CHAPTER 4 - A Trapper's Diary
Poplar Point, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Received your last letters day before yesterday. We left Berens River yesterday morning, with all my outfit, part of Fred's, 25 gallons of gasoline and 2 dogs, in the big canoe and towed my little canoe. It was dark when we got here so we camped, as it is 7 - 8 miles from here to Poplar River. Today it is storming and I expect we will have to stay here until tomorrow.
Wednesday evening the fire rangers came to Berens River in a seaplane. There was a fire about 12 miles up river and they asked me to run up there with two men and put it out. Got 40 cents an hour and $2.00 for the use of my canoe. The fire did not have much of a start and it did not take us long to put it out.
You say it is too bad that I am going trapping again, but no matter how much I tried I could not keep away from it. It is a hard life at times, but there is freedom and lots of it.
The gull eggs I had cached across the lake were all spoiled. Too warm for them this summer.
Beaver Falls, Whiskey Jack River
We left Poplar River settlement just a week ago today. Made 20 portages so far, also lost one of our dogs. He got homesick and turned back. Tomorrow we will get to a 1/2 mile long portage and it will take all of a day to pack our stuff across it. The big canoe is the worst - it weighs about 400 pounds.
Fred is as busy as a bee. He's making bannock and seems to enjoy it too.
Sketch 4-1 Cranberry Rapids on Whiskey Jack River
Main Camp, Whiskey Jack
To date we have 21 muskrats, 1 mink, and 4 moose. Arrived here on the 9th with the small canoe; had to leave the big one at Whiskey Jack Lake as the water is too low up here now. We had to make 3 trips to bring our outfit up in the small canoe -- 7 portages. Stayed at Whiskey Jack Lake 2 days and cut trail across country to Sebastie River; the way we intend to take back to Berens River this winter. Tomorrow we have to get a load of meat, 4 portages below here, and day after I intend to leave for my camp. It has been rather cold the last few days and it snowed a little today.
The river froze over on October 14th but opened up in the last few days. I managed to get to this lake in the canoe today; tried twice before but couldn't make it. The lake is all iced over but not thick enough to walk on. Started out to set traps this afternoon; I set three -- the first of the season for big game-foxes. Had to beat it back to my 2 X 4 shelter on account of the rain. I never saw such weather as we are having, not even in your town. Haven't been away from camp much the last three weeks - made snowshoes and moccasins, also washed, patched, darned, etc. Fred is getting homesick already and says he will never go trapping again. Too much work and does not like being alone. There are hardly any moose here this season; we did not get any after the first four, and one of those we were unable to get on account of the ice; expect the wolves have cleaned it up by now. We will need 8 or 10 more for the winter.
Sketch 4-2 One of Rod's quarries
Rained all day yesterday and I stayed under my shelter, but got wet anyway. Today I moved a little farther from camp and came across a moose. I bagged him and cut him up. Tomorrow I will have to build a stage and put the meat up, out of the wolves' reach, and set some traps around.
Bull Moose Lake, Whiskey Jack
Have been down to the main camp since the last entry. Had a fisher jump on one of my traps, also a mink, but the traps were frozen. Got three more "rats" and that's all. Am on the way back to my camp now. It is freezing up now, but still bad going. Saw a nice cross fox today at about 250 yards, but missed him. Also saw signs of beaver, lynx and fisher today. Followed a moose track but the wolves got there ahead of me - just a piece of hide and a few bones left of him. Am taking my stuff (guns, traps, grub and bed) in relays as it is too much for one load. Think I'll get to my camp day after tomorrow. Am setting traps as I go.
Made it to my camp on the 20th and found everything o.k. -- all but the stove, which collapsed when I made a fire. Hiked back to the main camp next day for some grub and another stove. Fred came back with me day before yesterday. I got a cross fox on the way up. Have been out hunting, yesterday and today had no luck, but set some traps. Fred left for his camp again this morning. Feels good to be home again -- but there is a fly in the ointment -- no moose. I think the wolves have killed them pretty near all. Have only two meals of meat left up here and no bait for my traps. Found two beaver houses today, but there is only one beaver. We still have hardly any snow, only about two inches, and it is not very cold. Am going to have a table this winter. Hewed out 3 boards to-night; need about two more. We have not been able to use dogs at all, so far, and I have to carry all my stuff up from the other camp - about 25 miles.
