This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Guts

As soon as I was old enough to babysit my little brother, my mom enrolled in college to get her R.N. degree. My father was a highway patrolman. We lived in a small blue-collar town full of taverns. Between traffic accidents and emergency-room admittances -- the details of which were often the dinnertime topic -- I became at once numbly clinical about and coldly interested in matters of blood and guts. While I did miserably in chemistry, physics, and math, I excelled in biology. The sight of blood didn't faze me, and I took pride in that. But violence and anger, a fight on the playground, would reduce me to tears.

Fast forward, then, to my ex-, who'd been known to faint at the sight of blood and grew dizzy when confronted with a steak or a roast. This man I wound up with for a time was a hippy to his Buddha core. My parents adored him, but they were baffled by his eating habits; providing a rare steak at dinner time was the pinnacle of their esteem, and no matter how many times I explained that he couldn't bear the sight of red meat, the concept was so foreign to them that every time they made us a meal, the main course was always bloody.

Like my parents, my ex- was fascinated with the biological world, the bone and gristle, the tooth and flesh of it. Which is one thing on the page. He loved to read books by Barry Lopez, Annie Dillard, and especially Gary Snyder, who wrote about discovering road kill and salvaging the pelts. Then, one foggy morning on highway one, we happened upon some very real roadkill we smelled before we found it -- a skunk. My ex- pulled onto the shoulder and cut the engine."Before you even consider what you're thinking," I said, "know that I am not going to skin this thing for you."

He was working his hands into a pair of stiff leather gloves. "Just help me open the tailgate." He trudged off into the fog and when he returned, he was carrying the skunk by its tail. It had been hit clean, across the snout, its body whole and not flattened by a tire.

From a distance, the smell of skunk isn't so bad. They visited our yard regularly, as did raccoons, stray cats, lizards, and mice. When a skunk sprayed in our vicinity, we shut the doors and windows. But the skunk we transported that day reeked. It's funny how you get used to a thing and it doesn't seem so bad.

We got the skunk home, and as I knew from the start, my ex- couldn't begin to approach it with a knife.

And that's how I ended up skinning a skunk. I don't recall exactly how I was tricked into it; I know we had an argument that ended in a dare. Being somewhat competitive and a bit too proud, I didn't back down. Instead, I bolted for the local used book store to read up on skinning and tanning. Next, wearing a pair of surgical gloves and wielding a Swiss Army knife, I slit the creature from anus to throat and across the body from paw-to-paw, uppers and lowers. It was a smelly job and one that I completed alone while my ex- sat inside, nervously humming a tune and watching the Olympics, as present for me as he could be under the circumstances.

The work wasn't grisly, as I remember it. Removing a pelt is something like peeling off a long glove or a pair of silk stockings. What lay beneath was a little shocking, but hanging from hooks in the markets of China I'd seen plenty of fly-covered bodies stripped of their pelts. I'd seen elderly women get into fist fights over the price of a corpse.

So once I'd removed the entire pelt, I nailed it to the side of our shed to dry. I'd learned that in order to tan a hide and keep it supple, one need only take the creature's brains and smear them all over the raw side. But no, I'd had enough, and this hide was bound to dry out and harden. I'd proven my point. I was the tough one. He was the smart one.My ex- helped me dig a deep hole where we buried the denuded, tailless nightmare. For a year, the pelt stretched out on the side of the shed was a mecca for stray cats. For a year, the fur bleached out in the sun. And then we bought a house of our own and left the pelt behind.

Now every time I smell a skunk I'm reminded of everything I've managed to avoid. I'm reminded that life is brutal.

57 Comments:

Blogger sage said...

You are one tough (and a little crazy) woman.

With all the stuff I love doing in the great outdoors, I thought I’d enjoy taxidermy. When I was a senior in High School, they actually offered a class in the subject. I’m not sure why, but I signed up and took the class. It was scheduled right before lunch. Some administrator chuckled at this, I’m sure.

