I was trapping in the old days over the ridge of high hills that runs south of here — around Groundbirch. Fox was good that year, and I was catching them, but a number of bald eagles were tearing them up in the traps. I didn’t want to shoot the birds, but the loss had to stop. One day I went out with a sawed-off .22. One day as I was working with a trap, sure enough a huge bird swooped down low over my head as if to attack. I shot at him and got him. He dove into some rocks ahead and above me, and lay still. I thought the crash would have killed him if the shot didn’t, so I started to climb up to take a look at him, but armed with a stick, just in case.
Suddenly, he launched himself straight at me. It was close quarters and the bird was a big one. All I could see were those needlepoint, huge, curved claws. My first thought was for my stomach. Instinctively I brought my hands up, but as he got close I put them out to push him away. He nailed me on the back of my right hand, sinking those curved claws in deep.
His wings, still flapping were spinning me round and round up there. I tried to beat him with the stick in the other hand but he nailed that too. I don’t remember much about what happened then but I must have kept fighting him down until, with my both hands on the stick, I could get his head on the ground and put my foot on it.
Then another thought occurred. If I killed him, those claws would be clenched in my hands, because that’s the way an eagle’s feet are. There was nothing to do but pull my hands off the claws before I stamped his life out.
The blood froze in my mitts, but somehow I got back to the cabin. The fire was already laid but with my mitts frozen solid, I had an awful time to light a fire so that I could free my hands. But blood poisoning set in anyway, and it was ten days before I could make my way to Groundbirch on the trail, to be taken to hospital. They saved my hands.
Another time I almost wasn’t so lucky. I was out on snowshoes, crossing Gwillam Lake, when my shoes broke through the thin ice over an air hole, and I went down over my snowshoes. Somehow I worked the straps loose and got out, but shoes and socks soon turned to lumps of ice. Two young fellows, K (?) and R (?), had a cabin out there but they had broken the first law of the trapline. They had left the cabin without laying everything ready to start a fire instantly. There wasn’t even any wood in the house. But dried fruit used to come in wooden boxes then, and with my mitts and snowshoes still frozen stiff, I managed to empty some of them and break them up to start a fire.
When I saw those fellows next, I sure gave them “what for!” Not only for my sake, but theirs. No matter how short a time you expect to be gone, you never know when you’ll have an accident and fire may save your life. I’ll bet that after I got through with them they never did that again! Men have come in with hands so stiff they could only strike a match by holding it in their teeth. One fellow said, “I burned off most of my whiskers, but that fire saved my life.”