Much of the western United States was explored by fur trappers who waded the streams and rivers in search of fur bearing animals. Although this country has changed, fur trappers and buyers are still a part of American life.
Recently, Joe Duryee, fur buyer from Bolivar, set up a buying station at Oak Ridge Pawn Shop on highways 60 and 59. Duryeee and his daughter Joy were there to buy furs from local trappers.
He was raised on the outskirts of Bolivar. As youngsters, hunting was a big part of his and his two brother's lives. One fall while squirrel hunting, the boys shot a coon. They took the animal to the local fur buyer and sold it for 75 cents.
The next Saturday, they took the money and spent it at the movie theater. That coonskin paid for their admissions, three boxes of popcorn, and three Cokes.
When Duryee was in his 20s, he and some friends went up into Iowa and hunted three nights. They netted 117 coons. Coonskins sold at that time for $5 and this was big money in the 1960s.
They went back to Iowa the next year, hunted longer, and brought home over 600 pelts. These furs sold for $8. These two hunts inspired Duryee to become a fur buyer. And he's been doing it for about 50 years.
Tim Mahaffey was one of the local trappers who brought pelts to sell to Duryee. Mahaffey lives on the outskirts of Ritchey and traps Shoal Creek, which passes south of his home.
He brought coon, beaver, possum, and an otter pelt to the fur buyer. Duryee explained the good and bad of each pelt as he examined them. He said that presently coons with reddish hair bring a premium. He explained that muskrat pelts have risen in price the last few years, while small beaver pelts have become almost worthless.
Duryee said the fur business has changed since he began buying. Years ago, most of the furs went to southern European countries. Today, China has taken over the market. He said they especially like muskrat fur to line expensive coats. This is why prices have risen for muskrat fur.
He said there are other fur buyers in the area: Loren Garren at Goodman and Conrad Furs at Crane buy furs by Southwest Missouri trappers.
Joe Duryee and daughter Joy Hickman will return to Neosho once again on Jan. 30. So once again, there will be "a fur buyer in town."