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Two Astoria sisters, Rachel and Sarah Lertora, volunteered three days at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop to help brain-tan a deer hide in late July. They worked with National Park Rangers Matt Hensley, Susan Rhoads, and Sally Freeman. While they tanned the hide, a discussion about entering the project into competition at the county fair took place. They finished the work on the hide just in time to enter it in a group open class for clothing at the county fair. The buckskin received a blue ribbon and was on display at the fair all week.
Both girls, avid 4-H members, enjoyed learning about the process of brain-tanning (more correctly called brain-dressing). This process turns an animal hide into rawhide, then, using animal brains and lots of human “elbow grease,” into soft buckskin that could be sewn into clothing. Rachel said, “Next year I will be signing up for the Leather Craft project area in 4-H.” Sarah said, “When the public thought what I was doing was gross, it was funny.” Both girls were comfortable with public speaking and enjoyed explaining the project to park visitors.
Park Ranger Susan Rhoads found these girls to be “inspirational future leaders as they shared the tanning steps with visitors and encouraged them to join in and participate. They did this hard, gross work with a smile and we hope we get to work with them next year.”
For more information about brain-tanning, check out a video about this on the park’s YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q35uj2ThRm8 or visit the park on August 18 or 19 when Bob and Gayle Kitch, primitive skills experts, will be giving brain-dressing programs next to the Fort Clatsop replica.