Carol Leonard is a midwife, a writer and a beaver trapper. She is the author of the best-selling memoir about being the first midwife licensed to practice legally in New Hampshire, LADY’S HANDS, LION’S HEART, A MIDWIFE’S SAGA, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010. Carol and her husband, Tom Lajoie, are building their sustainable homestead ~ Bad Beaver Farm ~ on 400 acres of wilderness in Ellsworth, Maine. Carol and Tom are also raising about a hundred beavers there that they argue about on a daily basis.
The following is the evolution of my thought process as to why I trap my beavers (~from BAD BEAVER TALES, 2012).
Why I Would Like to Learn to Trap
(This is my letter to the Maine Trappers Association-Union River Chapter-
asking to be considered as an apprentice trapper)
When I was a young girl, my mother arranged for me to be able to tag along with old Doc Kennard of Bedford, NH. Doc Kennard was kind of famous as a naturalist/surgeon and he had a bird-banding station at his house that I helped him out with after school. I say he was famous as he wrote many articles in bird-banding journals, including: Reverse migration in the Dark-eyed Junco. Anyway, he was a wealth of knowledge and he taught me how to identify birdcalls and to track animal and bird tracks in the snow and how to identify scat. He also removed my appendix.
I was a free-range kid. I was in love with the outdoors and built many “camps” in the woods where I set up small snare traps. I would camp out at my trap-lines overnight. I never caught anything, not sure I knew what I would do if I did find something in my snare. Actually, that’s not true. I did once catch a vole but it got away. I still have a crescent shaped scar on my right thumb.
Most people automatically assume that I am a vegetarian. I have no idea why. Even as a young kid, I craved protein. While my younger siblings would be delighting in sweet treats, I would go straight for the leftover hunk of steak in the fridge. My sibs would be wallowing in chocolate pudding and I would be smeared with A-1 Steak Sauce.
I did go through a spell of vegetarianism in my late teens, as being macrobiotic was all the rage. By the time I was down to about 100 pounds, my hair began falling out and my periods stopped, I realized I had to embrace my Inner Carnivore. The migraines ceased with my first cheeseburger.
As an adult woman, my diet preference was fish with occasional poultry and no “red meat.” By the time menopause hit, the migraines were back with a vengeance. I realized I needed to embrace my Inner Carnivore once again. I craved all things red. It was a little scary. I became like Rosemary’s Baby.
Now on to trapping. I don’t have a good history with guns. There was a very, very bad incident 25 years ago with my late husband and a 12-gauge shotgun. It did not end well.
My current husband, Tom, likes to hunt and we have good hunting land in Ellsworth, Maine. I took a course in “Field Dressing Big Game” so I can help him out. Tom is fine with killing but he developed a mild allergy to eviscerating. I found this out when we did in our 12 roosters that were originally sold to us as “pullets.” I found that I love having my hands in a still warm animal. It must be the midwife in me. I am totally fine with cleaning out entrails.
Tom and I are at a point in our lives where we would like to know the origins of the food we eat, as much as possible, especially meat. I would like to reduce the amount of commercially raised meat that we consume; the more we can avoid the hormones and antibiotics of supermarket meat, the better. Our dream is to provide as much sustenance from our own land as possible. This has become very important to us.
I am healthy and strong. I would be honored to be able to apprentice with a local trapper to learn as much as possible from an experienced and skilled practitioner. If you would consider taking me on, I would be truly grateful.
Postscript: Carol ultimately did apprentice with two seasoned New Hampshire trappers. One very experienced, life-long trapper was an older gentleman named Mutton Chop. The other trapper was a fearless Algonquin Indian woman trapper named Bonnie.
Carol got her NH Trappers license when she was in her early 60’s.