Sunday, June 01, 2014

There's a hog skull in my kitchen, next to the stove.

It's soaking in three-percent peroxide as we speak.

I spent the early morning taking it out of its enzyme bath, scraping bristles and cartilage, miraculously rehydrated, off its surface. Then I soaked it all day in Dawn dishwashing detergent and warm water, to see if it needed degreasing. It didn't. So now it's soaking, upside down and looking rather ghastly, in a sixteen-quart Sterilite container with lid, on special at Target for $2.59.

It has two unerupted molars and inch-and-a-half long tusks that curve out and up, leading me to believe that this was a 14-month-old (or thereabouts) male hog. I know it's male; I do not know its exact age because it was feral.

Boyfiend owns a parcel of land waaaay to the northwest of here, where towns with names like Uz now exist only in old folks' memories and brackish wells. If you go way up past Yeehawton and past Joe and west of Era, you'll find his ancestral lands. Back in the day, the communities there were so insular that the German-language newspaper was still published during the Great War. Pretty much everybody is related to pretty much everybody else. There are tiny winding roads that cut through the llano and run past tumbledown stone houses, and those roads have the names of his grandfathers and uncles.

And, of course, there are hogs.

Feral hogs are nasty. They turn arable land into wallows, kill young trees and sometimes young livestock, foul water and trample native species into the mud, and can and will kill a man with little notice. If you were to go mushroom hunting along the banks of the Red River on the Texas side, you'd hear them rustling through the underbrush in snorting groups, though you'd never see one. The male grows, as he ages, a three-inch thick curtain of cartilage from his neck to his hips that covers his vital organs. You can't shoot through it with a .45 (though a .308 will make a dent) and his skull is too thick to penetrate. An adult male feral hog can weigh hundreds of pounds, move at 30 mph (48 kph) in short bursts, and has no known predators besides man. Add razor-sharp tusks as long as your hand, a voracious appetite, and a harem of sows that can birth a dozen piglets as early as six months old, and you have a capital-P Problem.

As fierce as hogs are, a group of hungry coyotes can bring down a young one, and that's what happened. Boyfiend and his brother were out on their land several months ago and found the carcass of a young hog, mostly eaten. Boyfiend thoughtfully marked the spot and returned this week, triumphantly bearing a skull that nature and nature's creatures had rendered (mostly) clean. He handed it over to me with his hand wrapped in a plastic bag. I took it and exclaimed and danced around and then put it in to soak for two days in a solution of Biz and warm water.

Even when they're mostly clean, soaking skulls smell pretty bad. Scraping the thing with various sizes and shapes of scalpels and utility knives was disturbing as well. Cartilage is tough until its soaked, and then it gets this weird. . .gelatinous texture. Luckily it's easy to tell cut-away-able stuff from bone.

I think the skull will turn out pretty nice (purty naas) once it's done. I won't be able to get all the weathering and fungus marks off of it, but it'll at least be clean, mostly white, and disease- and pathogen-free. I'll let it sit outside in a place that gets sun all day yet is protected from Mongo and the cats (ie, the shed roof) and we'll see how it looks in August. About that time I'll have figured out where to put it in the house, so I can turn it over and admire the teeth, and trace the curves of the orbits and the dents where skull muscles attach.

It was a good finish to a week that saw me getting punched repeatedly in the tits.


messymimi said...

Around here, it would probably be a gator skull used as decor. You are right, though, about the wild pigs being a big problem.

bobbie said...

Next time, maybe save the cartilage to wear inside your bra!!

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

Damn, those fucken hogges sound horrible! Glad we don't have those fuckers in NYC!

Anonymous said...

When it's in a condition to handle, you could sneak it to work and really freak out any PIA patients and / or doctors... {{evil laughter}}

Knot Telling said...

What will you do with it? Will it be mounted and hung on the wall? Made into a lamp? Will you burn candles in it, giving it's eye holes a weird glow?
I think I missed the point of the exercise, but I have to admit that the process is fascinating.