Trapper Jack

Posted on Jan 22 2021 in Outdoors
The Coon Hunter and the Kid book cover

Note to readers: Jack Spaulding has just released his second full-length book. In “Coon Hunter and the Kid,” Jack shares tales of a rural Midwestern boy’s journey to manhood and the lifelong bonds and lessons learned on the hunting trail. For this month’s column, we present an excerpt.

As a young boy, I considered myself to be an excellent outdoorsman. Truth be known, I didn’t own a gun; I didn’t catch many fish; and I had to be the worst trapper in history. One entire trapping season, all I caught was a cold. It’s depressing for a budding mountain man to know he’s being continually outsmarted by the likes of a bunch of muskrats.

About the time I was ready to call it quits, our neighbor Anderson Mantooth asked me how my trapping career was going. Before I could tell Anders the muskrats on Flatrock River had advanced degrees in trap avoidance, he said, “If you catch a possum, keep me in mind. I’ll pay you 25 cents for a small one and 50 cents for a big one.”

Eureka … my little eyes had dollar signs for pupils! Old Anders had just made me a rich man! I knew I could catch possums. Rush County was full of possums. Heck, sometimes Mom would hit a couple with the car just getting to town.

The bargain I struck with Mr. Mantooth gave me renewed incentive and confidence. And, sure enough, I found I was able to outsmart possums. All I had to do was get them into a gunny sack and drop them off on Anders’ porch. Soon the silver was rolling in. My best week, I racked up three possums. I sacked up one small one and two 50-centers for Anders! 

One day the following summer, Anders asked if I would like to eat supper with him and his wife, Clara. Being polite and always half-starved, I readily agreed, washed up, and took a seat at the table. Clara’s kitchen always smelled good, but this evening, it smelled especially good.

I asked Anders, “What’s for supper?”

Anders just smiled and said, “Boy, it’s something special I know you will like!”

Clara opened the oven, pulled out a roasting pan and set the main course on the table. There, looking at me while swimming in a half-inch of grease was one of the 50-centers from last fall!

As I recall the meal: the potatoes and corn were excellent, and the whole milk was nice and cold. As for the possum … it was good. The meat was a light yellow in color, a little stringy and greasy, and with just a few bites … very filling!

JACK SPAULDING is a syndicated state outdoors writer and a member of RushShelby Energy. Readers can email him directly at

Jack’s first book, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” a compilation of his favorite articles over 30 years is now available as a Kindle download or as a 250-page paperback from

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