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Saying goodbye to the band's storage tote that doubled as a raccoon skinning table

It’s the end of an era... for our gear storage.

A couple show’s ago, the lid to one of our band equipment totes suffered a pretty terminal blow that left a 15-inch crack in the plastic. We babied it for the next few gigs, carefully laying towels down to protect the gear inside. But at last, she succumbed to her injuries and sank to the bottom of the dumpster.

For some bands, a storage container is just that, a storage container. But to me and my bands, that storage container was a table, a cutting board, a fleshing bench and a friend.

Bands are absolutely brutal on their equipment, so you can only imagine how hard it must be on the equipment’s storage containers. Me and The Chuckwagons have been playing together since early 2021, amounting roughly 40 shows. And sitting there quietly beneath a towel and mixing board was USS Chuckwagon II.

Now, you might be wondering (or maybe not, maybe this blog is the stupidest thing you’ve ever read) what happened to USS Chuckwagon I?

During the band’s infancy, we drove around with two storage containers, dubbed USS Chuckwagons I and II. Both were of equal build, both sturdy and made of the finest military grade plastic we could afford. Neither came with any bells or whistles, nor wheels or tie-down straps. Emblazoned with the name “Chuckwagons” in white spray paint along the sides, these crates went everywhere with us. Then one fateful show, the Chuckwagons were playing at the Banks Cafe, a forgettable evening staffed by a mischief of rude river rats. Towards the end of our last set, one of the teens decided to toss a full Modelo can at their friend up by the stage. The can whizzed over their head and struck the side of the Chuckwagon I, breaching a nasty hole in its port side. The band played on, but in our minds we knew the fate of the USS Chuckwagon I. It was to be its last performance.

Down to just one vessel after that weekend, we gave extra care and attention to Chuckwagon II. At that time, you might recall, Mark was still driving us around in his antique mid-90’s Ford E-350 that didn’t live long enough to even get a proper name. The storage crate was always well protected, insulated comfortably by the van’s shag carpeting.

My favorite memory with Chuckwagon I was the Chuckwagons’ final show of 2021. The venue was Stoney’s Road House in Emmett.

Earlier that day I had been contacted by a good friend who lived up in Idaho City. She lived in a small trailer park just outside of town and said she had three dead racoons that had tried to get her chickens and turkey poults the night before. I needed a raccoon skull for the collection and thought I might be able to use the hides for something useful like gloves or a beanie. So I jumped at the offer and we had lunch in downtown Boise, then exchanged the large trash bag full of raccoons like a couple of drug dealers on the first floor of a parking garage.

Luckily it was a cool October day, and the coons didn’t put off any smell inside my car’s cargo box. The plan was to meet at Mark’s house right after work, so I wouldn’t have time to drop the racoons off. I got to Mark’s place and started loading up the unnamed van.

“What’s in that plastic bag?” He asked.

“Raccoons.” I said.

He turned around and went inside for a Diet Pepsi.

We made it out to Emmett with plenty of time to spare. We weren’t set to go on until 8, so I knew I had 2-3 hours’ time to skin out the raccoons. There was ample space behind the concert venue, and the ground was covered in gravel. The boys chose to sit in the green room and eat finger sandwiches instead of watching.

The raccoons varied in size and took longer than I had imagined they would. I’d skinned a number of things before this point, including deer, coyotes, a badger and foxes. I don’t know if it was the pressure of having to finish before our set time or if the kitchen knife I was using was dulled up, but it was a struggle.

Luckily two of my friends, Loic and Brandon, showed up that night, there to watch the show on stage, not in the back parking lot. By now the sun was completely gone, so I was holding my cellphone in my mouth trying to skin the critters by phone light. Loic was nice enough to hold up his phone light for a little while, but the two Californios got cold and went back inside to see their wives.

I managed to finish skinning all three raccoons and was able to salvage one of the skulls. And the whole time I only managed to cut myself three times.

By the time I had re-wrapped the raccoon pelts/head in the plastic bag, threw away the gut pile and rejoined the band in the green room, we had 11 minutes til show time. I tossed the bloody bag of racoons onto the storage crate in the van, and we commenced to play for 3 hours.

Later that night, when I was loading up the gear back into my car, I noticed the lid of the storage bin covered in blood. It finally dried out after a few days in the sun, and even to this day, you can still see remnants of that wonderful moonlit night.

Me and the band have reached a new chapter in our musical equipment storage, and I felt that it was worthy of a blog post. Not to brag about our trivial success as a regional honky tonk band or boast about the whopping 17 people in attendance that night in Emmett, half of which were too doused in Templeton to even remember.

Cheers to the Chuckwagon I and its newly scuttled sister ship, Chuckwagon II. I will remember you dearly the next time I need a flat surface for skinning small mammals.

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