The following reminiscence is by Arnold Favinger from PA.
Did you ever hear the saying at the end of those fishing shows, “Take a kid fishing”? As I watched one of those shows and heard that statement, I started to think about some of the kids I had taken trapping, and trapping as a kid myself.
I guess I feel indebted to younger trappers because of old Jim Murphy. I had met Murphy when I was 14 standing near the bridge on Mount Road, after I had checked some muskrat sets. Murphy saw my handful of muskrats and stopped to talk to me about trapping. Back then no older trapper shared his knowledge with a youngster, especially one he had just met. But, Murphy and I quickly became friends and he showed me a few tricks of his for trapping coons and rats, as well as taking me to trapping conventions with him and his partners. I met so many wonderful and helpful trappers at those conventions that I still fondly remember.
However, at my young age many of the more seasoned trappers did not take me seriously. One time Murphy and a few friends were standing around and talking, when a young boy of 8 or 9 walked up. “My Daddy caught a bunch of coons last year” the youngster chimed in. The older trappers smiled at him, nodded their approval, and continued their conversation. I on the other hand knew how badly if felt to be ignored asked the youngster how many coons his Daddy caught. “He caught 600 something coons” the boy said. Well that certainly peaked my interest, and I listened to the boy. “Daddy says his secret is straight vanilla extract” the boy said happily. I filed the information away for a later date and thanked the young man for his story.
Later that season my partner Jack Bonney and I were trapping coons back in Glenwood. We had done very well early in the season but had pulled traps for deer season and went back to reset. Our hopes of high catches were dashed when we caught nothing but could see tracks on the mud and sandbars where the coons had flat out ignored our sets. I told Jack about the vanilla trick the boy had told me. So, that night Jack pilfered his Mom’s vanilla and we put it into two squirt bottles, and refreshed the sets with vanilla. The following morning out of twelve sets we had eleven coons and one snapped trap! As the old saying goes, “Out of the mouths of babes.”
Now let me tell you about another kid I took up trapping with. I first met Mike DiSalvo when I was fishing down on Chester Creek. He and his buddies were messing around on a pipe that ran along the edge of the bridge and he slipped and fell into the creek. After making sure the wet, skinny 12 year old was ok, I noticed his hat; it read “My Dad is a fox trapper.” I asked him his name and he said Mike DiSalvo. I asked if he was Charlie DiSalvo’s grandson and he said he was. I had known his Grandfather as an excellent trapper for many years by bumping into him at various trapping locations. I had heard of his Dad but had never met him in person. At that time I knew I would see that kid again, just not when.
Well about 6 years later, I was at the local store and someone asked me if I had any traps set down in the cornfield off Convent Rd. I said, “No I don't, but I might know who does.” Therefore, the next morning I stopped by Mike’s mom’s house (I had been a good friend of her brothers). She welcomed me in and went to wake the lazy bum up. “What brings you here so EARLY on a Saturday morning Arn?” he asked sleepily. “Well some people asked me if I was trapping down the cornfield, and I said no I wasn’t. But I might know who was” I said to him. “Yeah, yeah someone already asked me too” he said. Then we started talking about the trapline we used to run. How he and Pop (as he called his Grandfather) ran into me and Jack Bonney and Robbie Holmes on the railroad tracks in Darlington a few times. We discussed our trapping methods and techniques, and I was impressed by his knowledge. Of course, he did have two of the better trappers I know as his teachers so he should have known what to do. The more we talked, the more I had a burning itch to go set some steel. “Mike, how would you like be my trapping partner this season?” I asked. He looked at me and thought about it for a few seconds before saying “Arnold that sounds great, we’ll have a blast!”
My friends ribbed me bad about taking a snot nosed kid (even though he was 18) on the trapline as a full partner. Some did think it was nice of me to take the kid out and show him a few things, but others commented I might need a stroller and a bib for my new partner. One of them even made a comment to Mike stating that he should feel honored to be trapping with someone who has as much trapping knowledge as I had.
Brother, if they had only known the knowledge and skills Mike possessed in trapping they may have changed their minds about who was learning more from whom! I showed him a few tricks and tips I had for coons and foxes, but his grandfather and father had taught him very well. He on the other hand showed me how to tune and modify my traps for better performance, to dye and wax my traps properly, how to handle fur with the best of them and how to trap foxes in numbers.
We roamed the suburban landscape outside Philadelphia most of the time, but took a few expeditions to the mountains of Potter County, PA. We both caught out 1st coyotes on those trips (that bum caught his first). We lived in a whirlwind of outdoor activity, and felt we could do anything we wanted to. We went to conventions, trapped, hunted, fished, and just generally lived in the outdoors as much as possible. As he says, “brothers we became and brothers we remain,” and all because I was willing to listen to and take a chance on some kids trapping with me.
So remember brother and sister trappers, take a kid trapping. You may just learn a few things yourself on the way.
Arnold Favinger from PA
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