Sketch 4-3 A lonely cabin in the wilds
The entry in my 'diary' for today reads: Pine Island line, 1 SILVER FOX! Consequently I feel as though I had the world by the tail on a downhill grade at that. If I don't get $200.00 for him I will be very disappointed. I had left camp early this morning for my down-river line and to see if Fred is still among the living. Expect he is all out of meat and wanted to show him where the cache is. Found the 'silver' in the first trap I came to. The worst of it is, his mate saw him caught and so I'm afraid I'll not get her -- and she is a 'silver' too. Had to postpone my trip until tomorrow, of course, to skin and stretch this one as good as I know how. The trees and logs of my cabin are crackling like a Fourth of July celebration; must be about 30 below, coldest day we have had yet.
Sketch 4-4 Foxes were plentiful during some winters' trapping
Went down to Fred's camp on Thursday, and on the way I picked up a red fox and a fisher. Friday we got some meat to camp and Saturday (yesterday) I came home with about 60 pounds of traps, grub, etc. On the way home I shot and cut up another moose, also set 4 traps. Should have been out on my line today, but was too tired. Got up at 8:30 this morning - my usual time is 4:30 AM. Did not waste the day though; stretched my fox and fisher skins, cleaned my rifle, enlarged my window by three panes and planed the table.
Yesterday and today I have been busy on my trap-line. All I had was one mink foot, and two other traps were sprung by mink and one by a lynx. With my usual bad luck I just missed a pack of wolves, about 24 of them; I followed the river down and they came up on my bush trail. Have 34 traps set now, and I have 40 more at the other camp to bring up. Saw fresh fox, lynx and fisher tracks again today, but I can't do much with the few traps I have up here now. If I only could have left Berens River 3 or 4 weeks earlier, I would have a stake by now. There are two more 'silvers' that I know of, and I don't know how many cross foxes. Foxes are very hard to trap now.
Went on my down-river line and to Fred's camp, day before yesterday, and came back yesterday with a load of traps. This week has been awful - did not get a thing, but traps were sprung on all my lines. Should have had 3 mink, 2 wolves (feet were too big for the traps), 1 lynx and 1 fox. Shot at another fox and missed him. Fred had 1 mink this week. Am taking it easy today, have to chop wood and patch my moccasins. There are a few ptarmigan around now; shot 2 yesterday. Two herds of caribou passed through this week but I did not see them.
This week is starting pretty good; yesterday on Black Duck River: one mink and today, on Beaver Creek: 1 "SILVER"! That makes two silvers out of a catch of four foxes, 1 is a cross and the other a red. The other two 'silvers' that I mentioned before are still at large. Some trapping grounds I've got, eh? Have 18 more traps to look at, so may get another pelt this week. Hope so anyway - the more the merrier you know. I think by New Years I will have all my traps set. Have 43 down now, all over the blooming country but there is lots of room.
Feel like going on the warpath today. Caught a mink on Poplar Creek, and another one, a cannibal, came along and ate his whole "tummy", fur and all. When I do get that poacher I'm going to stretch his hide an extra 1/2 inch and make a real big one out of him, that will make up a little for the damage he did. Tomorrow I'm due on my down-river line again. I have to tramp about 100 miles a week to tend the traps I have down - about 46 of them.
Went down to Fred's camp Friday; no more fur. Fred did not get anything this week. Yesterday I washed my clothes, and came home today with another dozen traps and a little grub. To my great sorrow I tore my pants coming up. Wore snowshoes for the first time this winter. Will have to make another, smaller pair. That will keep me out of mischief during my spare time.
Have been out on the line today, - nothing doing. It has been very cold lately, and the animals don't move around much on that account. I believe the lynx have left the country; haven't seen any tracks for 2 weeks now. Started on my small snowshoes this evening. Think I'll stay home tomorrow and finish the frames, so they can dry.
Worked on my snowshoe frames this morning and had them just about right when they broke - after me carrying that timber about 4 miles. I gave it up as that was the best wood I could find anywhere. Went back out on my trapline after I broke the frames and got, on Black Duck River, 1 mink, and on Bull Moose Lake, another "Silver Fox!" The 'silver' is already on the stretcher. This silver fox business is going to my head; am getting so, that, if I found two in one trap I'd take it as a matter of course and "holler" for more.
Last week I got another mink on Bull Moose Lake. Went down to Fred's on the 23rd and came back yesterday. Bagged another moose on the way home. Today I have been on the Beaver Creek line - one "Silver Fox!!!!" It snowed over a foot on the 24th and 25th, consequently my traps are hopelessly buried.
Nothing more last week and, so far, nothing this week. Fred had one red fox, 1 otter and 2 mink last week and he expects a lot more this week.
So far this week only two muskrats. Came across a couple of Indians this morning. Expect them up on a visit Sunday. It took them 14 days to come in from Poplar River. We will probably be starting back for Berens River next week, seeing that we have a trail part way."
The diary ends at this point. It is unclear whether Rod and Fred quit after winter trapping, or if they returned for spring trapping.