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Trapping Techniques of the Mountain Man (Page 4)

By: Kent Klein

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It wasn't always necessary to trap beaver to acquire them. Trading for beaver pelts was common: At this hut we obtained a large robe composed of beaver skins fastened together, in exchange for two owls and one fish hook. This robe was worth from 30 to 40 dollars."(10)

Nor was trading always done to obtain beaver pelts: " We left this village the 11th of August, taking with us two of it's inhabitants, each having a trap to catch and a hoe to dig the beavers from their burrows."(11)

Once the beaver was trapped an excellant eye witness account is given by W. A. Ferris as to how the beaver pelts were put up:

May 15. 1852

"Their encampment was decked with hundreds of beaver skins, now drying in the sun. These valuable skins are always stretched in willow hoops, varying from eighteen inches, to three feet in diameter, according to the size of the skins, and have a reddish appearance on the flesh side which is exposed to the sun. Our camps are always dotted with these red circles, in the trapping season, when the weather is fair. There were several hundred skins folded and tied up in packs, laying about their encampment, which bore good evidence to the industry of the trappers."(12)

Mountainmen knew that putting up their pelts properly would bring a better price: "I was now becoming very successful in trapping and caught as many as any of the outfit. Williams taught me to skin, flesh and stretch, in all of which I soon became proficient. Furs indifferently handled always bring a low price on the market."(13)

Evidence suggests that prior to putting up the dried beaver pelts into packs, they were marked on the flesh side, with the trappers name or companys mark for identification:

The 43 beaver skins traded, marked, "R.P. M. F. Co.", I would in the present instance give up if Mr.

Fitzpatrick wishs to have them..."(14)

In addition, Lucien B. Fontanelle said "...he went to the cabins and asked Mr. Montard what right he had to trade beaver skins from Indians with white mens names marked upon them knowing them to be stolen or taken by force from the whites? I then ordered him to give me the key or his warehouse which he reluctantly did I then ordered my clerk to go in and take all the beaver skins he could find with your names marked upon them and have them carried to my camp."(15)

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