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Thomas Davis and the Girl Eatin' Bear Trap
My name is Thomas Carson Davis. I was born in the late summer when the leaves were a changin’, way back in 1921, on my Granddaddy’s rundown farm in the backwoods of the great state of Mississippi. ‘Course, even though my Granddaddy be long gone and dead now and I’d be an old man, I’s still live on the same farm.
Growin’ up on that farm, well, those be some good memories, fresh in my mind like the clear creek runnin’ across the way. I’s can still see my Ma sittin’ calmly on her rocker, doin’ her sewin’ and her knittin’. I can hear the old wooden planks of the porch creakin’ as she rocked back and forth, back and forth, hummin’ under her breath. Spendin’ the hot summer days outside, enjoyin’ what little breeze there was to be had.
My Pa did most of the work around the old farm, sayin’ as my Granddaddy was gettin’ up in age. And as I grew older, I gots my share of the work too. But startin’ out as a boy, my only chore was to feed the hogs. Then I was allowed to run along and play, as long as I stayed out of trouble.
Bein’ so far from town and all, there wasn’t much a boy could do for entertainment. There weren’t no other boys to play with and back on the farm, it was just me and my little sister Caroline. Since she was a little girl, naturally she wasn’t much fun to hang around. But boy, she sure was fun to pick on.
Obviously, lil’ boys got a lots of time on their hands; too little to be a much help to anyone, but not big enough to do anything or go anywhere that’s really worth the effort. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on my own, adventurin’ as I used to call it. I had this wild idea of growin’ up to be a great explorer like Marco Polo or Columbus. They would call me The Great Thomas Davis. But that was all just a young boy’s imagination playin’ tricks on em’.
I figured, while I’s was out p’tended to be a great adventurer, that every great adventurer needed to know how to trap things. This first idea is what got me in a pickle later on. Keep in mind, I’s never meant nothin’ by it; it was just a young boy’s imagination playin’ tricks on em’. Nothin’ more, and nothin’ less.
The summer I turned eight years old, I thought I was the mightiest thing anyone ever did see. By then, my chores on the farm had a grown a bit and instead of just feedin’ the hogs, I had to go out to the old paint-peelin’ chicken coop and get some fresh eggs. After that was done, and Ma was satisfied that I had eaten somethin’ real good, I was off. By then, I had seen just about every nook and cranny of the spooky old forest that surrounded the farm. I spent almost all my time out there. I learned the tracks of the local wildlife, and I learned to remember which way I had come from. Took me a few trips to get it down, but after a while, I never got lost again.
Still, as any good Ma would, my Ma worried I would eventually gets myself hurt right done up good. ‘What if I’s go and get myself so hurt I’s can’t get myself home at night? What if I’s lay there a bleedin’ to death in the cold? What if I’s gets lost and have to sleep out there in the woods somewhere? Cold, and hungry? What if we can’t find you!’ She always said the same things and after a while, she convinced my Pa that he should teach me a thing or two about survivin’. ‘Course, I thought it was a great idea, wantin’ to be an explorer and all. I was as excited as a bee in the spring.
Anyhow, my Pa started with a few simple knots, and he taught me how to hide the ropes in the grass and brush. After he was satisfied that I’s had mastered the ropes, he teached me how to set the bear trap. That’s the real big jaw like thing. It has big, spiked metal teeth that grab the poor animal by the ankle. My Pa, well he set it up all slow and what not, and he told me to stand back. He picked himself a mighty big stone and aimed for the little circle in the middle of the open jaws. He threw it, hitting it perfectly, and the mouth of the beast snapped up and locked itself in place. Downright be the scariest thing I ever did see. Thought my heart had stopped its beatin’ and gone stone cold in my chest. It just happened so fast!
I was right done happy with myself when I reset the trap all by myself. I was mighty proud and I could see it in my Pa’s eyes that he was mighty proud too. I’s guesses it be a good day when your boy can set his own huntin’ trap. I wouldn’t knows for sure, I ain’t gots no son of my own then. I practiced all day with that old, rusty bear trap. Watchin’ time and time again as it snapped back, lockin’ its massive jaws around some invisible prey. I’s can remember my Pa a tellin’ me later on at supper, he says, “Now Son, you listen here, you see you’s gots to be right careful with that ol’ bear trap, you hear? You gets yourself stuck up in that ol’ thing and it may well take you little chicken leg right off. Now I want yous to swear, you won’t mess around with that, swear?” I remember swearin’ and sayin’, “Yes sir, yes Pa. I’s be real careful. I’s promise.”
