My Dad and Johnny Muskrat and the Sears Roebuck Company

When my dad was a kid, he sold furs to Sears Roebuck. Each fall when animals had developed a full-furred winter coat, he set traplines along fence rows and creeks on his family farm.

The pelts he sent to Sears was graded by experts, with extra bonuses paid for top-notch furs. So when Sears offered a Tips to Trappers magazine, my dad signed up, hoping to increase his earnings. In its pages, he read articles by “Johnny Muskrat” about the best ways to trap animals and prepare pelts.

One tip from Johnny Muskrat changed my dad’s trapping practice.

The further north, the better the furs, Johnny Muskrat wrote.

My dad realized he hadn’t been considering geography. He had been setting traps all over his family farm, paying no attention as to whether he was setting them to the north or south or east or west.

But he believed Johnny Muskrat. So he moved his traps to north-line fences, hoping to increase the quality of his catches. And it might have worked. In 1941, when he was eight years old, he sold a possum pelt for 25 cents.

“That was a lot of money back then,” he says. “Worth nearly $5 today.”

My dad likes to tell this childhood story on himself. He uses the story to help people understand perspective. When he read what Johnny Muskrat wrote about the north, my dad’s world hadn’t yet widened enough to know about places where furs grew thick against temperatures low enough to shatter trees. His thoughts on trapping fell in the bounds of his small world on a mountain farm in western Maryland.

Look beyond—this is what my dad’s story teaches.

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