The antler collector
Right about now, the elk of the Southern Rockies drop their antlers. I imagine it starts with this tingly-itchy feeling on their scalp. Perhaps they rub their hefty, bone-like racks against a spruce sapling for a little relief, and then the whole darn thing just pops off.
Does this mean anything to you? I didn’t think so. I’m only telling you because the man I love is a fool for elk and it’s officially elk antler-hunting season in our household. There is just a small window of time between when the big ungulates drop their antlers and before the mountain shrubs start leafing out, making it nearly impossible to find the cast-offs on the ground (or so I’m told, by the man who returns home from the woods with this, over the course of two months):
From which he makes things like this:
And while I know these antlers are useful for the animals who wear them, to um, prove their fitness at mating season, we’ve sort of passed the usefulness threshold here. We’ve got enough antler cabinet pulls, door handles, coat racks, lamp parts and back-scratchers for Col and Rose’s children. And despite the fact that there are piles of deer and elk antlers mounded in our shed and sunroom, Dan can no more leave an antler in the woods than I can pass by a cup of coffee sitting on the table and not take a sip.
Here is an excerpt from a piece I published in the January edition of Bugle Magazine, it’s called Fool for Elk and tells a little more about the man and his affliction:
In spring, Dan scours the woods for antlers. His pile of elk and deer racks, mounded in our shed, is both tripping hazard and testimony to the hours he spends pawing through snarled country, chasing bulls on their home turf. He returns from these trips torn by wild roses, sap-sticky from elbowing through tight stands of ponderosa, foot-chilled by deep snow and positively glowing from his latest finds. To me, these treasures appear to be simply another set of chipmunk-chewed bones, their points stabbing the air in flagrant disregard of proper feng shui. But, when Dan spies—like a glint of gold in a miner’s pan—the smooth, brown curve of an antler point beckoning through the grass like a crooked finger, he is hooked. When you’re a fool for elk, each calcified castoff broadcasts more than an animal’s procreation-station. The heavy, smooth antlers are like signposts pointing to something greater than simply the parts of cartilage, keratin, blood, phosphorus. Perhaps the signage reads: this five by six thundered down a steep, rim-rocked gulch before stopping to itch off an antler. Perhaps it’s an ancient and mythic tongue; clearly I don’t speak the language.
If you dragged out an antler from the middle of the stack, say a lean, chestnut five-pointer and held it up, it would take Dan precisely two seconds to remember where and when that gift was found. “Putrid lion kill, Red creek, Spring 2007. Sawed the antlers off with my Leatherman.” He might even remember that he sat beside the creek, listening to the snowmelt rumble, fingering a bumpy brow tine before lashing the God-awful stinky pair to his backpack and winding his way down to the truck. This is the man who occasionally needs a reminder of his current age.
Who does the collecting in your house? And what is collected?