Tuesday, February 8, 2011


     I’ve made the squirrels happy.  One at least.  The steer skull perched on my upstairs deck is a chew toy, and the squirrel leaps onto the nailed tin rail fascia and works on the skull to sharpen his teeth.  I can hear him from downstairs fiercely gnawing the bone.  
     Inspecting the old steer skull, I see the evidence; chipped around the eye hole, the horn shorn clean of its whiskers next to the bone of the skull, and a chip or two of bone knocked to the deck.  He’s worked on the side facing the house where he can get purchase with his teeth and a grip on the deck rail.  The bone is worn with the look of porous coral, a pad of pumice.  Sponge-like in appearance but porcelain-hard, the bone of the skull wears the markings of the dead with a chipped patina of a rodents best work.  Sculpted by the needs of the animal kingdom.  
     There’s a bullet hole in the top of the skull, clean through,  the size of a .45 caliber slug.  Probably the bullet that put him down.  One horn is gone, wired together by the proprietor where I bought the skull down in New Mexico, in Mesilla.  He gave me a discount because of the wavering horn.  Now it’s an exercise in dental hygiene for the vermin that stalk the neighborhood of my second-story perch.  
     It’s lonely and magnificent.  Shades of bone-ivory and grey, shadows plunging into the holes wrought by pistol and squirrels, and age.  
     This morning the day dawned gray, the same pale color of the steer skull.  
     Now, in the early evening, the skull is resting on his side.  Normally it sits straddling a terracotta pot on the railing of my deck.   
     There was no sound, a bit of wind, and tonight it rests balanced on its side.   
     There is no explanation.  The wind wouldn’t have likely balanced it in that fashion on the pot.  Wind strong enough to up-end it would have put it down on the deck.
     I don't know anything anymore.  

1 comment:

Timecheck said...

We've got one of these in the backyard. The squirrels have been working on it for about 20 years now, and it is about half gone.