As most kids do mine have a penchant for animals. Alive OR dead. It started as an obsession with bugs which I now realize was the gateway drug to a much bigger problem. At one point I had no less than 7 Mason jars arranged across my kitchen counter housing different species of bugs. Like any good mom we researched (ie googled) how to care for each individual species. Turns out I have a knack for ladybugs and was able to keep a hoard of them alive for about 3 months. Sadly for every other living thing that enters my house it’s just a matter of time.
We have inadvertently killed fireflies, caterpillars, worms, frogs, fish, grasshoppers, and one crawfish. We have become known as “the house where animals come to die.” (This list does not include all those animals who have been victim to my SUV- hey, we live in the country.)
This seemingly innocuous obsession took a dark turn when my daughter appeared in my kitchen one afternoon with a long dead turtle (who had clearly been hit by a lawnmower) that was teeming with maggots. She was fascinated by it and equally horrified when I shrieked and threw it out into the front yard. (By the way this was another blog post if you’re interested.)
As I looked at her tear stained face I realized what I must do. I remembered back to a science class when I was in high school. We had been on a nature hike and had found a dead rodent of some sort. My biology teacher, being the eccentric character that he was, immediately bagged it up, brought it back to the classroom, and proceeded to dump it in a crockpot for 3 days boiling off the skin and leaving nothing but the skeleton. We were then able to study a perfectly preserved bone structure.
“I can do this,” I thought to myself. “It’s like I’m a real live homeschool mom with real live science projects to discover.”
Much to my husband’s dismay I went out into the yard and moved the decaying turtle to an “inconspicuous” place so that nature and the ants could have a go at it. After about 6 weeks the smell of rotting turtle at my front door became too much and I went to Walmart and purchased a cheap pot to boil it in. Obviously this pot would never be used again.
Saturday came and I retrieved the carcass, dumped it in the pot, covered it in water and got the hubs to come out and turn on the propane stove. (This is usually reserved just for deep frying our turkeys at the holidays but I certainly wasn’t going to boil the darned thing inside the house!)
We cranked up the flame and set the pot on top. Within minutes it started boiling and the stench that arose from the pot was palpable. I guess I should add that I live in a nice community, a golf course community at that. My neighbors, although already aware that I am a “bit different”, were none too happy with the wafting smoke and scent of boiling 8 week old turtle. In fact the smell became so overbearing that we had to retreat inside to shield ourselves.
After about 10-15 minutes of boiling I asked the hubs to check on our science project. He opened the garage door and stumbled backwards a few steps from the smoke and smell billowing into the kitchen. He grabbed a potholder and ran to the pot to remove the lid only to find that all the water had boiled out and there was nothing but black ash in the bottom of the pot. No bones, no shell, no remnants of anything remotely resembling a turtle. We had, in effect, cremated the turtle.
The only thing worse than the smell was the sound of Eeny’s screams when she realized that there was nothing left of her beloved “pet”. “IT’S GOOOOOOOONE” she cried. As we dry heaved into the bushes. After we were able to stop gagging we scattered the ashes in the woods, dried her tears, and threw the pot away.
I have never tried to boil and animal again. In fact, last month when my parents showed up with an entire deer skeleton they had recovered from the side of the road and brought to the children I did the sensible thing and just bleached the bones in a bucket on the front porch. (My parents are also aware of the children’s strange obsessions.)
So if you ever happen to come over, don’t be put off by the deer skeleton, the smelly conch shells, or the starfish drying on my front porch. Yes it smells a little funny but just know it’s all in the name of science- well that and a little touch of crazy love for my kids. Also, rest east knowing I will never become a homeschooling mom.
If you like this post you’ll probably also like Why I’m throwing out the last thing my grandmother gave me or Meet the teacher AKA The Night From Hell.
And of course don’t miss the Worst Parenting Story Ever