I come from a long line of furriers.
Okay, that’s not strictly true. I come from a long line of Austro-Hungarian cattle rustlers and one furrier, my grandfather, who apparently became a furrier only because Minneapolis got too hot to hold him, apparently because the mob was pissed at him, apparently because he was an extraordinarily skilled pool shark.
While he waited for everything to cool down, he went around the Wisconsin woods buying raw pelts from trappers. The only story I know from this era is that he ate lots of different fur-bearing animals, and could attest to the aptness of the name ‘muskrat.’
When things calmed down, he returned to Minneapolis and became a retail furrier, but he got out of the business in 1948, just as people started to think twice about wearing wild furs. He then started a perfectly respectable laundry, about which I know many more stories, including a very good one about a laundry truck and a parade. If you run into my father, ask him about it.
Now that I think about it, that’s not much of a pedigree, but it gets me closer to having fur in my blood than Kevin will ever be – there may never have been an Irish furrier in the history of the world. (And, although Kevin doesn’t have forbearers who got in trouble with the Mafia, he does have a few who knew their way around explosives.)
Still, it was Kevin who tackled the rabbit hide.
When I skinned the rabbit, I had a hazy idea that we’d do something with the hide, but I also had a hazy idea that tanning a hide was a pretty serious enterprise, involving tedious scraping, dangerous chemicals, and climate control. All that for one little rabbit hide with two rather prominent holes through it seemed a bit disproportionate.
But then Kevin talked to his friend Dave. Dave grew up in Georgia, shooting and eating small animals. He was processing squirrel hides while he was still in short pants. Dave told Kevin he could simply salt the hide to cure it.
What, just pour salt on it and wait?
Basically, yes. Pin it to a board, scrape off any flesh (no avoiding that step), and cover it generously with salt. Let it sit a few days, take the old salt off and add new salt. Let it sit a couple weeks.
It’s now been sitting for a couple of weeks. It’s got some bloodstains, but otherwise looks surprisingly like a hide well on its way to being cured. We’re going to give it a little more time, and put some extra salt on the raw-looking spots, and then we’ll probably put it in the freezer to kill any hangers-on of the insect variety. And then … well … is that really all there is to it?
If this works, it’s a powerful incentive. Bag a rabbit, and in one fell swoop you eliminate a thieving varmint, procure an excellent meal, and get yourself a nice soft fur.
I want a first-hand hat.