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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 26, 2012

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Whilst still a schoolboy, collecting animal pelts was my paying hobby. Moles were trapped but any dead animal, provided that it was fresh, yielded a cash crop. Road kill in those days was almost non existent but various animals were found dead, skinned, the pelt tacked out on a board and when dried sent off to Horace Friend of Wisbech. One particularly valuable pelt came from an otter which had washed up on the beach, and on one occasion I found a weasel in a mole trap. Most unusual.

One morning we got up to find my sister's cat curled up dead on the doorstep. I was detailed off to bury it but instead of digging it in I hid it until I came back from school, skinned it and buried the remains. The pelt was tacked out on a large piece of three ply and placed over the rafters of the outhouse. Unfortunately my father, while looking for a similar piece of wood, lifted it down and discovered the cat skin on the reverse. To keep everyone sweet he admonished me but kept it to himself, thereby maintaining family harmony (for the time anyway).

On weekends in the winter and on the Christmas holidays I would accompany the local trapper on his rounds and this always yielded the occasional stoat, and once, and once only, a fox. Treasure indeed. At aged 14 and a half I was pushed into the Army to learn a trade. I thought that I already had one? Goodbye Horace Friend!

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