Wednesday, October 22, 2008

something i read about

Back in October, 1995, Jim Hudnall posed a question in alt.lucky.w about raccoon penis bones. He said that Mick Jagger's partner Jeri Hall had mentioned in an interview that when she was growing up in Texas, boys gave raccoon penis bones to girls they liked as a form of love token or simple love spell. Jim said he had never heard of penis bones before and wondered if raccoons really had them.

I responded that Jeri Hall was right -- raccoons do have penis bones, although they are by no means the only species with such bones. (For instance, seals, walruses and whales have them too, and these large penis bones, called oosiks by the Inuit, are used for making sled dog harness parts.) The scientific name for these bones is os penis ("penis bone" in Latin") and among their many common names are "love bone," "pecker bone," "coon dong" "possum prick," Texas toothpick," "mountain man toothpick" and "baculum" (Latin for "little rod"). More to the point of Jim's query, though, i can testify from personal experience that raccoon penis bones were used as charms and curios among white farm boys and men of the Missouri Ozarks (in south-central Missouri, near the Arkansas line) during the 10 years i lived there in the 1970s-80s.

Soon after my then-partner Peter Yronwode and i moved to the Ozarks in 1972, we were told by a couple of local farmers that the proper way to prepare a pecker bone was to boil it clean and to tie a piece of red thread or string around it and give it to one's girlfriend to wear as a necklace.

Being non-hunting hippies, we made our charms from the penis bones of freshly road-killed male coons. (We picked up road-kills anyway because we ate the meat and tanned the furs and sold the mittens and purses we made therefrom.) I should also note that rather than dedicate these love bones to the furtherance of overpopulated HUMANITY, we placed them by our pond, where visiting RACCOONS would benefit from the resultant sexual potency and fertility among their own species.

Both Barry Carroll and Larry Schroeder of Austin, Texas, reported that the bones were sold there locally under the name "Texas toothpicks" and kindly donated samples.

Early in 1996, my co-worker Susie Bosselmann came into my office and saw my stuff and -- to my surprise, as she is a very "fussy" person who abhors bugs and spiders -- she said, "Ooh, lookie! You've got coon dongs!" She was pointing to the penis bones Larry and Barry had sent to me.

Susie is in her 60s and she grew up in Oklahoma, an area contiguous with Missouri and Texas. I had thought that the wearing of raccoon penis bones was limited to the Midwest, but she expanded my horizons when she said that she and her husband had recently been at a gun show in Kentucky and had seen "a beautiful coon dong necklace, with hundreds of 'em strung together, just like a Cherokee Indian ceremonial necklace." She would have bought it but it was too expensive, she said. I asked her why someone would make a coon dong necklace, and she said, "Well, what ELSE can ya do with 'em?"

Obviously, the use of raccoon penis bones as sex amulets or in love spells was not known to Susie, but just to be sure, i asked her if she'd ever heard them called love bones or heard of boys giving them to their girlfriends. She said, "No, we just made necklaces out of them."

In May, 1996, Michael Redman added something new on the subect: the use of the raccoon penis bone as a gambler's charm. Here's what he said:

Just got back from New Orleans for my umpteenth Jazz Fest visit & spent some extended time in the Voodoo Museum in the Quarter. As touristy as this place is, there were several exhibits of interest. Did notice a raccoon penis bone there marked "Lucky for gamblers."

Other readers have written in and added much lore -- about a gambling uncle in the South who wrapped his coon dong in a ten dollar bill before going out to play cards of an evening, a grandfather who wore a "possum prick" bone as a watch fob, a jeweler who caps the bones with sterling silver and sells them as necklace pendants, and a family which has owned a "mountain toothpick" for years. Scott Stauffer, a taxidermist in Michigan, writes, "I have had several requests for raccoon penis necklaces. Thinking this to be strange, I asked as to the reason one would want to wear such a thing. Up here the general consensus is that 'You're not cool unless you're hangin.' No red ribbons or gifts to girl friends; the guys wear them, mostly, it seems, for luck. A jeweler's clasp is glued to the straight end and it is worn on a length of gold chain. Although strange, they are strikingly handsome when boiled and pollished."

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