THE TRAPPER TURNED WISE MAN

Christmas in the mountains of north Alabama was a special time for me and my buddies, Punky Kelly and Chipmunk Green. School was out, there was plenty of time to put out rabbit box traps, and there was the Christmas pageant at our little rural church, which meant food and presents.

 Setting rabbit box traps was a high priority for us as we thought of ourselves as being mountain men. The excitement was that we never knew what our trap line would produce, one year it was mostly opossums the next a rabbit or two.

This particular Christmas season we each had built one new rabbit box trap. Our trap line started on the creek behind my house where we set one box on an animal trail next to the creek. Then we crossed the pasture to a fencerow near Punkys house where a second box was carefully set. The third box was set a short distance away, next to a brush pile behind Chipmunk’s dad’s barn.

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THE BOOK

We had received our orders, we were required to read a book, an ENTIRE, whole book during the summer and give an oral book review when school opened in August. It was the sentence of death. Who in their right mind would waste time reading when they could be fishing or camping or playing mumblety-peg?

July found Punky Kelly, Chipmunk Green and I at our camp on the old mill pond that was formed when the Brier Fork Creek was dammed up in the late 1800’s to supply water for a grist mill. To us it was a large lake in Canada. For shelter we used an old tarp that Punky’s dad used for covering hay. To us it was a wall tent on the Canadian wilderness lake.

We had stayed up most of the night before running trot lines and barely caught enough yellow cats to smell up the skillet. As I fried up the fish in bacon drippings and Punky made hoe cake, Chipmunk reminded us about our summer reading assignment. It hung over us like a dark cloud. 

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DOUGH BALLS CATCH MORE THAN CARP

August can be a hot, somewhat dull month for a youngster growing up in the country. Most crops are laid by, fishing is slow and soon school will be back in session. It is a time when adventure is scarce.

“Punky” Kelly, Walter “Chipmunk” Green and I were sitting in the shade, under a country road bridge, trying to catch bluegills from a pool of water that resembled lukewarm coffee, Punky, a freckled-faced, red headed, short, round boy, was reading aloud from a tattered outdoor magazine about the excitement of using dough balls and a rod and reel to catch large carp. 

“I saw some big carp over in Mr. Sharp’s gravel pits the last time I was fishing there with my dad,” Chipmunk told us through his toothy grin, the source of his nickname.

“That’s a long bicycle ride from here,” I responded. “But pulling in some of those monsters would sure beat sitting here drowning worms.”

Punky devised a plan. “The recipe for making dough balls is in the article, so let’s go to my mom’s kitchen and make some,” he said.

“She’s helping Dad work on the hay baler at the Perkins’ place, so we’ll have the kitchen to ourselves.” The kitchen was Punky’s favorite room in the house.

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