Muskrat Stew

By Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance

When I was travelling in the bush one time, I stopped for a visit with Billy Wedge who trapped on Mystery Lake.

It was common for travellers to socialize when they came to trapper’s cabins.  Generally people travelling in the bush carried a wooden grub box where they kept their food, and when they arrived at someone’s place, they would bring it inside and cook their own meal from their own supplies.  There were a lot of trappers in the north that wouldn’t feed you very well so you always brought in your own grub box.

Billy always insisted that travellers share his food.  This evening when I arrived at his cabin with the dog team, he was at the door to make me welcome. I was on my way to my trapline and had been to town to sell furs and to replenish my food supplies. It was early spring, and the snow had softened, making it hard for the dogs to pull the load of supplies.  I still had a few months of trapping ahead of me before I would finish for the season.

Billy told me to get the dogs unhitched and fed and ready for the night, and by the time I was organized, he’d have supper ready.

Billy had an eight foot root cellar under his house.  He grew a garden and kept root vegetables in the cellar for most of the winter, covered with a six to eight inch layer of moss for insulation.

When I came inside the cabin, Billy served a steaming hot stew with mashed potatoes.  I was hungry and I sat down and started to eat.  The meat was delicious and I wondered what kind of bush meat tasted so good.  I did not know what I was eating but I was reluctant to admit it.

I finally said:   “Been out trapping rats already Billy?”

He said: “Yes, I got two this morning.”

I squirmed in my seat, unsure as to whether I should finish my meal or not.  Muskrats don’t taste bad when you call them muskrats, but when you call them rats they taste terrible.  Up until that time I had never eaten muskrat.

Billy saw my hesitation and said:  “They are a clean aquatic animal that only eats vegetation. “

I was hungry, so I smiled and continued eating, grateful for the hot muskrat stew.

© Linda C Butler 2013


About Linda C Butler

I write pioneer stories from the Herb Lake Ghost Town in Manitoba. Please do not re-blog this material or re-publish without my permission.
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