Fur farming

College summers I worked as a landscaper in Pittsford, NY. That seasonal employment attracted students as well as an occasional mature adult who was transient or “between jobs.” On one crew we had a man who was the recently deposed art director of an advertising agency. Another crew had a man with a PhD in Biology.

One of these adults was Fred. Fred owned a mink ranch, a huge operation in a county east of Pittsford. His mink ranch was in financial trouble. He was trying to arrange re-financing to remain in business. Meanwhile he was mowing and raking lawns. The first day I worked with Fred, he asked if we could go to lunch an hour early. He had to call Lloyds of London, in England, by eleven, since they were four hours ahead of us. I ate at the counter in the diner while Fred worked the pay phone with stacks of quarters set up as if he were a bank teller.

Back in the truck I asked, “How do you kill a mink? Do you gas them?”

“No,” said Fred. “It’d be impractical to gas them one-at-a-time, and if you did two or more together, they’re so vicious they’d rip each other to shreds.”

“So, then…?” I sensed he’d rather be talking about something else.

He took a deep breath. “I open the cage, reach in real fast, grab ’em and snap their necks.”

“That’s practical? How many can you kill like that?” I asked.

“I’ve done 2,000 in a day,” he answered.

“What happens if you miss?”

He pulled up his sleeve, exposing his forearm. The maze of tooth scars was surreal, as if he were made up for a “B” horror movie.

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