Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Free Trapper versus Company Man

Just about all the worthwhile guides I have known have been Free Trappers at some point in their careers. There seems to be some confusion about this term so I'll explain it out. A Free Trapper is not a Free Lancer...necessarily. A Free Lancer is an individual who works completely on his own out of the direct supervision of a Factor (union representative) or Booshway (crew boss). He sells the product of his talents "per piece" rather than as contract labor. The more he produces, the more he earns. If you're a young, talented buck and don't prefer a warm fire to an icy stream, you can make a good living this way. Now, a Free Trapper does the same but makes a contract, in advance, to a specific company for his total production that season. Because the Free Trapper is on his own without the benefit of an organization behind him, he learns a lot about who pays the highest prices, where the best quality product can be found, what's the best technique to use to make the most efficient use of his time and talent and, most importantly, those he can count on in a scrap.

Contrast these men to the Company Man. He is hired by a major company for a contract wage. Everything he produces, some say every idea he has, is company property without additional compensation. The benefits of this arrangement is a guaranteed wage with regular meals, union law to settle disputes and health benefits in case you get stove up. Of course, you won't get rich if you don't take risks, but you'll stay off welfare more often than not. I was a Company Man in my youth while I was learning the trade. I had a regular, full-time, night woman I was hitched to and she wanted a lodge of her own. Soon there were more mouths to feed and Company pay didn't stretch far enough. It was then I turned to "moonlighting" to bring in more income to meet the need. "Moonlighting" was frowned upon in the trade. The Union hated it as you didn't pay them a percentage of your "take". The Company hated it because you were aiding their competition. I was bred to loyalty. I give my word and the deal is set in stone. Whenever possible, I'd do my "moonlighting" for the Company that paid me a daily wage. This kept me away from the competition and allowed the Union to retain the illusion of control.

I've worked for the Company and I've worked for small, aggressive competitors. The Company offered more security but limited the money a man could make. The smaller guys (the Opposition) paid more and allowed greater creativity and opportunity. If you want the broadest range of creativity and the faster track to advancement, sooner or later, you move to the Opposition. Of course, the risks are greater and the danger of the Opposition failing or being absorbed by the Company are high. Some day you could find yourself working as a Free Trapper running your own crew because the options have disappeared. That could break you or make you into something they tell stories about. This journal is my story.

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