If I could Live in the Pleistocene Part X–Turning a Bear into Soap

For those who might come across this blog on a random search, a word of explanation is necessary.  I write an irregular series imagining what my life would be like, if I could travel back in time to 36,000 BP and live in east central Georgia.  I brought some modern conveniences back with me and inhabit an adobe brick home that I built.  I have a garden, row crops, and a fruit orchard surrounded by a high stone wall to keep the beasts from destroying my food supply.  I raise milk cows, geese, chickens, and honeybees.  My home is heated with woodstoves, and electricity is generated from a combination of solar power and ethanol alcohol.  A wilderness consisting of open parkland oak forest surrounds my home and a variety of different pristine environments are within walking distance.  I try to remain as self-sufficient as possible so I don’t have to travel back to the present in the time tunnel through which phone lines and wires allow me to communicate with the modern world.  (I can actually watch college football from the present day on tv, while sitting in my home temporally located 36,000 BP.)

A dilemma arose which threatened the fabric of my fantasy.  I brought concubines back in time with me to satisfy my sex drive.  Unfortunately, we ran out of soap, and my concubines refused to sleep with me until I made some more–bathing with just plain water wasn’t good enough.  In other words they’ve gone on a sex strike.  I would post some photos of my concubines here but some readers object because they’re afraid a kid might see a naked boob or buttocks.  I certainly don’t share those values but in deference to the prudes abounding in American society I’ll merely post links to models who look like my concubines.  One of my concubines looks like September Carrino , and the other looks like Jenna Shea .  A man  can understand why I was quite anxious to manufacture some new soap.

My original plan was to manufacture soap from peanut oil, using peanuts I grew in my garden.  However, I miscalculated and produced enough peanuts for food consumption and next year’s seed, but not enough for soap.  I have enough goose grease to make a small batch of soap, but if I’m going to go to the trouble of making soap, I want to make enough for several years.  This means I need to kill an animal that has loads of fat.  I see deer, elk, peccary, and horses almost everyday in the grassy firebreak I maintain around my homestead, but these animals don’t have enough fat on them for soap.  Long-horned bison might be a candidate, but the herds never come near my homestead, and transporting one from the prairie located 5 miles away would be a problem.  Besides, even bison are generally lean.  The animal around these parts with the most fat is the black bear.  There has been a very large black bear tearing into my turkey trap lately.  Although I don’t entirely rely on turkey meat, it is a convenient source of protein.

Colonial era turkey trap.  Colonists dug a ditch that led under a wooden enclosure.  They baited the ditch with corn.  The turkeys followed the corn inside the enclosure, hopped up inside, and were too dumb to figure out how to get out.  Colonists collected all the turkeys they wanted without having to stop working in the fields to go hunting.  Some times they would forget about the traps which would hold scores of turkeys that would die, rot, and emit a stink for miles around.

By killing the rogue bear, I’ll not only have a big supply of meat and fat, but it will eliminate a recent nuisance.  I also promised the concubine who looks like September Carrino a bear claw necklace, and the one who looks like Jenna Shea wants a bear skin rug.  I didn’t like having to kill a bear, but I put aside my reluctance by thinking of all the rewards I would gain, if I was successful.

I started the hunt by baiting my turkey trap with cracked corn one morning.  My turkey trap is located 50 yards from the elevated platform attached to my adobe brick home.  I regularly use this platform to bowhunt for deer, elk, and peccary.  I use a bow with a draw of 70 pounds.  I find that it shoots accurately with a flatter trajectory over longer distances.  I practice 3 or 4 times a week year round, and I have no problem controlling the pull because I’m strong for my size.  (In real life I  did 66 pullups in a row a couple days ago.)  In a worst case scenario a wounded bear could charge me.  A sprinting bear can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds.  But I’m standing on a platform, and I carry a 44 magnum in a side holster, so if the bear charges, I can shoot down and hopefully hit the bear before it climbs the platform and mauls me.  Incidentally, I’m a better shot with a bow than with a rifle, thus explaining my weapon of choice.

Well, the bear didn’t show up for 2 days but my trap did continuously catch turkeys.  I opened the hatch and removed a couple for our meat freezer, and I  freed a few more, so the pen wouldn’t get overcrowded.  I gave the rest cracked corn and water and kep them captive to serve as bait.  I periodically kept looking out the window until late on the third afternoon when I saw the old boar sniffing around the turkey trap.  I grabbed my bow and rushed to my hunting platform.  By the time I was ready, the bear had ripped the roof off the trap and had grabbed a turkey with his paws.  I could hear the other turkeys  gobbling in panic.  Luckily, the bear began eating the lifeless turkey on the side of the trap facing the platform.  I had a perfect broadside shot.  If the bear sensed I was near, he didn’t show it.  Pleistocene animals have no special fear of man, making hunting easy here.

