This story is featured in the August 2012 issue of Canoe & Kayak Magazine which can be purchased here.
Words: Frederick Reimers
Illustration: Aaron McKinney
If I'm starving, can I eat the leather on my boots?
You can definitely eat leather boots, says dietician Sadie Clements, but it may not do you much good. For cow skin (or alligator or muskrat skin for that matter) to become leather, it goes through a tanning process—doused with acids and fungicides—to make it more decomposition-proof, i.e. devoid of the nutrients that would entice critters to eat the skin. "Otherwise," Clements says, "your leather hot pants would sprout layers of mold." So although you could survive for quite some time on fresh cowhides, leather contains very few calories. "Plus, the dyes and polishes in most leather aren't good for you." What about skins that have been cured and then smoked rather than tanned with acids—like traditional Native American buckskin or say, Eddy's snakeskin boxer-briefs? "First, gross," Clements says. "Second, smoked skins might be slightly more nutritional, but like eating celery, you'll spend more calories processing the buckskin than it would provide." What about making boots out of beef jerky—it lasts a while and you could definitely eat it, right? "Don't call here again," Clements says.
How long does it take a beaver to knock down a tree?
According to an Animal Planet show Eddy saw while waiting to get his Verlen Kruger tattoo touched up, an individual beaver will fell 200 trees every year. They use them to build dams and lodges, and eat some of the cambium under the bark as well. Not to mention that they can chew down a 3-foot-thick cottonwood tree in about three hours. So obviously, it depends on how thick the tree is. What else did Eddy learn? That the sound of running water triggers beavers to build dams, even if there is no running water. One scientist placed a few speakers playing the sound of a riffle near a beaver lodge and discovered that in the morning the speakers were covered under several feet of mud and sticks, muffling the sound in the same way patching a hole in a dam would. That, and one semester of art college doesn't make mother a very good tattoo artist.
Do clip-on bug repellants work?
For people who hate dousing themselves in DEET, at least two companies make electric gizmos that can be clipped onto a pocket and use tiny fans to blow a cloud of insect repellent into the air. Where DEET products more-or-less camouflage humans to the mosquitoes, the clip-on products use chemicals that paralyze the insect's nervous system, says Chester Moore, entomology professor at Colorado State University. The chemicals are safe for humans, Moore says, "unless you were to drink a gallon of it." The chemicals don't work if slathered on the skin like DEET, so dispersing them into the air is the only way to go. Consequently, if it's windy, or you move around, the mosquito death-cloud no longer protects you. Also, he says, the devices are too weak to fend off swarms of insects. So basically, if you are perfectly still and the bugs aren't that bad anyhow, the clip-on repellants are fine. Otherwise, wear a bug net, or better yet, stay in the shopping malls where you belong and leave the wilderness to Eddy—unless you are a comely lass who doesn't mind paddling bow. In which case, Eddy will ferry you about in a canoe ringed with citronella tiki torches and serve you slices of his beef-jerky moccasins.