The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Trap Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

One morning, after the summer was all over, when the leaves were turning brown on the trees and falling off, little Charles and little John ran out of the kitchen door. They didn't say anything, but they knew where they were going, and they ran down the little track, out the wide gate and along the road, not the way to the pasture, but the other way. And they went past some fields and past the little house where the cider-press was, and then they came to a little wagon track that they called a lane. It went in between two fields and along between other fields and into some woods.

The two little boys turned into this lane and walked along until they came to the woods, and they walked on into the woods, along the little track that went winding in among the trees. And pretty soon they came to a place where a little path led in away from the track. It wasn't much of a path, and a good many people wouldn't have seen it at all. But the boys saw it and they thought they would like to know where it went, so they walked in among the underbrush. The underbrush is the bushes and little baby trees that grow under the big trees. Some of the little trees were only as high as little John's knees, and some were as high as his head, and some were higher than his head. And under them were the dead leaves that fell from the trees. Some of the leaves had just fallen and some had fallen the year before, and some the year before that, and the underneath ones were all soft and wet, and they helped the seeds that fell from the big trees to start growing.

So the two little boys walked along carefully, so as not to make any noise, and pretty soon little Charles stopped and said, "Look, John." And little John looked and he saw a hole in the ground near a big tree. And he said, "Yes, I see. It's a woodchuck hole."

Then they walked on tiptoe and went nearer, and they saw where the dirt was all trodden down hard by the woodchuck's feet. And little Charles said, "I tell you what, John. Let's catch him." And little John said, "Yes, let's. We'll make a twitch-up."

Little Charles thought that would be a good thing, so they looked about, and they saw a little slim tree that was growing near the hole. Then they both caught hold of that tree and pulled it over until it was bent nearly to the ground. And little John held on to it while little Charles felt in his pocket and found a knife. Little John was too little to have a knife, but little Charles had one. And he cut off the little branches with his knife, and he cut off the leaves at the top, so that it was something like a bean-pole growing in the ground. Then little Charles put his knife back in his pocket and in another pocket he found a piece of strong string. One end of this string he tied to the top of the little slim tree, and he made a slip-noose in the other end. A slip-noose is a loop that will slide on the string and get smaller when it is pulled.

Then little Charles looked about and got some sticks that were the right size, and he fixed them in the ground so that they would hold the little tree bent over. But if one of the sticks got knocked, the little tree would spring back straight again. Then little John let go of the tree and it stayed bent over. And he felt in his pocket and found some grains of yellow corn and he put them on the ground near the sticks that were holding the little tree down. Then little Charles fixed the slip-noose and spread it out on the ground where the corn was. When that was done, the little boys stood up, and looked at the twitch-up, and they thought it looked all right. So they started off and left it.

Little Charles and little John didn't go back the way they came, but they went on, farther into the woods, and after awhile they came to a stone wall. On the other side of the wall was a field, and they climbed over into that field and went across, and climbed over another wall and went across another field and then another, and then they came to a stone wall that was beside some other woods. They climbed over that wall and went through some underbrush until they came to a little road, and they knew they were in the maple-sugar woods. And they walked along, past the little house and across the wheat-field and past the orchard and past the barn and past the shed and went in at the kitchen door.

The next morning, as soon as they had finished their breakfast, little Charles and little John hurried out and went down the track and out the gate and along the road. And they turned into the little lane and ran along into the woods, and when they came to the little path they turned in there. Then they walked very carefully, and pretty soon little John cried out, "There he is, Charles. We've got him." And little Charles looked, and so they had.

The little tree was trying to stand up straight, but the woodchuck was so heavy that it couldn't lift him off the ground. But the woodchuck couldn't touch his front feet to the ground, and he was standing up high on his hind feet. The noose was around both his front legs and around his shoulders where he couldn't reach it to bite off the string, and the twitch-up lifted up the front part of him, and it almost lifted up the hind part, too. So when any wind came and made the little tree wave about, that made the woodchuck dance around on his hind feet. He was alive, but he couldn't get away. If the noose had gone around his neck instead of his shoulders, it would have made him dead.

When the little boys saw how the wind made the woodchuck dance, they thought that was funny, and they took hold of the little tree and moved it about, to make him dance. And the woodchuck didn't like that, but he couldn't help it, so he had to dance. It wasn't a very nice thing to do, but boys sometimes do things that are not kind, and they thought it was fun.

When they were tired of making the woodchuck dance, they wondered what they should do with him. Little John thought he would like to take him home and keep him to play with. He knew a way to do it, so little Charles stayed there to watch the woodchuck, to see that he didn't get away or any other boys come there and get him, and little John hurried off. He went on, through the path and over the wall and across all the fields into the maple-sugar woods, and across the wheat-field and past the orchard to the barn. Then he ran into the barn and found a big bag made of very coarse kind of brown cloth. And he took that bag and hurried back the way he had come, and there was little Charles and there was the woodchuck.

Then the two little boys took hold of the bag and they put it carefully over the woodchuck's head, and they lifted it up and the woodchuck fell into the bag, and went to the bottom.


They put it carefully over the woodchuck's head.

And little John held the mouth of the bag together while little Charles cut the string off the tree. And they tied up the mouth of the bag with the string and took the bag between them, and they went back along the little path to the lane, and down the lane to the road and along to the farm-house. It would have been hard work climbing walls with a fat woodchuck in a bag. And they went in at the wide gate and along the track, past the kitchen door and past the shed to the barn. Then they both sat and watched the bag until Uncle John came home.

Uncle John didn't think much of having a woodchuck for a pet, but he liked to please his little boys, so he made a cage out of some boards and some thin pieces of wood. The thin pieces of wood were on the front, like bars, so that the wood-chuck could see out and people could see in. And when the cage was done, they put the woodchuck in it.

The woodchuck stayed in that cage for three days, and the little boys fed him with corn and other things. But he didn't like being in a cage, so in the night he bit off some of the thin pieces of wood and got out.


And he ran off to the woods and the boys never saw him again. And Uncle John was glad the woodchuck was gone.

And that's all.