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Slim Jim

Updated: Mar 29, 2018

A true story from our roadschooling days about our not-so-little souvenir from the mountains.

We were driving through the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming during a road schooling trip in May of 2008. I kept calling them the Bigfoot Mountains to no one’s amusement but my own. We were looking for rams that we were told we might see in a certain area. We had gotten stopped in a scenic area and were doing a little exploring when I spied a rather large carcass. It looked like something out of a western.

We went to investigate and my husband says to the kids, what if what killed it is still here (insert shriek from our daughter). There was nothing remaining of it but bones so whatever was the cause of its demise was long gone. There was a head, jaw bone, partial spine, and a couple ribs. It was very large. We couldn't figure out exactly what it was from the skull. It looked too big to be a deer though it may have been a safe bet as they were abundant. Maybe an antelope, elk or moose which we had seen in many areas. After a little bit the children lost interest and were ready to get moving. I was still fascinated so I went into the trunk and emptied a garbage bag holding dirty laundry. I went over and bagged up the skull and the jawbone, and tossed it in the trunk. I thought it would be fun for the kids to do a little investigating when we got home.

My husband was a great sport about the whole thing. Though he had concerns and he was not thrilled to have our dirty clothes loose in the trunk.

We named him Slim Jim because, a) he was very thin, seeing as how he is just skull and bones and b) whatever he was in life, I'm sure we could have made jerky out him.

I was pretty pleased with myself. I felt very much like a homeschooler leaving the mountains with a skull to identify. At the next gas stop my husband decided to check on Slim Jim. I hadn’t wrapped it tightly or tied the bag. He found a couple loose beetles and a not very pleasant smell emanating from our trunk and now our clothes. The hubs tried to convince me to leave Slim Jim at the gas station. Um, no. What kind of pet owner leaves their friend at the gas station because they are causing a little trouble? So we bagged him in a tight plastic bag instead and sealed him back up. We checked everything for critters, shook out the dirty clothes and re-bagged them and then we got on down the road. At the next scenic stop we noticed a sign warning visitors not to remove or disturb anything in the park. Doh! My husband made another plea to rehome Slim Jim. It was kind of, you might, say Custer’s last stand in the Bighorn Mountains. And, like Custer, he lost. Slim Jim went home with us. Where I stowed him safely in the garage until I had time to do a thorough little unit study on his skull. My skull unit study timeline however clashed with my husband’s spring cleaning the garage timeline and at some point Slim Jim was “accidentally” discarded. He lost the battle, but won the war. It was ten years ago this spring and I can remember the adventure like it was yesterday. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t homeschooled. What a gift this way of life is!

Most of my favorite homeschool memories weren't part of a plan, or a lesson. They just happened in the course of living this life.

Background: From 2006 - 2012 My husband worked as Civilian Biomedical Field Engineer for the USAF. He managed USAF Medical Assets, National Guard Equipment and Homeland Security Equipment stored all over the Central United States. From Salt Lake, UT to Indianapolis, IN all those assets from the Northern to Southern borders were his responsibility. He traveled 6 months out of the year to maintain them. Rental van, free gas, free hotel, Corporate American Express Card and a generous per diem that bought a nice dinner every single night. Of course we tagged along and went all over the country! Roadschooling was amazing and the richest learning experience I’ve ever had.

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