Saturday, October 14, 2017

Praying for Death or a Big Buck, Whichever Comes First

Deer season for our Texas lease had just started 2 weeks back.  After 9 long months, hunting season was finally here.  I was stoked.  The annual rite had begun.  The car restoration project, already embarrassingly behind schedule, would simply wait.

It was supposed to be magic in the woods.  Quiet.  Solitude.  Peace.  Anticipation.  High-powered firearms.  Instead, I was slowing dying.

I had recently discovered certain protein/energy bars made by Larabar.  According to their website and marketing stuff:
LÄRABAR®, the Original Fruit & Nut Bar™, is a delicious gluten free blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts, and spices. Made from whole food, each indulgent flavor contains no more than 9 ingredients - minimally processed, and as close to their natural state as possible.
Sounds great!  Quick, healthy, no preservatives or other additives.  My preferred sort of snack when I do not have time to eat or don't want a full meal.  I usually have a handful of bars like this in my desk at work or in my hunting pack.

LÄRABAR has 21 different flavors of bars.  Some are more traditional but others have names like "Apple Pie", "Peanut Butter and Jelly" or "Pecan Pie" (my personal favorite).  All are excellent.

Being a rebel, I branched out when purchasing additional bars for hunting season.  "Peanut Butter and Jelly" or "Pecan Pie"  are great but I decided to try some of the others such as "Coconut Creme Pie" and "Key Lime Pie".  I had not had lunch the day of purchase and ate one of these new flavors in the car.  Later, more on a whim and out of curiosity, I tried another.  Again, delicious.  Driving out to the lease at 4:45 in the morning, I downed another.  "Dang these are good and filling" the non-reading idiot said to himself.

Unknown to me at the time, LÄRABAR is run by an army of hairy-legged sadists wishing to undermine the fabric of society, one unsuspecting fruit-and-nut-bar-loving person at a time.

APPARENTLY, LÄRABAR intentionally puts cashews in many of their bars which have NO BUSINESS HAVING CASHEWS as an ingredient.  Sure, you'd expect to find cashews in their "Cashew Cookie" bar but "Coconut Creme Pie" or "Key Lime Pie"???  That is just sick on so many level.  

"Cashews?" you might ask, "What's the big deal?".  Well, cashews, Anacardium occidentale (Latin for "evil plant which causes a maddening, throw yourself off a cliff itch") are in the same family as poison ivy and poison sumac (and mangoes). 

I have world-class reactions to poison ivy.  70% of the population has some sort of reaction.  I'm friends with a guy in the lucky 30%.  I've seen him cut through poison ivy with a chainsaw while I stood 100 yards upwind, peeing down my leg with fear of the aerosolized cloud-of-death.  I had such a severe case on my right hand once that when I made a tight fist, the already bubbled up, cobblestone blisters would simply ooze, dripping off the back side of my hand into the sink.  

Cashews, for me, cause more of a chemical burn-type, itchy raw reaction on my mucosal tissues.  And by mucosal tissue, I mean ALL mucosal tissue, from stem to stern, top to bottom, mouth to anus, pie-hole to bung-hole.

So, now that we have the background, let me set the stage.....  There I was, 3 cashew-infused "health bars" under my belt, sitting in a deer blind, on my butt, on a really uncomfortable chair, with a rear-end which feels like it would better belong on a red-butted baboon.... for 3+ hours.  The mosquito bites were a welcome distraction from the insanity-inducing burning itch coming from both of my main orifices.  I thought of stripping and sliding down a live oak branch since no barbed-wire wrapped dowel rods were available for scratching purposes.  

Of course, I've had to stop the expected legal action since the labels list cashews not only clearly but in bold as well.  ;-(


A Man in the Woods, slowly on the road to recovery

Friday, September 15, 2017

Just when you thought it was safe to take a leak by a lagoon

Below is an article as reported 9/14/2014 by The Sun into which I felt compelled to insert brilliant commentary!

In spite of the sarcasm, this is actually quite sad.  Being eaten alive is one of the few fears I have and the reason I try to carry a side arm at all times!

Reporter for prestigious newspaper eaten by crocodile while relieving himself in lagoon

Below is the article as reported 9/14/2014 by The Sun followed by brilliant commentary!


A Financial Times journalist was killed by a crocodile while washing his hands at a lagoon in Sri Lanka during a holiday with pals.

Paul McClean, 25, an Oxford University graduate, is understood to have wandered away from his group of friends to find a toilet when he was attacked.

The British victim is believed to have been dragged under water at a lagoon called Crocodile Rock near a popular surf spot after being ambushed by the reptile.

AMitW - I'm no Sherlock Holmes but the fact the area was called CROCODILE ROCK should have provided a fairly decent clue that this is not a good place to relieve oneself!

McClean graduated from Oxford with a First class honors degree in French in 2015 before joining the Financial Times later that year.

AMitW - I'm thinking a concentration in Herpetology would have been useful too!

He had covered Brexit and the European Union for the newspaper and had recently returned to London after living in Brussels for a couple of months.

