I don’t know that I have a specific teaching mantra that I follow.  Basically, I don’t want to be bored and the kids don’t either.  I haven’t been afraid to try new things because of something that a kid(s) wanted to do.  We showed chickens at Tulsa and started showing goats because of students wanting to try something new.  And if you are going to do something and they give a banner….well then, you might as well try to win.

But, some things don’t have a contest.  You do things just to try something new while learning a bit.

Fresh out of college, there were very few teaching jobs open in Oklahoma.  We had a large class of ag teachers that graduated that year AND the year before.  My dad thought that I was a moron as I turned down a few jobs until I decided to serve a 3 year stint at Billings, OK.  There were some great families there and I learned a lot.

One of the classroom endeavors that we embarked upon was taxidermy.   We did this during a Natural Resources class.  At first, we stuffed several squirrels.  They weren’t bad but they weren’t good.  The kids worked at it.  The hard part was having enough refrigerator space to keep 8 or 9 squirrels chilled when the kids weren’t working on them.

The kids liked to look through Van Dyke’s taxidermy catalog.  It was cool to see the different mounts, eyes, additions and tools used to make those awesome mounts.  They always had big visions.  I was fine keeping it small.  I quickly realized that taxidermists are artists and well, some are better than others.  We were just learning the basics.

Later in that year, I had an ag pickup full of kids while making project visits.  We were west of town on a dirt road and a quick moving, slow thinking mammal darted under the moving ag pickup.  We heard the thud.  I stopped, put it in reverse and we got out and surveyed the suicidal beast.  A dead armadillo.  The kids wanted to perform taxidermy on it.  Knowing that since armadillos jump straight up when a vehicle passes over them, it would probably have a cracked shell and would therefore be impossible to mount, I agreed as long as it was in good condition.

Well crap!  The shell was completely intact.  I made them put gloves on before they picked “him” up.  I say “him” because when they grabbed him by the tail and lifted him, HE had an appendage hanging out.  Who knew that they would have a tentacle like that!?!  The kids named him “Woody”.

Van Dyke’s didn’t have a foam mount for an armadillo.  We ordered a mount for a raccoon.  Shaved the foam to fit.  Dried and stretched the skin to fit.  Filled it and sewed it up.  And no, I did not let them keep the extra leg.  The final hurdle was that we couldn’t find eyes for an armadillo.  So, they improvised.  Red map pins just happened to fit.  So, we had a runover, stuffed armadillo with solid red eyes that was mounted by high school students.  He was the centerpiece of the front table for the FFA banquet.  Woody got his own page in the school annual that year.

I still get messages from former students that remind of projects like this.  I always smile, remember the fun stuff and then remember the REAL stuff.  That dang armadillo kept the fridge stinking for weeks.  That was an undefinable odor.  I’ve never allowed an armadillo to be stuffed again.  But, it was kind of cool!

People, have a good one today and a better one tomorrow.  Speaking of tomorrow, that will mark the 14th day in a row with snow on the ground.  12-15″ (with wind, so who knows) two weeks ago.  3″ last Sunday and 8 or 10″ today.  Chores are fun.  All the cows & calves got a big dose of cow cubes.  All the goats goat some alfalfa and fresh water.  I did, however, drop my ass into the front yard and make a Snow Angel.  Never too old for loud music or Snow Angels.

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