I am surprised that PETA didn’t storm my house as a child, and if some of the photos from my childhood ever leak into the public eye (which considering my eventual run for presidency, they might), then I’m sure they will appear sooner than you can say that’s not faux fur. Last night, Andrew and I were sitting on the couch watching Call of the Wildman, which is about a man who goes and grabs a lot of wild animals with his bare hands. He usually gets compensated for his services in small amounts of money, pieces of food, or the occasional first born. Anyway, as we were watching him eliminate a covey (just go with it) of raccoons from a family’s house, I started telling Andrew the story of living in a single wide trailer with my family as a young boy.
Essentially, we would have the occasional mouse or perhaps on the right day, a small litter of opossums scurry through the living room or the kitchen. My dad kept a blowgun around the house and eventually mastered the art of shooting the little buggars with darts which would pin them to the floor. From there, they were available for removal. Andrew kind of looked at me with a fascinated, yet terrified, stare. Apparently his dad had never pinned any small rodents to the floor by use of a dart and a stiff gust of wind. I forget that other people didn’t grow up the same way I did, and the concept to me is foreign. Of course, the dynamic changed when we moved from the single wide to the double wide. That didn’t eliminate the presence of dead animals in our house… we just brought them in dead, as opposed to killing them on location.
Some of my favorite childhood portraits that are only seen by people legally bound to the Kirkland name are pictures of me hanging out with a flock of dead geese. The composition is almost ironic in that “postmodernist art that nobody gets but everyone wants to understand kind of way.” There’s me, kneeling next to these dead geese with a smile on my face petting their little head feathers with blood stains trailing from them. And I mean, I guess it was never a big deal for me, but even as I write this, I wonder how people will respond to phrases like petting their little head feathers with blood stains trailing from them. I get it. I see you. Something is wrong about the whole situation.
But there’s also some merit in growing up around things that are kind of morbid. Instead of being afraid of everything under the sun like horror movies or snakes, I was just kind of emotionally vulnerable… but not when it came to animals. Nine year old Justin was an absolute wreck when Rose died on Titanic, but when Bambi‘s mom got shot, I was like Neat! Dinner! The thing is that while I may or may not have utilized the deer’s body itself as a personal swing set, I knew that the deer died for a reason… and not just for a play place for my friends and me. The ultimate reason that my dad went around killing everything is because we needed to eat. Yes, holding a beating turtle heart in my hand was kind of awesome, but it’s not like Wendell went all Hannibal Lectar and just killed things for the joy of killing. He’s a lot of things, but he’s no Dexter.
|Wendell, why you killin all the animals?|
But it did take me a long time to understand exactly why all these things were ending up dead on our porch. To be the academic that I’ve always claimed to be, I’m really not the brightest person when it came to common sense. There was something that didn’t quite click with me from the time that these animals showed up at the house to the time they ended up on the table. But I will go through the step by step process of what was going through my child mind as this timeline of animal death happened around me.
First and foremost, there was the initial victim in question: the kill. Most of the time, it would just be laying there and because most of the kids in my neighborhood lived in houses that also concocted drugs and/or were dangerous to play with themselves, these animals were my friends. I think I consciously decided to ignore that they were dead entirely because if I did that, then I could just have pets for awhile. I can’t count how many pictures of me there are carrying around dead rabbits and quail, and if I remember correctly, I had conversations with them… probably because no one else wanted to talk to me anymore.
Then, in true parental wisdom, I was ushered away so that I wouldn’t see the animal skinned and cut up. Actually, I don’t think I saw the actual animal be taken apart until I was at least ten, which is obviously a suitable age for an introduction to animal dismemberment. Anyways, the next time that I would see the animal was all cut up in the bath tub. Yes, looking back on the whole mess, it was kind of weird to imagine that I took baths in the same place that we would leave our fresh meat to soak, but whatever. I would spend hours leaned up against the side of the bathtub just poking at the meat. I’m not sure if I didn’t understand what raw meat looked like or if I thought it was going to come back to life, but there was something about it that was fascinating.
And then, for the finish I guess what it boils down to is that… I ate my friends. I suppose I should maybe go back and apologize to all of my fallen comrades, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t so emotionally attached that I couldn’t enjoy a Southern-fried version of venison filet mignon or stuffed wild turkey breast. And even with the mice, it’s not like I had a Michael Jackson thing going on. I wasn’t so much interested in naming the little guy “Ben,” but more concerned about where exactly I was going to stumble upon a mouse bound to the ground by a small metal dart with a bright green cap. Call it what you want, but my childhood was kind of awesome. While everyone else was going over to friends’ houses for dinner, I was having my friends over… then eating them.