Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heads and Hides

They are beautiful, these animals we have chosen to raise and live with and to respectfully harvest and appreciate as a source of food.

The harvest went well. Now the Bunchgrass Beef from Magpie Ranch is carefully aging, soon to be skillfully cut and packaged for each family who is waiting, freezer at the ready, to receive this year's bounty. I am thankful.

I am also thankful for all the work that Mike has put into preparing the heads and hides of these amazing animals. He skins and cleans each head and puts it away to dry. In a year or so, each stark skull with its impressive horns, will be ready for sale to provide another source of income to sustain the ranch.

There is something about taxidermy that creeps me out, but I don't feel that way about skulls. Perhaps this is because out on the prairie and in the canyons, bones are part of the landscape. Sun-bleached and porous, each holds testament to an individual life. The skulls of deer, cattle, and elk are more common, but an unusual skull is something to ponder. I cradle it in my hands, How tiny the skull of a mouse! How interesting the teeth of a badger!

Each skull from the Bunchgrass Beef herd is unique. Some have long swooping white horns delicately tipped in black. Some have powerful short horns that arc inward. Some have horns that jut forward, like tines on a pitchfork. I admire them all.

For the hides, Mike painstakingly cleans the flesh side and generously rubs fine salt into each hide. Then the hides are folded and put away to dry. After cleaning and salting, they can be safely stored until we are ready to have them tanned, either as regular leather, or with the hair on for rugs or upholstery. Each one is unique and a pleasure to look at.

I'm glad that today, when I look at a skull or a hide from an animal out of the Bunchgrass Beef herd, I can feel a sense of peace. I am thankful that each animal had a life well lived as part of the herd in a wild and beautiful place.

From Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef