By Naomi Hatch
“A dream came to me,” said Brad Click, organizer of Taylor’s Trapper Days celebration held every Memorial Day weekend.
“As I was reviewing my dream in my mind I thought of all the work people put into the (veterans) monument and we need to honor those that served,” said Click, noting that 90 percent of the men in Taylor served in World War II.
“We decided Trapper (Kirk Hatch) served honorably in World War II and was the most notable in the area,” meaning he was well known.
“The heart and soul of the celebration is our veterans,” said Click, so the town honors all American veterans with not just the Veterans Memorial Program, but with the American Bull Terrier Pull, American Quarter Horse racing, which is the barrel racing program, and a country music program and dance.
One highlight of the day is changing the flags and honoring a veteran by giving the retired flag to a Taylor veteran.
John Kirk “Trapper” Hatch was born to John and Jane Hatch on May 16, 1916. At the age of 10, he ran trap lines along the Silver Creek and east across the creek toward the old dump, thus earning the nickname “Trapper.”
At the age of 12 he would drive his dad’s Model T along an old county road to check his line that went up the Silver Creek, where he trapped coyotes and raccoons. He also had a line that went across the Silver Creek out by what was the dump and to the land that is now the LDS church farm. Later in life he had a fine pack of hounds that he worked on foot in lion, bobcat and bear country.
Trapper went into the Army in what he thought was about 1942 after he’d spent some time being deferred as a sheep shearer because they needed the wool. He went to Camp Roberts, Calif., for basic training, but they needed troops so bad the training was cut from 14 weeks to six and he was shipped overseas. As he recalled in his history, A Man to Match the Mountain, “They loaded us on an old ship that they had taken away from the Germans in World War I, the St. Meheal. It was a seaworthy old ship, but it was nothin’ but an old troop transport the Germans used in World War I.”
They were taken to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, where he was over a crew that unloaded ships all day, every day.
Trapper and three of his friends put in for the Combat Intelligence Unit and were accepted. They continued until there were no more Japanese left in the Aleutian Islands. He wrote, “Our job in the Combat Intelligence was to run all around the islands and investigate any report of any troop landings or any enemy movement or any submarine landings or anything.” They didn’t have specific assignments and could go anywhere on the island, just so they reported by radio where they were and what they were doing.
Trapper had been in the islands for 2½ years without leave, so he was to be sent home for TD (temporary duty) furlough. He was scheduled to fly out on a C47 troop transport that carried a maximum of 19 people. He was the last man on the list and was bumped. Boy was he mad, but as he sat in the Jeep with the driver and his luggage they watched the plane take off, and, as he put in his history, “The plane run right square into the side of the mountain and exploded and burned. I’ll tell you it was quite a funny feeling to me to be standin’ there when I shoulda been on the plane.”
He was on the search and rescue team, and had to go up and get the bodies of the people that were on the plane. There were no survivors. “It was kinda sickening to bring those men down,” he wrote.
“A week later I caught a plane and got 30 days TD at home in Taylor,” where he arrived on the 22nd or 23rd of December 1944. He also got about a week extension.
That was when he met Lydia Hall, who lived in Linden. They wrote each other after he went back to the islands.
He was a staff sergeant then and trained troops, sometimes with a higher classification than he had, but he was the boss.
Trapper wrote, “I enjoyed that training. We trained the troops in rock climbing. In the winter we trained ‘em in skiing and snowshoes and how to get around in deep snow. We trained ‘em how to live off the land under these conditions. I taught ‘em how to fish without any fishing gear–how to get mussels along the beaches. In the summertime there was certain vegetation we could eat and I taught ‘em about that.” They also tried to teach them how to hunt.
Where Trapper was, they didn’t know anything about dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. He wrote, “When the report came about this atomic bomb a droppin’ in Japan, it was unbelievable, we couldn’t fathom it. A bomb that big. That could do that kind of destruction, we just couldn’t believe it.”
Trapper had accumulated enough points to be discharged immediately.
He arrived home on Oct. 17, 1946, and married Lydia two days later.
He was well known for Trapper’s Cafe, which he and Lydia opened in 1947. He never let anyone leave hungry and fed many who couldn’t afford to pay him.
Trapper was one of the best Dutch oven cooks in the area, an outstanding hiker, trapper, hunter and could do just about anything.
He served as 1st councilor in the bishopric for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when Reed Hatch was bishop.
He died in a car accident on April 9, 1983, but will never be forgotten and, thanks to Click, he’ll be honored in Taylor every Memorial Day during Trapper Days.
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By Naomi Hatch