I had to do was walk across the road to get ‘em. I hoped nobody would come along and see me in the fix I was in. How could I explain a trap on the back of my leg? Trouble was, every time I went to take a step, the muscles in my leg would flex, and the jaws of the trap tightened a little tighter! Ow! I finally made it across the road and found the pliers. Then I was able to use one hand to get the pliers on the trap spring lever and release the pressure enough to get the trap off. I was surprised that the trap teeth didn’t do much damage to my leg. The dungarees protected the muscle enough that I just got a few red teeth marks!”