The Outdoors man: Trapping job started with a pack rat

By Adrianne Goff

In 1956 we lived out in the country at a place called Canyon Creek, Montana. While my dad was out working, my mother, bless her heart, was mostly a stay at home mom taking care of my two younger brothers and me.

Having a dad that hunted and trapped for a living, my brothers and I started off hunting and trapping at a young age, wanting to be just like Dad.

One night my mom heard something moving around in the kitchen. Sure that someone had broke into the house she woke my dad. My mom elbowed my dad in the ribs and whispered, “Dick, somebody is out in the kitchen!” I woke up and could hear the marauder sneaking around in the kitchen as well.

Now ole Dad eased out of bed, grabbed his trusty .38 special and sneaked slowly into the kitchen. It was really dark with all the lights out, but I quietly went over to my bedroom door and peeked out. There was ole Dad easing around with pistol in hand with nothing on but his long johns. I could hear the intruder moving around just out in front of him. All at once Dad flipped on the light and hollered, “Shirley, will you come here for a minute?” Mom hurried out of bed, slipped on her housecoat and went to see what all the commotion was about, with me following close behind.

After reaching the kitchen we discovered the intruder that broke into the house was a hairy, bug eyed, pack rat. He had broke into the house by coming down the chimney and out through a vent hole behind the majestic wood cook stove that ole Mom used to cook on. He was scurrying around the kitchen with Dad and his pistol right behind him. Now my ole dad was a great shot, but for some unknown reason to me he didn’t really want to blast the hairy little thief right there in the kitchen.

Dad had a better idea on how to remove this burglar from the kitchen. He convinced Mom to come over by the cook stove near the hole where the pack rat broke in. He handed her a small piece of stove wood and convinced her to whack the pack rat when he decided to go back out the hole.

The plan started off working real well. Dad slowly herded the pack rat toward the entry hole. The ole pack rat had decided that he was unwanted around here and it was time to go. The only problem was there was some lady in the way. So he ran over to poor ole Mom and hopped up on her foot and climbed right on up her leg.

I imagine you can only guess what happened next. Mom tried to scream but nothing come out but a gurgling sound. She bugged her eyes out and launched up really high into the air and come down stomping her feet and going in a big circle. It kind of looked like a cross between a Irish jig and some kind of a new fangled disco dance. After some really fancy footwork and a few more neat maneuvers, she shook the pack rat loose and he went up the way he got in and was gone.

It took ole Dad and me some time to calm Mom down and get her heart to quit ricocheting around in her rib cage.

Mom had to sit down a minute and while I patted her shoulder, Dad slipped on his britches and went out to the shed and brought back a small single spring trap. He wired it to a piece of stove wood and set the trap. He told me where to place it into the hole.

We had all calmed down some, well Dad and I had anyway, and we went back to bed.

Just after daylight the next morning I woke to Dad lightly shaking my shoulder. He whispered, “Better check your trap line.” I hurried out to the kitchen and I had caught the pack rat. Dad was so proud of me he took a picture of me and my first catch.

I think back on that day occasionally and realize that was how it all started all those years ago, when I was 3 years old. I guess my mom remembers too. When I retired from Wildlife Services in 2011, my mom had that picture enlarged and framed and presented it to me in front of coworkers and friends. She had the frame engraved with “Chuck’s first trapping Job.”

Chuck Carpenter, originally of Montana but now of Idaho, likes to hunt, fish and trap. He worked on a farm as a boy; then, as an adult, he took a job with the Department of Interior’s Animal Damage Control, now called USDA Wildlife Services. He ultimately became a district supervisor. He retired in 2011.

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