Grandpa Schindele taught me and my older brother some of the better points of varmint trapping up in the North Country of northern Minnesota.
We made a lot of our spending money this way and learned a good deal of wildwood wisdom through him. The first gun we bought was from trapping money, a .410 shotgun.
One of his best experiences was the “Mink Dog” that he owned during the Great Depression. Times were tough and of course all animals on the farm had to earn their fair share and dogs were no exception. Grandpa was one of the great trainer of dogs and this particular fluggle hound was one of the easiest trainable dogs that he ever had. The only problem was, he may have been over trained.
As the Mink Dog followed Grandpa around on his trap line and back home with his catch, he’d cock his head and study the size and type of critter that Grandpa had caught. Of course trapping the animal was only part of the job. Skinning it and stretching it on a stretcher was the main purpose before selling it. Grandpa had all sizes of stretchers for the various mink, muskrat, or weasel he’d catch. After finishing up with the pelt, Grandpa would take his catch for the week to the little town where we lived and the Treppanier & Jewwitt General Store where everyone had a charge account. Leo Jewwitt would buy the pelts and apply it to the account and everyone was happy. Of course Grandpa would always tell the Mink Dog what a good price he got for certain mink pelts and the bigger the better. Well, the dog learned from this and became known as the best damn trapping dog in the country according to Grandpa.
Well, Grandpa’s name was William or Bill to most of his friends and family. Some times he stretched the truth as much as he did the pelts and became known throughout the north country as “Windy Bill”. He could spin a good yarn or two and us grandkids loved him for it.
Well, as would be with good trappers and an abundance of animals, Grandpa’s pelts started increasing not only in size but also in numbers and the talk of the north country was where was Bill getting all these pelts from. Well, us kids knew and it was from his Mink Dog mostly. Grandpa told us not to tell anyone as they would probably pass a law outlawing the use of canines in trapping saying it may be unfair for the critters. As Grandpa told us later how he did it we started training our mutts as well. He’d take a stretcher and hold it up to the Mink Dog and the dog would take off for the woods or river. Pretty soon he’d come back with a mink the size of the stretcher. Grandpa said the dog knew that mink were worth more then the rats or weasels and therefore only brought back the money pelts as he called it. Well, that dog was a lot smarter than any of ours that we had later cause not one of them ever learned that trick!
As all good things must pass, so too did the Mink Dog. One morning as Grandma was doing the household chores, she went out on the back porch with the ironing board. Well, for those of you not familiar with an ironing board, it looks a lot like a big stretcher and to a dog, it looks like a really large stretcher. Grandma takes the cover off to shake it out and the Mink Dog thinks it’s the size of the mink that he needs to bring back. He runs off a ways and comes back to look at the ironing board (stretcher), shakes his head, and takes off for heaven knows where. He knows there’s a mink out there that big and he’s going to find it to please everyone as a dog likes to do. Well, the bad part was, they never saw the Mink Dog again. Grandpa said he saw him once and awhile down by the river looking for that big mink. Best damn Mink Dog that he ever owned though!