One of my best friends through high school was Dusty Roads. Dusty had an older brother named Rocky and a twin brothers named Bumpy and Brick. Bumpy and Brick were quite a bit younger and the bane of our existence. The twins were constantly in our hair and our business. Often we had to keep them while Dusty’s mom went on errands. I would like to say that we never took revenge, but …
Dusty was too cool. If I couldn’t think up mischief and mayhem, he could. Dusty’s dad was a colonel in the Army investigating UFOs. Colonel Roads stuff was top secret and he said if we found out about it he would have to kill us. That just made us more curious. He had a steel briefcase with a padlock on it. He handcuffed it to his wrist when he left home. We would hide in Dusty’s room and listen in when Colonel Roads got those strange phone calls. That is when we learned that a glass pressed between one’s ear and the wall was as good as a microphone. Everyone was certain that aliens were visiting earth to do us great harm and according to Colonel Roads one had crashed and was being held somewhere out West. The Army was afraid that the aliens would mount an attack to free him.
The Roads were Catholic, the only Catholics that I had ever known. All the other neighborhood guys were gun-shy about Dusty since it was common knowledge that Catholics drank blood. However, I had always had an inquisitive and open mind so I wasn’t concerned at having a Catholic friend, even if he was a vampire.
Once I went to Mass with the Roads. Catholic Mass was all in Latin. The entire experience was strange to me. Bells would ring; Dusty said that was when Jesus appeared on the altar. Try as hard as I could I never saw him. The priest in his colorful robes would swing a thing with smoke pouring out and Dusty said that was the Holy Ghost spreading through the Church, which was somewhat frightening. I knew all about ghosts and there was nothing pleasant about them. Then they celebrated the Eucharist. The wafers they ate actually turned into Jesus’ flesh and the wine turned into his blood. I was delighted that I, a non-Catholic, could not eat and drink that stuff. I was glad to be a Methodist since we did ordinary stuff and our preacher spoke English. I will admit that I really wanted to taste it and several years later got my chance. Dusty and I found a way into the wine cellar at the Episcopal Church. It was gross tasting, but the high was real until the next morning.
In the tenth grade, Dusty and I had to do a Biology project. We went to different schools, but had biology at the same time in the year. We decided to collaborate on our project. After several days of thinking about what we would do, we decided that it would be too cool to build a skeleton like those found in museums. The next challenge was what kind of skeleton to build. The only option we could think of was to find some road kill. We put out the word, “If you know of a dead animal let us know.” We offered a $5 reward if the road kill was suitable to our needs. We soon got word from my little sister (the Princess) that a middle-sized dog carcass was on the side of the road several blocks away.
Dusty and I borrowed his dad’s car (Actually, we stole it since neither of us was old enough to drive and certainly didn’t have permission to use it). We went to the dead dog site where we found an ideal specimen. The poor dog had only been dead for several days. It was rank, but we were intrepid biologists and not to be deterred by a little odor. We scooped up the carcass and gently put in the back seat of Colonel Road’s car to take to my house. Little did we know that dead dog stink lasts for days. We only realized it when we took the car home and the stench remained. When Colonel Roads next drove the car, he was puzzled about where the stink came from. He actually took all of the seats out in a vain effort, certain that some wayward rodent had gotten into the car and died. Dusty and I were terrified that he would get wind (wind—get it) of what had happened, but God smiled on us and gave us a pass.
Having found our specimen our next problem was separating the rotten meat and hair from bone. I don’t have any idea how we knew, but we did. The answer was to boil the carcass. I had a washtub, so we made a stand of cinder block, set the washtub on the stand, filled it with water, built a fire, and dropped the remains in. When the water started to boil the most horrible stench billowed forth. It was like witches’ brew issuing from the pit of hell, or something like that. Soon the neighbors started wondering about the fetid air that was wafting through the neighborhood. Rank grossness covered the neighborhood. Someone called the police, but since there was no ordinance preventing the boiling of dead dogs, the police couldn’t do anything but laugh. Sergeant Wingo was the Chief Gendarme and knew Dusty and me from other encounters. He was mildly amused and told us to get it done as quickly as possible.
We boiled the dog for one day, then carefully separated the bones from the meat, grease and fur. We let the bones dry for a couple of days then painstakingly laid them out in their proper place. It became apparent that the dog had died from broken ribs that must have penetrated a lung. Several ribs on the left side were broken and had to be glued together. We carefully placed each bone in its proper location and joined them together with thin copper wire and glue.
Dusty took the finished skeleton to school first and got an A+, I took it to school next and got an A+. For years after that, I was known as the boy who boiled dogs.
Each Thanksgiving when the family gathers invariably, someone tells the story and once again, we relive the story of the boiled dog with hoots of laughter.
Copyright 2010 © by Jack deJarnette