My first two projects weren’t too bad—as far as the skinning and all go. I mounted a bird that, when completed, looked like standing road killed. Next I did a squirrel that looked as if he’d run short of acorns long before the winter ended. Then we turned to fish. In the fall run along the coast, I caught a good size bluefish. Preparing the fish wasn’t a problem, it wasn’t any different than cleaning them, but once the skin was removed, the head and skin was placed in a bucket of the foulest smelling stuff you can imagine. And since there were two dozen of us in the class, you’d have to stick a hand down in this solution and dig out your fish while holding your nose with your free hand. And with so many fish in the solution, it would take you a few minutes to find the right one. My fish was the only thing that turned out well, but I felt so dirty after class that I’d skip lunch and drive home and take a shower. Long before the term was done, I gave up any notion of becoming the great taxidermist to the rich and famous.

I wonder what our teacher would have done if someone had brought in a skunk?

9:32 AM

 
Blogger Jimbo Big Toe said...

Hmm... I find this extremely interesting knowing your willingness to participate in his interest in biology the path he chose. I am very different than your ex because my choice of biology topics would have been way different than taxidermy, ;) Great post! You got to love a good story about skinning a skunk.

9:48 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

And all this gives me a whole new admiration for undertakers and their ilk. Can you imagine?

9:50 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

Jimbo:

He did eventually narrow it down to plants, reptiles, and insects. I could have done without the reptiles and insects. I might not be scared of blood, but snakes and millipedes give me the creeping shingles.

9:53 AM

 
Blogger Spinning Girl said...

Make a pair of mittens at least.

9:55 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

They could double up as pot holders. . .

10:02 AM

 
Blogger ginab said...

Not sure why to skin a skunk. Something to do with letting one count the ways (and I don't mean to skinning a skunk). Alright I've nearly slipped Freudian style too many times already.

But guess what? Time for therapy! Wee!

-g+bb

10:46 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

Wheeee!

I don't quite understand the purpose, either. Curiosity? A chance to really examine a wild animal?

Your therapist probably has a good answer for this one. Can I borrow her?

10:50 AM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

My classmate taxidermied an otter he found dead along the road once. But a skunk??? Was the bladder still full when you opened it up? Did the stink totally stick to you after skinning it?

12:25 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Chitelier:

1. Bladder? I merely skinned the creature, I didn't stuff it. The bladder remained where it should be. I imagine, though, that it was empty -- if I was hit by a car I'd most certainly void my bladder.

2. Since I wore rubber gloves, the stink didn't cling to me. Though the pelt itself stunk up the yard sump'n fierce for a couple of weeks.

12:29 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

er... I guess I meant the scent glands... thought it was some sort of bladder (wasn't talkin' about urine).
Just was wondering if that might have spilled all out AFTER getting run over.

12:55 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Oh, ho, hooooo.

The scent glands were at the base of the tail, if I remember right -- I cut around them. So no, no spillage. Yuck, huh?

12:58 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

Yeah, you wouldn't have gotten that stink off you for weeks. That was VERY brave. Your ex should be ashamed for being such a wuss.

1:10 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Awww, he wasn't a wuss. I was weak of will. Though if I'd refused to do what I did, that'd be kind of cruel, wouldn't it? To stop the momentum? Hmmm...

1:14 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

I don't know. I think it was kind of cruel to goad you into skinning the stinker instead of doing it himself.

2:46 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Could be, could be. . . I guess I never considered that.

In any case, he's my used-to-be, my no-longer, and tonight I'm going out.

4:31 PM

 
Blogger wallycrawler said...

Noth'n like a good skunk skin cap !

6:38 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrr....yer a true women ING.....ay love the hardened side of ya.....yer like a backwards tootsie pop.......soft an cute on the outside and a rock hard candy on the inside......

7:41 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

On Freud,

Everybody: try saying "skinning a skunk" five times quickly.

;-)

9:00 PM

 
Blogger matty said...

