World’s Richest Man

When I was a kid, the hardware store on Main Street in my hometown sold shotgun shells by the case, by the box … and by the each. Times were tough, and kids like me rarely had the wherewithal to buy a whole box of shells.

Jim SpencerSo, in order to get what meager money we had, the hardware store owner would break open a box and sell us individual shells, one or five or a dozen, whatever we had money enough to buy. I spent many a Saturday morning picking up soft drink bottles on the roadsides. I’d turn them in for the 2-cent deposit, spend the proceeds on shotgun shells at the hardware store and go rabbit hunting that afternoon.

When I got old enough to have a paper route, it was a heady experience to be able to buy a whole box of shells at a time. One year, a buddy and I even saved up enough money to go halves on an entire case of shells — 20 boxes, 25 shells per box, 500 rounds in all. I remember taking my 10 boxes and dumping them out into a big, beautiful red-and-brass pile on my bed, and then sitting there cross-legged and running my fingers through them, the way Scrooge McDuck used to do with his money.

Now, many years later, I can afford to buy all the shotgun shells I want, and I regret that I no longer get that wealthy, prosperous feeling when I buy a case. It’s been 50 years since I dumped any shells out of the box just so I could play with them.

But if I want to feel that same sense of absolute wealth and prosperity again, all I have to do is go into the 12-by-12 room on the end of my fur shed — the room where I store my traps. I go into that room at odd, irregular times through the year, and usually I never touch anything. I just turn on the light and stand there, looking around at my treasure. Two walls of the room are lined with dozens of plastic totes stacked 5 feet high, each filled to the top with neat rows of foothold traps. There are coilsprings and longsprings and even a few old jump traps, in sizes ranging from #0 to #5. There are guard-type traps. There are four or five brands of dog-proofs.

A third wall is lined with Army-surplus water barrels filled with body-grippers of every size, from #55s to Super-bears. The fourth wall — the one with the door in it — is taken up with racks that hold my fur stretchers.

Above all, the plastic totes and water barrels and stretchers, bundle after bundle of traps hang by their chains from the walls and rafters. I’ve never run an exact count, but there are at least 2,000 traps in that room.

To answer your first question: No, I am not a trap collector.

To answer your next question: No, I do not need nearly all of those traps.

To answer your next next question: I have no earthly idea why I have so many. Under no circumstances could I put much more than 10 percent of my current trap inventory into play at the same time, but sure as death and taxes, by the beginning of next trapping season, I’ll have even more hardware in that room.

Actually, I lied on that third one. I DO know why I have so many traps. It goes all the way back to that skinny kid sitting cross-legged on his bed, running his fingers through a pile of shotgun shells and cackling like a mad thing. Because on those irregular, unscheduled times when I find myself standing there in my trap room, surrounded by all that stuff, I’m the richest man in the world..

Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to modernmountainman@gmail.com.

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