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Death is no stranger

September 14, 2009

It’s not unusual for the man of our house to receive calls from friends who’ve come across fallen wildlife, mostly the victims of miscalculated bolts across Colorado roads. People seem to trust that my husband has a use for these critters, who’ve just stepped out of their very own lives leaving a mélange of bones, flesh, sinew, blood, and fur on the roadside. Dan has shot out the door at a nanoseconds notice more times than I can count because there’s a deer splayed on the highway, still warm for the taking. Sometimes people just bring roadkill over to the house like a platter of cookies. I found this dead badger and I thought of you. Once we opened up our freezer to find a large, unidentified bull snake coiled in a bag.

whaddya know, Dan *did* find a use for that snakeskin: waterproof/camo layer for his hunting bow.

whaddya know, Dan *did* find a use for that snakeskin: waterproof/camo layer for his hunting bow.

Other times people simply use our yard as a meat packaging plant. This summer I came home to a deer hanging from our garden arches, thick tongue lolling, eyeballs froze open, dirt still in his hooves and dripping crimson blood onto my mint patch. Our friend Jojo slit the animal down the middle, guts plopping neatly into a wheelbarrow like teddy bear stuffing while Col and Rose claimed front row seats for the outdoor butchering party. Our friend Colin spent a portion of last winter in our backyard extracting every usable scrap from a buffalo that was unlawfully shot in central Colorado, then donated to him. The kids and I would return home from playing at The Family Center where they had manhandled every piece of plastic available and there was Colin hunched over a thick, stinking buffalo skull with his knife.

So, no raised eyebrows when our friend Tara called to see if Col wanted to check out this dead goldfinch that flew into her window. I retrieved the little seed-eating bird with Rose while Col was in preschool, keeping it a secret to launch later in that bribe-y way of parents, like if you take a nap, you can go to the pool, or um, dissect a dead bird. I left Col with Sage (who lives downstairs in our duplex) for a couple hours, foisting bloody-project supervisory duties to him. Sage is a gentle soul, soft spoken, chews his food mindfully, hasn’t driven a car in a year, and drinks chard and hollyhock-leaf smoothies for breakfast.

Sage, hollyhock-leaf muncher

Sage, hollyhock-leaf muncher

As I was preparing to exit, Col was plunging Dan’s beard-trimming scissors into the goldfinch’s belly while Sage was calmly speculating, “I think that’s the liver, oh, that there must be the heart.” Right before I closed the door behind me I heard Sage patiently reminding Col “if you want to see this bird, you can think of its body as a work of art.” Apparently Sage hadn’t seen much of Col’s art, because much of it has a sort of cheerful massacre-like feel to it.

Like a work of art, young grasshopper

Like a work of art, young grasshopper

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Barb permalink
    September 14, 2009 9:31 pm

    (2nd try to post comment before it is swallowed by mad computer): Girl, you lead one hell of an interesting life. To think I never had dissect a bird on my bribes list when the kids were little…. though sarah will get to dissect a pig in advanced bio this year…..

  2. September 15, 2009 10:45 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for the invitation to your blog.
    Now we don’t have to wait so long between column publications in the Herald to read your thoughtful and well crafted tales. We’ll share your blog link with others who enjoy the same.
    Best of luck with your great adventure!

    –John & Margaret
    Cortez, CO

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