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AMY KIRK: The tack room museum

Some of the things you find in a cowman's tack room are, at minimum, unusual, if not a little weird to the average know-nothing person about dealing with animals for a living.

Our tack room not only stores animal health supplies and horse tack, but is also where collections of anomalies are kept. Our ranch museum of sorts is where patrons can get first-hand history and stories of the tack room exhibits from the curator. These oddities are items you just don't see in metropolitan museums, hobby collections or displayed on coffee tables.

The milder collections include used eartags. After they have been properly noted and replaced, the used ones do not get thrown away but are collected for a while in a box, bucket or hung on a nail. We also possess in our tack room museum a very rare museum piece found only in our area -- a prairie dog radio collar as proof to skeptics that the government is paying for such things with their tax dollars.

Oftentimes it's a visit to the tack room where additional information and stories are shared that visitors could have easily lived the rest of their days without knowing. I once made the mistake of asking the curator what the hard, dried-up, furry thing was that looked like a miniature mutated rabbit foot on a ring of keys. It was a branding day memento he acquired decades ago as a young bachelor. I didn't stop myself from asking why he kept it, and the story behind it is one I still regret learning about. Its intended re-use left me to question my husband's behavior as a bachelor. Therefore, I must tell you, as the tack room curator has permitted me to share so you too can satisfy your curiosity and regret it.

An old neighbor used an emasculator tool to castrate calves at brandings and my husband collected, in his front pocket, the discarded scrotum skins, jesting they could be sold as fur-lined pasties. The one on his keychain was kept as a keepsake after his business venture idea went sour when his shirt emerged from the washing machine with a hideous odor resulting from his shirt pocket's forgotten collection.

Another unusual exhibit is the display of toenail trimmings in our tack room's windowsill. People, I'm not talking about your standard yellow toenail fungus clippings left in a pile on the living room end table. I'm talking about an assortment of a cow's toenails that grow out and curl and have to be trimmed periodically and weigh half a pound. Similar is the collection of cow teeth formerly on display, but currently archived in another building.

We also have horse items available for touching, including one of the two sticks that our vet extracted from the inside of a horse's buttock after a branch was found rammed into one of our geldings' hind end. After hearing the story, a 1 1/2-inch in diameter stick emerges for show-and-tell to emphasize the horse's miraculous historical event. The story becomes even more gasp-worthy when viewers are shown the blunt end that was stuck in the horse's rear. (The traumatic experience has not changed the animal's disposition of occasionally being a dipstick, though).

So, basically, I am totally justified in bringing home any rock or found antique glass bottle I want to set on my kitchen window sill without my collections receiving any flak.

Pictures of the "Tack Room Museum" exhibits are at