Oh my God! You wrote it! LOL! If only you could scan those pix you mentioned! LOL!

It is interesting to me. When we spoke about this skinning of the skunk you made it sound as funny as it is odd/strange. But when writing about it -- the experience of "hearing" the story becomes more sad to me than funny.

I was expecting to laugh as I read about it. Instead. I felt kind of blue.

...imagining little old women fighting over the price of a corpse.

10:03 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

wally:

Is that so? I prefer housecat, though maybe it's just me. . .

________________

carrrrrrrrrrrl:

Thanks be to ye, matey! Yer spyglass is a keen one, isn't she? Ay!

__________________

ginab:

Okay, here goes:

skinningaskunkskinkingadrunkdrinkingapunkpinkingaflunksuckingaduck.

Omigod, what just happened?

______________

Matty:

The pics are no longer with me, alas.

It's strange how once I start to write something it takes on a life of its own. I had no idea that this thing was sort of sad until Chitelier kind of pointed this out. I thought this was a funny story, I did! But I guess the process sort of brings things to the surface the writer isn't aware of?

China was a brutal place, a land of commerce. Fighting, anger -- I can't watch either thing.

10:22 PM

 
Blogger Labbie said...

Oh, Holy Crap, Ing... You're really something. A guy is lucky if he ends up with you. Tell me, will you skin a cat? And how many ways of doing so do you know?

10:44 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

saying, not typing. You will not avoid the c-word. no way. No Way! Just happens.

I am sick with fever.

-g+bb

PS: on your writing, you need to ignore us and write, write, write. good stuff, as in "there's plenty more where that came from".

5:58 AM

 
Blogger ticharu said...

I'll come back! I love skunks! But I don't have time to read it cuz I gotta million things but I wanted to give you this link

http://withlistentocrazyfrogen.blogspot.com/

Is it blithering or brilliant???

6:39 AM

 
Blogger sage said...

are there skunks in Mongolia?

8:04 AM

 
Blogger AndyW said...

Your final quote about being reminded that life is brutal reminds me of a line a heard the other night on a tv show about a guy who just survived the sinking of a crab fishing boat.

He said, "Life may suck but the alternative is unacceptable."

10:03 AM

 
Blogger kellywalters said...

yes I agree.. slightly crazed..

I cant believe you did that..

those poor people.. I bet they were wondering why there was a skunk skin on the wall.. interesting..

very smelly.

12:53 PM

 
Blogger wallycrawler said...

No Ing house cat is purrrrfect for slippers but their skin is to lightweight for hat material . I purrfer cat meat over skunk for obvious reasons .

2:54 PM

 
Blogger matty said...

Is the room now 95% cleaner since you posted the comment to my blog?!?!?

Saturday. ...Daniel Johnston and The Devil -- here we come!!!

11:31 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Labs:

Thanks! As of now, I only have one way. I hope to become more resourceful in the future.

________________

ginab:

I did, I said it and then I transcribed my utterances. RIGHT NOW I'M YELLING AND TRANSCRIBING. And now, I'm speaking aloud with a certain je ne sais quoi. Feel me?

Here's you c-word: crunk. I couldn't make the link work, but try going to this site: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=crunk

The definition? Either "crazy drunk" or "drunk and high on chronic at the same time."

______________________

ticharu:

Wow, that's interesting stuff -- the writer reuses titles, which is über-hip. What's with the repeated reference to online poker? I can't tell what's going on, but it's fascinating.

Hey, y'all, check out this writerly blog. What do you think?

___________________

sage:

I never thought to ask. . . But I hear they have some pretty good Mongolian skunk weed, if you want to get crunk.

___________________

andyw:

That's why I love sleeping at night. It's sort of a second alternative to consciousness.

___________________

roxi:

Funny, but if anyone wondered, they never asked. Of course I lived in Santa Cruz, where everything goes.

___________________

Wally:

Is cat meat a Canadian thing? Does it come in a can for ease of shipping between provinces, or do you eat it fresh?

