...and they were separated.
December 18, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Eleanor Davis watched some friends skin a roadkill'd fox, and illustrated the process.
posted by curious nu (27 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
That disturbed me and I kind of regret clicking on it. I didn't need to know that's how skinning animals is done.

I'm glad it's illustrated and not photographed though.
posted by royalsong at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

There must be a German word for 'clicking on a link without really wanting to, and then regretting it'.

With Google's help, I suggest: 'Traurigklicken' - The sad click.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:37 AM on December 18, 2012 [27 favorites]

There's an English word for it: Curiosity.
posted by royalsong at 11:39 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Interesting link, thanks. Even though I know enough folks who eat roadkill and "found" animals, I haven't heard fox come up. Wonder what it tastes like?
posted by Jehan at 11:40 AM on December 18, 2012

I've had beaver and raccoon. Raccoons are close to foxes, I guess? They taste...gamey.
posted by notsnot at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2012

posted by goethean at 11:48 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well... I think this is really awesome. And ooo, a lot of her other work is really beautiful!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:53 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you. I'm sure others will chime in, but as upsetting as this process can look from the outside, it also requires a degree of skill, some technical ability that has to do with both technique and hand. I have not done roadkill; I have done poultry. Maybe it's a way of calming myself in the presence of death, but once the bird has died, I feel a responsibility to treat it correctly, with some skill, and it's that flood of pragmatic feeling that I ride throughout the remainder of the process. There's a peculiar beauty in anatomy, too. A cousin of kissing foxes, maybe.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:54 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nicely done, and informative.

The comix format gives it the slight distance I need to understand the event.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:57 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting link, thanks. Even though I know enough folks who eat roadkill and "found" animals, I haven't heard fox come up. Wonder what it tastes like?

Probably unpleasant, predators are typically not very tasty.
posted by atrazine at 12:00 PM on December 18, 2012

After my gross anatomy class, I've really come to appreciate the beauty of anatomical features. Street Anatomy is my favorite place for this.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:12 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is that German? Google translate seemed stumped.
posted by cacofonie at 12:15 PM on December 18, 2012

The illustrations were good; don't think I know anyone who's tried to skin a fox before.
posted by arcticseal at 12:17 PM on December 18, 2012

I didn't grow up particularly far into the country, but I was only two generations removed from my great-grandmother's very rural farm. I learned to shoot and fish and plant and harvest, but I use few of these skills now, except for making my own stash of pickled okra for medicinal purposes (*ahem* dressing up a Bloody Mary) to get me through the winters. I do however occasionally get called to help relatives butcher a hog or sheep (calves and cows and deer are almost always sent away, other animals not, I don't know the reason for this).

I'm not a particularly squeamish person, I tend to be very friendly to animals... I'm infuriatingly non-violent towards spiders, according to my wife. But to me, the act of slaughtering the pig isn't particularly gory or saddening. Some parts are a bit odd, like having a big pan of steaming blood, right there. Enough blood to get you a nice medal from the Red Cross if you happen to donate that much over a month or to get you a short description on a toe tag if you were to lose it all at once. In my family there's no drinking involved and the act is done quickly, skillfully and efficiently. There's only passing comments made by the oldsters to correct us young-uns on what to do next. The pig dissolves into hams, loins, steaks and organs in front of your eyes in a way that I always mean to photograph just so I can create a time-lapse video. I never do it, however, because it is hard work and I always end up busy. The act itself is a tidal wash of smells and tactile experiences, not all of them pleasant, but every one intense. I can say the words "turn the intestines inside out and rinse," but until you've done it you have no idea what all that entails. When we're done we're usually all covered in gore and rubbing our sore wrists from handling knives slick with blood. We clean up and enjoy a quick meal of the choicer bits of offal and then the conversation will pick back up and stories will be told, and laughing will begin again.

I guess what I'm saying is that the whole thing is no more gruesome to me than working on the engine of a car, and in my experience is generally handled with respect and the quiet, intense effort of people doing a hard job. This series of illustration rings very true to me, and is beautifully done.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:19 PM on December 18, 2012 [47 favorites]

When I was 13 years old getting a job was pretty much impossible, other than a newspaper route and those were all taken by my friends. But we lived in a rural area with a lot of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds where muskrats and mink were plentiful.

In the fall my friend Steve and I would start to prepare for trapping season. We would inventory our traps, determine if we needed to buy more. We would spend an afternoon picking up walnuts, harvesting the husks and would take the old and any new traps to Steve's back yard where we would have a huge stock pot boiling over a fire, filled with water and husks. We would boil those traps for a couple of hours, removing everything human that might be attached.

Another day was spent snagging fallen apples from the local apple orchard to use as bait.

The first day of trapping season we would set 20 or 30 traps, and we would check them twice a day, no matter what the weather, for the next couple of months.

The first time we brought home a few muskrats, we realized we had no clue what to do with them. We piled them outside my back door and went to find David, the local trapping guru, 7 years older than we were.

David came back to my house, and, in my Mother's basement, with the muskrats hanging from a clamp from the ceiling of the basement, patiently showed us how to skin a muskrat, the process was almost identical to that illustrated in these drawings... and, once they were skinned, he showed us how to stretch them, inside out, over a wooden shingle shaped to fit the skin and rub the pelts down with salt. They would hang from the rafters in the basement for the balance of the season (my mother was a saint to allow us to do that, the smell was a bit less than pleasant).

