A few weeks ago my children both came home for a family funeral. My son Lucas from California and my daughter Amanda and her two littlest children from Colorado. Their beloved Aunt Sherri had passed away and they came to honor her. It was great comfort to their dad, as she was his big sister.
The kids were here a few days, and one evening my son Lucas and I sat up a little longer and I started telling him a story. I told him how I had been gone from home for most of a day and being country people now, with open land and a tree farm behind us, we get some critters around here.
I came up on the back deck and I got a strong whiff of musk that definitely was not skunk nor bear, but most definitely some creature had been visiting nearby the quiet property a short time before I arrived home. I thought perhaps coyote, raccoon or fox. When my husband came home later, I told him some critter had come a calling. He said, “You smelled it? How would you know?” Well, I guess he never knew how familiar with the smell of these animals I was, and the lures that were used back in the day to trap them either.
See my dad was a trapper. He trapped for bounty since he was a kid which would be about 100 years ago. He continued trapping for hides because that was how you could earn money from the county.
My dad needed help skinning and stretching hides for years. Even I helped. Skinning a muskrat was a real treat but I didn’t complain…much. You didn’t complain to my dad about much of anything or you would get what for.
My dad would order lures out of the Fur, Fish and Game magazine. They would be delivered in brown paper boxes in little bottles. Whew-did they stink. But, each had their own smell. Fox, mink, muskrat for the most part. It took me a while to realize those little brown bottles didn’t contain some magic trapping oil, but they had critter urine in them. Yuck. But, again I didn’t say anything. Mom would let me know when to keep a tight lip.
My dad had oodles of traps and what he had to do to get one odor off and add a new tantalizing smell on several was boil his traps over a fire with pine needles and pitch and then boil them with the new “lure”. Now I’m sure you figure he did this outside. Oh no. He had this nasty old white and black metal bucket that sat on our electric stove and boiled the whole evening before the morning when he would set them fresh inviting traps. Could mom say anything? Nope. Where did I go? Upstairs. I’d help mom freshen the house as soon as he was out the door with his bucket.
Now this fragrance not only entered our kitchen, it was in our car. Mom didn’t drive, so my dad’s old Ford was a car and truck both. I’d hop in the back seat with a towel in hand to lay on the cushion, to protect my clothes, and on the floor would be a box of traps or sometimes a chainsaw. He was a wood cutter too. So the car smelled of a mixture of lures and gasoline. And he wondered why I got car sick so often. Uffda.
I asked Lucas, “Haven’t I ever told you this part of my life with Grampa Brynildson?” Nope. He shook his head kind of almost unbelieving that it was like that back then. Yup. That was my world and the world of the kids that came before me.
One confirmation night it was snowy and my dad gave me a rare ride to class. Who should come slipping and sliding on the snow but two neighbor boys heading to ELC too.
Daddy said, “They in your class?” Yes. He wheels over and hollers out the window, “You boys need a ride to church?” Sure! Oh my goodness. Was I horrified? I did a quick inventory of the backseat floor. No traps, no lure bottles and no chainsaw but the car definitely had its usual greasy, critter-like odor. Both guys appreciated the ride and never said a thing to me about the car. Maybe being boys they didn’t care or notice but I am still horrified 50 years later.
There are so many things my dad taught me that I am remembering as of the past few years. I never shared much about him with my kids and I think they are appreciating hearing about him. After all that is where Amanda’s name of “Honey Girl” came from. The girl who knows what fox lure smells like.
Until next time…
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!