... or at the Jeffersonian?
Those of you who are squeamish may not wish to read much further, although I've tried to be "gentle." Those intrepid souls who may watch, or be addicted to crime scene and forensic investigation TV shows, as I am, know what I'm talking about.
Background: On Thanksgiving evening, after dark (which comes much too early these days), I ventured outside to the small shed in my back yard to retrieve a shovel with which to dig up some tender plants in my front garden, since below-freezing temperatures were forecast for that night. As I got to within about 6 feet of the shed, my nostrils picked up the unmistakable scent of decomposition -- and it wasn't moldy leaves. Some creature of the Animal Kingdom had died within close proximity and was making its remains known in natural, but most foul, manner. It was too dark to look for a body, and I hoped it was just some bird, or perhaps a squirrel which had met its Maker on my property. I didn't want to be walking around in the dark and go ankle-deep into something I'd much rather not step on.
Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out with gloves, a rake, and anvil pruners (unfortunately there is quite a bit of undergrowth behind my shed.) Even with my nose in full operational mode, I did not locate the object of my search by the time the light was waning, and so put off further investigation until today.
A more aggressive investigation, with more snipping and raking, and again using my olfactory sense, led me to believe that whatever was decomposing was in a spot underneath the back side of the shed, which is only about 6 inches off the ground. I could see nothing, even with bending as far as I could and peering underneath. I finally used a long-handled two-pronged hoe for a probe. I initially pulled out a few small pieces of fur, which I took to be that of a squirrel. I thought to myself that a creature as small as a squirrel would rapidly disintegrate and the odor would soon fade. "Let Nature take its course," I thought.
However, the next probe encountered something much more substantial than a squirrel. I pulled gently on the object and there quickly was revealed a large and very dead raccoon. It had been dead for some time, as insect and larval activity had reduced its mass by about one-third.
After a quick call to Gardening Daughter, who advised me to dig a hole and bury the creature, the remains were interred with minimal ceremony. "From Earth you came, to Earth you are returned. Rest in Peace."
I managed all the activity quite well, I thought, but quickly came to the conclusion that I definitely am not ready for a job that would require dealing with human remains. I know that, unfortunately, that is a job which must be done, and the people who deal with such things on an all-too-frequent basis are to be commended.
Later, with more pleasant things, I trust.