The lagoon, known to be crawling with crocodiles, is yards away from popular surf spot Elephant Rock near Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.
AMitW - Crocodile Rock and Elephant Rock?  Sri Lankans are apparently an awfully creative bunch at naming places.

"Hey buddy, can you tell me how to get to the Dambulla cave temple?"

"Sure, travel past Bird Rock, take a left at Dog Rock and and then veer right at Mexican Jumping Spider Rock.  You can't miss it"

Sri Lankan police and the army are said to be searching the shore surrounding the area.

Locals claimed the victim had been staying at the East Beach Surf Resort - located just minutes away from the surfing area he went missing from.

Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, located up the coast from where the incident happened, said: “A local fisherman witnessed a man being dragged into a river, set back from the beach, by a crocodile. The fisherman was on the opposite side of the river and downstream of the incident location."

He added:“This is the first known crocodile attack in Sri Lanka. Both tourists and locals surf at Elephant Rock, which is a beautiful secluded beach and very safe.

“Crocodiles in Sri Lanka live only in the fresh, back waters of the jungle. It is almost unheard of for them to come close to the beach. The salt water actually turns them blind.

“Local search and rescue teams are working alongside the police and British Embassy in attempt to locate the man's body."

Meanwhile, a Scottish tourist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “A British tourist was at a surf spot called Elephant rock.

"There's a lagoon right next to the sea. He went to the toilet next to the lagoon and was grabbed by a crocodile.

“There are lots in the lagoon. People last saw his arms in the air in the water and then was grabbed under. I was there but didn’t see it happen though. Horrible."


A Man who Carefully Relieves Himself in the Woods

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Timing is Everything When Disposing of a Body

The scene....

Saturday morning... I'm in the woods and kill a "cull" 7 point buck.  99% of the unwanted parts of the animal are left in the woods.  Other than the meat, the only other part that comes home with me is the head.

Fast forward to Monday morning.

We are getting ready and running late because of me!  I need to take our daughter to school early for practice.  While still getting dressed, I yell out to my daughter to please run the garbage can to the curb.  My wife, my ever-present soul mate and love of my life, says she'll take care of the garbage so we can get on the road.  Best...wife...ever!

We leave.

All is good.

I get a text a few minutes later.

This is the SAME woman who has complained when I left "carcass parts" in the freezer (for months) waiting to remember to put it out on trash day.  Some people are just never happy.


A Man in the Doghouse

Thursday, July 28, 2016

How to do a European Skull Mount and Remain Married

I've always liked "European" or "skull" mounts.  I'm drawn to the contrast between bone and horn/antler, the intricate architecture of joints in the skull and sinus bones and the simple, eerie beauty.

They are also very practical since they take up less space than shoulder mounts and are a LOT less expensive.

For years I relied on a local taxidermist named Leslie (yes, he is a dude).  His prices were ~40% less than others I had found and his work always looked great.  He specialized in birds but would do skull mounts for deer and hogs.  Over the years, he did skull mounts for 3 bucks and a large boar that tried to eat me in the dark.  I asked him once about the "process" he used.  After he explained the length of time (months), the rotting (i.e. maceration), stinking mess, having to leave his office for the day after "dumping the buckets" due to the overwhelming stink, etc., I realized he was giving me the deal of the century.  Sometimes a checkbook is the best tool in your arsenal!

Well.... Leslie retired.  And since I'm not giving up hunting any time soon AND I'm selectively cheap, I needed an alternative.  After some research and input from my buddy Bob who has done a skull mount of an aoudad and a pronghorn, I decided to give it a try.  Below is the process I used which honestly, was not as bad and as smelly as I originally thought it would be.

Shockingly, my wife was not as keen on this experiment as was I so most activities were done in "stealth" mode.

Materials Needed:
- Dead deer (preferably a nice 10 pointer with a little kicker off of his G2!)
- scalpel, razor blades and/or exacto knives
- 5 gallon bucket you do not plan on using ever again!
- water
- handful of dirt
- painter's masking tape
- V40 cream hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution (12%) from the beauty supply store.  The cream is thciker.
- packet of hair bleach powder (does not contain chlorine-based bleach)
- shallow plastic tub
- cheapo small paint brush
- solo cup
- time

 1,  Shoot a nice buck like one below.  (Note the excellent shot placement! For our area of Texas, this is a pretty nice deer.  In other places, this would be considered small or average.)

2.  Load buck and haul back to camp.  (Bonus feral hog is optional but does help with the counter balance.  YES, I realize this 4 wheeler is slightly overloaded and I'll have ticks crawling up my backside on the way home.)

3.  Clean, process, butcher buck as normal and remove his entire head, intact.  Take care to not damage the delicate bones at the base of the skull.

4.  When your family is not around, skin out the head using razor blades, scalpel blades, tweezers, forceps and some patience.  The goal here is to remove as much meat and tissue as possible without going crazy.  The bacteria will do the work for you but to speed things along and minimize the stink, remove what you can.

The lower jaw is more "attached" than you think.  Keep at it and you'll be able to remove it.  Take care to not score or scratch the bone.