A swirling wind threatened to make for a difficult shot.  My stomach felt the fluttering of butterflies, and my heart pounded.  I took a deep breath.  I waited for a gust of wind to pass.  Overcast skies eliminated the glint of the sun, and the black fur of the bear contrasted with the cloudy atmosphere.  I pulled the bowstring and aimed.  I’m an accurate shot.  When I shoot deer I seldom miss the heart, and when I do it’s usually close enough to cause death in minutes anyway.  On one occasion I did miss but hit the neck and killed the deer instantly.  Another time I hit a kidney and never did find that deer after it scrambled into the woods, though I’m sure it died within hours.  My worst shot was when I hit a deer in the ankle, but I did track that hobbled animal down and finished it off.  In any case I hope for a quick humane kill because I can’t bear to see an animal suffer.

I let the arrow fly.  Bullseye.  The bear roared and shook in pain and rage and started to run but then collapsed a few seconds later–surprisingly going down faster than most deer or elk I’ve killed.  I waited a few minutes.  A crow or raven called from a tree top.  I decided to get to work before dire wolves arrived and disputed ownership of the carcass.

I went to the garage and drove my pickup next to the bear.  Before exiting the truck, I put a bullet in the bear’s brain just to make sure it was not simply comatose.  I didn’t want it to awake while I was butchering it.  I atttached a chain to both back paws and connected the other end to the bumper.  I dragged the bear behind the truck into the garage and closed the door behind.  I then attached the chain to a mechanical winch to raise the bear upside down.  And I proceeded to skin and butcher the animal.

 

This photo is  of an estimated 528 pound bear killed in Oregon.  I don’t know why the people in the photo wanted their faces phased out.

I disposed of all the entrails and organs about a mile from my homestead and set up a trailcam to record all the predators and scavengers the offal would attract.  Normally, I’d save the liver from my kills, but bear’s liver contains toxic levels of Vitamin D and is not safe for human consumption.  The bear had a 4 inch layer of fat on its back and a total estimate of 125 pounds of fat.  I rendered the fat behind my home, safe inside the stone walls that enclose my farm.  I boiled chunks of the fat with water in an uncovered iron kettle over an open fire.  As the water evaporated, the fat melted into liquid lard.  Odd pieces of meat became cracklings which I saved for cornbread.  The list of culinary uses for bear meat and fat is endless.  The fat belly makes great bacon.  I corned some meat and made sourbraten out of a roast.  Bear steaks were smothered in onions — ettouffeed.  Bear meat needs to be cooked for long enough to kill trichinosis parasites, so a bloody rare bear steak is not safe to eat.  I made bear chili, bear stew, and bear gumbo.  Ground bear meat makes good sausage and hamburger and when mixed with venison and/or turkey makes excellent meatloaf.  I used the fat as shortening for biscuits, pie crusts, and tamales as well as for deep frying other foods.  But most importantly, I made soap, so my concubines would let me in their beds again.

150 years ago, almost every family had to make their own soap.

I made 2 batches of soap–20 pounds of rose scented soap and 20 pounds of pine scented soap.  I took 20 pounds of bear lard and added a gallon of scented rainwater that I boiled with either rose petals or pine needles.  I boiled this and let it cool.  I then added 8 tbls of sugar, 4 tbls of salt, 12 tbls of borax, and 1 cup of ammonia (made from evaporated piss and water) to 2 cups of rainwater.  I mixed a gallon of rainwater with lye (made from wood ashes and water) in a granite kettle.  I did all of this outside for safety reasons.  When the lye water cooled I poured in the ammonia mixture, then added the lard. I stirred it and put the mixture into molds.  Now, we can wash with soap, and my concubines let me sleep in the same bed with them again.

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3 Responses to “If I could Live in the Pleistocene Part X–Turning a Bear into Soap”

  1. James Robert Smith Says:

    I watched a woman at a National Park site in Missouri making soap. She explained the process to us as she worked the boiling stuff in a huge cast iron kettle. In August. In 90-degree heat. She was wearing heavy 18th Century period clothing…she had to be miserable, but never showed any discomfort.

    We were at one of the big first magnitude springs there. I can’t recall which one…but they have a recreated 18th Century village there, complete with general store, mill, locals playing farmers, merchants, laborers, etc.

    The guys may have inked out their faces if the photo appeared in a newspaper or local website, so no one would get mad at them and single them out. While I was in Colorado an elk hunter (using a crossbow) killed a 450-lb black bear that he claimed was stalking him. Some of the local people figured he was lying and just killed it because it was a big bear. He was receiving threats for killing the bear.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    When a black bear stalks a human, they are interested in him as a food item.

    I bet the hunter was lying, though.

  3. If I could live in the Pleistocene part XI–The Turtle trap and my Pleistocene Pot Party and Playlist | GeorgiaBeforePeople Says:

    […] last adventure (https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/if-i-could-live-in-the-pleistocene-part-x-turning-a-bear…) in November was the dilemma I faced when I ran out of soap and my concubines wouldn’t sleep […]

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