Fire can change things pretty quick. It happened while we were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. I had a fire going in the wood stove in the fur shed, thawing out some critters for a few hours of evening skinning. I’d put a few extra pieces in to keep the fire going during dinner, and that’s when things got hot.
My wife looked out the window and saw the shed on fire. By then there wasn’t much we could do except prevent further spread to a nearby storage building. It was a total loss. Burned right to the ground. 30 muskrat pelts, half a dozen beaver and the same number of weasels, four marten, a fisher, a mink and some beaver castor. But those were just the perishables.
Sometimes you don’t realize just how much stuff you accumulate over time as a trapper. Over the past 15 years I’ve ordered supplies every year, bought and sold traps here and there, and picked up miscellaneous supplies from fellow trappers, conventions and barn sales. It all kind of piles up in different corners of the shed over time, and often it’s taken for granted. I’d also started lure making, and had purchased a bunch of ingredients and supplies that went up in flames or melted into the ground.
While losing the pelts was a big emotional loss, the worst hit financially was the traps. I had more value in traps than the building was worth. I’d initially figured around 150 traps, but after digging through the rubble, I’m confident I had more than 200 in there. There were dozens of stretchers, both wire and wood, and a pile of other fur handling supplies.
I’ve learned a little more than I knew about trap steel over the past couple of days…..enough to know that the fire destroyed the vast majority of my traps. Depending on the type of trap, thickness and grade of steel, how hot it got and how quickly it cooled, each trap experienced its own degree of damage.
All of the smaller longsprings and jump traps are completely toast. The springs have no strength and the heat warped the metal in various places. I can only hope to straighten some of them enough to make decorative wall hangers. All off the springs on my coil traps are toast – they were the easiest to damage. If I only had to replace some coils that would be fine, but something else happened to the ones that got really hot and cooled slowly: the metal annealed, making the levers, pans and jaws on many of them a very soft metal with no strength. Short of help from a blacksmith, I’m not sure how many of these I can repair. Then finally, the conibears are all toast. All of the springs were destroyed, and the main frames of most of them lost their strength.
Emotionally and financially, the trap shed fire was a big hit, and a real step backward. I’ve had a number of friends, acquaintances and fellow trappers reach out and offer to help, which isn’t a surprise. The trapping community is full of great people, and I’m proud to be associated with them. What I am surprised by is my own reaction. It sucks to think about the loss every time I remember another piece of trapping equipment or furbearer that I’ll never see again, but I’m not as down about it as I thought. I’m kind of optimistic about rebuilding and the chance for a fresh start.
It’ll be slow going as I work on the finances to build another shed and restock it, but even though I lost the majority of my physical trapping possessions, I still feel ahead. During the fire it became crystal clear to me that the most valuable piece of trapping equipment I have is between my ears, and I believe I’ll have that for many years to come. We should all remember that as trappers. Our most valuable asset is our minds. Keep them sharp and keep learning. Be optimistic and work hard. Things will get better.