The eye are really, really tough to remove.  Again, keep at it and you will get them out.  The first one took the better part of 15 minutes.  The next took about 8.  Take care to not damage the bones and ridges around the eye socket.  The ears are tough but much more manageable.  Just cut through them as you work your way around the head, pealing it away as you go.

Do not worry about the brain.  Like with most democrats, it is small and will decompose quickly.  Don't go crazy with the sinuses and the very fine turbinate bones inside the nasal cavity either.  (The crude pressure washing techniques you'll see on YouTube destroy all of these details; savages!)

5.  FAR, far away from the house and in area where your wife will NOT go forthe next 1-2 months, place the skull in a bucket and fill with water.

To help seed the bacteria, throw in a handful of dirt.  (This is probably completely unneeded but it made me feel like I was helping get the process started.)  Unlike dermestid beetles, the bacteria (i) are really, really small and will get into every nook and cranny and (ii) produce tons of enzymes which will break down the tissue in short order.

(Note:  Never used household bleach or boil your skulls.  Both are really bad for the bones themselves.)

Find a place to hide or obscure the bucket.  I chose a larger than deer-head-rot-bucket-diameter tree to both hide the stinking mess from unappreciative eyes and secure the skull from a hungry and desperate coyote.

6.  Use a ratchet strap or some other means to secure your head to the tree.

7.  Leave the head alone for at least a month.  If water evaporates, add more to always keep the bone submerged.  (I tried to keep the antlers out of the water as much as possible.)

8.  Ignore the occasional winds from an inconvenient direction.  If your wife notices something is "funky", volunteer to wash out the garbage can to take care of it.

9.  Remove head from the bucket and... STAYING UPWIND and generally away from the house, prying eyes of wives and neighbors and in a place where a household pet will not roll, rinse the skull REALLY well with the garden hose.  Some of the teeth will probably have fallen out in the bucket-o-funk.  If you want them, don't discard the contents just yet.

10.  While probably not as bad as expected, this will not smell good!  Dry the skull for several days under a fan or outside in the sun if possible.  I sprayed some Febreeze every now and then until it was not noticeable (my wife parks about 8 feet from the official skull drying area but she never commented.

(I did not use the 3% hydrogen peroxide after all but opted for the 12% stuff.)

11.  Let the skull dry for a week or two.  (This is what I did but it might not be necessary at all.)

12.  Place skull in the shallow plastic tub and mix up your 12% H2O2/hyrdogen peroxide and hair bleach powder in a SOLO cup.  Wear gloves and eye protection and be careful.  You really don't want this stuff on your skin.

There might be small pieces of dried fatty tissue in some of the crevices.  I removed these with a small pick.

13.  Tape the edges of the antlers to prevent the H2O2 solution from bleaching them.

14.  Brush the H2O2 / hair bleach powder paste / solution onto and into the skull.  Coat it heavily making sure all the little nooks and crannies are covered.

Let this sit at least several hours.  (I went with just 1 hour but next time will let it sit for several hours with fresh applications.)

15.  Rinse really, really well and let it dry.  (No fan is needed this time since 95% of the smell will hopefully be gone.)

16.  Mount the skull.  I used a cross-section of a tree I had finished with gun stock oil.  The pictures below show the general steps I used and the final product.

This method preserves all the intricate bones of the skull.  

After eyeballing the location, I drilled a small hole at the base of the skull (note black "dot").

Sanded smooth with a few coats of TruOil gunstock oil applied.

Drill hole to generally line up with the hole drilled at the base of the skull.

Attach skull to wood with a long drywall screw.  Be careful to not break the skull.


Not 100% the same as the ones I've paid for but I'm overall very pleased at how it came out.  I'll spray a light coat of dull clear paint or finish on it to make it easier to dust.


A Man in the Woods

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pre-Medical Career Training

Our youngest daughter (11 years old) tells us she wants to be a surgeon.

I've worked in the medical field my entire adult life.  I mentioned to her there are a LOT more men surgeons than women.  My theory is little boys and little girls play differently and boys tend to develop comfort in mechanical things and fine-motor skills and girls, overall, do not.  (Obviously both are completely capable.)

I tell her if she wants to be a surgeon, great ... but she needs to get comfortable with tools, eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, and of course blood and guts.

To help stoke these fires, I bought her a cheap discretion kit off Amazon.  She immediately took to dismantling bananas and other common household items with tweezers and scalpels.  She then begged for something more real and wants to buy a chicken (not a live one; a grocery store variety).

I made the mistake of telling her I used to dissect frogs in biology class.  She then lobbies for me to buy her some dead frogs from a biological supply house.

"No... we have dozen of frogs and toads around here. They come to their ends through a variety of means. We are not BUYING dead frogs".

We speak of this topic no more.

Weeks go by.

This past weekend, by beautiful wife removes a bag from a freezer only to discover it contains 3 very dead and very frozen frogs.

When confronted with the accusation, the 11 year snaps to attention and inquired... "You didn't throw those away, did you!!?"

My wife, used to finding various parts of dead animals in freezers (including but not limited to duck wings, sandhill crane wings, deer heads and hog heads) must have not heard her because she never answered the question but simply walked away with her head hung low.


A Man with a Freezer