_____________________

Matty:

I can't wait to see The Devil and Daniel Johnston. For those of you who are curious, here's the trailer in quicktime. It's bound to be extremely good; Daniel Johnston is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Yay!

(But no, my room didn't get any cleaner.)

7:54 AM

 
Blogger ticharu said...

That was a great story! Tell it to us again Mommy!
It's true, you need to be able to do stuff. Never know when you'll need a pair of boots!
I'm of the mind that if you didn't kill it/grow it/preserve it, etc. you shouldn't eat it/wear it, etc.
Make your own house, your own music, your own stories, your own religion. It's your life! Aint no good being helpless.

10:38 AM

 
Blogger Chris Capp said...

Wow.

Somehow that story makes me think of Russell Banks. Like he would tell it. In a novel. To show the daring, determination and even sheer caprice of a character. Great story. And, I agree, not funny. Feels like it should be, but it's not. The idea of skinning a skunk is funny [the old Vaudeville rule: Words with a "k" are funny...]. But that actual doing is kind of brutal. As you say.

1:11 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Huh. Yea very Russel Bank'y. Hmmm funny story, hard to write as funny hmmmm, I didn't think it was sad, just matter of fact. Keep em coming, I've skinned a few mammals and plenty of fish (never a mule) so maybe you should be required to have your skinners merit badge before you can read this story. Maybe you should add a disclaimer and offer skinning class's? Make a little jing off your story, maybe a new profession, from bookseller to pro skinner instructor.You think about it I'll think about it, I think your onto something here~`

2:30 PM

 
Blogger Bloodgood said...

That is so funny, not sad. Think of all that was learned. You proved yourself a force to be reckoned with.
I too have skinned road kill. I used to be part of a Native American dance team(even though I have red hair and am white as a ghost....its a long story) and we would skin raccoons and turtles and squirrels. I think my dad still has a couple of raccoon tails hanging in his garage in Iowa. I know this sounds very hickish but we always carried a knife in the car and skinned any salvagable part of any roadkill we saw. We never did do a skunk though, it would have made an awesome pelt. I gave this all up when I moved to Portland.

3:38 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Tich:

I agree with you there -- if you can't face it, don't eat it or wear it. But did you just call me Mommy?

My dad would go hunting occasionally. Every couple of years he'd get a deer. Once, he let me skin it. I always wanted to go along on one of these hunting trips just to see what it was all about. Curiosity. And I guess even as a kid I knew that the experience would be singular & unforgettable. Alas, I was a girl, and according to my dad that sort of ruled me out in re:killing stuff. I remember being furious with him over that one. I was allowed to vaccuum the garage (dad was hugely anal), but I couldn't go hunting. My little brother, who cried a lot, was invited. Yarrgh!

Thanks again for pointing out that interesting blog.
What do you make of it? Email me, if you want. . .

______________

Chris;

Wow, Russell Banks? Thanks!!

The idea is sort of funny, I guess because skunks are stanky. They don't generally injure you; they get you with the smell. So it's funny. And yeah, the "k".

But I do think the idea of a poetry smackdown is super funny. I just wish my two chosen participants weren't so very sweet to each other.

______________

Josh:

Man, how much would you charge me to be my personal financial advisor? I'm pretty clueless when it comes to money-making schemes, and whatever money I've come into has been purely by accident. Let me know!

________________

Blood:

That's the weird thing -- I didn't intend this thing to be sad, and I guess I don't see that it is, necessarily.

(Hey, they're playing DJ Dangermouse on the radio, something from The Gray Album. . . have you heard it? Neat!)

ANYWAY, how do you skin a turtle, and what do you do with the skin afterwards?

9:15 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

NO problem, I will need your SS# your mothers maiden name, your checking account routing # anything that is private. As Willy Nelson once said "Darlin' stick with me and you'll have diamonds the size of horse turds".I'm sure he was not refering to conflict diamonds, thems got bad juju.

7:16 AM

 
Blogger matty said...

