Giraffe Skull. Scar left arm and thumb.
“What happened to your hand?”
“A giraffe bit me.”
“But, you don’t work with giraffes.”
So started another conversation in which I confused a family member. It sounds odd, even implausible. In truth, it was really just a skull I was carrying which slipped and a sharp piece jabbed into my thumb, but this way the telling was much more fun.
I have a few stories of skulls or jaws having punctured my skin; I can claim crocodile, bull shark, and owl talons in addition to the giraffe. For instance, I sliced my finger open on a shark tooth while carrying the jaw, but the more interesting version involves getting bitten by a dead shark. I have since learned to handle shark jaws with both hands well away from the razor-sharp teeth.
Shark Jaw. Scar right index finger.
Zoologists do not go out of their way to get bitten by the animals they care for, but it does sometimes happen. The choice is in how you react. I like to think of the wounds, and ultimately scars, as my brother and I did as kids. Cool trophies of dangerous times, living on the edge, or mementos of your rite of passage. When you are eight, the edge usually meant riding your bike off a home-made ramp or jumping off a swing on purpose.
We even make scars and blisters in camp. Wait, let me rephrase that. We make simulated scars and blisters in camp. You probably remember some conversation on the bus, at lunch or on the playground about this or that scar or showing off your latest scab or even cooler, stitches – truly the most revered of scars.
Some of us have to think back to middle school for stories, some only as far as college. I have some good stories and I have some I’d rather not share. There are of course some mistakes I’d rather not make. Maybe you heard some of these nuggets of wisdom from your parents: look both ways before crossing a street; wear oven mitts when taking muffins out of an oven; use snake handling equipment when working with venomous snakes. You know, basic stuff – common sense even.
So long as a lesson is learned, scars remind me of my mistakes and how much I have grown since receiving them.
I was bit by a dog as a kid and have a scar on my forehead. My mom says I asked if I could keep the bit of flesh they cleaned out (ew, really?!). I recall lifting my bandages to show off the stitches. Well, it was cool at the time.
Some scars we blush to remember, like I had seven stitches in my finger from “cutting the cheese,” to hear my brother tell it. Totally embarrassing, and now I remember to use the right tool for the job (cheese slicer: yes; large carving knife: no!) I still like to tell funnier versions of what really happened to explain most of my scars.
Like the song says, “always look on the bright side of life.” In other words – make mistakes, learn from them and share!