Man’s Best Friend
This story is about a dog, my dog not Scar but my first lab her name was Jesse. I got her not by choice but rather out of default. The Love of this breed started when one of my best friends passed in a bad auto accident, we were mere children still in our twenties. Long story short I picked up the untrained dog and started a lifelong friendship.
Times were tough, good jobs were scarce and money for a young fella was tight, so any way that you could make an extra buck was a good idea. A guy I knew had some property that had a couple drainage ditches along with a couple strip lakes. The landowner needed some trapping done, he had the property, and I had the traps enough said.
It was late in the season when we pushed his little 4 wheel drive down the half-thawed road towards the property, after a couple gates we emerged to the promise land. Muskrat houses were spotted all over the slew not a human trace was to be seen. I am not sure if you get my drift, but trapping was big business back then, and fur was worth serous cash. Racoons were bringing $15 to $20 bucks and Muskrats were at $6 to $7 bucks apiece. With grounds like this a guy could bring in a week’s worth of wages in a single night. Remember back then minimum wage was at $2.75 an hour so with 20 or so good rat sets, you could make a serious money trip to the fur buyer.
I grabbed my pack full of traps and hand axe and headed to the first cove. The ice was thin, but clear, so spotting the slides into the huts and shore dens was a piece of cake. I went to work chopping perpendicular holes in the ice just wide enough to poke a 110 conibear trap into the run. This went on for several hours, the other guy kept me in supply of freshly cut willow stakes to anchor the traps in the runs. I was wet and frozen. Back then we did not have fancy Gortex gloves or boots, everything waterproof was rubber – and well, rubber leaks. Let’s just say you are going to be wet. The spray from the axe punching through the ice, and hitting you in the face feels like needles, and soaks every inch of your body.
The day grew short, and the light grew weak. My hands went numb a couple hours ago, the thoughts of fat rats in the traps pushed us on until every trap I had was set. Jesse, my best friend romped in the grass often finding a knob to sit on to survey the surrounding ground and us as we moved around the lakes and ditches. She almost never let me out of her sight unless she was on a retrieve. She went everywhere with me including running traps. Jesse was not a big lab, stocky would be the proper word to describe her, she was about 60 pounds and black as night. She was always good to go on any and all adventures I could muster up, some not so smart but we always made to home.
The sleepless night let loose to a dark wet daybreak. I sipped a cup of coffee as I patiently waited for him to pick me up. He arrived late as usual and somewhat hung over, but at least he was not drunk. We loaded my pack in the back of the truck, and with a hup-hup Jesse jumped up on my lap and we were off to the promise land. A short time later we arrived at the property, trap after trap were full of brown gold, almost every trap held a fat muskrat in it. The wet warm evening had the fur moving, even a couple coon traps I had thrown in had fur in them as well. It was like Christmas. My eye lids blinked like they were an old school cash register, ringing up the rats one by one. We finished the first day with 18 Muskrats and 3 coons, bringing the days total to a ball park figure of just about one hundred and fifty bucks, Hell that was a week’s wages back then after taxes of coarse…LOL .
The next day and the day after were about the same, the promise land just kept filling our pockets with much needed cash. The amount of fur this small postage stamp size of wetlands was producing was nothing short of amazing. We ran the traps by day and skinned by night. The warmer temperatures kept us from freezing outside as we skinned. On the fourth day the phone rang my trapping partner was under the weather with the bottle flu. I quickly called my girlfriend and asked if I could give her a ride to work and use her truck as mine CJ5 jeep sat in my parent’s garage with yet another blown motor, a result of a little ditch hopping after the last snowstorm. And yes, you young ones reading this story, we used to have snow and lots of it back then.
I dropped her off and ran back to the house and grabbed my pack and of course my partner in crime Jesse. We arrived at the property and immediately started chopping out traps and removing rats from the traps. The fur had started to slow down, announcing we were putting a pretty good dent in the population. Wet and cold we moved to the last set, it was on a deeper lake. I looked at the rotting ice of the deeper lake and took a cautious step onto it, seemed still strong enough to hold me. I took another “aw hell its good,” I wanted to save the long walk around the lakes shoreline and what better way than a bee line towards last set. A mistake that almost cost me dearly. I was sliding and slipping my way across when I heard a loud crack not like the one you hear when ice fishing when a lake as it is making ice , but yet a dull one like you hear when a wet piece of plywood gives way under your weight. I turned and took one step back the way I had come, but it was too late down I went all the way under, my rubber boots and heavy cloths were dragging me down, I reached for daylight as fast as I could, I clawed my way back up onto the edge of the hole and tried to pull myself back up. Each time I did, I slid back into the hole. I can’t remember what all transpired during those few minutes, all I remember is seeing Jesse heading my way out of the corner of my eye. I yelled for her to get back several times, even taking a swing at her to keep her from going in also. She kept coming back to me, sensing I was in trouble she lay down next to me. I tried several more times to pull myself free of the icy water death-trap, but there was no use. I just needed a little more leverage; I reached out and grabbed Jesse’s collar, she felt my weight and dug in her claws, she did not pull me out, but it was the little bit of leverage I need to get my hips clear of the water. I slowly stood up, shed my rubber boots and started back towards the truck, I picked up the keys that I had always left under the back tire and climbed in, and started it, and fired up the heat. I am not sure how long I sat there – 20 minutes maybe an hour, I opened my eyes hardly believing I was still alive, I turned my head and there sitting next to my truck door was Jesse just waiting for me to open the door and let her in. I have had 3 best friends in my pursuit of the outdoors, Jesse was my first followed by Lace and now Scar. There love and devotion can never be duplicated by a Human only a K9……Mans Best Friend!!
See Ya on the Ice…..