Braintanning, Heat And Soft Hands

We’re in the midst of a heat wave here in New Hampshire, with the high temperatures today and tomorrow adding up to over 180 degrees (F). My friends in Canada are always telling me their temperatures in Celcius, but they might well be trying to teach me to conjugate verbs in Mandarin Chinese – I don’t get it because I have no experience to base it on. Anyway, it’s been hot, and what better project when the heat is on than braintanning deer hides? Yesterday we scraped, today we pulled dry, tonight we ache. Tanning a large hide is a lot of work. Every year I read an article by someone who claims that their new discovery will make it easier, but regardless of these it remains a lot of physical labor. Today we hand-pulled hides in heat that approached 90 degrees, with a bunch of humidity thrown in for good measure. We hand pull because our tanning curriculum focuses on the simplest method of tanning with the least number of inputs. We do this because we want our students to be able to tan when they get home and not have to invest a grand in machines, frames, tools and jigs to make the process “easier”. Anyway, it was hot. So we moved down to the shore of the lake where I have a cable set up, and we brought a saw horse. We used these, as well as elbows, knees, feet, heads, rocks, and tree trunks to pull our hides. I talked about the mucous that is bound in the fiber structure and the numerous ways to dissipate it, and we pulled. And we pulled. And we pulled.

If you’ve never braintanned a hide, you’ll be shocked at how soft the solution makes your hands. But it only makes sense. It softens the hide (skin), it should soften your hands (also skin). But it always sucks to lose your callouses. And every time I run a tanning class I always threaten to come up with a clever, faux-scientific name for it and sell it as a skin softener on late-nite tv. Something like “VitaBio Skin Formula*, the scientific skin softening solution proven in clinical tests from Honolulu to Helsinki. * VitaBio Skin Formula is the only skin product to be made from all natural household ingredients and 100% BS.”

Anyway tanning was a workout as always, the heat wave endures, and tomorrow we’ll spend the day on the water paddling, poling and learning a bunch ways to cast a fly. And with a bit of luck it will be smallmouth bass for dinner.

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