After being cooped up inside for much of the past few weeks, the fresh crisp air was welcomed into my lungs with an eagerness not unlike that of the hunger of a suckling newborn calf. When you are away from it you don’t notice how much you are missing it but when that first deep breath plunges into your lungs you suddenly remember. I had been expecting our Sunday of trapping to be dowsed in a steady entourage of rain but I was quite pleasantly surprised when daybreak broke to reveal one of the nicest sunny days we have enjoyed all winter. It was beautiful! The drive to meet the Mountain Man fed our anticipation with a steady stream of Montana’s outdoor eye candy. Once we arrived at the Mountain Man’s trapping partner’s home, we stopped for a quick “Howdy do” and a gander at the season’s catch thus far. The hides hanging, perfectly prepped and ready for sale, were like a mind trip back in time. I stood there sipping my steaming coffee with a reminiscent look about me. The Mountain Man’s voice snapped me back to reality and he stated matter-of-factly, “I was thinking about this coming hunting season on my way down the Mountain this morning. I think it will be good.” He smiled as I stated boldly, “Well, it was awesome last year!” The Mountain Man is always ready with a quick smile. He isn’t afraid to get serious but his overall demeanor is one that provides those around him with a consisted upbeat feeling. He is energetic and positive and it is infectious. On that note, we loaded up and headed out to the muskrat line.
The Mountain Man and his partner had set out a lot of traps a few days earlier and had been catching quite a few muskrats on this line already. We were going to check all the sets and pull some of them and then place new ones in another area. Piles of traps, baskets, cages and gear were overflowing out of the back of the Mountain Man’s truck. Tristan and Bill headed down one side of the line while the Mountain Man and I set out across the wet fields to begin checking from the other end. We checked and pulled for quite a while and found a couple of muskrats along the way. They were placed into the sack I carried and toted along in hopes of the addition of many more.
As we walked along I would stop to take pictures of this and that. The day seemed to drift along like a leaf lazily floating downstream. It was calm, quiet and relaxing. Once the traps had been checked, pulled or reset, we met back up with Tristan and Bill. We tallied the day’s catch and were rewarded with a double-digit day.
The 10 muskrats were placed back in the sack and we headed over to the next area where we hoped to set another line and a beaver trap. We were able to make quick work of it with all of us tackling the tasks and before we knew it the time had slipped away and only an hour was left before we had to head home. A few minutes were spent gathering some fire components and soon hot dogs were splitting on sticks and roasting to perfection. Lunch went down well and the conversation among friends proceeded to cap the day’s level of greatness.
As we were picking up the gear and lunch supplies, one lonely hotdog remained in the wrapper. The Mountain Man popped it onto a stick and began roasting it over the quickly fading ember coal left in the smoldering fire. We were blessed to be able to trap on this land by the generosity of a local logger who happened to be sitting up in his self-loader while we were there. He was working away, picking up logs from his piles and loading them onto his truck. As the hot dog reached the height of its glory, the Mountain Man set it in a mustard slathered bun and wrapped it in a bag. He set off toward the logger and when he reached him he sent the hot dog flying straight up within reach of the working man. As the steaming present reached the man, the hot dog and bun flew out of the bag and landed in the man’s greasy, gloved hands as if he had intended it to. The only exchange made between them was a simple nod of thanks, with a mouthful of hot dog, from the logger. The Mountain Man headed back to the fire and the rest of us. We would not have nearly as many amazing outdoor memories if not for the generosity of men just like that logger. Finding little ways to say thank you can go a long way in helping to secure relationships and opportunities for future memories. Besides, it is just the right thing to do.