Dead Animal, Belly Up

The vacations of my youth usually consisted of a long ride in a crowded car to destinations that were not exactly glamorous. And spending long hot days in a VW van with black vinyl seats with not much to distract the mind had the effect of driving everyone insane. One particular vacation had us in Butte Montana with the tourist attraction of a copper mine as the goal. I’m not kidding.

The level of insanity was such that for fun we decided to pronounce Butte Montana like Butt Motna. And continue to pronounce the fine city that way to this day. This is what we did on long trips without DVD players in the car.

When we finally got to the copper mine it was closed. Like Wally World was when the Griswalds arrived in the movie ‘Vacation’. We all sort of stood there staring at each other wondering what else to do besides pronounce Butte Montana as Butt Motna. Just then a mysterious old lady walked up. The place was closed, there were no cars in the parking lot besides ours, and no other buildings for miles around.. We all mentally asked three questions:Where did she come from?
Why was she here?
Where is she going?

She walked towards us with the purpose of an individual who has an important message to give, and boy did she have one. Her EXACT words were:

‘There is a dead animal, belly up, in the dumpster. Frank says it’s a badger. I don’t know what it is.’

And with that she went on here way, to somewhere. Over the years I have thought about this message a lot. I would like to provide the following analysis.

There is a dead animal

The descriptive word ‘dead’ is clear and unambiguous. This animal is not sick or wounded, nor is it asleep. It is dead.

Belly up

No mention of the orientation of the other body parts is given here. The relative positions of the head, limbs and tail are assumed. The belly however is facing up with respect to the ground. The use of the phrase ‘belly up’ has a literary quality as well. ‘Belly up’ is commonly used to describe the death of an animal, usually goldfish and the like.

in the dumpster

This phrase is actually quite useful. A near exact location is given. The preposition ‘in’ is especially precise. The animal is not under, near or around the dumpster, but ‘in’. ‘In’ is short for ‘inside’.

Frank

Who the heck is Frank? We’re from out of town! We don’t know any Frank. But the important thing is that she assumed that we did know Frank. In her ‘world’ perhaps everyone knows who Frank is, and saying Frank the General Manager of the mine, or Frank the garbage man who empties the dumpster, or Frank the local forest ranger, or Frank my nephew was simply unnecessary in her view.

says it’s a badger

‘Says’ is an interesting word here. It appears that Frank is quite certain. Frank doesn’t guess it’s a badger, he doesn’t think it’s a badger, he says it’s a badger. And of course the singular article ‘a’ is helpful. Combined with the above ‘animal’ it is certain that there is not a couple of badgers, or a group of badgers – no herd of badgers. A solitary beast.

I don’t know what it is.

There is some doubt apparently. Maybe this Frank doesn’t know what he is talking about. Even though he said it was a badger, he could be wrong. This old lady is not necessarily convinced. This last phrase also served as an abrupt end to the announcement. There was a tone of finality to it. This woman was not here to answer questions. This was no press conference, nor was it a social call. She was simply delivering her important message and then going on her way. Wherever that may be.

Our family sort of looked at each other and perhaps inwardly giggled. We did not want to be impolite, but the whole thing was kind of odd. I do not remember if we spoke any words, there was probably no need. We all knew there was only one thing to do. Go to the dumpster and have a look for ourselves. We walked to the dumpster and peered in. Sure enough there was a dead badger-like animal that was belly up in the dumpster. The old lady was right, and apparently so was Frank. We looked around and the old lady was nowhere to be seen.

How does this compare to the vacations or your youth?

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1 Response to “Dead Animal, Belly Up”


  1. 1 Keryn May 10, 2006 at 11:04 pm

    Oh my goodness, Eric, that was hilarious!

    Our family vacations were somewhat similar–long car trips with often less-glamorous vacations. But they always seemed exotic to us–even Sandy, Utah, where my great-grandmother lived.

    The only catch was our van. It was old and unreliable. It also ususally didn’t have a/c, and I grew up in Vegas. So we would get up at 4 or 5 am to get past the desert parts before the sun got too high. We’d stop for breakfast at a park in Cedar. That is, if we’d get that far. Our nemesis was the town of Glendale, about forty miles north of Vegas. I have no idea how many times we broke down in or near Glendale. Certainly I can remember at least four separate times. It got to the point that once we made it past Glendale, we’d all heave a sigh of relief.

    Golly! That brought back a lot of memories! Thanks!


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