At the end of the season we would put the dried pelts in a box and ship them off to a wholesaler in Chicago and wait for a few weeks while they evaluated them and sent us a check.

Checking the traps at dawn before school, again in the dark after we got home, walking through swamps and falling through the ice more than once gave us a strongly rooted attachment to our environment. The process of removing the pelt, as stated above, took a lot of skill and practice, any mistake could ruin it...It was a pretty primitive process that probably hasn't changed in hundreds of years.

I probably wouldn't go trapping now, my politics around how we should interact with our environment have changed drastically, but, 50 years ago, it was an experience that began to shape who I am now.

Thanks for the post, the matter of fact (and very accurate) presentation of the process allowed it to be what each of us needed it to be, for me, a lot of good memories... I need to give Steve a call, I haven't seen him since he moved in 1964.
posted by HuronBob at 12:29 PM on December 18, 2012 [27 favorites]

I can't imagine killing an animal just for it's fur, but I've skinned a road killed fox before. I actually got the fur to stay in until some flavor of moth got to the pelt. For me it occupied the same emotional niche that filling out the "If I'm no longer using them, someone else can have my organs" thing on the back of my driver's license.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:32 PM on December 18, 2012

...respect and the quiet, intense effort of people doing a hard job.

Yes. Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:46 PM on December 18, 2012

They skinned the fox for its fur, not to eat it. Eating fox is something you might do if you were starving. Maybe. The fur is beautiful and very useful though.
posted by fshgrl at 12:59 PM on December 18, 2012

That's really big for a fox, isn't it? Unless there's some breed of giant fox that I'm unaware of.
posted by codacorolla at 1:12 PM on December 18, 2012

God, if I had been there and if I could have forced myself to watch the whole thing, the moment the leg sproinged, I would have been tearing through the forest in a blind panic, with images of a hulking, half-skinned fox-beast lurching after me on three good legs.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:31 PM on December 18, 2012

Like peeling a rabbit
posted by blue_beetle at 1:33 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

"That's really big for a fox, isn't it?"

My little 8 lb cat stretched up a wall to reach something the other day, I was amazed how long she liked.
posted by HuronBob at 1:35 PM on December 18, 2012

That's really big for a fox, isn't it?

No, that seems right to me. All of the foxes I've ever seen are easily confused with a mid-sized dog, except for the looking like a fox part.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:41 PM on December 18, 2012

"liked"="looked" I evidently need a 1.5 hour edit window.
posted by HuronBob at 2:55 PM on December 18, 2012

posted by maryr at 3:11 PM on December 18, 2012

Please skip this comment if you don't want to read about evisceration.

This is what I saw: the headless turkey, now bare and steaming after 90 seconds in 147-degree F water and a spin through the plucker, has been flopped on the long stainless steel table. I take a short, slightly curved knife and make a short cut across the neck, exposing the trachea and esophagus. I work my fingers along the windpipe -- having remembered to take my rings off, and I spend a moment thinking about that instead -- and loosen it from the surrounding membrane. Out it pops, a raw pink tube. Bright blood leaks. My fingers won't fit; my hand is too big; the resistance makes me want to quit, and I start to cry. But they fit. I feel smooth curves of innards part from the body cavity, and I flip the carcase over. I am not crying now.

Another shallow cut, this time between two mounds of bone, from hill to hill. The drumsticks flop wide. I cut a U-shape, isolating the vent, and I push it aside. The hot smell passes after a few seconds. This opening is wider, and I reach in for intestines, rubbery and resistant at first, but then something gives and I am pulling them out. But this was a hen: I find a mostly formed egg encased in a tube. Smaller golden yolks follow, shell-less, shot through with red threads, and a dozen white spheres, the earliest eggs, like pebbles. In the photograph, my hands hold six yolks and there is blood on the shins of my snowsuit. The pictures stop here. My hands are too dirty and there is too much work to be done. I pull out heart, liver, kidneys, gall bladder (intact, if I have been careful; dark green leakage if not). Testicles, like white lima beans, if it's a male. Lungs, or most of them. I put some parts in a plastic container; others I push into a hole in the table, into a five-gallon trash bucket below.

I sweep my fingers around the cavity, spray it with a few blasts of the hose, check again for stray bits of spongy lung. And anything else I might have missed. My husband cuts off the neck. He cuts off the feet, scaly and pink and clean with their wicked talons. They will go in the stock. Another rinse, and this time there are no stringy bits falling out of the neck cavity. He puts her in the chill tank, submerging her in the ice and the water.

I am a slow worker, asking for confirmation before I act, reciting the anatomical structures as I find them. Focusing. Trying to get it right. Worrying that my fingers have missed something. Knowing how, recognizing what I see, doing the task that has been set in front of me, these all work independently of that numbness I feel throughout that separates me from the inside of my skin.

There is a turkey: ready for the oven. There is a product. There is a process.

I hose down the table, wipe it clean, and then I catch the next bird.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:04 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Line of the day: "And for a moment there were two foxes, kissing...until Lacey cut through the nose cartiledge and they were separated."
posted by Dasein at 6:07 PM on December 18, 2012

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