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The air is crisp, and the leaves gloriously colored, the autumn clothes have come out of boxes, and the beaches and bathing suits have become fond memories. And so, it’s that time of year again — time to reanimate a pig.

In our science cooperative, I start the group out with anatomy class. Each week I make an early-morning pilgrimage to Blood Farm to pick up animal parts then surreptitiously sneak into the library with my innocent-looking little foam cooler labeled “Bad Things.” This is an improvement over the sloshy bucket of ice I used when I did this with the first batch of second-graders, and it means I don’t have to park quite as far away from the restaurant when we stop for lunch.

We start slow, with what I think is an easy question: What is the body made of?

I get the usual answers — bone, skin, blood, and then, because this is the secular crowd, “stardust!” Even the 4-year-old nods in agreement.

I pull out a marrow bone and ask if the kids think bone is hard. They say yes, and then I shove my finger, as dramatically as possible, into the marrow, because they won’t touch it. They squeal with a combination of delight and disgust.

Next, we peek up the rear of an ordinary grocery roaster bird after sorting through all the little goodies stuffed in the little teabag-o-organs.

We have to work our way up to the pig.

Next, we play with brains and eyeballs. By now the kids are ready to poke at the pig brain with their little plastic knives and lean in close to see me cut the cow eyeballs in half. We make a paper model of the eye showing the iris, the cornea and how the pupil is a hole that lets light in. They can see and even touch all these structures in the actual eyeball.

But the most exciting and dearest to me is the pig heart. One buys it as a heart/lung combo, a “pluck” — how poetic is that? The pair of organs even comes with an attached esophagus, which, for the uninitiated, is a huge bonus. It’s common knowledge in the organ-buying crowd that you can use it to inflate the lungs and illustrate how breathing works.

Most sane people — self-selected from those who would inflate a pig to begin with — would use a bicycle pump. The first time I did it, I used the three-foot-long launcher base from my son’s pump rocket.


You learn something new every day. For example, in order to speak, you use your lungs to push air past your larynx, or voice-box. Your larynx vibrates and makes sound.

When you shove a giant pump-rocket launcher into the disembodied esophagus of a pig, you are pushing a fantastically awful amount of air past its larynx, and that it’s going the wrong way makes not one iota of difference. The noise this thing made was the most surprising and disgusting thing I have ever heard. It squealed. It oinked. It was as if the pig came back to life.

We screamed and laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. They must have heard it upstairs in the children’s room, and who knows what they thought we were doing.

This time I’m prepared. This time I’m taking the pumping end of the launcher instead of gripping madly at the pig-end and hoping to God it doesn’t blow up into the stardust it came from.

That would be disgusting.

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