Taylor T. Atkinson

 
Bartow Herald
Cartersville, Georgia

March 31, 1938

 
Transcribed and submitted by: 
 

Catfish King of Etowah is Fiddler and Trapper

Bartow’s Most Unique Man Makes Living From Nature

A friend we have long admired and one whom we always enjoy leading out on a conversation is Mr. Taylor Atkinson, the cunning Hiawatha of the high bluffs of Macedonia, the trapper of the tamaracks near Stamp Creek Bridge, the Tarzan huntsman, the catfish king of the Etowah.

We saw him just the other day at the court house while the Graham Jackson negro musicians were whooping it up with their variety program and swing music.  Uncle Taylor was the happiest looking man we ever saw and had the merriest twinkle in his dark brown eyes as they beamed from between the brim of his hat and his heavy growth of wiry, iron-grey whiskers.  He had caught the spirit of the music and the players and was unconsciously patting his foot as he occupied one of the broad slabs above the court house steps.

It occurred to us that he too must be a musician or a dancer to be so completely carried away.  In reply to our question as to what instrument he said, “Before I got my hand cut to pieces in a cotton gin I was a real fiddler and a banjo picker, and I can still cut a few steps to tunes like that.”

After the musical program, we plied him with queries about hunting, fishing and trapping. “What,” we asked, “do you bait a steel trap with to catch a fox?” “Nothing at all,” was the quick reply.  “But it took me 12 months to learn how foxes have trails they travel, and if you are smarter’n him you can trap him without bait.”

TRAPPING

“Tell us more,” we suggested, “about trailing and outwitting foxes.”  “Well,” replied Uncle Taylor, “here in the past few months, the foxes they took a notion they wanted me out of the chicken business, but I thinned them out to the tune of ten, nine of them red, one grey. Nine were males, and one was the largest fox I ever saw, and had white hair at the top of his back.  You never catch a fat one, and they weight about ten to twelve pounds.  When a mammy fox is feedin’ her young she will catch as many as a dozen of your chickens in a day.  They are bad after ducks, too, ‘cause a duck is so clumsy and can be catched quick. A fox in a steel trap will fight you and bite quicker than a dog. I don’t trap ‘em just for their skins, but because they want me to raise chickens for them to drag off. A grey fox isn’t bad after chickens, and he is a farmer’s friend. He catches moles and rats and other pests on the farm. A good sized red fox fur will bring around $4.00.”

“What,” we asked, “do you trap besides b’rer fox?” “Oh, a few muskrats, weasels, possums, mink coons, and groundhogs,” was his ready reply. We begged for more information on the groundhogs. “you have to find where the little fellers den and then you can catch ‘em with or without baitin’ your trap, provided you know your business.  They are about the size of a coon and make fine pets; but they are much better for eatin’.  The meat tastes just like fresh pork.  You ask Sheriff Gaddis.  He come along one day nearly started from raidin’ stills and I give him a square meal and the most of it was groundhog meat. A groundhog will eat up your corn too, and you can’t raise beans around close to their den.”

MOST VALUABLE

“Tell me about the most valuable fur you ever caught,” was our next suggestion. “I caught one otter durin’ my time and should have got about $20.00 for his hide, but they didn’t give me justice on it.  Since then I learnt to grade my own furs and skins.  I have made a livin’ and a good one too, trappin’ through the fall and winter.  But that was when I could get about better than now.  I have one steel trap this over 50 years old.”

We then switched to fishing.  “Uncle Taylor,” we queried, “How is it that you know these river fish and their habits so well that you can pull them out in bunches when others fail?”  “It’s like trainin’ a dog; you have to know more than he does to put it over,” was his answer.  And then he talked on: “Livin’ out there like I do, it sharpens your wits, and the hard it is to land a fish or wild animal, the better you are prepared for the next one.  I enjoy matchin’ my skill against their’n just like you love to watch or play a game of ball.”

And this further convinces us that you can still learn something worthwhile from everybody, and especially from a fellow who has fun making a good living where we would perhaps starve.

 

[NOTES: In the newspaper, there is a photo of Taylor Atkinson taken outside the courthouse.]

 

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