A reprint of an Arts DEVO classic
Arts DEVO is taking some time off this week. Enjoy this classic column from May 30, 2013.
True story It’s finally quiet enough around Chico for me to tell you the pioneer day story that I’ve been dying to share. No, this isn’t going to be a tale of couch fires in the street or downtown parades. This is a story about the true pioneer day. Things are about to get real.
The youngest of Arts DEVO’s three sisters lives in Shingletown, a very rural foothill community in the eastern part of Shasta County. Over beers recently, she told us the story (with typical colorful and unedited flair) about the “pioneer day” field trip she chaperoned with eight kids, including two of her own, from the local elementary school. The idea was that the kids would go out into the woods and get a hands-on education in the kinds of survival skills utilized by our pioneering forefathers. Out in the field, there were different stations set up, and the kids rotated from one to the next.
Station one: sawing. Kids love playing with sharp things, especially the jagged teeth of a crosscut saw. With a kid on each handle, they pushed and pulled their way through a modest log under the watchful eye of a sawyer and a serious-looking old man in suspenders.
Station two: nails! “Here, little girl. Take this handful of nails and this hammer and go hammer your name (in nails!) into a hunk of wood, you adorable little pioneer.”
Station three: hell. (Before you read on, I just want to remind you that this all really happened and that I’ve labeled this station “hell.” You’ve been forewarned.) During the middle of the field trip, one of the modern-day pioneers, having arrived late, backed his pickup to his station and began to hastily set up his demo. He pulled the tarp off his truck bed to reveal one full-grown deer corpse.
Having the children’s full attention, like a true showman, he first chopped the head clean off the fuzzy forest creature. He then proceeded to take all of those in attendance back to a simpler and much darker olden time, when adults apparently peeled the faces of severed deer-heads in front of young children. Next, he pulled out his knife and yanked Bambi’s coat off and stretched it out over a makeshift frame.
Now, all you city slickers who take your pansy kids on boring tours of Bidwell Mansion might not know it, but the best way to tan a deer hide is to rub some sort of oil across its surface. And there’s no better oil than the emulsified goodness running through deer brains. Lucky for the kids, there was a skull full of such treasure lying at their feet. So, Ranger Hannibal Lecter then invited the youngsters to dip their hands right in and say goodbye to the innocence of youth.