Give em the Slip!

Was reading through some old posts the other day, and seeing mention of my buddy Eric, and also of my Uncle, Larry Leawood, I was reminded of tailing slips.  I think pretty much every young boy has experienced this back home, and likely most continue to do so as long as they can.

For the non Newfoundlander, or perhaps for some of those too, you CFA’s know them as rabbit snares, but they’ll always be rabbit slips to me.  Essentially, they are a loop of wire tailed in a rabbit trail used to catch rabbits for eating.

Back in older days, slips were always made out of this…. braided? not sure the right term right now, but was made up of many many filaments, and was nearly impossible, for me anyway, to keep it in a loop shape without it twisting.  I still remember buying it, and the newer aluminum? wire at Handy Andy’s back in the day. Part of the fun I think was interacting with Stan and Dennis, but you could buy the wire and the licence nearly anywhere.

I also remember playing with the old filamented wire on the old flashlight batteries, and having the little ends glow red hot, but I digress.

Often times, you could tell who owned a slip in the woods, just by looking at it, as they were often as unique as the person who tailed them.  Uncle Larry for example always tied his on with a granny knot, while others made their loops in slightly different ways or shapes.  You’d often see them tailed in the same rabbit run year after year, and others you’d see someone make a spot to tow the rabbits, chopping down some tasty young birch and making a run of your own to tail your slip in.

This wasn’t done for fun, though it can be fun too, but rabbits were and are a big addition to the winter food store.  And quite tasty to boot, I’d like to have a freezer full right now!


One dark night, early in the morning, 3 hungover lads got up to hunt….

Well that’s not quite the way the old rhyme goes, but my version suits the story more.  In the fall of 1995, I had a caribou license for up in back of Terra Nova/Gambo area.  Myself and Eric had decided we were going to go hunting over the weekend, but like young gaffers do, we had been to a bonfire the night before till late. I did manage to get myself home for a few hours sleep, I can’t say if Eric did or not.  But I know the third member of our expedition did sleep, even if only for a little.  I know this because when I drove up to pick up Eric at about half past 3 or 4 o’clock, all I could see were feet laying on the edge of the pavement.  At first I thought it was Eric, but nope, it was Rod in all his glory sprawled out on the ground.  I know he did it for devilment, but if he tries to say he didn’t at least pass out for a little while he shootin something, and its not caribou!

With that the trio was formed, and off we went.  We drove my dad’s old GM Sierra pickup first up to Terra Nova area.  Not being familiar with the area, we really just drove around the back roads.  At some point Rod had to make use of a tree, and for whatever reason also changed his jeans.  This latter point will relate to the story, but you gotta stay patient!

We decided to give up on the Terra Nova area, and instead made for what we, at least, called Mint Brook road.  This is off the highway near Gambo, and goes winding all over the back country. I believe it can even take you down to the south coast if you know the way.  Anyway we drove and drove, till according to the truck odometer we weer about 65 miles up in the woods.  And of course what should happen? Well the exhaust let go on the truck.

Luckily we had some old wire in the back, and we stopped and got it wired up somehow.  I know there’s a picture somewhere of me laying under the truck doing it.  Good to go once again, at some point we pulled off for a lunch.  And what should we see, 65 miles up in the woods, but crab legs!  Yes somehow, whether by birds, or people having a meal, there were old crab leg shells in a turnaround.  Being frustrated with the lack of caribou, I know we took a picture of Rod pretending to shoot them.

I seem to remember seeing one caribou way off, but maybe that was on a different trip, because I also seem to remember us not seeing anything alive except a beaver, and then debating whether we should shoot it!  If we thought we could get it out and that it was fit to eat, we probably would have.

Giving up on the hunting, we drove back out of the woods, and made an excursion to Glovertown.  I am not certain, but I believe it was somewhere near here we saw a “Taxidermy and Take-Out”.  I kid you not.  We decided against trying the take-out, figuring since it was also a taxidermy, we weren’t sure we’d want to eat what they were cooking.

At some point during our many wanderings, Rod thought for some reason he had left his other jeans back near Terra Nova. He kept telling me to “git” back there to pick them up.  That and him jabbing his finger in the direction of the road had me in tears laughing.  (not to be confused with the tears shed from, well lets just say the gas from too many beer the night before).

I know we were going around for weeks after saying “Git!”  It still brings a laugh to me now.


Hunters and Gatherers

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Food for the pot (Picture by Eric Cooper)

Growing up back home, meat and vegetables often came from your own provisions, getting to a grocery store became more and more prominent as I grew up, but most peoples families still subsidized the pot by whatever we could get on our own.  Nearly everyone had a potato garden, and some grew a few more things, carrots, turnip, cabbage.  I remember a lot of people grew the Newfoundland Blue potato.  I’ve seen blue potatoes since, but those all seem to have blue flesh too, the ones we had just had blue veins running through the white flesh.

Of course Newfoundland was famous for its fish, and we all had salt fish put away, as well as dried and smoked caplin.  Will have to post another day about those topics.  But we also hunted.  Hunting wasn’t and isn’t a sport back home, at least not in the terms of the big hunting lodges.  People enjoy it yes, but we also hunt to eat.  With the salaries, or lack there of, or even lack of jobs or work back home, people hunted duck, geese, moose, caribou, turrs, seal, pretty much anything to help fill our bellies, including the lovely rabbit shown here (Technically there are no rabbits on Newfoundland Island, or weren’t at least, this is a Snowshoe Hare, but rabbit is what we called it and I always will).

People also weren’t into things for money either.  If you had plenty you shared, and got shared with in return.  I remember lots of trades of food over the years.  A quarter of moose for some vegetables from Bill Smith (Bill was the king gardener back home, probably still is, even if he is in his 80s!), some rabbits for a leg of mutton from Jim Phillips, and so on.

The meat and food was healthier too, wasn’t sitting in a cage being force fed to get fat, most of our meats were really lean, and our vegetables were fertilized with manure, seaweed and fish offal, not manufactured chemicals.

But really, we never thought about that, we just thought about fun in the outdoors, and getting food to keep us all through the long winter.  I’d give a lot to be sitting down to the smell of that rabbit smothered in onions wafting from the roaster now.