And I’s was careful. I’s swear I did everythin’ my Pa told me. But I reckon I hid the trap so well, that nobody coulda seen it, even if they were a lookin’. I’s never gonna forget what happened next.
You sees, I was so happy to have a new somethin’ to do. The next mornin’, after I’s did my chores, and Ma watched me eat, I took off toward those trees. I’s was so excited to try catch something. I was in such a hurry I didn’t notice Caroline standin’ on the porch hollerin’ for me to wait for her. See, she don’t have no one to play with either, unless you count those doll things. Anyways, as I’s was a sayin’, she was a wantin’ me to waits for her to tag along. But I’s wasn’t gonna have it, not when I’s gots myself some explorin’ and some catchin’ to do.
I went through them trees to the far yonder edge of the forest. As far as I’s ever ventured before. I’s was just bouncin’ with excitement. Still, Pa’s words be a runnin’ through my mind. “Now Son, you listen here, you see you’s gots to be right careful with that ol’ bear trap, you hear? You get yourself stuck up in that ol’ thing and it may well take you little chicken leg right off. Now I want you to swear, you won’t mess around with that, swear?”
Well I’s concentrated real hard on settin’ and a hidin’ that bear trap. I wasn’t no liar you see and I’s was gonna keep my word to my ol’ Pa. I’s hide the trap well and good and then I’s climb the nearest tree to wait, all the while makin’ up some crazy adventurer story. I’s told myself I was hidin’ in one of those big palm tree things, like they have in California. I’s be a waitin’ on the beach, sittin’ real quiet waitin’ for the pirates. They’s be tryin’ to steal my precious treasure chest and all. So I be waitin’ in my tree see, and I’s be waitin’ all day. Still them pirates never showed their faces. Too scared I’s reckon. It be gettin’ dark now and I’s be gettin’ hungry, sayin’ as I’s didn’t go home for lunch like other days. I’s just kept on sittin’ in that tree.
I’s be just about climbin’ down, when I’s hear the twigs a snappin’ and the leaves a bristlin’. I be lookin’ everywhere. ‘Where’d that sound be commin’ from,’ I’s wonderin’ to myself. Well, mys instincts tellin’ me to stay put. Could be somethin’ big and I ain’t gonna go home in pieces. That’d scare Ma to death, and I’s wouldn’t be allowed to come back. So, frozen to my perch, I waited, and waited. The sounds be movin’ closer and closer to me and I’s be a gettin’ scared.
Then, all the sudden, I’s can’t remember where’s I put that bear trap. What if I’s steps on it tryin’ to find it? What if that animal steps on it first? I’s gonna have to run all the way home and gets Pa to come and take care of it. Don’t think he’d be to happy, havin’ to walk way out here and al’.
The noise be only a few feets away now and I’s can tell which way it be commin’ from. Then I’s hear, “Thomas! Thomas Carson Davis! Where you be?” It was Caroline walkin’ along draggin’ her little doll behind her. “Thomas! Ma sayin’ it be supper time and you ain’t home yet! She ain’t happy with you! You hear me!”
As I’s be listenin’ to my sister hollerin’ for me, my mind be goin’ back to my earlier thought and my blood runs cold. I’s don’t know where the trap is.
“Caroline! Caroline! You best stop walkin’! I’s be right here! No need to walk no further!” I yelled from my branch in the tree.
“You be tryin’ to trick me again! What’s behind me this time Thomas? A bear?” she takes another step, inchin’ toward the neighborin’ tree. “Or is it a skunk?” Another step. “Or is it the same as last time? It be a snake?” She’s almost to the tree across the way now, and I’s can feel my pulse a racin’ faster than some fancy race horse all dolled up on a track.
I’s sure that’s where I musta hidden it. That ol’ tree be right across the way from the one I’s was perched in. I’s woulda had a view. I’d just so caughts up in my pirate story, I ain’t thinkin’ straight.
“No Caroline, there ain’t nothin’ behind you. I swear it. Just stop movin’ and I’d be commin’ down. Just stays put. You hear?” I’s try an’ say it as calmly as I’s can.
