|By Albert Ball 2008|
As a boy on the farm, I dreamed of having a way to earn money. The boys in the cities had paper routes. My cousin Jack in Spencer had a Grit delivery route. When we visited his family I would sometimes accompany Jack on Saturday when he collected the money for his efforts.
I don't remember all the kid dream-jobs that I created in my imagination, but one stands out in my mind.
I reasoned that if I had some traps, I could
catch "valuable" fur-bearing creatures like skunks, opossums and other worthwhile furry creatures that could not refuse the lure of the bait that was firmly secured to my traps.
I finally settled for what we called deadfalls.
This consisted of a relatively large flat rock and some homemade triggers. I believe our hired man taught me how to make triggers. They consisted of two short pieces of a small tree branch and one long, slim piece.
The small pieces were whittled and shaped in such a way that when fitted together at well-carved notches and held in a certain position by the elongated notch in the long stick, it would maintain one end of the rock in the slightly elevated position until an unsuspecting and curious fur-bearing animal happened to nose around under the rock in search of a treat of some sort.
Then - with a bit of good luck - because of the nudging
of the long stick, the triggers would fly apart and if all went well, a flattened wild creature would have just met it's demise.
This was all facilitated by the securing of a morsel of meat to the back end of the long stick that extended to the back of the "cavity" under the rock.
The triggers would be released when the animal grabbed the piece of meat and as a consequence moved the long stick which in turn allowed the two trigger pieces to fly apart and the large rock to respond to the pull of gravity.
Should add that after the trap was set, a few small stones were carefully piled on top of the large flat rock so that any animal caught would be mashed "as flat as a fritter" (Appalachian talk) before it could wiggle loose.
Well, all my deadfall efforts failed.
Several of these traps were tripped
but the tripping animals all escaped and were able to thumb their noses at me.
These failures disappointed me greatly. Sometime afterward, I wondered what I would have done if I had caught an animal.
I did not know how to properly skin and stretch a pelt. I was already experienced in the skinning and gutting of squirrels for the dinner table but knew nothing about preparing a pelt.
Grandpa and grandma Ball lived about a mile up the road. I knew that grandpa trapped for rats in his corn crib and where grain fell to the ground or on the barn floors.
One day I was spending some time with grandpa (without
Dorcas tagging along) and I noticed his steel traps (small in size and not particularly dangerous to handle) and asked him about them.
I apparently expressed my desire to have some steel traps so that I could catch some fur-bearing animals and sell the pelts for real money.
I never - I mean never - was compensated with money specifically for work on the farm.
Whenever I earlier mentioned my longing for steel traps to my parents, mother would in a flash grit her teeth and say that I was not to have any steel traps of any size.
She said that I might cut off my fingers if I accidentally caught them in a trap and thus would not ever be able to play a piano. Well, playing a piano was not on my list of sought-after accomplishments. Never!
Now, back to grandpa and the steel traps. I successfully pleaded
my case and as a result he gave me two of his steel traps. I lost my ownership of these new possessions at the doorstep when I got back home. Enuf said. Thus, the end of my fur-bearing-animal trapping "career".
Editor's Note: Albert Ball, who lives in Indiana, is the son of the late Calhoun teacher Lelah Ball and her husband Lennie Ball, and grandson of farmers Al and Sadie Ball, all former residents of Barnes Run.
He returned to Calhoun in 2008 to visit his homeplace before his death,
Dottie Roach Williams, whose mother Thelma McCoy
Roach, worked for the Ball family during the 1920s,
shown with Al Ball during his visit to Calhoun in 2008