...you know I live in fear that someone will call me "daddy" ---

Daniel Johnston and the Devil!!!! Yay!

Hey, DJ was here last night! I hope he might be back tonight! ???? what do ya think?

1:05 PM

 
Blogger sage said...

Just to let you know, as you are one of several people who have encouraged me to watch Grizzly Man, I finally did it and have posted my thoughts on the film.

3:26 PM

 
Blogger ticharu said...

Mommy! I don't know what to make of crazy frog. The codfish balls are not centered on the plate steel and glass walrus dog and he won't return my calls!

7:54 PM

 
Blogger wallycrawler said...

Cat meat is all the rage here in the "Great White North" , as a matter of fact McDonald's has just come on board with a "new" taste treat "Kitten McNuggets" !

"MEOW" . "Good" !

9:16 AM

 
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

Ok, you officially scared me. Scarred me too!
Still can't get past the fact, the very one you pointed out, that your honey couldn't bear the sight of red meat, but oh, he made you, dared you, and possibly sweet talked you into SKINNING A SKUNK.....UGGH!

But yes, you have some good stories to tell. I will, pretend this one is fiction, of course. I wear my rose colored glasses at night, all the time. You are too sweet and charming to really have done that, right?
Yes, just as I thought. No really, let me believe that. OK?

Truth is, my husband is a BEEF distributor, he has visited "slaughter houses". He is unfazed by such things. He could never, ever hunt, hold a dead animal, harm a fly. And gets sad when we see a dead deer on the side of the road. Go figure!

Me, hated my father hunting, let spiders out the front door, put fish back into the water when we went fishing, and I would never kiss my mother goodbye when she wore her fur. But, I married a "meat man".........???

I loved catching up on your blog....good stuff, yes indeed, it is! :)

6:31 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

I'm nearly posting a comment...I am doing it...type-typing right now, grossed out by "meow" kitty, and moved by Lzygrl (which is no surprise!).

The transition to that moment is the stickler. Like, "and then she died of cancer" (you know what I mean!). From standing stern to walking the plank? Erm.

Maybe love is insane (I have forgotten entirely). Looking at joggers these days. It's the nice thing about man-boys around here. They pert near strip (I'm glad they don't; gross!) and they run and they cause accidents. Squirrels are even distracted by them.

"Watch out!" I say, and swerve.

-g+bb

4:33 AM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Have you ever skinned a South African Honey Badger?

7:15 AM

 
Blogger sage said...

I posted my bear stories... In regard to your previous post, I was reading about the price of gas going up and realized that you are one of the few people I know of who can still afford to smoke and buy gas in the same day.

11:38 AM

 
Blogger Chris Capp said...

In ginab's poet quiz I was labeled Marianne Moore, so I'm not sure how exciting a poetry smackdown that would lead to.

Imagine Maya Angelou in a P.S., though? Fierce. How 'bout Maya vs. Stevie Nicks? I'd pay to see that. Stevie would fight dirty, though, pulling out every dessert rat trick in the book, like trying to force rhyme ...

"Thunder only happens when it's raining.
Players only love you when they're playing.

Raining and playing? C'mon. Sorry veer off topic, but you mentioned the smackdown ...

4:01 PM

 
Blogger matty said...

Oh, Chris! That was below the poetic belt!

I love that line about players only love you when they're playing! Ever date a musican? LOL! Stevie loves the use of storm imagery. ...and dreams. ...and shadows. ...and boots all summer long. ...and leather and lace images. ...and fire imagery.

I mean, there is a reason Don Henley penned her as the Witchy Woman.

However, I do bow in respect. M. A. is by far the more gifted writer/poet. However, I doubt she got as much action as Ms Nicks. ...and I don't think Ms. A could have survived those ample doses of coke and still come out lookin' hot.

Or, maybe she could and did.

Hmmmmm....

I'd like to hear a 74 minute collection of Chris' favorite songs.

Ing -- would that not be cool?!?!

