wasted no time in wasting little
Sunday, December 19 2004
I took Sally and Eleanor down the Stick Trail this morning to the site of the deer corpse I'd found a couple weeks ago. I wanted to see what had become of it in that time, since I knew it wouldn't have experienced any decay in these wintery conditions. But when I got to where it had been, about fifty feet uphill from the site of a small bluestone mine, all I could find was a large patch of deer fur and a couple large masses of deer feces, presumably all that remained of the deer's digestive system. Despite the chill, the site had the distinct fragrance of a freshly-skinned animal. But I couldn't find a single bone. It was as if the fur had been plucked from the skin like chicken feathers and the deer had been taken away by space aliens in a flying saucer.
But then, down the hill about twenty feet from where the corpse had originally been, half concealed in some downed limbs, was the deer's skeleton and most of its skin. The bones were still mostly articulated, though almost all the flesh had been stripped away. Remaining were some tiny dried flecks on the bones, mostly the remnants of ligaments and tendons. The eye sockets were empty and all the flesh had been gnawed from between the mandibles of the lower jaw. The braincase hadn't been cracked, so I assumed the brain was probably still intact. Aside from that, nature had wasted no time in wasting very little.
Somehow the half-hearted concealment of the hide and skeleton had fooled the dogs, and they confined their searching to the fragrant spot where the deer had originally been. I had to show Sally and Eleanor where the prize, such as it was, was hidden.
As for what had actually picked the deer clean of its flesh, I cannot be certain. My guess is that coyotes did most of the work, although one can't rule out bears even this late in the season.
Later when I was driving down Dug Hill Road on my way into Kingston, I happened to look over to the left at a pile of tree trunks some distance from the road and caught a glimpse of several cleanly-picked deer rib cages similar to the one I'd just seen along the Stick Trail. Hunting season is, it turns out, an exceedingly wasteful time of the year, when people shoot indiscriminately and abandon much of what they kill for nature to recycle. I remember back when I used to hitchhike through West Virginia being appalled at the abandoned carnage beyond the I-77 guard rail, particularly on the stretch between Charleston, WV and Marietta, OH.
I spent much of the day working on my ongoing television room chimney resurfacing project, a project which, as I've mentioned before, has been going on intermittently for the past two years. For the past few days I've been working much more intensively on it, gradually moving from attaching rocks to its surface to applying a veneer of simulated brick using tinted Portland cement as a medium. Normally one can't apply a veneer of Portland cement to a surface because it tends to dry out before setting. But if you keep it damp by periodically misting it with water it does eventually set to form a surface as tough as limestone. As I work more and more with tinted cement, I'm developing the confidence to do more involved projects such as, say, figurative fresco murals. Already I'm coming to appreciate the restrictiveness of the palette, since it's nearly impossible to tint grey cement in a way that doesn't look like a natural earth tone. (Restrictions of possibilties are essential for the channeling of creative energy; that's one of the reasons computers are so bad for creativity.)
As I worked I watched and re-watched parts of Boogie Nights, which Gretchen (who was down in the city) had recorded on Tivo. My favorite part is where the down-on-their-luck porn stars attempt to transition into pop musicians by recording a couple appalling songs in a recording studio. The songs are so perfectly 80s - uplifting songs about nothing at all except being masculine and powerful. The second song is particularly amusing because it keeps using that most common yet undefined 80s pop-song word, "heat." In an 80s pop song, "heat" isn't just something you're asking for when you crank up the thermostat. It is something sexual but vague. You hear it mentioned in such songs as Glenn Fry's "The Heat is On," and in Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." ("Can you feel my heat/I'm just a moment behind?") In my opinion, the word "heat" sums up the vapid mullet-adorned masculinity of the 80s better than perhaps any other word in the English language.
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