Starry Night River Camp

Print Sold At Fig Street Studio

       Sometime back a friend who lost her husband asked I help go through his things. The fellow loved the swamp and would hunt, fish, and trap whenever he could. They lived on the river bank in a swamp and he would sell bait and stuff to the local fisherman at a boat landing that was close by. I went out on my Saturdays and tried to inventory his things but with the damp weather and swamp growth had most of it in-cased in weeds and muck. The things laid unattended for many months before anyone tried to go through them. Most were rusted away or damaged beyond repair. It was difficult to tell exactly what things were as most were homemade traps or gear he used in his forays into the swamp. I found two large wire nets or traps about 4 feet long and 3 feet wide, circular with one end pinched closed and the other with netting in the shape of a funnel. Because they were so large they gained my interest so I asked around the landing and found an old fellow who know what they were and how to rig them. As it turned out they were turtle traps but in need of repair. So I stitched back on the netting and use pig hooks to attach the parts together that came apart. and decided to give one a test. The next weekend I took my young son with me and we stowed the trap in my pirogue and paddled to a desolate spot in the swamp. We used old cat fish parts as bait and put them in a small net bag then chummed some all inside the trap. It wasn’t necessary to mark the spot as the trap laid partially above the water, about half in and half out. We placed it in a nice spot under the cypress trees in a slough with a little current of water passing through. We waited about 24 hours to the next day then paddled out to see how and if the old trap worked. To our surprise it was full of turtles. Too many for both of us to even pick out of the swamp and put into the pirogue. We had to open it up and take out many of the smaller turtles and kept a few of the larger ones in the trap to bring back to the landing. After returning I cleaned out a drum and put the turtles we caught in it and asked around what do you do with about 30 turtles. Soon a young man came over and said he would clean them and sell them and give me half of what he made. A good deal for me as I had no idea how to clean a turtle. He then took the drum to his place and let me watch to learn how to clean a turtle. I’ll save the description of that part of this story as it was messy. He knew what parts of the turtle cooks wanted for turtle soup and packaged it up for sale. Soon, just by word of mouth a fellow drove up and bought all the turtle meat. I made about $25 on my test of the old turtle trap and found out later that the meat sold for a lot more then that to local restaurants. The experience as turtle trapper though was worth a lot more to me than any money. For several months I found myself in the swamp repairing and testing some of the old gear I dug up out of the muck. People would ask if I would go turtle trapping again because no one was doing it and turtle soup was a favorite in the community. I could not after seeing how to clean a turtle I never really wanted to do it again.

Swamp Sunset

Print sold at Fig Street Studio

 Some of my paintings are places I visited in the swamp. Painted as I saw them, like the Swamp Sunset below.