It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
As a boyscout, I was fascinated by the section in my handbook that talked about taking plaster castings of animal tracks. I imagined myself with my field kit, crouched over some track and painstakingly capturing it.
I guess it made my subliminal bucket list because a few weeks ago I went to the craft store and bought some plaster of Paris. In the meantime, I've been assembling various tools I would need and putting them in a canvas bag. This Saturday I ventured into the fields and riverbanks by my house to try to find a suitable paw print.
There it was in the red clay, a solitary paw print of what I hoped would be a coyote (we have them in my neighborhood). In my heart, I realized it was probably Cowboy, my neighbor's dog, but a print is a print and I needed the practice. I flicked and blew the debris out of the print, paper-clipped my cardboard strips around it to make a mold, mixed the plaster with water, and carefully poured it into the mold. To my astonishment, the flimsy mold held up. I dutifully let it set for forty minutes and then pulled it up. After a bit of a struggle, it came. It took a while to get the excess clay off of it. (I looked like a CSI guy with my assortment of brushes and toothpicks carefully carving the plaster casting out of the impacted clay around it.)
It was a curious view of the animal, a worm's eye view, if you will. The reverse casting was not like the track, an impression going away from me; it was a three-D impression of the paw coming at me. This is what it looked like if you had been in the ground when the critter walked over you.
I got it cleaned up, and it is a paper weight on my desk at home. I anxiously went to the web this morning, and hoping against hope I googled coyote track. To my amazement, there was a picture comparing dog tracks to those made by a coyote--mine was not the splayed-toe impression of a dog. It was the tightly grouped, long clawed impression of a by-gawd coyote!
I'm too old for the merit badge, but not for the thrill.