Elijah has been reading about preparing animal hides for some time now. So he knew exactly what to do! His favorite resource was Little Bear's Outdoor Adventure Guide, by Richard Wheeler. Elijah wanted to make it clear that the technique for skinning the squirrel (described below) are his own, it was not in the book. The book taught him how to do the following steps of preparing the hide once it was skinned. He practiced his own idea of skinning it by using the toy stuffed raccoon (and his finger) as he plotted it out in his mind..way before this day arrived. He also used Shiloh our Beagle who is willing to lay on his back for anyone who will pet him...to run the drill with his finger as well. (I just learned this in the interview!)
This is what he did
1. Skin the squirrel: Chop off it's head and all four feet (not the legs). Turn it over to its back so you can see the stomach. Then with a very sharp knife, you slit it half-way down the chest staying clear of the stomach. Then you slit down the "arms "from the "wrist area to the center slit on the chest. Then you carefully proceed down the chest, careful not to puncture the stomach (because that would be very stinky and gross). Then you proceed from that center slit down each bottom/back leg with one straight cut to the paw. (Much like you did on the top legs.) Then you peel the skin away like peeling a really tough orange, until you get around to the tail bone where it will "get stuck". Then you chop through the tail bone. You cut a little slit up the bottom of the tail and try to remove the bone. This is a tricky process, you may lose some tail. Peel the skin around that bone and you have skinned a squirrel! (Discard the body.)
2. Fleshing: Lay the skin fur-side down on a clear surface (OUTSIDE your Mamma's house!!). Than you take knife or flint and scrape away any fat or flesh that may remain on the skin to create a smooth inner surface.
3. Tailoring and salting (otherwise known as stretching): You can build a square frame similar to a picture frame to fit the animal you are stretching. Then you take a stiff nylon string and poke it through the skin up at the point where the "wrists and ankles" are and tie that string to a frame at the four corners. Then you let it sit propped up so air can get around the skin, in a dry room where varmints can't get to it and the skin side is up. It is ideal to be around 70 degrees. (We put ours in the attic to dry.) Use about an 1/8 of a cup of salt to sprinkle on the skin side of the hyde. After about 12 hours you tap the fur side of the skin like a drum (skin side down) to know the old salt off and repeat. You will repeat this process twice a day for 2 days or until you can scrap the skin side of the hyde and it is dry, kind of like a tough jerky.
Then you are done. Just clip your string to take it down from the frame and take the string out of the squirrel. Now you have a fully prepared hide.
Elijah (and Ma)