THE TRAPPER, 2 of 2

Sure enough, there was a beaver in the trap the next morning. But it had lunged for shore, not deeper water, so it was still alive, one hind leg clenched by the trap. It bared its orange incisors and hissed aggressively as the trapper studied it from the bank.

“You were supposed t’drown, damn you,” the man said. He pulled his tomahawk from his belt. The beaver lunged at him. The trapper pulled back sharply and slipped on the muddy bank. One buckskin-covered leg went into the water. The beaver lunged again, growling. The trapper brought the tomahawk’s blunt end down hard on the back of the beaver’s head and it jerked and fell lifeless into the water.

“I gotta eat, too,” the trapper muttered as he hauled trap and animal out of the water. He held it up. “A big one,” he said admiringly. “A thick winter pelt, too.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches

THE TRAPPER, 1 of 2

The trapper studied the beaver pond carefully. The lodge lay to his left, a four foot high mound of mud and sticks surrounded landward by a thick stand of whip-like coyote willow. Water gurgled over the dam beyond it. Directly across the pond, on a small slick of mud, lay several short thin willow pieces, recently cut, carefully pealed.

The trapper slipped away from the pond and headed upstream, then waded into the icy water and back to the pond. He waded near the bank to within a few feet of the pealed sticks. He unslung the beaver trap from his shoulder and scraped at the bottom muck with his foot. He positioned the trap firmly in the mud, carefully set and baited it with castoreum, then retreated well upstream before climbing out. He headed back to camp to dry out. Now it was just a matter of time.

from Moreno Valley Sketches