Being Raised by a “Good ol’ Country Boy”
by Stephen A. Shepherd (son of Talmage Shepherd), 16 Nov 2005
I’m not going to talk much about me living up here in Maryland with my dad, because I could write
volumes about him and the things he taught me. The only thing I’m going to say is, because of my dad,
I was one of the most popular kids on the street.
Dad taught me and my friends more about camping, hunting, fishing and living than the rest of my
friends’ fathers put together. Even today when I run into some of my friends from the old neighborhood,
they bring up some of the good times we had with him.
One of our favorite stories was how Dad taught me and several of my friends how to build rabbit traps;
some of the guys have even told me how they have passed this art down to their children and some of
them to their grandchildren.
Anyway, we watched my dad fabricate and put together one of the most fascinating contraptions we
boys had ever seen. As he was building it, he told us stories about when he was a youngster back
home, he would set traps all over his family’s farm, to catch and sell rabbits to a gentleman who owned
a store over the ridge from their house. He told us how the man would give him 10 cents a rabbit. “On a
good day I’d make up to .50 or .60 cents, but most days, I’d make .20 or .30 cents, those good days
were few and far between” he said.
Later that afternoon Dad took us boys into the woods behind our house and showed us how to look for
rabbit trails -- trails the rabbits made going from a thicket where they bed down, to a clover field where
they would drink the dew and eat the clover. Dad found a good place, where two rabbit trails had
He took an apple from his pocket, cut it in half, rubbed one half of the apple all over the trap, then
threw both halves of the apple into the back of the trap; he then placed it down in that strategic location
and set it.
He told us boys to check on it in the morning, and he guaranteed we would catch us a rabbit. So that
night, three of us guys slept out in my backyard in our sleeping bags, something we did right regular
anyway on the weekends.
We all woke up at the crack of dawn and off we went, to check on our trap. Sure enough, when we
spotted the trap, the door was down. We looked at each other, and broke out in ear to ear grins as we
ran over to the trap. I was given the honors of reaching into the trap and trying to reach down as dad
had instructed us, grab the rabbit by his hind legs and pull him out.
So I knelt down, got a hold of the trap and started to tilt it back so I could open the door. But all of a
sudden, the trap jerked in my hands and we heard a loud growl come from inside of it.
Now, I didn’t know much about rabbits back then, but I did know this “Rabbits don’t Growl”. With that I
dropped the trap and it growled again, and then we heard what ever it was inside the trap, start to
scratch at the sides of it.
The three of us just stood there dumbfounded, looking at this trap on the ground. I said “What are we
going to do”; one of my friends said “Open it.” I looked at him and said “You open it”; he replied “I’m
not opening it.” My other friend said, “Let’s go get you dad.” So, off we went to get Dad.
Now I know my mom and dad just loved it when I came busting in their bedroom at about 6:30 in the
morning, all out of breath from running all the way back home and telling Dad, we need your help, we’
ve caught something in the trap and it’s growling at us.
So my poor dad, crawls out of bed, and gets dressed and we follow him back into the woods where the
trap is. He reaches down and picks it up, “Too heavy for a rabbit” he says, he shakes it and this time
not only does it growl, it hisses . A little smile came across his lips, “You boys stand back a little.” He
tilted the trap up and opened the door ever so slightly. Peering into the trap he says “You boys have
done caught yourselves a opossum”.
Now I thought to myself, how in the world are we, no let me correct that, how in the world is Dad going to
get that opossum out of our trap. Just about then Dad, turned the trap to where the door was facing the
ground. He opened the door and out flopped this long, skinny, gray, hairless tail. My friend yelled “It’s a
rat”, right then I thought my dad was going to lose it, because he started to laugh. “No it’s a opossum”
He then grabbed the tail of that opossum bare handed, (another feat to this day, I don’t think I would
have had the nerve to do) and with one quick motion, pulled the biggest Opossum we had ever seen,
well let me clarify that too, the only Opossum we had ever seen that close up, out of that trap. My dad
stood their, with this big, ugly opossum dangling upside down, with it’s legs spread wide out, showing us
all what big teeth it had.
Dad then asked us, if we wanted to see a trick, sure we said. With that he shook that opossum real
hard, all of a sudden it closed its eyes and stopped moving. We thought he had killed it.”What
happened to it?” one of my friends said. “He’s playing Opossum” my dad answered back, with that he
shook him again. Then he told us boys to go stand over by an old Oak tree that was about twenty feet
from where we were standing.
After Dad saw we had got over by the tree, he laid the opossum down on the ground; it was lying on its
back and wasn’t moving a muscle, I swear to this day, it wasn’t even breathing. Dad walked over to us,
and told us to watch the opossum. After about 2 or 3 minutes, the opossum rolled over on its feet and
sauntered away, no worse for the wear.
I’m going to write some more about my dad, but it’s going to be about our trips to the “Old Home Place”
and some of the stories he told me about growing up there.