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Posts Tagged ‘skinning’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

I sat one morning behind the store counter working on an intricate
rose pattern needlepoint I’d ordered through a catalog. A gaze out the
window across the frozen bay broke my concentration In the white
distance I saw a cloud of snow rolling over the ice. I first associated
it with something like a sandstorm — sudden boiling wind pushing a wall
of sand across the desert. I thought I was viewing a rare natural
phenomenon until Maggie explained it was reindeer. My imagination then
switched to scenes from a western movie where wild cattle stampeded
campsites, fallen cowboys . . . everything in their path. I imagined a
thundering heard of reindeer storming through Golovin right past the
window I stared through. I hadn’t yet seen a reindeer and I was going to
see them now in all their glory.

It wasn’t an uncontrolled stampede, however; the cloud of snow rising
above the horizon was due in part to a couple of men on snow machines
herding the cluster of deer toward Golovin to be slaughtered. As I write
this many years later and some 3,000+ miles away in a cozy tree lined
bucolic neighborhood, I feel a ping of grief for the deer. At the time,
however, sustenance indigenous to my relatives and ancestors was racing
to the village — it was exhilarating.

I don’t remember, and probably didn’t ask, how they were killed. If
the 30 some deer were shot, I don’t remember hearing the gunshots. Late
afternoon Maggie sent Sister and I to the slaughter area. The ice was
red and pink with a pile of reindeer heads and guts the only remaining
evidence of that wild herd hours earlier. I assumed the meat and furs
were distributed among the villagers. Sister and I were on an errand to
get some “books”. “Books”, if I remember correctly were a grisly part of
the esophagus that did look something like a floppy bundle of pages.
Maggie boiled them for dinner and we had a rather noisy meal of slurping
and sucking. She fixed another meal of tongue and reindeer brains —
the tongue was fine for me to eat but the brains were one of the few
meals I just couldn’t eat.

At dinner Mating mentioned that the reindeer heads made good seat
covers. It took awhile before I understood he was talking about the fur
skinned from the skull that made just the right size for a warm seat
cover. I wasn’t in need of a warm reindeer head seat cover but there was
a pile of heads out there on the ice and the challenge was
irresistible. The following evening I had a reindeer head on the kitchen
table while Maggie, relaxing on the black vinyl living room couch and
Martin in the lounger, talked me through the skinning process. I was
happy to have another opportunity to use the ulu she gave me months
earlier to skin squirrels. Later that winter, while living and working
in Nome, I purchased a Honda Odyssey ATV. My reindeer head served as a
warm seat cover. Tragically, one night, I forgot to bring the seat cover
into the house and dogs must have carried it away.

However, I still have and display the rose pattern needlepoint pillow
I made behind the store counter in Golovin.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

reindeer heads

I wish I'd picked up some antlers.


Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey I had in Nome.


needlepointpillow

The needlepoint pillow I made in Golovin.


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