Kitchen Taxidermy

“Mom, what are you doing?

“Boiling this skull.”

See, this is what happens when you leave home. You come back for a visit and your mom is boiling skulls. I guess I should clarify that it was an animal skull – specifically a mink, which was probably on an endangered list somewhere. But…….this was many, many years ago and I’m hoping the Statute of Limitations has run out.

This mild-mannered mink had viciously killed 24 chickens near the barn on our little mini-farm. It met its match in the trap Dad set. Since you never know WHEN you’re going to need a mink, my mom froze it in our huge deep freezer. I was only frightened the first fifty times I went out to get a roast or pound of hamburger and accidentally glimpsed a stiff, furry leg. Amazing what you can get used to.

I left home at 18, but frequently visited. It was on one of those visits that I discovered the mink had finally found a purpose. It was my sister’s latest science project, freezer burns and all. Now, this was before the internet, before everyone could be an expert in a .03 second Google search. Before You Tube videos and Wikipedia. Mom figured all she needed was needle, thread, and sawdust. Yeah, that’s going to look real professional.

One other ingredient: A mother’s love for her daughter. Flashback to every late-night trip to Walmart for markers and poster board. Salt clay relief maps of the US. Volcanoes of vinegar and baking soda. Tired moms and kids relieved to have moms who care.

For a time, that stuffed mink sat on the mantle, it’s pose reminiscent of repeated electrical shock therapy. Every once in a while, a puff of sawdust escaped from a grisly seam, as if a shoulder or hip were exhaling. It’s final spot was in a window, where it gradually turned white. Every time it tipped over, it coughed a cloud of sawdust. It’s one of those images you just can’t get out of your head even if you try REALLY hard. I don’t know what ever became of it, but I still can get a little apprehensive when I see Mom at the stove. I’d rather just not know……

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