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You won’t believe these road signs…

Posted by on September 19, 2014

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

                                    THE DRIVE FROM MISSOULA TO BILLINGS, MONTANA

Today was the first leg of our long 2,300 mile trek from Montana to Texas. We drove about 360 miles…quite a distance for us to drive in a day. We often don’t travel more than 150 miles or so, or even less than that sometimes. I hadn’t anticipated posting in my blog this evening, but driving along I 90 today I saw two of the most interesting road signs…


I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this sign!

YOU WON’T BELIEVE THE ROAD SIGNS I saw as we were cruising down the Interstate. I admit to being pretty much a city boy, although after living on our ranch in Deerhorn Valley for the last 5 years I thought I’d become something of a cowboy. Apparently not. Now, maybe you guys won’t be surprised to learn about these signs and what they’re all about, but I sure was. The first sign advertized a “Testicle Festival” and the second was for a taxidermy service that cleans trophy wild animal skulls for display, using live beetles to do the cleaning. Here’s what I learned:

“MONTANA’S TESTICLE FESTIVAL”  The Testicle Festival is an annual event held in Clinton, Montana where the featured activity is the consumption of animal testicles, usually battered and fried. Clinton’s festival specializes in bull testicles. The event is held at the Rock Creek Lodge, which is located east of Missoula along Interstate 90. The motto this year was “I had a ball at the Testicle Festival.” The event is pretty festive, I’m told, with lots of booths and tables. Lots of folks attend…last year some 10,000 folks consumed an astounding two tons of the protein-rich bull meat. I suspect that large quantities of beer were also consumed at the event!


“Old Testy”

According to Chuck Woodbury, full-time RV’er and editor of “Out West…The Newspaper that Roams,” the delicacy tastes like chicken, but everything tastes like chicken! He tried a $5 Sampler Plate. “You wouldn’t think twice about these if you didn’t know what they were” the fella seated next to Chuck mumbled to his wife, who ate her plateful with no comment.  Among the festival’s activities are a wet tee-shirt contest featuring ladies, and a hairy chest contest featuring guys. There is also Bullshit Bingo, with a grand prize of $100 for the lucky person who correctly predicts where a cow will let loose.

This year was the 14th annual Testicle Festival, which gets more famous every year. It sounds like festival promoter Rod Lincoln, the owner of the Rock Creek Lodge, is making a small fortune from this event. The lodge’s gift shop has a hundred different Testicle Festival souvenirs, including at least a dozen styles of shirts.

Lincoln uses only USDA approved bull testicles, also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. “I skin them when they’re just thawing because the membrane peels like an orange,” he once told a reporter. He then marinates them in beer, breads them four times, and deep fries them. The end result looks like a big, flat cookie or breaded tenderloin. Actually, they’re billed as “Montana Tendergroin.”


This is like the sign I spotted from the Interstate this morning!

“BIG HORN SKULLS – BEETLE CLEANED” was the next sign that caught my attention. What in the world? When we stopped for the day, I did a little research and here’s what I learned. Apparently there are some hunters who want to preserve and display the skulls of animals they’ve bagged. In other words, not have a taxidermist preserve the entire head…fur, eyes and all, but just the skull and horns. Amazing! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, there are places that specialize in the professional preparation and display of wildlife skulls, using Dermestid Beetles.


Just think, you could have this animal’s skull on display in your own home!

Here’s how it works. Beetle cleaning is a process in which animal skulls are placed in a tank of flesh-eating beetles. The beetles feed on the dead flesh and cartilage of the animal. They crawl into the holes and cracks in the scull and eat the flesh. This cleans the scull so that it can then be whitened and mounted for display. This process is apparently far superior to any other. If the hunter wants to save some money, the taxidermist suggests that before shipping him a skull for beetle cleaning, the hunter remove the tongue and tissue from the lower jaw. Also, he should clean out the brain cavity and remove the eyeballs. Coat hangers work well for doing this, I read. I’ve refrained from posting any pictures of this prep work or of the beetles doing their thing. You can imagine how this process looks. I figure if you’re interested you can check into it and see for yourself. Fascinating though, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, you can purchase “starter kits” of Dermestid Beetles so you can grow a colony of theme and clean your own skulls at home, if you’re so inclined. For 90 to 120 beetles the kit will run you about $52 bucks plus $13 shipping. All right then…where do I get in line to place my order?

TRIVIA WITH A TWIST.  If you didn’t follow my travel blog, you’d never have known about these things, right? Well I wouldn’t have known either if I’d not visited the triviagreat state of Montana. It really is the Wild, Wild West. Bears, Elk, horses, cowboys, bawdy testicle festivals…you name it. We even recently saw a sign in a restaurant that stated: “Please check guns with the receptionist before dining.” I am not kidding! This is all a far cry from life in San Diego. This is, after all, our Great American Adventure.


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