Friday, June 21, 2013

NOT there before

When I was a kid my family would make long car trips. We would drive from our home in Rockville, MD to St. Louis to visit my family. My father and my mother were both mid-westerners: my father, and every generation of Peters prior to him is buried in Greenup, IL while my mother, an Osbourne, has ties to northern Indiana and Danville, IL. My grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousins all lived near each other in the St. Louis area, and we visited a couple times a year.  

My dad was a kid who spent a lot of time outdoors. He knew early on that he wanted to study reptiles and amphibians. Eventually he ended up as curator of herpetology at the Smithsonian. 

At one point in his life he spent a summer taking an exhibition of native wildlife around the state of Illinois. His job was to have the animals in display cages during various events, and then move the animals back into smaller travel cages for transport back to the next location, then set up, meet people and identify/explain the animals to them. 

On one of our car trips he told me the tale of the summer, how each time packing and moving some animals was simple and some not so much. One, and I don't remember what variety, but a weasel comes to mind, hated to be moved from cage to cage and there was, over the course of the summer, increasingly aggressive interactions on both handler and handled parts to make the regular cage changes. 

My dad told us that as a result of this daily handling of native wildlife he could identify all animals at just a glance. Well, the native to Illinois wildlife. He proved this by identifying every animal on the side of the road. Dead or alive, mashed by a tire, he could still, as we sped past, call out the name. 

So when I moved a cage of small pigs the other day I was surprised to see this pile of bones underneath our 1948 International Harvester flat bed pickup truck. I immediately thought what in the world was that?! And who do I know that I can ask?

It looks like a possum to me. That long narrow jaw and fairly small rib cage bring it to mind. 

But I could be wrong. My up close skills are not as keen as my dad's drive by skills. 

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