Turn away if you're squeamish about ancient food preparation techniques. Go no further if you can't bear to witness what a thousand generations of YOUR ancestors had to do to ensure your very existence. Stop here if you don't want to see the way much of the world still lives.
I was driving the back roads of Alabama with New York designer and fashion icon (at least in my mind), Nneka B.
We naturally dropped in on Water Valley Lodge. It was supposed to be a ten minute stay but, as is usual down there, ten minutes turned to hours and before we knew it we're in another life-altering-holy-heck-I-never-done-anything-like-this-before situation.
But anyway, yeah, I was just showing Nneka the well-coiffed grounds of the Lodge and suddenly, somehow, we found ourselves in the deep woods in the deep night with a team of hardcore hunters in the rain. It was chilly out there too but the gunmen were all sweat, mud, and adrenaline.
They killed two whitetail doe and shot a buck but the buck got away. We tracked that animal for what seemed like hours. His bullet wound must have been minor because the trail of blood gradually diminished due to probable clotting.
But the beautiful silken females, so lean and agile, had met their ultimate fate.
Long live the whitetail deer.
With the carcasses dragged into the skinning shed, the butchering process begins.
Surprisingly, the dogs were just as fascinating to watch as the blood and guts.
We get to witness canine culture at its most fundamental.
The alpha dog steps forward to casually inspect the bodies.
The other assorted pooches hang back, guard the periphery, or just gaze longingly at the food they dare not prematurely approach.
Skinning requires a certain precision and a definite knowledge of anatomy and physiology.
The first cuts change the energy of the whole room.
The innards fall, the blood drops, and the dogs close in because the smell...wooo, lordy, the SMELL...
Can't exactly describe the smell - Not repulsive but revulsive. Not fecal but fetid. The kind of strong aroma that turns your head away then turns you right back toward it.
Our alpha dog favors the heart. He clamps it in his muscular jaw and scurries out the door and into the woods. The other dogs cue up to the flesh in order of status.
Don't let the size of these little dogs fool you. These are some tough, fearless, hunter/killer dogs. I've seen them in action and it is downright scary how blood-thirsty they are. I saw one of them murder and nearly gobble ten quail in a matter of seconds. I saw another chase down a mad skunk twice his size. They tackle, shred, and devour wild animals as a team. I will never look at little yappy lap dogs the same again.
Both of them even managed to usurp this much larger mutt.
The remaining viscera is placed in vats, thrown in a massive outdoor pit, and burned. But I think these jumbled organs have their own special appeal. There's something real perfect about them.
Red, Assistant-in-Chief, does the bulk of the carving.
He's a rugged, woodsy guy but he has a delicate hand.
I've had a few whitetail deer dishes. Cooked a stew myself. The meat cooks way faster than your average beef or lamb. It's easy to go too far and end up with gamey and tough rather than tender and sweet. Gotta keep a close eye on it.
We thank the glorious deer for their sacrifice.
And we apologize for lacking the will to vegetarianism.
But it was all worth it because I captured this iconic image, rivaling
'American Gothic' or anything by Norman Rockwell.
Red State/Blue State/Purple Gaze.