Caring for and Healing the Earth

Wild Animals & Birds

Excerpt from The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel

Edward Abbey

(This passage from the book communicates a strong point regarding the trapping of animals)

Inconsolable memories. Appalachian autumn. Rustle of wind through the dry corn, rattle of dead leaves beneath our feet, the frosty breath of morning, the sleepy stasis of Indian summer. Mornings and at night we walked our trapline with flashlight and .22 rifle. Hoping for fox, silver fox (wealth!), but catching mostly only skunk and muskrat. Sometimes in early dawn we'd find a muskrat dead in our trap, half frozen into the ice. Or now and then, not often, one small furry foot with chewed-off stump clutched in the steel jaws. A cruel business, our mother kept reminding us. Will shrugged, I was embarrassed, the old man scoffed.

"Look, Lorrie," Paw would growl, "they don't hurt much. The trap grabs and holds 'em, that's all. Those poor critters are gonna die anyhow, out there in the cold and dark. We're just harvestin' the surplus."

"You don't harvest living creatures," Mother said. "What a disgusting word. You're killing them for personal profit."

"All right, all right. But we need the money and you know it."

One evening Paw brought one of our Victor single-spring varmint traps up from the cellar. He was going to settle the cruelty argument with Mother once and for all. Carefully, while Mother watched, knitting, our old man squeezed the spring and spread the trap flat on the dinner table. He latched the bait pan to the release trigger and drew back. The trap was ready. "Okay, Lorrie, now watch this." Paw clenched his big right hand into a fist and smashed it down on the pan. The trap sprang shut. Grinning, he held up his caught right hand and the trap, its tether chain dangling. "See?" he said. "See that, goddamnit? I told you, Lorrie, it hardly hurts a-tall. I hardly feel it. See?" Triumphantly he looked at me, at Will, at Paul. "Ain't this what I been telling you boys all along?"

Impressed, we looked at Mother to see what she would say. Smiling her ironic smile, needles clicking in her fingers, she said, "You’re not finished, Joe."

"What’s that mean?"

She paused. "Now we want to see you gnaw your hand off."


(Reproduced without permission. I don't think Edward Abbey would mind. -- Go buy the book!)


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