Not long after we moved into our home, I attempted to get a cow skin rug and a cow skull as decor pieces. This was not supposed to be a DIY project, but it certainly turned out to be one. This post is probably not a helpful one if you're looking to DIY your own cow hide, but it is the story of an ordeal that, with a little humor, turned into an adventure and a couple of impromptu DIY projects that turned out to be "good enough."
It all started by taking Eric's cousin on a photo "safari" in Kampala, along the railroad tracks. I had never explored the area and thought it would be a great excuse to take pictures of whatever could be there. Soon, we ran into a flock of the very ugly maribu storks, known to be Kampala's trash eaters, and I wondered what brought them to this place. After looking around a bit, we were pointed to the maribu storks' attraction - Kampala's slaughterhouse.
Well, one thing led to another, as they often do, and soon I was promised that the next morning I could come by and pickup a cow skin and skull. I thought it was a deal. I thought my entryway would look great with a cow skin rug and I would surely find a cool place to hang a skull with the long, dramatic Ankole horns. I thought I would swing by and pick up these items, shiny and neat and ready to adorn my home.
To make a long story short, there was nothing shiny or neat about my cow skin and skull the next morning. I was told to follow my new butcher friend as we weaved our way through the various sections of the slaughterhouse and I was handed my very fresh, very raw pieces, right off the cow. The skull had eyes, a tongue, and skin, all of which I convinced them to remove, and the hide had fat and blood still dripping from it. It wasn't long before I was sitting on a boda boda, weaving through Kampala's streets while holding an enormous cow head, it horns straddling me, baffled at what just happened and clueless as to what to do with these fresh cow parts.
When I reached home, I stared at my newly-purchased goods, wondering what I just got myself into.
Step one: Change my clothes, which were now covered in blood
Step two: Google
The first thing I discovered was I would have to act fast with the cow hide, or it would start rotting within a few hours. At the very least, I needed to stretch the skin, cut off the fat, and pour salt all over it, so I lugged it around my yard, attempting to hang it, but it was so wet and heavy, I couldn't manage alone. An hour or so later, I finally called the guy who sold it to me and asked him to come do the work. Meanwhile, my method for cleaning up the skull simply involved letting my dogs have their way with it.
After a couple of days, we put the skull in an old latrine in our back yard, hoping the ground critters would do the rest of the work to clean it up. It lay there, largely forgotten about, for about 2 years.
The next week, the hide was dry. It was hard and a little crisp - certainly not the nice tanned hide I had wanted, but it still looked nice in our entryway, so I called it good enough.
Just last week, we pulled the cow skull out from its forgotten hideaway and cleaned the dirt off with a brush, soap, and water. It is by no means shiny and polished, but when placed beside our hippo skull and two impala skulls, it adds some intrigue to our home. Again, I will settle for "good enough."
The day I picked up my animal parts turned out to be one of the more absurd days of my life in Uganda. It definitely did not go as planned, but it did provide me the opportunity to learn something new and practice my pioneer woman skills. I suppose I can now look back on the ordeal, laugh at myself, and call it an adventure.