“Now you listen to me Thomas Davis. I’s is through with all your jokes. You come down here this instance-” and that was all it took. Caroline took one more step back and that ol’ rusty bear trap sprung up and grabbed her by the ankle. I’s hearin’ her scream and I’s started to panic. What do I do!
I’s all but jumped out of that tree and ran ov’r to where she lay all crumbled up on the ground and cryin’. There’s so much blood I’s can’t hardly see her little pale leg. For some few seconds, I stand there lookin’ at her all stupid like. I’s can’t seem to make not one good thought. All the while, Caroline is shriekin’ and hollerin’, in so much pain and I’s can’t do nothin to stop it. Then, survival kicks in.
I’s rip the bottom of my shirt off and tie it just above Caroline’s scrawny knee. What’s that called? A tourniquet? That’s what it is. Pa always tellin’ me that’s what you do for real bad bleedin’.
“Oh Caroline! I’m so sorry! I’mma go get help!”
“Hurry!” She cried.
I took off faster than a jack rabbit. I’s hardly see the trees as I flew past them. I near never had somethin’ chasin’ me outta the forest, my stories like that pirate bit, those are what’s always be a chasin’ me in. It felt strange runnin’ this way. The adrenaline pushin’ my little eight year old self forward. Boy, I knows I’s was in for it. I’s just hope Caroline will be fine.
I reach the farm in record time. I come outta the trees screamin’ and Ma probably think me a crazy person. I’m screamin’ and so outta breath, I’s can’t form a sentence. “Ma! Ma! Caroline!. . .Hurt!. . .Bear trap!”
I’s never seen my Ma move so fast. “Charles! Charles! Come quick!” She calls for my Pa. He come runnin’ outta the barn. We don’t have time to explain. I’s grab them both by the hand and take off runnin’ towards the trees again.
We reached Caroline minutes later and she be right where I’s left her. Ma and Pa immediately start lookin’ and liftin’ her leg to see the damage. Ma’s tryin’ to comfort Caroline while Pa moves her leg this way and that. I’s be standin’ back, never feelin’ so helpless and guilty. I’s made a promise to my Pa, and I’s let him down. And everyone knows, it be the saddest thing when your Ma cries.
Pa opens the bear trap and pulls Caroline’s leg out. It springs back shut as he lifts her up in his mighty arms. He and Ma take off toward the farm. “Thomas!,” Pa says to me ov’r his shoulder, “Grab the trap Thomas!” and then I canst see them no more and I’s start to cry.
Back at the ol’ farm house, the doctor was called and everyone but me is inside with Caroline. It’s dark now, and the stars be bright enough to light up the whole sky. I feel downright awful about Caroline’s leg. It be all my fault after all. I was stittin’ on the porch steps, feelin’ sorry for myself, when Pa comes out and sits down right beside me.
All I’s gots to say for myself is, “I’s real sorry Pa. I was careful like you told me. I didn’t know Caroline was gonna come out after me. I didn’t mean for it to happen honest. I’m sorry I let you down Pa.” I hung my head and my eyes be waterin’ up again.
“Thomas, I knows you didn’t do it on purpose. It be an accident. Caroline is gonna be just fine. She gonna be able to keep that leg. She sleepin’ now, but when she wakes go on in and see her. And Thomas, I ain’t disappointed. You did the right think tyin’ her leg up like that, and you did right by commin’ to get your Ma and me. Ok?”
I couldn’t believe he wasn’t mad at me. But I had learned my lesson. I ain’t ever gonna mess with bear traps again.
Caroline’s leg healed up real good eventually. It took me a couple of months before I’s be ready to go back to the forest again. Even to this day, I’s can remember everythin’ about that night. It be as clear as the blue sky. I ain’t never gonna forget any of it. I’s don’t know why I’s be tellin’ this story now. I reckon, as an ol’ man, it be good to look back over the years and remember everythin’ I’s been taught just so I’s don’t forget nothin'.
I’s never did become no explorer and I’s never did leave Mississippi. I stayed right here on my ol’ Granddaddy’s farm. Eventually, I’s taught my son about them nasty bear traps, and I’s told him this exact story.
I do the chores all by myself now. Too old to be of much help to anyone, and too elderly to go anywhere or do anything that’s really worth the effort.