Trapping and fur sales helped in the lean years
(Reprinted from above link)
By Gerald Krueger Aberdeen
From time to time, this aging old brain struggles with topics to write about. But then suddenly an inspiration appears and — voila! — I have a topic.
My favorite topic to write about usually involves looking back at those glorious days of yesteryear, so here goes.
My Pa was a good farmer. He always kept the bills paid and was a good father to us. Having only completed a shortened grade school education, he was a wise man and a good marketer of his commodities. He was on most of the local boards and enjoyed a reputation as a reliable and successful farmer.
During the “Dirty Thirties,” we had an old feed and seed loan payable to the federal government. That loan always hung heavy on our minds, and we always made sure we met that payment. During the Great Depression, prices for everything the farmer brought to market were nearly worthless. It is hard to imagine the utter despair that these brave farmers lived with when nothing they sold brought enough funds to keep the bills paid.
On top of that dilemma, some years it just would not rain and, consequently, no crops grew. I remember some cattle owners only had Russian thistle to feed their cows. Whether we like it or not, just about everybody needs some money to survive and back in those days there just wasn’t any money. So many farmers just bunched it all and left in the middle of the night with their belongings fastened to their vehicle. Lodi, Calif., and Molalla, Ore., became the destinations of many — including some of our own relatives.
My Old Pa was a good man of the prairies and had a hobby of fur trapping. For some weird reason, furs held their price during such a trying time and that endeavor helped our family survive throughout those years of dread and despair. If it was a wet year, muskrats were in unbelievable abundance. Pa must have trapped thousands of those little critters.
In addition, mink were also priced right and Pa was an expert at trapping mink. Of course, these creatures had to be skinned, turned inside out and put on a stretching board to be marketed at some later date. I can still see the attic of my Grandma Annie’s house littered with a myriad of furs hanging from the ceiling while they cured and dried.
Pa was tuned in to good mink dogs who could tell if there was a mink in the hole. One time he bought a dog named Jim who was a bluetick coonhound. If there was a mink in the hole he would howl.
I also remember riding in the back of an old Model A Ford chasing after a coyote through the prairies. Of course, there were no roads in those days and very few fences, so it was wide open spaces that allowed for an engaging chase driving like the wind and shooting out the window at the wily coyote.
I still remember what wild rides those chases were. Of course, if that was tried today we would be locked up! Coyote hides in those days brought a very healthy price when finally selling them.
Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.