By TILFORD GREENAWAY
THE late winter sun was sinking in a blaze of crimson glory behind the crest of a low hill that overlooked an exceedingly picturesque landscape. A small stream, filled with brush and drift of all kinds, and crossed by innumerable fallen pines and hemlocks, treaded a devious path along the foot of the incline, bordered by beautiful meadows and tangled woodlands. A light blanket of snow covered the ground and cast tinted reflections of the sunset back against the cloudless sky. The shadows of the cedars on the hilltops had gradually lengthened, until they must have looked like fallen giants to the little snowbird hurrying home to his nest.
Down by the stream, a very sharp eye could have detected a movement under a log that spanned the current. A flat, triangular head, something over two inches long peered out, and a sharp little nose sniffed the breeze suspiciously for a moment. Then its owner apparently became assured, for he came silently out, and leaped up the bank with graceful bounds. Sitting down upon an old ant hill, he proceeded to survey the country, working that sharp little nose, and incidentally making an interesting picture as he watched the last dying rays of the sun twinkling on the water. Coal black in color, he was nearly as large as a 'cat, but of that long, lean, ferret-like shape that might have deceived one who did not know of the mink's strength and ferocity. A long snaky neck, surmounted by the fierce little head with its piercing eyes, small ears and teeth that might have surprised a bull dog, together with short legs and a bushy tail, complete his description.
At length he decided that the coast was clear, and started slowly down the stream, always on the alert for his next meal. He had dined but sparely the night before, and had started out early this evening to prevent a repetition of that inconvenience.
Suddenly, he stopped and sat up, his nose wriggling like mad and his stumpy ears alert. A man was coming down the hill, slipping and sliding in the snow and swinging a pair of jingling traps by their chains.
Black Mink listened until the sounds became close, then dove into the water, where he watched the man from under a pile of driftwood. After setting a trap, the man baited it with a piece of fish, and went on up the hill. As he disappeared over the brow, the mink swam downstream and examined the set suspiciously. The bait was hung over the trap on a stick, a good method possibly for less wary animals, but hardly the thing for a wise one like Black Mink.
Wading cautiously around the spot where the trap lay, he pulled out the bait stick, consumed the fish with a relish, and went on his way.
Deciding that the stream did not offer enough opportunities for an enterprising young mink to get ahead, our friend next fared into a meadow, where by dint of long and patient waiting he captured a mouse. This helped to stay his hunger, but was more of an aggravation than anything else. Finally, however, he came upon a fresh rabbit track, which he followed up into the woods. The track ended in an old woodchuck burrow, and the nose of Black Mink told him that his victim was within. He lowered his flat head and crawled inside.
While Black Mink was concluding his business in the den a reddish brown form hopped gracefully down the hill and stopped suddenly before the burrow. Snapping his head sideways ha tried to catch the smaller animal as he leaped away but all he saw was a black streak that whirled through the air and landed directly in front of the den, all ready for another attack. He was spared the trouble. Red Fox took the hint and made off up the hill in great bounds, not even bidding Black Mink good-by. The latter screamed at him as he disappeared over the crest of the mound, but it only served to accelerate his pace.
And Black Mink? Well, these beasts are never satisfied. After making a meal of the rabbit, he started out to hunt for more.
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
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