Trapping and skinning are not spectator events
June 21, 2002
The next time someone invites you to an animal skinning, take my advice: Don't bring your eyes.
Or, for that matter, your nose and perhaps not even your ears.
In fact, just leave all of your senses at home where they're safe.
Thank me now. I wish someone would have offered me these little nuggets before I attended the Youth Trappers Camp last weekend at Beaver Creek Park.
I wish someone was that kind.
Here's the scene.
I went with Luke, our photographer. I wasn't sure what to expect.
We turned onto Mooney's Coulee.
Dozens of kids milled around, most of them not even old enough to see "Goonies" without an adult.
We walked around. Surveyed the scene. It was hot and I wasn't looking forward to seeing a dead animal.
It couldn't be that gross, I figured. If little 6-year-old Johnny could take it, surely so could I.
And then I saw the dead coyote.
I hoped it was just asleep. Or maybe it liked the feeling of being slumped against the front tire of that white pickup.
But it was dead.
And I didn't see the Road Runner.
James Halseth, president of the Montana Trappers Association, whipped out his knife.
I was OK.
He made the first incision at one of its hind legs.
I was still OK.
A half-dozen kids swarmed around Halseth, like the flies and bugs and other creatures that swarmed around the now definitely dead coyote.
I took a deep breath.
The kids all smiled. They watched Halseth's each move like they would be graded on it.
An incision was made on the animal's other hind leg. At this point, I wished I was dreaming and prayed to wake up.
I felt the look of disgust forming on my face.
Halseth rolled up his left sleeve and put on long, plastic glove that reached practically to his shoulder.
This didn't look good.
"Was he going to stick his entire body in this coyote?" I thought.
Thankfully, he didn't yet.
Halseth lifted the coyote, which by now I determined was, in fact, dead, and hooked it to a skinning doohickey on his pickup.
He started to cut.
I thought I was going to throw up.
In seconds, we were introduced to Mr. Coyote's insides. His blood and veins and eye sockets.
I was glad that I didn't eat breakfast. And there was no way I was eating lunch.
I looked around at the kids. They were in a candy store and they wanted more.
I glanced at the coyote.
I glanced again at its fur laying by itself on the ground.
I tried to look away. But I couldn't.
It was gross, yet cool.
I marveled at Halseth's skill with that knife. I have trouble slicing a bagel straight through, and this guy skinned the coyote with the dexterity of a surgeon.
Next time, though, I'm leaving my senses at home. Maybe I'll just hire someone to videotape it for me, so I could view it in the comfort of my own home.
Real life doesn't have a pause button.