And, the same from Gina!

10:24 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

Oh no no Ing, I didn't think that was a sad story. Just thought your ex was a sad excuse for a boyfriend. So instead of sad, be glad! Glad you're rid of him. Have lots of fun while you're out!

2:01 AM

 
Blogger ginab said...

So Ing, you were old enough to babysit your brother...onto skinning a skunk. What havoc did you issue upon el bro? Lawdy.

I'm working out a timeline of 33 moves. Holy jeepers. What is this life?

But you and Matty? Yeah. Three bedrooms, ground level, dog friendly, and I'll see you with all of my boxes, next spring!

Beforehand? September.

Get ready to rumble!

7:28 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Josh:

Did you just propose again? You are my most persistent suitor! (Besides Beck.)

___________

Matty:

Mmmmmmm, just from what I've seen at that bar called Daddy's on Castro, you're not the daddy.

_____________

Sage:

Thanks, I saw!

_____________

ticharu:

He doesn't return my calls, either. Neither a croak nor a chirp.

_____________

Wally:

I'm sure they don't eat le petit chat in Quebec.

______________

Lzy:

Meat is human conflict. In a nutshell, there it is. Irreconcilable meat.

________________

Ginab:

Love is insane, and the thing you call "stickler" is a longer story than I want to post, I guess.

_________________

Josh:

Not yet! Is that question supposed to convince me to marry you? It's sooo tempting, Josh. But the spectre of Beck looms small and thin, reminding me that he is my betrothed.

_________________

sage:

Those day, unfortunately, are coming to an end. Perhaps I'll go live among the bears.

__________________

Chris:

Ms. Angelou has the power of e-nun-ci-a-tion and Clinton's approval. Though come to think of it, Clinton is way into Stevie Nicks. Hmmmm. . . this is beginning to sound like Tooth of Crime. So you think Sam Shepard would write this one for us? I'd like to see the smackdown on stage.

______________

Matty:

Yeah, favorite songs from Gina and Chris! I would love them even when they weren't playing!

I didn't know Witchy Woman was about Stevie! Are there any songs about Maya Angelou?

_______________

le chitelier:

I always do have fun, and the weekend is fast approaching!

________________

ginab:

I can't even begin to cover that one, but I was a cruel older sister.

September! And if you moved out here, if I had you and Matty with me, I would be in heaven!

6:52 AM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Damn that Beck! I think I will go walk alone in the rain.

8:18 PM

 
Blogger Labbie said...

Fred Astaire, singing in the rain, comes to mind...

10:48 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Josh:

Walk with Jesus and ye will never walk alone. Or wait, maybe I have the saying wrong. Maybe it was Satan, not Jesus. Either way, the old ladies who rented to us in rural Washington when I was a kid? They had this saying crocheted on a couch pillow. I hope it was Satan, I hope it was Satan, I hope it was Satan. Otherwise, I have been living my life in vain. . .

____________

Labster:

Yes, me too -- Fred Astaire, a lamp post, a cane, a hat, and the Lord of the Underworld. Isn't it funny how we think alike? Great minds, etc.

11:27 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

Woo hoo! The weekend's almost here!

Good question about skinning a turtle.

1:41 AM

 
Blogger ginab said...

A song about Maya Angelou...soon to be written by me:

the overrated poet of these Centuries; Hallmark's equivalent to mush; Maya you move me none lady, so step aside; for poets, real poets, need to get some real writing in.

Now I realize my pen here is as bad but not worse than the quality of Angelou's crap, but I at least put as much time into writing my lyrics as she puts into writing her "poetry".

6:41 AM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

ing you won a golf clap for getting the author write. You won a contest!

2:30 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Ginab, Maya has a strong voice, she must be a good poet?

9:23 PM

 
Anonymous wholesale nurseries said...

We are state certified tree nursery specializing in native plants and trees, shrubs, fern, and perennials as well as pond plants and wetland mitigation species.

7:59 AM

 

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