Science Lab: What’s In Your Ranch Refrigerator?

Early years on the ranch were full of open-eyed excitement for my young daughter. She wanted to know how everything worked: from cocoons to wasps, bat to lizards. Everything was a potential science lab experiment.

I must admit my own mom was never very good around icky things. Squeamish was the word for it. She avoided dead stuff and called on me to rescue her from a bug, a spider, or the very large Sphinx moth that often looked like a bat rather than a gentle moth. I loved investigating the insides of stuff, mostly bugs. Squeamish was not in my vocabulary.

So when my daughter showed my same interests in nature’s surprises, well, I couldn’t help but beam from ear-to-ear. Once that door was open, all sorts of icky stuff arrived in my refrigerator and freezer. Science Lab was open.

If the cat’s killed a scorpion, and it was huge and hairy, then it went into the freezer. If a bird miscalculated our front window for a portal through the house, she was lovingly placed in the freezer as a volunteer cadaver. Lizards, among field mice, were often brought in by the ranch cats. Their offering was our next lab experiment.

One time, the cat’s brought in a barely living pregnant lizard. She grabbed it up and showed me that it only had minutes to live. It was true. Poor Mrs. Lizard was on her deathbed. Her fat stomach was bulging. My daughter hoped little lizards might come out if we did surgery.

At age four, with the help of my “Exact-o“ knife and my able assistant at my elbow, we dissected it and found three large yellow egg sacs that would have grown into three sleek lizards. We were sad to find out that they were too immature to be recognizable as lizards. But it was interesting all the same. As long as she was wide open, the lizard that is, we found her heart, some purple and green organs, her spine and how the tail connected. In all, it was a great surgery.

My daughter, later on, had learned that skinning a snake is gruesomely cool. She asked if I could show her how it’s done. We have plenty of rattlers in the desert yet we shy away from them as most sane folks do. However, if you’re gonna skin one you need to find one. I must add that messing around with a rattler is something that takes skill and steady nerves. Don’t do this at home without someone to help you and who knows what he’s doing. I say “he” because most ladies don’t want to be in the same county with one. (In fact, I will not explain how to do this on the internet because of the safety factors involved. I don’t want you to get bitten.) Most desert dwellers won’t touch a snake. I don’t touch live ones, just the dead ones.

Sometimes we’ll kill a rattler that is in a dangerous place for our dogs. We don’t kill all rattlers, just the ones that are too stubborn to stay away from the ranch. Needless to say, we did have rattlers in the freezer with their skins, holding off until we had time to thaw and skin them. And, yes, they are edible but there are many other websites that can tell you how to whip up a Snake Fricassee much better than I can. Besides, it just tastes like tough chicken.

The bottom line here is that you can have a science lab in your freezer, too. You just need to capture different bugs, reptiles, and small critters that are easy to handle. Let nature take its course while providing you and your “students” a variety of dead stuff to prod and poke. Maybe your child will aspire to be a scientist, a lab technician, a doctor, or even a serial killer (It’s that how they all start? <grin>) … but we won’t go there.