by Alan A Sandercott
A winter sun was slowly setting as Arvidís snowmobile coasted to a stop along his trapline. He had only two more traps to check, and then it was back to the warmth of his farmhouse.
Like his father before him, Arvid made his living as farmer. He trapped fur-bearing animals during the long winter months to supplement his income. He had grown up on the farm, and after his father passed away, Arvid had taken over both the farm and the trap line.
He had been hoping to catch a lynx at this particular location. There was plenty of sign in the area, but each time he checked the trap, it was empty. This time, however, he could see the trap was sprung. But, instead of the wily lynx he expected, he came face to face with one very unhappy marten.
The small animal was still alive, trying desperately to escape at the manís approach. It was not uncommon for marten to be caught in the lynx sets, as they were easily attracted by the scent lures. The beaver-meat bait proved irresistible. The marten was held firm in one of the new leg-hold traps. Its five inch steel jaws padded with rubber to protect an animalís legs from being torn up.
Arvid pulled a .22 calibre pistol from his pocket and took careful aim. The marten suddenly stopped fighting and looked straight at the man. It had the biggest, saddest eyes, Arvid had ever seen. No matter how hard he tried, Arvid was unable to pull the trigger. He slowly lowered the pistol and sat back in the snow. For the first time in his many years of trapping, he felt a sudden and profound sorrow for the animals.
The old man removed his warm scarf and wrapped it around the animal to restrain it. The poor thing was so tired that it put up next to no struggle as Arvid carefully released the leg-hold trap. On closer inspection he realized the leg was not broken, but would require time to heal properly. He decided to take the animal back to the farm. Carefully, he placed the frightened animal, scarf and all, into the wooden box mounted on his snowmobile.
Once home, Arvid managed to get the martinís sore leg free of the scarf long enough to bandage it. He then placed the marten in a cardboard box, into which he also placed a small dish of food and water. The cute little tyke was so tired and hungry, that before long, and with a full tummy, it was sound asleep.
Over the next few days, as its foot began to heal, the marten began venturing out of its box. Martens have a burning curiosity and before long it was snooping into everything.
Arvid lived alone and the marten soon proved to be not only a good companion, but also a never-ending source of entertainment. It wasnít long before the old manís new friend was appropriately named, ďMarty.Ē
During the days when Marty was not busy exploring the old farmhouse, he would curl up and sleep in Arvidís favorite chair. Each night as the man returned from his daily chores, Marty would be there to greet him. It may have been a wild animal, but Marty seemed very content in his new surroundings.
Then came the inevitable day of Martyís return to the wild. The leg was healed. Arvid felt sadness as he carried his little friend out into the yard and set him down. Confused at first, as he scurried around, Marty looked off into the trees and then back at Arvid. Then, as if driven by some instinct, he turned and scampered off into the trees. The man continued watching long after his furry friend disappeared into the cover of wilderness. Wiping at his dampened eyes, Arvid tried to fight off his feeling of sadness. But deep down he felt good; giving Marty his freedom was the right thing to do.
That night, as Arvid lay in bed unable to sleep, memories of Marty flooded his mind. He began thinking of all the other animals heíd trapped over the years. His mind drifted back to a time when he followed his father on the trapline. In those days, his father used snowshoes and pulled Arvid in a sled. A lot had changed since those days with his father. He still had his fatherís farm and trapline, but he now lived alone in the once lively farmhouse. A snowmobile replaced snowshoes on the trapline.
As the memory of Martyís big bright eyes flashed before him, Arvid began to have second thoughts about his trapline. ďMaybe the time has come,Ē he thought. Laying there in the darkness he reached a decision.
The next morning Arvid set out on his trapline for the last time. He spent the day gathering his traps. The winding trails of the trapline would once again be safe for wildlife.
It was dark when he returned to the farm. After quickly completing his chores, he dragged his tired body back to the farmhouse. He built a fire in the rock fireplace and settled back into his favorite chair to relax. Arvid was alone in the old house once more; alone with his pipe and the crackle of the fire.
Suddenly his eyes opened, and he listened intently, not sure of the strange noise at the door. His old heart hastened as he opened the door. Quick as a wink, a little ball of brown fur scooted right past him and into the house.
Arvid smiled as he stood with his back to the warm fireplace. That little ball of fur was now curled up in his favorite chair, grooming itself. Marty was home.
That winter evening was the first in forty odd years that there were no traps set on the old family trapline. A way of life was fading into memory. Turning off the light, Arvid rolled over in bed and closed his eyes. And as darkness filled the room, one lucky little fur-bearing animal by the name of Marty snuggled up on the bottom of the old manís bed.