Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
The tracks of Mink appeared from time to time on Yan’s creekside mud albums, and at length another of these tireless watchers, placed at the Wakan Rock, reported to him that Mink as well as Skunks came there now for a nightly feast.
The Mink was a large one, judging by the marks, and Caleb was asked to help in trapping it.
“How do you trap Mink, Mr. Clark?” was the question.
“Don’t trap ’em at all this time o’ year, for they’re no good till October,” was the answer.
“Well, how do you trap them when they are in season?”
“Oh, different ways.”
It was slow work, but Yan kept on and at length got the old man going.
“Airly days we always used a deadfall for Mink. That’s made like this, with a bird or a Partridge head for bait. That kills him sure, sudden and merciful. Then if it’s cold weather he freezes and keeps O.K. till you come around to get him; but in warm weather lots o’ pelts are spoiled by being kept too long, so ye have to go round pretty often to save all you kill. Then some one brought in them new-fangled steel traps that catches them by the foot and holds them for days and days, some times, till they jest starve to death or chaw their foot off to get free. I mind once I ketched a Mink with only two legs left. He had been in a steel trap twice before and chawed off his leg to get away. Them traps save the trapper going round so often, but they’re expensive, and heavy to carry, and you have got to be awful hard-hearted before ye kin use ’em. I tell ye, when I thought of all the sufferin’ that Mink went through it settled me for steel traps. Since then, says I, if ye must trap, use a deadfall or a ketchalive, one or other; no manglin’ an’ tormentin’ for days. I tell ye that thar new Otter trap that grabs them in iron claws ought to be forbid by law; it ain’t human.
“Same way about huntin’. Huntin’s great sport, an’ it can’t be bad, ’cause I can’t for the life of me see that it makes men bad. ’Pears to me men as hunt is humaner than them as is above it; as for the cruelty–wall, we know that no wild animal dies easy abed. They all get killed soon or late, an’ if it’s any help to man to kill them I reckon he has as good a right to do it as Wolves an’ Wildcats. It don’t hurt any more–yes, a blame sight less–to be killed by a rifle ball than to be chawed by Wolves. The on’y thing I says is don’t do it cruel–an’ don’t wipe out the hull bunch. If ye never kill a thing that’s no harm to ye ’live an’ no good to ye dead nor more than the country kin stand, ’pears to me ye won’t do much harm, an’ ye’ll have a lot o’ real fun to think about afterward.
“But I mind a feller from Europe, some kind o’ swell, that I was guidin’ out West. He had crippled a Deer so it couldn’t get away. Then he sat down to eat lunch right by, and every few moments he’d fire a shot into some part or another, experimentin’ an’ aimin’ not to kill it for awhile. I heard the shootin’ an’ blattin’, an when I come up I tell ye it set my blood a-boilin’. I called him some names men don’t like, an’ put that Deer out o’ pain quick as I could pull trigger. That bu’st up our party–I didn’t want no more o’ him. He come pretty near lyin’ by the Deer that day. It makes me hot yet when I think of it.
“If he’d shot that Deer down runnin’ an’ killed it as quick as he could it wouldn’t ’a’ suffered more than if it had been snagged a little, ’cause bullets of right weight numb when they hit. The Deer wouldn’t have suffered more than he naturally would at his finish, maybe less, an’ he’d ’a’ suffered it at a time when he could be some good to them as hunted him. An’ these yer new repeatin’ guns is a curse. A feller knows he has lots of shot and so blazes away into a band o’ Deer as long as he can see, an lots gets away crippled, to suffer an’ die; but when a feller has only one shot he’s going to place it mighty keerful. Ef it’s sport ye want, get a single-shot rifle, ef it’s destruction, get a Gatling-gun.
“Sport’s good, but I’m agin this yer wholesale killin’ an’ cruelty. Steel traps, light-weight bullets an’ repeatin’ guns ain’t human. I tell ye it’s them as makes all the sufferin’.”
This was a long speech for Caleb, but it was really less connected than here given. Yan had to keep him going with occasional questions. This he followed up.
“What do you think about bows and arrows, Mr. Clark?”
“I wouldn’t like to use them on big game like Bear and Deer, but I’d be glad if shotguns was done away with and small game could be killed only with arrows. They are either sure death or clear miss. There’s no cripples to get away and die. You can’t fire an arrow into a flock of birds and wipe out one hundred, like you can with one of them blame scatterguns. It’s them things that is killing off all the small game. Some day they’ll invent a scattergun that is a pump repeater like them new rifles, and when every fool has one they’ll wonder where all the small game has gone to.
“No, sir, I’m agin them. Bows and arrows is less destructful an’ calls for more Woodcraft an’ give more sport–that is, for small game. Besides, they don’t make that awful racket, an’ you know who is the party that owns the shot, for every arrow is marked.”
Yan was sorry that Caleb did not indorse the arrow for big game, too.
The Trapper was well started now; he seemed ready enough with information to-day, and Yan knew enough to “run the rapids on the freshet.”
“How do you make a ketchalive?”
“They ain’t fit to catch now, and the young ones need the mothers.”
“I wouldn’t keep it. I only want to make a drawing.”
“Guess that won’t harm it if you don’t keep it too long. Have ye any boards? We used to chop the whole thing out of a piece of Balsam wood or White Pine, but the more stuff ye find ready-made the easier it is. Now I’ll show you how to make a ketchalive if ye’ll promise me never to miss a day going to it while it is set.”
The boys did not understand how any one could miss a day in visiting a place of so much interest, and readily promised.
So they made a ketchalive, or box-trap, two feet long, using hay wire to make a strong netting at one end.
“Now,” said the trapper, “that will catch Mink, Muskrat, Skunk, Rabbit–’most anything, ’cording to where you put it and how you bait it.”
“Seems to me the Wakan Rock will be a good place to try.”
So the trap was baited with a fish head firmly lashed on the wire trigger.
In the morning, as Yan approached, he saw that it was sprung. A peculiar whining and scratching came from it and he shouted in great excitement: “Boys, boys, I’ve got him! I’ve got the Mink!”
They seized the trap and held it cautiously up for the sunlight to shine through the bars, and there saw to their disgust that they had captured only the old gray Cat. As soon as the lid was raised she bounded away, spitting and hissing, no doubt to hurry home to tell the Kittens that it was all right, although she had been away so long.