The internet went out at our house again, so this afternoon I packed-up my stuff and set out for the coffee house... reliable internet and chai, who could ask for more?
As I drove up the driveway, however, I spotted Secondo standing at the end of the driveway with a pair of binoculars peering into the ditch on the side of the road.
"Whatcha lookin' at?" I inquired.
"The dead possum," she casually replied. "Do you think its back end was taken off by the car that hit it or do you think a vulture was eating it?"
Frodo had mentioned that there was a dead opossum in the road last night when he came home, and Zen Baby and The Man's mom mentioned that it was on the side of the road this morning. I had been wondering how long it would take for Secondo to make her way out there and investigate.
I couldn't quite see the opossum from where I stopped. I could smell it, however, so I backed the car up a bit, put on the emergency brake, and got out of the car.
"Well, Dad said it was in the road last night, so I am guessing that a vulture or something got a hold of it and dragged it into the ditch where it could eat without fear of being hit by a car and becoming some other creature's supper," I speculated.
"Look at all the flies on it! What else eats dead animals... carrion?"
This launched us into a 10-minute discussion on the decomposition process and the determination of time of death using insect life-stages. (I knew that Master's Degree would come in handy!) I told her that since Frodo saw the opossum on his way home but not on his way out and since we know that opossums are nocturnal, we could pretty confidently state that the opossum expired the night before.
"How long will it take to decompose?"
"Well, that depends on a few things... what creatures come along to feast on it, chemical breakdown now that the carcass was opened to the elements, the weather, and some other things."
"If I take a picture of it every day, I could record how long it takes to decompose and how it decomposed, couldn't I?"
She then ran inside to get my camera. I promised I would buy a new battery for the kid camera while I was out tonight. (And maybe new binoculars since toy military binoculars really aren't that helpful for serious scientific study... they magnified nothing and were amazingly blurry.) We then discussed the importance of taking pictures of reference before taking close-up shots (with the zoom, of course... that thing stank!). I encouraged her to take note of whether the body is moved and what state it is in each day.
When I left, she was still taking pictures (one handed, so she could hold her nose) and had a HUGE grin on her face.
She's probably not ready to peruse my copy of Spitz & Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation of Death but maybe I can pull out the old textbooks and throw together a few forensic pathology lessons for her... or at least brush-up so I can answer her questions. That kid keeps me on my toes!
Hmmm. maybe I need to work on a Forensic Pathology for Kids. (I don't think the world is ready for that... I'm not!)