The Parable of the Cow's Head

December 14, 2014

Dead Cow Skull - After Thaw Pre Maceration Rot


I purchased a cow's head from a Mexican butcher that just reeked of horror and violence.

Took a some graphic photos which you can see here and by following this link.  Note that all of these photos are after thawing, pre-hot water maceration.

My idea was to "clean it" and document the process. When I lived in Austin, I had enough of a back-yard to throw skulls in buckets with Biz bleach and let 'em stew for a week, then knock them out of the bucket and let the elements and insects do the rest.


here in Bellingham, I don't have that luxury. My plan was to keep it in the fridge so that it wouldn't rot, carve away a little more flesh each day.

Dead Cow Skull - After Thaw Pre Maceration Rot


my fridge broke. And the cow's head was too big for my oven or any pot to boil it in. There was nothing else to do but get a 70 quart translucent plastic tub, fill it full of hot water and some bleach and let it sit for a day or two. The so-called "hot water maceration technique". I figured I would then load it into the back of my car and take it out to the country to dump the fluid, scrape off the rest of the meat and use a coat hanger wire to scoop out the brain from the hole where the spine used to be.


when I tried to move the tub, the secure top would not stay on because it was so heavy. So I carefully slid it into my bathroom, next to the toilet, and got a saucepan to bail out the fluid.

Dead Cow Skull - After Thaw Pre Maceration Rot

I have smelled horrible things in my life.

But when I opened the lid to that 70 quarts of blood and brain and rotting head... there is no language to describe the terminal horror of that stench. It was beyond nausea. It made me want to kill myself so that my brain would not have to even remember the smell. It was like an animate creature that reached into the most primal parts of my brain tissue and fiendishly milked out ever drop of fear and loathing and disgust and absolute reversion. I immediately got a headache. There was a high pitched whine, a keening sound, piercing my thoughts. The only way I can express the sense of it is to say that for the first time in my richly experienced 50 plus years, I smelled evil.


I had to oh so motherfuckingly carefully transfer 70 quarts of the sticky-resinous-instantly-corrupting-anything-thing-it-came-in-contact-with fluid into my toilet.

After which,

myself covered in a cold sweat, my complexion deadly and green,

the cow's head was revealed in all of its congealed disgust and horror. Any thought of taking a photograph was instantly replaced with the burning need to never see this thing again. There was something unwelcomely intimate about having had to watch it slowly being revealed to me as I removed more and more of the blood brain rot water. A graphic strip-tease of horror that even with quick unwanted glances made it seem as if it were licking the inside of my eyes in some perverse sexual torture.

I quickly replaced the lid, loaded it into the Jeep.


I cleaned every surface of my kitchen and bathroom with bleach, boiling anything that came in contact with it, mopped the floor, vacuumed, and showered under the hottest water I could stand, soaping and rinsing several times, washing and conditioning my hair, cleaning under my nails, trimming my nails, flossing, brushing my teeth and flushing my nasal cavities with a Neti pot several times. I even rinsed my eyes with saline and then added redness-removing drops. And I still felt as if the thing were clinging to me as like a slimy fetid stinking loving animate creature with claws. I imagined it was in my breath, on my fingers, in my hair. I could taste it, smell it, hear it. Worse than the nastiest shit, worse than any skunk's spray, worse than any dead thing. I felt as if it had penetrated me and blossomed in the primal core of my brain. The only thing that I imagined would get me truly clean would be to hammer a hole in my skull and spoon out my brain.  The thought crossed my mind.


I went searching for a dumpster in a remote alley where I could dispose of it, where hopefully no human would have to come in contact with the thing in the 70 quart translucent plastic tub. Where no one would be tempted to open that lid. Where it would end up in a landfill, buried under tons of trash, forever lost. I felt like I was disposing of a weapon or an evil genie in a lamp.

I drove to a grocery store on the other side of town and turned down the alley. Instead of being deserted as I had hoped, I saw a car and two people on bikes. My drug radar instantly went off.

I drove slowly towards them and they all moved slightly to the side. Acting too casual. Looking at the strung-out woman in the car and the two young Mexican men on bikes, my suspicions were confirmed.

"Yeah, you know, we're just hanging out here in the back alley talking to this twitchy lady in the car. No big deal. Nothing to see."

I stopped the jeep about 20 yards away from them. They watched me closely as I got out and went around to the back to open the door and remove the horror that was in the 70 quart translucent plastic tub.

I set it down right in the middle of the alley.

They could see there was nothing good in there. I nodded to them briefly, got back in the jeep and drove slowly away, watching in the rear-view mirror. One of the Mexican guys approached the tub and kicked off the lid. The other beside him. I saw each of them sort of jump back and stumble. I imagined I heard a yell or a scream. But then I turned the corner and was gone.

As I drove away...

I imagined what effect that would have had on me during one of my high-strung drug deals in the back-alleys of Austin.

I imagined the woman seeing the two guys run off without giving her the drugs, wondering what had just happened. She gets out of her car, smells it immediately but still has to see. Strung out, hungry, nerves on edge, tender, vulnerable, she walks over to see what it is. Just the horror of it leaping right into her brain like a snake striking.

I half-wished I would have thought it out more and placed a sign there that simply said: "Don't Do Drugs."

But, man, I began to laugh. I figured that was about the only thing I could have done to somewhat balance out the monstrosity of what that cow's head was.


I still feel oddly bruised by the situation. The violence of the cow's head. It won't leave me. It has infected my eating. Anything meat or anything with a meatish consistency takes me right back to it. I feel like I am always eating dinner in a slaughterhouse.

I'll be vegetarian for a while, I imagine.

P.S. I drove back by the next day. It was, of course, gone. I do feel bad for that poor grocery store employee that had to deal with that. However, it was in a 70 quart translucent plastic tub. It did have a lid. The dumpster was 20 feet away. And I'd like to believe that it might deter drug deals from going on anymore in the alley. But I know that it won't.