Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Tale of Hide and...

April is literally right around the corner. It is standing on my porch knocking furiously on my door. Maybe it is trying to escape this fowl weather too. Folks around here are calling the weather springy. I am not so sure that I concur. When the wind blows really hard I close my eyes and imagine that it is really the waves lapping against the shore. Honestly though, it has been warmer. We are hanging out around 0 degrees more and more. There have been a few balmy days into the teens and twenties. While all of  you lower-48ers are complaining about your weeds and your rain, we are waiting out the winter. Today the wind has whipped and whirled and covered our windows with a delicate lace of snow. I am sure that means more drifts. Alvin just cleaned things up last week making the main drag (the only drag) here in Deering once again passable.
I have a good story for you all this time. Paul has been tanning things as some of you may have remembered from earlier posts. He started with an Arctic Fox that had been hit by a vehicle and then it was run over several more times by a Honda in an attempt to put it out of its misery. Several weeks later a dog in the village went after a red fox hiding under a truck. That hide had a lot of puncture wounds. Paul has gone from manageable hide tanning to a much larger project. Chris got his Musk Ox in January when the season opened again. Paul with a gleam in his eyes asked Chris what he was going to do with the hide. Chris had initially planned to just take the hide to the dump. After some himming and hawing Paul was able to rescue the hide from a trip to the dump. It sat in our back storage area for two and half months. Paul was wrestling over where and how to tan the Musk Ox hide. Mr. Schemer (Paul) realized that there was a room/closet of sorts that no one used. He spread out tarps and went to it. He scraped, salted, soaked, and stretched over and over and over. He found his tanning groove. He would come home from the school after spending an hour or two on the hide with flushed cheeks, disheveled hair, and a bright smile filled with accomplishment.
As the story goes, Bruce got a Musk Ox a few weeks ago. The season is now closed. After a rabbit trail conversation with one of Bruce's sons, Paul learned that his hide had been left at the dump. That afternoon, the three of us (Paul, Eloise, and I) hopped on the snow machine and buzzed down to the post office. On our way out, after our good byes to our post master Nellie, Paul asked if I wanted to go see the hide at the dump. I was feeling up to it. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was high and the though the air was crisp the sky was a bright shade of blue. It hardly felt like -15. We bumped along the beach looking for where to meet the road again that heads to the dump. We circled around to the south west and Paul spotted the hide just inside the fence. It was supposed to have the head on still. I guess Paul was given some misinformation. It only had the hooves still attached. Eloise in her curiosity had given up the cover of my hood. She had her arms out and was soaking up the gorgeous sunny day. Paul pulled his knife from one of his pockets and saw the lower portion of the legs off. I assumed that he was just going to come back and get the hide later. I was under the impression that we were there on a fact finding mission or window shopping. I hadn't jumped to the conclusion that we were taking this hide home with us. It was the frozen winter shell from a lumbering Musk Ox. Just days before those hooves had carried a snout over frozen tundra to un-earth lichen exposed by powerful winds. That qiviut (the under coat) had protected this stout animal from the ice and the wind. Now the hide was leaned stiffly against a fence. Frozen clumps of blood hung from the long coarse hair. Paul stood the hide up to get a sweeping look at it.
I asked him if he was coming back to get it. He said with a smile, "No, we're taking it home right now."
"Are you going to drag it back?"
 As he said, "NO," he swung the hide over the seat of the snow machine and then in jest asked, "How do you feel about walking back?" I gave him that yah-your're-real-funny sort of look, that half smile have glare.
He lifted his leg over the seat and plopped down on top of the hide. I had no choice really. It was ride it back or walk the mile in -15. It was a beautiful day, but it was far being an ideal day to walk all the way home from the dump. I slid on to the seat. I was no thrilled to be sitting on a hide with crusted bloody snow clinging to it in patches. The hide draped over the seat and went almost to the ground. There was no where to put my feet. I had to hold them up with my own strength. At several points on the ride back to the house, I was sure that the slippery fabric of my ski pants would send me sliding right off the side of the snow machine on to the hard drifts piled up. Thankfully that did not happen. We made it back to the house safe. It was another moment where I felt a little like National Lampoons. Somehow I get into those situations with Paul. He is sort of a magnet for those scenarios.
I now have another frozen Musk Ox hide taking refuge in my back storage room. Gibson has promised to give Paul some assistance with this one. He recommended using a sharpened shovel to clean the fat off and then in the spring the bark of the red willow will be used to soften and tan the skin.
Paul seems to think that we will be laying our Musk Ox hides out like rugs. I am not sure toddlers with cheerios will be compatible. I think that it will be better as a wall hanging. Paul has dreams of covering our abundant wall space with bits and pieces of animals. I am not so sure about that.

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