#9: CAT SKINNING 101
Written by Lyndon Froese // Artwork by Seth Heinrichs
High school was freedom like never before. You got to try all kinds of new and weird stuff: alcohol, marijuana, going out with boys and girls. (Or so I’ve heard.) Maybe you even got your mom’s car sometimes. You were old enough to make money for yourself, but had no bills to pay. With no responsibilities and a lot less supervision than you were used to, you were free to find out who you were and what you were made of.
It’s not hard to see why those days get a special place in our hearts – that is, in the hearts of those living on a completely different planet than Benjamin Pries.
Benjamin remembers high school as a waste of time. That’s why when he was seventeen he didn’t go back to school. That fall, instead of taking his place at a desk in a tidy row, he moved into a shack in the woods.
Forgoing university was startling enough in Benjamin’s circles, but what kind of unhappiness befalls a high school dropout? It’s a terrible thing when someone throws away their life like that.
But a funny thing happened. That first morning in the shack, the sun crept up over the trees and shone on his camp. There it was – the rising sun – completely unaware that somewhere, a long distance away, a prison buzzer was ringing and class was about to begin.
Dropping out put an end to years of conflict between Benjamin and his folks. Benjamin hated school, and school hated Benjamin. Teachers don’t usually like it when every piece of information they impart gets followed by some kid’s uppity commentary beginning with “Actually…”
According to Benjamin’s parents, that word, “actually,” was the first to come out of his mouth as a baby.
Something in Benjamin’s soul could not respect undeserved authority. He could not bring himself to participate in the hierarchical politics of primates that most of us find quite natural.
Benjamin’s parents had at one time convinced him to try correspondence courses. That way he could learn at his own fast pace and there could be peace in the house. But Benjamin found correspondence to be even worse! In brick-and-mortar schooling, he quite reasonably determined that 50% was the perfect grade. You see, if a diploma was the goal, any score above a pass would be wasted effort. He thusly skipped as many assignments as he could and showed up for tests. But with correspondence courses he was required to complete every assignment. It didn’t last.
As much as Benjamin disliked school, he loved the outdoors. So, when he was of legal age, Benjamin quit school altogether and moved into the bush.
It wasn’t Walden. It wasn’t The Call Of The Wild. Benjamin didn’t go Farley Mowat on us and come to eat mice as he lived with wolves. Although, the first time he heard their howls he was enjoying a pretty decent bowel movement in the trees. He responded to the “call of nature” in two ways at once that night as he was sent scurrying to safety with his pants undone. In the boreal forest, Benjamin found an authority he could respect. But, no, he didn’t end up gaunt in the face because hunting wild animals wasn’t going well or blueberries were scarce. His grandma made sure of that. She sent her grandson off with a supply of home-cooked meals, which he stored in nature’s freezer and heated over the fire.
After some time living the dropout lifestyle, Benjamin was made aware of a program through which he might be able to have his cabin and eat it too. By “eat it too” I mean “acquire a Grade Twelve diploma”. Benjamin ended up receiving English credit for reading the books he was already interested in. He got Biology for doing field study in the forest and Phys Ed for cutting his firewood.
It’s now years later and Dropout Ben seems to have turned out decently. He has skills, he has satisfying work and those who know him all remark that he’s a fine young man.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. This is a fact Benjamin knows better than almost anyone, considering his study of hunting and trapping... for which he earned high school credit.