CONFESSIONS OF A GRIM REAPER


During my 60th birthday party, I chatted with my old buddy and college roommate Marke Andrews. We were surrounded by candid photographs of yours truly in various stages of undress taken at over the past 30 or so years.

One set of photos was from a job we both had. As a budding world famous archaeologist, I was his supervisor in a small lab in the basement of the math building at the University of British Columbia. We called it grim reaping. I had him making skeletons out of dead animals for a comparative reference collection.

Field archaeologists used the collection to learn the time of year ancient people occupied sites, what they did there, and why weren’t they (the field archaeologists) financially cleaning up by doing their excavations in live people’s teeth as dentists.

Marke doesn’t do this any more. He is now a business columnist covering the Arts and Business beat for the Vancouver Sun. In the shadow of a blow-up of me standing on a beach at Quadra Island wearing nothing but a pair of gum boots, he said, “There is a proliferation of Men’s Magazines – both on and off line, and there is an increasing demand for out-of-the-ordinary stories.” “Years ago I wrote a story about that job.” he added. “I tried to flog it to the traditional T&A Men’s mags of the time (the mid-seventies). The editors told me the vignettes were simply too surrealistic to be believable.”

 “I think anything that happened in that lab was probably too realistic to be believable.” I said.

He told me he tried to flog it to Oui and Playboy. . . . “No luck,” he said. “I’ll bet suspect nowadays I could command a hefty kill fee for simply rolling it off that dust-covered Underwood,” he said. “I’ll crack that lucrative men’s lifestyle market.”

I don’t know what he wrote about in his piece. I understand he changed my name to Stan to protect the innocent. He didn’t have to protect me. There isn’t an innocent bone in my body. I need the attention. That’s why I retired to teach fitness classes to young women in Spandex tights and sports  bras. Nevertheless, I suspect that he’ll want to tell everyone about the headless sea lion, the heron in panties, the Student Union Society vs the dead fish, and the dead skunk who wouldn’t die.

The Headless Sea Lion

One hazard of being a wild animal is ramming headlong into the artifacts of human civilization. Here the wild animal was a sea lion, and the artifact of civilization was the propellor of a large ship. When the remains of the animal washed up on the shore of Wreck Beach, my task was to remove it and pack it up the bluff to the lab. It was small without the head, weighing about 100 pounds. I flung its carcass over my shoulders and carried it up the steep thousand step trail fireman style.

Luckily it was summer so I could limit the damage to my clothing by carrying the carcass nude.

Too bad it was summer, as the stench of decomposition cleared most of the visitors on the beach. Wreck Beach boasts some stunning visitors on sunny summer days. One unclad beach patron asked, “How can you stand the smell. It smells like it must have been here for months.”

 “How do you know? Do you know  what a live one smells like?” I said.

At the top of the trail, I put on my clothes and transferred the erstwhile livestock to a galvanized tub on a dolly. It was a simple matter to pull it to the lab from there. Occasionally, while teaching an abdominal workout, I tell my class that the transverse abdominis is actually a very thin muscle tissue. “If you ever get a chance to see it, you would almost think it’s translucent.”

This must have startled one of my participants. “Where did you ever get to see one?” she asked. I told her of my fascination with comparative anatomy, and elaborated on the headless sea lion as she and the rest of the class went to the showers prematurely.

The Heron in Panties

One May long weekend, I attended a conference in Victoria. I left a dead Great Blue Heron out to process the following week. For those who don’t know, a heron is a tall wading bird that you see dotting the coast line catching small fish, mammals and other animals. At night, you can walk up to them, and they won’t move. It as if they think they’re invisible. They fly off at the last possible second.

For this heron, the last possible second was too late and a dog killed it. Leaving it out meant taking it out of a freezing locker at a cold storage company – the same type of company that stores people’s sides of beef, quarters of elk, and other types of dead livestock.

This meant driving across town in the Archaeology truck, going to the freezer and selecting the appropriate dead critter, and driving it back across town. I found that I could accelerate the thawing process by taking it out of its freezer bag and driving it around so it could see out the window. Thus, as the dead heron basked in the sun en route to the faunal analysis lab, my partner must have had some thoughts about preserving its modesty. I don’t know where he got them or why he had them, but as I drove, I noticed a pair of panties gracing the big bird’s mid section. The panties stayed on as the bird waited over the weekend for vivisection.

Other biological processes were at work. I counted on them, as they would make our work easier the following Tuesday.

One of these involved bugs. Some labs use special beetles to trim flesh off bones and produce clean skeletons. I used fly maggots to soften the flesh. When I returned from the conference, I expected to see a platoon of maggots mindfully munching on heron flesh. Unfortunately. Someone left the lights on over the weekend. Maggots don’t like light, so they spent the weekend jockeying for position inside the heron’s panties.

I saw, instead, hundreds of maggots concentrated in the bird’s crotch eating and hiding from the light. The heron was doing the rumba.

Next Time: The Student Union Society vs. the Dead Fish  and The Revenge of the Skunk

 

Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He also does some work as a field Archaeologist. He is also a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine, and the proprietor of The Résumé Doctor in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia

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4 Responses to “CONFESSIONS OF A GRIM REAPER”

  1. JODY Says:

    You have had some interesting, uh, situations.

  2. Joanie Says:

    Mike…don’t tell Wanda about the “dead blue heron!” Loved the “striped kitty” part, Joanie

  3. Sharon Says:

    Oh Yuck! But funny. I look forward to the rest of the stories.

    Wonder why some of us have such interesting and varied careers while others of us…

    Is EB a heron? I thought he was a parrot.

  4. Marti Says:

    Wow Mike, the tales you have to tell!

    Yes Sharon, EB is a heron. I don’t think he’s wearing panties though (or boxers or briefs)

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