Coye Law Chronicle
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The Value of Thankless Work
WHAT I LEARNED ON THE TRAPLINE
I grew up in Georgetown, New York. Given that the population still hasn’t cracked 1,000, you’ve probably never heard of it. But as you can probably imagine, there weren’t a lot of ways for a kid to make some pocket money growing up in the area. As I mentioned last month, my brothers and I helped out on our family farm, but we were on the lookout to make a few extra bucks, and in a rural community with no jobs for teenagers, we had to be creative. During the winters, from November to February, we set up a trapline to catch minks and muskrats. The trap ran along a creek, and after we’d set it, we’d check it twice a day. When we had a catch, we’d sell the pelts. I think we got about $3 for a muskrat and $8 for a mink. Needless to say, we didn’t get rich, but we were grateful for every dollar we made. It was thankless work. It wasn’t uncommon to step into a few inches of water, soaking your boots. When that happened, there was no choice but to head home, dry off, and get right back out there. Even when the conditions were at their most miserable — it was recently 11 below zero in Georgetown, New York! — we’d head out to check the traps.
to do things from trapping. One of those lessons has to do with the importance of preparation and due diligence. Nobody was forcing us to go out and check the line every day. It was just good practice. I also learned that you have to be willing to deal with the unexpected. When the weather is rough, you have no idea what the terrain will have in store for you. Similarly, you have no idea what’s on the trapline until you check it. None of the information is given to you in a spreadsheet. You might have a theory about what the day has in store, but you don’t really know until you get your hands dirty. Now, it would be stupid of me to pretend that being a lawyer is comparable to a life spent checking traps, but I do think some parts of the job are pretty similar. When we are working on a case, preparation and due diligence are paramount. You don’t get the results if you aren’t willing to put in the work. The work itself may be a little different on every case, but the work ethic required is always the same. We also need to look at the unknowns. Take an auto accident case. Do you think an insurance company is going to be perfectly forthcoming about exactly what happened? Think again. We have to theorize about what we don’t know and investigate it for ourselves. That’s how the strongest cases are made and how the truth comes out.
My daughters, Hilary and Austin, and I “chilling” in the valley on my family’s farm.
If I told you that I pine for the days spent checking the trapline, I’d be lying. I do, however, have fond memories of those times, and they helped make me the man I am today. For that, I’ll always be thankful.
I’m sure I did it for the money at the time, but I learned a lot about hard work and the right way
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