Meat

8/28/2012

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Image courtesy of (c) Timothy C. Mayo
Seasons have sharp edges in western Wyoming. These days, it's all about firewood and hunting, making plans to provision for winter. In our family, we have the firewood-gathering down pat. But the hunting, that's another story. Both of us grew up in the milder confines of the suburbs, a BB gun was about as rough as things got and meat was something scored from an occasional McDonald's visit, or popped out of a package on the nights my mom wasn't making her "delicious chicken"--a thawed breast covered in Mrs. Dash and broiled to a dry puck of a thing. S's mom fancied simmering her meat in various Campbell-soup bases.

Some of my dearest friends are not just vegetarians, but animal rights' vegans, which means animal products anywhere on, in, or near their persons are verboten. I admire almost to the point of envying the discipline and conviction behind such a statement and wrestle with feed lots, the unethical treatment of furred and feathered sentient beings and all the rest, but I am nowhere near as restrained to make such a choice a reality in my life. Plus, my body just does better when it can run on what it needs. And many times, that's meat.

The other night we had friends over. The kids played while the adults talked about adult things, like business time, and the funny things the kids come up with and how to respond. Things like "What does beef taste like, elk or buffalo?"

See, their kids have been raised on mostly all wild meat. But this year, they've gone halvsies on a steer from a local rancher: "Imagine, grass fed organic beef for less that $1 pound." My Venice Whole Foods-shopping friends quiver at the very idea.

More hunting talk and I learn that another friend in common has already got her bison for this year. "She went out before dawn on opening day, called Tag-and-Drag and it's done."

That friend was 37 weeks pregnant. She had her baby ten days later. The bison isn't even processed yet.

So now we're looking for someone to go in halvsies on a steer. "$1 a pound. Even with a license, I don't think we can beat that deal," S tells me. See, he's about as excited, not to mention willing, as I am to shoot a beautiful large game animal.

Which means that now all we'll have to do is order the deep freezer.

 
 
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E and I talk a lot about death these days. It must be a four-year-old thing. And while we said goodbye to her cranky-beloved granddog two weeks ago, it was this old mess o'bones that made the entire life cycle a bit more tangible in her eyes.

We found it, like all great discoveries, by accident, exploring a special place near our home, tinder-dry grasses scratching our flip-flopped feet, eyes peeled for random spiky thistle tops sure to bring a halt to the day's adventure. The coloring looks more like a ring-tailed cat, which we don't have in western Wyoming, at least according to the experts. Raccoons have blacker tail bands and the skull is so long that it doesn't look like either of the above really, or a housecat, which would be another plausible guess given the size.

One of the things I love the most about where we live is how one minute the place seems so civilized and genteel and the next, this. (Just like middle-of-the-night coyote howls I heard last week in Brentwood.) The contrasts, animal wildness rubbing against human efforts to tame it, are everywhere, and even seemingly humdrum suburban backyards yield the greatest of finds. Just ask E. O. Wilson.

Children are especially fine lamplighters of these discoveries, if their unadulterated curiosities aren't squelched by the very adult ridiculousness of labeling things as "gross", "disgusting", "nasty" or "filthy"--any of which these things may actually be.

We made it home before dark with just one thing to add to her collection: a chunk of vertebrae that E can hold up to the small of my back, understanding how we are put together, and what it looks like when that's all that's left.