Long ago and far away in a land often forgotten, a biologist spent long days hiking. Uphill. Downhill. Cross slope. Through Ponderosa pines, over talus fields. Through native grasses, and evil invasive cheatgrass. Many miles were covered daily.
Every day was an adventure. Rattlesnakes, elk, buffalo, and pronghorn were regular companions, coyotes, badgers, bears, and bighorn sheep fond acquaintances. Mountain goats were a special treat.
Finding elk and mule deer antlers was common. Occasionally, a dead animal was found. Sometimes the animal was partially covered, cached by a bear or a mountain lion.
One day the biologist stumbled upon a skull. It was intact, and it was beautiful. The bone was bleached white, the teeth all in place, and the horns undamaged. It was a bighorn sheep skull. A ram. The full curl of the horns had heft and weight.
As biologists are wont to do, she collected the skull. Pulling the horns off the bony sheath allowed the skull to fit into her backpack. The horns though had to be carried by hand; they weighed a ton.
The biologist knew that possessing a bighorn ram skull was against the law. Undeterred, she packed the skull uphill, across the flat, down the slope, up the draw, finally arriving at her truck. A U.S. government issue pickup.
The skull, now unpacked from her backpack, rested neatly in the extended cab, under a blanket, where it spent the night. Ending her work day an hour after everyone else had its advantages.
Starting her work day an hour before everyone else also had its advantages. In the morning, the biologist parked her car next to the government truck and transferred the skull and the horns.
A long day of hiking passed slowly. The anticipation of setting the skull in its new home was a bit overwhelming. Finally, the work day ended, and the biologist drove home.
“Hi, honey! You’ll never guess what I found?”
“Hints? Wait. Where is it?”
“In the trunk of the car.”
“Take it back.”
“Take it back.”
“You don’t know what it is.”
“If it’s still in the trunk of your car, I know what it is. Without a plug, you’ll be arrested.”
“Who’s going to know?”
“I will. Take it back. ”
The next morning, the biologist, drove to work and, arriving an hour ahead of everyone else, moved the pieces, with great reluctance. She reassembled the skull, the jaw, and the beautiful full curl horns on a desk at the US Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
And acted as if nothing had ever happened.
It was just a skull. Imagine if I had roped a T. rex on the range and taken it home.
It followed me home. Can I keep it?