Coon Skins

My cousin Greg took his own life a few days ago. If I made a list of one hundred people I knew, ranking from “most likely to commit suicide” to “least likely,” Greg would have been about 97. He was so comfortable with himself. He had a great (if wicked) sense of humor. He had a loud and bizarre laugh. He was one of a kind.

His friends called him “Dallass,” but I never did. Partly because I first met him when he was five and I was ten, at a family picnic. He ran up to me and screamed, “I’M GREGORY PAUL TICKERHOOF!” and ran away before I could answer him. So, I always called him Greg. He just called me, “Cuz.” Which was fine.

My favorite memory of him was just a few years ago, when I killed two raccoons on our farm. (The raccoons were killing our turkeys.) I skinned the raccoons, because I felt bad for killing them, and I didn’t want their pelts to go to waste. It was terrible, and I did not tan the hides well. At all. I visited Greg in his trailer in Western Pennsylvania, and I just mentioned the raccoon skins in passing, telling him how terrible I was at tanning hides. Greg was like,

“I’d like those ‘coon skins, Cuz! Send them to me!”

“Are you sure? I’m not kidding when I say I’m bad at tanning.”

“Oh, yeah! Send them!”

I drove home, and by the time I got back to Wisconsin, he had already messaged me three times about sending the raccoon skins. So, I mailed them to him. The skins weren’t really tanned; they were just dried with salt. Also, they didn’t have much hair on them, because I had killed them in summer, which is the wrong season to hunt for hides. I sent them to Greg anyway, thinking that once he saw the state they were in, he would just throw them away.

A week later, I got a Facebook notification that Greg had tagged me in a picture.

He had tacked those two coon skins onto his trailer wall, in the living room. He used thumb tacks to put them up on the dark paneling. It was this grainy, awful picture, and he had tagged me as one of the raccoon skins. I was MORTIFIED. There it was, for all the world to see, my trailer park roots. But I couldn’t untag myself, because Greg was so clearly excited, and he wrote something really nice with the picture, like,

“Just got the coon skins! Luv you, cuz!”

Or something equally nice.

I just had to make peace with the fact that my hipster friends would know my true roots.

As far as I know, he kept the raccoon skins on his wall.

 

I just tried to find the picture on Facebook of the raccoon skins, but finding a picture from five years ago on Facebook was impossible. I did find this video of him.

Ladies and gentlemen, there have been great explorers. There was Merriweather Lewis, exploring the great American West. There was Vasco de Gama, sailing the world. And then there was Dallass Gregory Paul Tickerhoof, finding where the crick ends (also known as, “Christmas in July Trailer Park Special”):

Rest in Peace, Cuz.

Shoshanah Marohn
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8 Comments

  1. Sorry for your loss, but I love what you wrote about your “Cuz”, and I think he would have loved it, too.

  2. I’m so sorry about your cousin. I’ll pass along what a nurse in the ER said to me after a family member’s unsuccessful suicide attempt, when we were so stunned: You can never know what’s in someone’s mind.
    We all felt so responsible, and the nurse’s statement helped.

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