And LongLeggedy Beasties

IMG_4046CreatureSkull480Ann returned from the fourth or eighth sanity walk of the day, of course in the company of the dog and her playmate.

“You’ve got to come see what the dogs were chewing on back across from the fire pit. I don’t know what kind of animal it could be but there’s part of the backbone and it’s human-sized at least.”

I harrumphed, familiar with the way new sightings can take on larger-than-life dimensions here in the outback of Floyd County. I said I’d take a look at it eventually.

“No! If we don’t go soon other animals could drag it off.”

She was right. And her description did make me suspicious that I’d find what I did indeed find, skull still connected to a half-dozen uneaten vertebrae: the skull of an adult black bear. Impressive canines, Past Beast.

It remains high in the crotch of a tree along Nameless Creek where the dogs can’t reach it. I will fetch it home and secure it in a high dry place where the sun and various carrion beetles can continue their defleshing, and in about six months it will find a place on or near my desk–a symbol of life in this valley–and death. And so it goes.

Alas, poor Yorik.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. What is your huypothesis as to how that skeleton ended up in the crotch of the tree? Died of old age in his sleep?

  2. No it seems to be a full-sized adult. There is tartar near the base of the canines and wear on other teeth. We are going to fetch it down out of the tree this afternoon and I’ll get a better look (and probably more pictures) then.