Home Schooling on the Farm

 This morning, while I worked on a short story I should have finished a week ago, Daniel and Anna took Tara and Ready for a walk. They came back after what seemed an unusually short time and put the dogs in the house. After a few minutes I realized the house was still very quiet, except for the complaints of Tara, who has a rich vocabulary of expressive groans and whines and was now lifting up her voice at the front door. I looked outside and saw my two eldest offspring busy with some project at the picnic table.

Turned out they were skinning a biggish snake that they’d found dead on the road. They’d cut off the head (the Kitterlings were now enjoying it as a plaything) and the tail, and Anna had slit the belly with the high-quality sewing scissors she received as a Christmas present some years back. Now she had the skin in one hand and the fleshy cylinder of the snake’s body in the other, pulling gently while Daniel used his hunting knife to cut the two apart at the spine. Lying on the picnic table was Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living, open to the page that tells how to cure a snake skin.

“We thought it would be better for the blog if you didn’t know what we were doing until we were already doing it,” said Anna.

Tabitha Two-Face kept close to the action, perhaps hoping for a treat. I lured her out of the way with the discarded tail, which turned out to be a pretty fun thing for a cat to play with.

What we had here was a non-venomous bull snake about three feet long. Daniel and Anna had already identified the esophagus, lungs, heart, kidneys, and intestines. Most of the organs were long and thin, the better to fit in a snake body. Anna had once seen a diagram of a snake’s internal organs and said that one lung is long and thin and the other is very small.

Daniel and Anna skinned the snake, laid it out on a two-by-four, and brushed the inside with a mixture of glycerin and denatured alcohol, both of which ingredients I happened to have on hand. They will have to repeat this process every twenty-four hours for a week, and after that the skin will make a lovely gift for one of their grandmothers. No, not really. I don’t know what they’ll do with it once it’s cured. It might make a good hatband.

Ready and Tara were allowed outside as soon as the snake was skinned. At first they expressed great interest in the snake meat, doing their good-dog routine of voluntary sitting and attentive looks. But once they received their portions, they lost interest. Ready took a couple of polite bites and declined the rest. Apparently snake meat does not taste much like chicken, at least to a dog.

One comment on “Home Schooling on the Farm

  1. Sherri says:

    Makes me wish we had done something with our almost 6 ft. rat snake….I have another book to add to the list 🙂 Who knows what the kids will do with it!

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