Every day, about lunch time, the truck came by for its daily collection; it was an old T Model Ford with three foot high wooden sides and a tarp hauled over the top. The tarp always flapped lazily in the wind as it came up the road towards Bruce, and he always wondered why the driver didn’t tie it down properly.
Before the truck left town the driver stopped at the Butter Factory and loaded a layer of ice blocks across the bottom of the tray. By the time the truck reached Bruce’s racks there was already a foot of rabbit carcasses over the top of the ice and about three inches of the ice had melted and dripped out the bottom of the wooden tray. Bruce’s racks consisted of two poles tied between trees; the rabbits he had trapped last night and this morning hung in pairs over these poles.
The rabbits were all skun and gutted before being joined in pairs by the hind foot of one being pushed through a slit cut between the ligament and bone in the hind foot of the other and flung over these racks for storage.
The valley he was working was thick with rabbits and eighty five pair hung from the racks; not bad for two rounds of Bruce’s one hundred traps. As soon as the truck driver had finished his count, the two men started throwing the pairs of rabbit carcasses into the tray of the truck.
By six o’clock, when the driver had finished his journey around the racks of all the rabbit trappers he bought from, the ice would all be gone and the truck would be full of pairs of rabbits. The truck would pull into the Butter Factory on its return to town and the rabbits would be offloaded into a Coolstore to wait for the train to pick them up for their journey to the butcher shops in the city.
But none of that mattered to Bruce, he was back to his routine; by the time the two men had finished loading he’d only had time for a quick feed and a cuppa before he was back to work. The skins from about half the morning catch were still waiting to be stretched over the U shaped wire racks for drying. These skins were worth almost as much as the meat and Bruce knew that while people wore felt hats, rabbit skins would be valuable for their fur; he often mused that he might have trapped the rabbits that made the felt for the hat he was wearing.
Another slice of bread and jam and a cup of tea after he’d finished stretching the skins and he was up for his evening trap round. Once he’d cleared his traps of the evening catch, he’d return to camp and clean and skin them all by lamplight; the skins he’d stretch while he cooked his dinner over the camp fire. He hated rabbits, all day, every day, he trapped, killed, gutted and skinned rabbits, till, at the end of the day, as if to add insult to injury, he had to eat the bloody things; a rabbit, some spuds and an onion made up his usual dinner. He finally crawled into his tent at about half past ten, only to be up for yet another trap round by half past four.
“No rest for the wicked” he said to himself as he pulled the old grey blanket up around his neck to keep out the cold. Every single day, for thirteen days Bruce would work like this, then on the fourteenth day he’d stack all his dry skins onto every available space on his old pushbike for the fifteen mile ride into town. Like the truck, he’d stop off at the Butter Factory, not to drop of rabbits but to pick up his pay for the fortnights rabbits. Bruce’s next stop would be the skin buyer who would eye off the load of skins and search for a reason to drop his price; it was like a good natured sparring match that the two men had every visit, but Bruce knew the quality of his skins and the dealer knew the man was honest so it never took long – it was just the way things were done.
Bruce had a rule, if the money he made for the fortnight was over two pound, he’d allow himself one beer at the Pub before he climbed back on his old bike, now loaded up with supplies, and headed back to his camp in time to reset his traps for the mornings round. That was life for Bruce, day in, day out, for fifty-two weeks of the year; the only thing that changed was the weather – it was either freezing bloody cold or stinking bloody hot. Spring and Autumn seemed to fade into insignificance compared to Winter and Summer; it seemed that his boots were always either crunching through frost or his feet kept slipping around inside them on his own sweat. Whatever the weather though, Bruce knew that he had the choice between being a Rabbitto or going on the Susso – that was just how it went until this bloody Depression ended.