Running Traps

by , under Poetry

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Not what you call a season exactly
running long as it does especially
taking into account all the varieties
of trapping

Drowners are common and easy
road-lines set in drainage and culverts
under bridges where you can see from the truck
The law says each trap must be set in at least eighteen inches of water
The law also says touching another man’s trap is a felony
this provision designed to keep  activists
from breaking into mink farms and setting the animals free
passed by the legislature before a single case went to court.

We piled into the truck, buckets and chain in the bed
chomping on donuts while the wipers smeared small rain
The old man is retired, invited me out on my day off
I in my office clothes, him in camo waders and waterproof poncho

First bridge trap was empty and the other gone,
dragged on its chain Christ knows where
but in the third a medium-sized coon caught by the rear leg
covered in black mud and mad as hell

I stood up on the road, watched the old man sliding down the mud gully
pull the little Chinese .22 revolver out of his vest
a cheap pistol he got in a swap since he is a felon, the cylinder held in place by a sinker nail
loose and rattly, prone to misfire and only accurate from a foot or less

got right down in his face and held out that gun, pulled twice before it fired
the critter crouched into a prowl, all hopeless menace and black mud
the little pop ringing in the drain pipe choked with flood trash, sticks and moss
dropped boneless, red jet arcing out between his eyes purple in the black water.

The old man heaved up and waded to check the other traps
and that old varmint raised himself too, Lazarus in matted fur, blood bubbling
terror and mud and rage, pawing his face like he could fix it. I called the old man back
and he put another in its ear and when the raccoon fell this time it was dead for sure

half in the water, head down, body writhing in some dread dance they never show on TV
The old man took him by his paw, said “Son of a bitch, he’s been here before”
showed me the chewed off foot from some years-ago narrow escape
tossed the carcass into the truck bed, worth eleven dollars at any furrier in town

Don't just stand there.