Ancient Violence Discovered in the Pasture


Very old leg hold trap with part of a foot still in it, two white bones tight in its jaws.

Sometimes you really gotta wonder what happened.  I have a large open pasture stretching across the entire front of the farm.  Since I can remember, it has always been a pasture, poor land probably not plowed for a century.  Nothing in the open sweep except cattle and, years ago, some horses.  Certainly not a place to hunt or trap.

I’ve tramped the pasture hordes of times, year after year since childhood.  But this summer, right in the middle, I suddenly came upon something I never noticed before.

An ancient, rusty leg hold trap.  Still too firmly anchored in the ground to pull out. Still strong and scary.

And still containing some creature’s foot chewed off in frantic desperation ages ago.


Side view of foot bones with toes and fur below the jaws. Perhaps a fox took drastic action to escape.

The trap is thing of powerful springs and two side pieces that pop up to ensure there’s no way the jaws can open until the pieces are pushed down again. The white foot bones remain gripped tightly in the trap’s jaws, the toes and toenails and even a bit of clinging mouldy fur projecting underneath.  The trap does not have teeth but is lined with hard rubber, clearly meant to hold its prey alive. The prey decided not to wait and sacrificed its toes instead.

I have no idea how old the trap is or why anyone would set it right in the middle of an open cow pasture. It’s not for muskrats for they live in the marsh.  It’s not for groundhogs for no groundhog could dig in the limestone bedrock.  Not for otter, mink, weasel or beaver.  It certainly predates my time and perhaps caught an unwary fox who chose the wrong square inch of the wide grassy field.   The trap is harmless now, its jaws  rusted shut. I certainly can’t open them. No point in moving it now.  The distant trapper and the determined prey turn into one more of the many mysteries that tease on land in odd uses for almost 200 years.

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