Tuesday 12 November 2013

Tanning and Ticks

My husband just returned from this year's hunting trip.  Last year he brought me home a couple of ducks.  This year he was more ambitious.  This year he came home with a deer.

When he called me to tell me about his kill I begged him to save the hide.  Deer hides are nice and it seemed like a waste to not keep it.  He mentioned that getting the butcher to deal with the hide could be expensive so I told him to just bring it home and I'd figure something out.

And he did!

I knew it was going to be nice but I wasn't prepared for how luxuriant it was!  I don't remember any petting zoo deer feeling this nice.  But it was also a huge mess.

It's a Lady Gaga reversible fur coat.

I could see that this was going to be a huge chore.  I was going to have to prepare this thing for storage if we were going to have any hope of using it.  This involves scraping all the flesh and fat off the skin and then drying it out with salt.

It turned out that I knew more about tanning hides just off the top of my head than my husband.  When he told me I'd probably be dealing with this hide myself I asked him to keep the brains.  He thought I'd lost my brains until I explained that they are commonly used in hide tanning.  Where did I pick up this little bit of info?

Hardcore Paleo-porn.
And so when I sat down with my deer hide, my sharpest kitchen knives, and my dollar-store tablecloth I was no longer Mommy Rotten.  I was transformed into Ayla of No People, Mate of Hung-Like-A-Mammoth Jondalar and Great Healer Woman.

The first thing I had to do was try to check for ticks.  This is almost impossible.  The coat was so thick and deep that I just couldn't see anything.  I took the precaution of covering as much skin with clothing as possible.  I managed to find two, disgustingly bloated ticks.  Ugh, they looked like black jelly beans ((shudder)).

I was finally ready to proceed with my gross, squishy, messy job.  It took a while to get used to the technique.  All the videos on Youtube have people using some kind of round surface to work on but I wasn't getting any where with that.  I tried a few other ways but I ended up removing more flesh from my skin than the deerskin.

Eventually I found a method that was both safe and effective and started making some actual process.  It was very hard work.  I kept thinking about what it must have been like to depend on this skill for survival.  I started to day dream that I was Sacagawea.

I could tell I was impressing the hell out of my husband.  He kept telling me I was crazy, but I could hear the pride in his voice.  I imagined him bragging about me to his co-workers.  "My wife is tanning the hide of my first deer!" he would say.  "She is crazy resourceful."  And they would all agree that I am totally bad ass.  Maybe this would be my new hobby.  I'll tan all the hides my husband brings home and make awesome stuff out of them.  Maybe give them as gifts.  And someday, when the apocalypse comes we'll be sitting pretty because of my mad survival skills.

After getting about a quarter of the way through I decided to pack things up for the night.  I carefully wrapped up the deerskin and put it outside, taking extra pains to protect it from animals.  (It was wrapped in the tablecloth, put in a garbage bag, then in a box and then under our old broken microwave).  I figured I could finish the rest tomorrow, while the kids were in school.

So this morning I set up business again.  I had on my protective layer of clothing, I had all my clean sharp knives handy, I set up Silence of the Lambs on the TV to watch and got comfortable.  I was determined not to move from my spot until that skin was clean.

And then I learned something I did not know.

I did not know that ticks could be incredibly tiny.  I learned that fascinating little tidbit when I found one, no larger than a flea, crawling on my hand.

And then I screamed.

I found three more teeny tiny little bastards crawling on my jeans and six on the tablecloth.

And that's when I completely lost my shit.

I frantically tore off all my clothes and threw them out into the backyard.  Then I wrapped the deerskin in the tablecloth and heaved it out there, giving no fucks whatsoever if some animal hauled it off.  In a panic I gave the dog his flea and tick medication not able to remember exactly how many weeks it had been since his last dose and then thoroughly vacuumed my work area.

The whole time this is happening it's like I'm in the throes of some kind of coke addled paranoid delusion, screaming "Get 'em off!  Get 'em off!  Get 'em off!" every time I imagine the slightest tickle on my skin.  When I was finally sure my house and dog were safe I ran into the bathroom and gave myself a Silkwood shower.

And that proves it.  If we are ever in the Apocalypse we are pretty much doomed.

Sacagawea I am not.


  1. That was such a good story, I'll forgive you for that horrendous picture.

  2. Deer ticks too! the smallest lyme disease carrying kind! you poor thing. Great story though, love your writing and the Valley of the Horses reference gave me a good laugh. Keep it comin´ !!!

  3. Love this story! I totally relate- I get all excited about these projects- the less I know, the more excited I get. I'm not afraid of hard work- but there always seems to be some other "tick" I can't get past! I just found your blog via Something Clever 2.0. Looking forward to more stories.