I decided to start a new series of posts here at TAT. This one is completely original and not a cheap imitation of Jaz’s American Dresdner. 🙂 The title of this series is “Fun Facts.” It will be a collection of interesting (and fun) facts about Shishmaref that do not necessarily fit into the “Pro” or “Con” category.
The first fun fact is that there are lots of dead animal skins in various places around our village. Most of the people here hunt. A lot. They eat traditional foods and use the skins to make traditional clothing (more on traditional clothing in an upcoming post….I bet you’re excited…). As such, there are frequently dead animal remains in prominent places.
This was shocking to me at first. I might have grown up in Idaho, but my none of my immediate family members were hunters (I do remember that one year my parents let one of their friends hang a deer in our garage, the thought of it still creeps me out to this day). So, I’ve pretty much avoided dead animals in any form other than pre- butchered, wrapped in cellophane, and sold at Albertson’s.
It took a little adjusting to be able to walk around the village and not gawk or gag at the sight of various carcasses and/or remains. But, it’s become so commonplace that I rarely even notice anymore. In fact, the musk ox skin at the top of this post was just across the street from us for days before I noticed.
The musk ox was shot by our neighbor the shop teacher. Wanting to provide my readers with the most accurate and in depth coverage as possible, I not only walked outside of my house to take this picture, but I held up the skin so I could get a picture of the underside:
If anybody ever asks, frozen musk ox hides are kind of heavy, especially if you’re only using one hand because your other hand is holding a camera. I also wanted to show my gentle readers how crazy long musk ox hair is:
If anybody ever accuses me of being a prissy pansy princess, I want you to e-mail them this picture of me touching musk ox fur. (You might be inclined to point out that I wasn’t actually touching the fur/hair because I had my gloves on, but I promise that had more to do with the subzero temperatures than being afraid to touch the long, coarse, nasty hair. Thank you.) I actually have quite an appreciation for dead musk oxen because they are YUMMY.
Our friend Dennis (big tough Eskimo hunter who can legally kill animals without a hunting license) hooks us up with meat sometimes. The above picture is a gigantic steak he brought over several weeks ago. One time Dennis BBQ’d musk ox ribs over hickory, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. (Those of you knew me before I met Steve might remember that I didn’t use to eat a lot of meat, especially red meat. Those days are long gone. My honey and the Alaskan wilderness have won me over.)
Here are some examples of other dead animals regularly seen around Shishmaref:
This is a polar bear skin. They may be considered “threatened,” but their skins hanging on racks outside of town don’t even turn heads around here. (If this picture is showing up with most of the polar bear skin cut off, click on it, and you can go to a bigger non-cut-off version.)
These are uugaq, or tomcod. These fish are only caught in the winter. You catch uugaq when you go ice fishing. I had this picture posted on Flickr for hours before my brother-in-law and his wife pointed out the prominence of the dangling fish guts. I hadn’t even noticed…
This is a caribou skin. Steve and I have caribou stew sometimes. It tastes pretty much like beef. It has a really mild flavor, not gamey at all.
In case you didn’t get TMI about the caribou, above is a closeup of the hooves.
Being in Shishmaref has exposed us to more dead animals than we’ve ever seen before. I’m mostly okay with that.