BOOK REVIEW: Fox in a Trap

Fox in a Trap

Thoughtful, realistic, and well-written, Fox in a Trap belongs alongside Shiloh in rural-themed humane literature.

The young protagonist, Daniel, eagerly awaits a visit from his Uncle Pete, an outdoor writer and world traveler he clearly idolizes. Uncle Pete is an avid hunter and has regaled Daniel with many stories of his conquests. Best of all, in Daniel’s mind, his uncle has promised to take him trapping for the first time.

Daniel’s father is a patient man who prefers working on his farm to his brother’s tales of derring-do. Nevertheless, he sees how excited Daniel is to set his first trap. He imparts his own values gently to his son, but ultimately lets Daniel make his own decision.

“On the whole, I’d rather not interfere with the foxes,” said Pa, “as long as they don’t interfere with me. Their overpopulation would level out naturally, if we gave it a couple of years.”

Unperturbed, Daniel sets out to capture foxes on the family farm with his uncle. He awaits his first catch with baited breath, but Daniel’s eagerness subsides when he actually traps a fox. Uncle Pete does the dirty work of killing the animal. The book’s description of this is not overly graphic, but is accurate of a common method trappers use to kill their quarry. Pete raps the fox with a club to drop him, and then stands on the fox’s body to finish the job via suffocation.

Daniel is quietly horrified and has to leave the scene. The following days are ones of confusion. If he tells Uncle Pete he doesn’t want to trap anymore, will his beloved uncle take offense or think less of him? However, can he keep doing this thing he now feels in his heart is wrong?

There’s a great scene in which Daniel ponders the foot of his beloved dog, Lady, with the obvious extension of what a delicate canine foot might experience in a trap:

Inside her foot, he should feel little chains of jointed bones like his finger. They were connected to other bones like his hand, and even to something like his wrist.

Daniel turns to his wise father on how to break it to Uncle Pete he no longer wishes to trap. Pa tells him gently:

“There are all kinds of courage, Daniel.”

Daniel is surprised to find that Uncle Dan is not at all angered or disappointed in him. Uncle Pete admits,

“The older I get, the more this kind of suffering bothers me…I can’t stomach trapping anymore myself.”

(This goes along with the demographic data that indicate that as sportsmen age, actual participation in killing animals tends to decline.) Some readers will no doubt be disappointed by Daniel’s apparently positive response to Pete’s offer to take him hunting and fishing (but not trapping) sometime in the future. However, one gets the idea that kindhearted Daniel, once he sees these activities up close, won’t be too impressed with them, either. Maybe he’ll even teach Uncle Daniel a lesson.

One gets the sense that some of the incidents in this book are partially autobiographical. The author’s bio notes that she helped her father trap foxes in her childhood.

Overall, Fox in a Trap is a wonderful and nonjudgmental little book that should find a place in rural libraries especially.

(Review originally appeared at goodreads.com)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

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    Oct 31, 2011 @ 09:03:29

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