This article is part of the Fur Trapper Saga series.
P. B. FOUKE - THE STORY OF A MAN REBORN
P. B. Fouke before sabbatical.Readers, I come to you with a sense of renewed urgency. Each and every word you see before you carries with it tremendous weight, for not since the Good Book has the written word been given such a grand and glorious thing to communicate. I, Philip Bond Fouke III, am a man reborn.
It is no secret that the trappers and shippers of this nation have felt the pangs of my absence over the past two years, and I feel much regret over that. Following many turbulent years of conflict both physical and mental, I felt it appropriate to take sabbatical and renew myself in the cleansing waters of nature.
I spent many a long year wandering the vast woodlands surrounding St. Louis and stretching to every far corner of the North American continent. With only sacred hymns, fond memories and the blessed act of fur trapping to comfort me, I came to relish the beauty of solitude. I joyfully reminisced about my dear friend J. F. Swanton and his many calculated attempts to murder me, smiled as I imagined Vice President R. J. Heckwolf carefully appraising a fine pelt, and delighted in the remarkable bounty of fresh meat and fur nature provides each able man upon this Earth.
Not a second of my time away from the fur trade went to waste. This endeavor, though highly personal, was not some feeble excuse to revel in recreation. At times it was a daunting battle for survival, as I was pitted against the elements with only the certain knowledge of my undeniable importance to keep me going. I tracked prey for days in hunger and slept in hollowed-out logs until the comforts of civilization were but a faint memory. When meat proved unavailable, I fed maggots and other insects into my hungry maw. I walked and swam for miles and furnished crude rafts out of bloated animal corpses to ferry me down rivers.
When at last I felt my journey was over, I realized I had instinctively traveled from my home in St. Louis to the distant Pribilof Islands of Alaska. There I beheld the unrivaled brutality of seals being slaughtered in the tens of thousands. The enormity of the massacre is impossible to overstate: This was killing on the grandest scale, so overwhelming I could scarcely believe it. So beautiful and moving was this sight that I felt my eye well up, and indeed it found occasion to let lose a stream of tears. Knowing that their skins would end up clothing so many men, women and children throughout this great land was as pleasing a notion to me as any.
P. B. Fouke upon completion of his journey.This journey was not just one of survival, but of rebirth. The bulk of my energies were dedicated to one singular task: Willing myself back to a state of perfect mental and physical health. Indeed, through sheer willpower and an assortment of improvised tonics, I was able to expunge many harsh years from the record of my life. I also found time to replace the eyeball that was gouged out by a dear friend with one belonging to an eagle. Although I cannot yet see through it, I believe the psychological boost gained from having an eagle eye more than outweighs any potential risks resulting from having part of a dead animal lodged in my ocular cavity.
Alas, there was a terrible price to be paid for such a dynamic transformation. The bitter cleansing tonics that expelled so many impurities from my body also took something dear and precious from me: My beard. My face is once more a barren landscape, as soft and smooth as the most delicate parts of a lady. If not for an immaculately sculpted moustache, I would not feel fit to present myself in public. I shall rectify this in time by growing the most resilient and abrasive beard mankind has ever seen.
A NEW PASSION EMERGES
I have returned to St. Louis a man of unmatched cunning, vigor and integrity. I now commit to the fur industry more energy than in all my previous years combined. Trappers, you will find no stronger an ally in your quest to purchase the finest, most sensitive and precise killing instruments. Shippers, no house in all of creation will offer you better prices for your fine pelts, and I stake both my life and reputation on that, for they are one in the same.
But know you this, all of you: I have, with much convinction, embraced a third passion beyond trapping and shipping fur. I have taken to the alluring art of automobiling. The passion came to me by accident, when, while contemplating my return to St. Louis, I accidentally fabricated a working automobile out of lumber and a spare motor. After a few simple modifications, the machine was fully capable of running when fed enough whale oil. Let me tell you, friends: There are few things as exhilarating as careening down dirt paths and cobblestone streets at speeds exceeding 5 miles per hour. It is a thrill on par with any great catch in the field.
In order to facilitate this newest personal endeavor and still commit an excess of time and energy to fur trapping and shipping, I have seen fit to abandon my wife and child. Do not fear, dear readers -- they will be provided for, and I intend to correspond with them as time permits. This way I may attend to my most important passions without neglecting any of the finer details.
Already the powerful men of St. Louis, this marvelous Mid-Continent Metropolis, have all but begged to share in the motorcar experience. I was most pleased to offer my greatest friend J. F. Swanton the first ride, and the two of us "tore it up" on the muddied animal paths leading to and fro his estate. His beastlike shrieks and frantic attempts to claw his way out of the moving vehicle were a wonder to witness, and the yowl he released when he finally succeeded in escaping will haunt me for days to come. I do hope his landing was soft.
Swanton, ever the giver, could not help but impart one last gift before jumping out of the automobile into a rocky ravine. The passenger seat, soaked in his evacuated bowels and distinctive musk, proved an irresistible curiosity to the native bestiary. Now whenever I travel, I find myself marshalling a great parade of animals entranced in various states of ecstasy. Just as soon as I add some traps and skinning mechanisms to the vehicle, I will find my three passions united as one.
SOME WORDS OF COMFORT IN THESE CHANGING TIMES
The world may be changing dramatically, but you may rest assured my commitment to the Fouke Fur Company and its awesome responsibilities remains resolute. I have always endeavored to help the animal realize that its true value comes not from its life or deeds, but from what it has to offer in death. That has not changed one bit.
Now, free of ailments, refreshed by years of trapping in the wild, freed of familial burdens and energized by a newfound love of piloting motorcars, I am fully prepared to lead the fur industry into a bold new era. I promise you all that, with absolute certainty and swelling pride, THIS WILL BE THE CENTURY THAT MANKIND FINALLY EXTINGUISHES ALL BEASTS FROM THE EARTH.
I invite you all to share in my newfound joy. In honor of my perfect health, I ask that you kindly deduct a healthy twenty per cent (20%) from all catalogue prices.
And here's my name to say so.
P. B. Fouke,
President and General Manager
The Fouke Fur Company
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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