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Liam's Bones

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Liam is eight. He's a funny bunch of likes and dislikes, a little bitty boy in a taffy-stretched body. His mind is expanding, and his curiosity and passion are boundless. Here's a sample conversation between me and Liam, one day in the car (where we do our best talking).

Liam: Mommy, if you were to heat water to 500 degrees and shoot it in a person's ear, what would happen?

Science Chimp: Well, Liam, since water boils at 212 degrees, water at 500 degrees would classify as superheated, and it would be instantly turned to scalding hot steam, so that would hurt the person very much.

Liam: But what if the person was old?

Mommy: It would still hurt. (helpless laughter)

On our trip to the Krapp bison ranch, he got to ride in the tractor cab with Elliott. The rest of us had to bump along in an open wagon behind them. He kept shooting happy, triumphant glances back at us as the prairie rolled out before him.

Liam likes bones. He likes all kinds of bones. He spotted a bunch of bones from a winter-killed bison and was practically clawing at the door to get out and collect them.

He eyes the bulbous condyles with the air of a connoisseur.Shirt courtesy of Rondeau Ric and Anne McArthur.

You will notice the Webkinz monkey under his arm. Somewhere in the hustle to collect the bison bones, including a fabulous skull, Liam dropped his treasured monkey. This is the last photo of Liam with his monkey.
The night before, we had listened to the stories of Keith Bear, a gifted Native American storyteller, singer/songwriter and musician. He spoke of always giving something back to the earth after taking something from it. Liam and Phoebe were front row, rapt for his entire presentation.

A very kind man on the bison trip, having seen Liam's distress at losing his monkey, mingled with excitement at finding the skull, reminded Liam that he'd traded the monkey for the skull, and that made it all better.** And then the same gentleman offered to drive Liam's bone collection to the Cincinnati area, for later pickup, for he and his wife are from Ohio. Charlie and Jean, thank you. We'll get with you on those bones. Liam has since acquired a dozen more Webkinz, but bison bones are few and far between in Whipple.
Phoebe (with shawl by NatureKnitter Ruthie J.); Keith Bear and Liam. Carrington, North Dakota, June 2008.

And just for fun, JZ and BOTB get their picture taken with Keith and his handmade flutes.
**Liam: No, it didn't. I miss my monkey. This makes me sad (clutching his Webkinz toucan to his skinny little chest).


I love the bones and toy monkey combo. Our "threshold" toy was a small stuffed rabbit cleverly name "Rabbie".

There is nothing like little boys, in a car, explaining things. It was in a Toyota Echo that I learned that my nephew has an elevator in the back of his throat that takes food to his brain. I almost went off the road.

Tell Liam--I completely understand. I once dropped my favorite doll on a train. The doll was never found--and even though I am now 63, I still remember that doll. I would say I have moved on, but I have NOT forgotten.
So, I understand.

Aaah, Liam Stories. I can never get enough of them, and this one is particularly poignant.

Thanks for sharing,


How I would have loved to have grown up with even half the experiences your kids get to have on a weekly basis. Maybe the bison bones will eventually replace the memory of the cherished monkey. ;c)

My girls had animals they loved to beyond "real."
At one point, I replaced them--with a newer, intact version.
It wasn't the same.

Balance . . . that is one tough lesson. Poor Webkinz monkey, poor Liam. But wow . . . bison bones! Amazing!

It is particularly interesting to read one of your posts when I already know the story and have similar photos of the excursion.

Your posts draw me in and make me feel like I’m sitting in your living room as you weave the story.

Liam, try to imagine the monkey riding around on the head of one of the bison and having great adventures. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Sorry this is a bit off subject. Googled bluebird chicks and came across a 2007 post. Have an urgent situation in our box tonight. Please write to

Thanks so much!

Boy, there's something about that kid that just floors me. He's so wonderfully unselfconscious. I, too, mourn the loss of his monkey. But now he's got (or at least, will soon have) contemporary bones to go with his dinosaur artifact. How many kids can boast that kinda wealth?

Last Friday, I picked blueberries with my friend Kathy and her boy Henry, an elfin 8 year-old with a brain the size of Canada (but, thankfully, a weakness for grossness and poop jokes, which brought him a little closer to my level). He clued me in on Napoleon, the Roman emperors, and Norse mythology, while I identified the strange bug he asked about as -- bird poop. (It was brown and blobby, not at all like the tee shirt his mom sells that IDs the many wondrous types o'bird droppings. "How can it be bird poop if there's no white on it?" "It can if you're a bird who's been pigging out on blueberries all day.") How lucky we are to be able to keep company with such beings. And their way cool moms.

I love Liam. His conversations with you are so honest and funny. I hate to think of his monkey out there somewhere...

The car ride conversation, a parenting classic. You tell it so well. When my four year old (who asked the moon to go to hotel out our car window one night) gets to be 8, I hope he matches Liam's wonderful imagination, and I hope my answers are as honest and ready as yours. Thanks for writing this.

i miss my hotdog brother.

I've got some shed snake skins for Liam when he gets home.

One of those life experiences that Liam will always remember. He may even be able to pull out that old bison skull some time in the distant future, when he tells the story to his grandkids.

I would give anything to have had the childhood and educational moments you are giving Liam and Phoebe. Maybe in my next life....

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