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In which Hank visits the Philip L Wright Zoological Museum. Ze asked us to talk about what makes our places special...I couldn't think of a better way.

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A Bunny
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Hank: [Voice-over] Good morning, John!

This morning I woke up, and I took a shower, and I brushed my teeth, and I did it all in my normal house, with my normal stuff. And it's- sometimes we feel like we gotta do "Thoughts from Places" from really weird places, but maybe we could just find some really weird places in the places where we live. I'm here with Michael. Say hi. [Michael: "Good morning, John."] We are driving to one of the coolest places I have ever found in Missoula, and some of you may be a little bit grossed out. So if you don't like dead things, you might not want to watch this video.

Still driving. Still- wooooaaahhhh - driving.

Now we're on campus. And now we're now walking to the health sciences building. Going up some stairs. Down the hall. And then left.

This is the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, and this is Emily, and she's going to give us a tour.

Emily: Hi! In this tiny room alone, we have about 21,000 specimens. Quick tour around our museum. We have 7,000 bird specimens. They're on sticks, so you can pick them up. Birds on sticks!

Hank: How do you keep them preserved?

Emily: The ones dating before the 1960's were preserved with arsenic. Highly effective for preserving the birds, not highly effective for preserving the curators.

Hank: Woooaaahh, you gotta walk around with two of these on your head?

Emily: I think, it's about 40 pounds to carry these on your head, and they grow more every year. So you get older and older-

Hank: Well I guess you get used to it.

Emily: I guess they kinda grow on ya. (Both laugh) I like these, um, these hyenas. I ask people who have a loose understanding of animal skulls what they think it is and they're like, "It's a bear! No, it's a dog! No, it's a cat. No, it's a bear-dog-cat."

Hank: It's a beardogcat.

Emily: Look, you can also tell that this guy probably scavenged a lot, and eats a lot of bones and that kind of thing; his teeth are all worn down. A lot of these guys get dental abscesses, like there's a huge exposure of root right there, where they had bone loss. So they'll get food impacted in their teeth and they can't go to the dentist. They get tooth rot and all kinds of fun, nasty, gross things. It makes them angry. And dead.

Hank: What's the stinkiest place in here?

Emily: The stinkiest cabinet is probably the bald eagles. It's really hard to remove all of the grease from the skin of an aquatic bird, 'cause they have all that fat. So those smell. Like, the boobies smell pretty bad. It tends to creep people out, 'cause-

Hank: Oh, 'cause it's like  little baby skulls!

Emily: Yeah.

Hank: It's almost like we evolved from them. Ooh, they're soft.

Emily: How many places in Montana can you touch a monkey? ...Tiny itty bitty skulls, and these are primates, too. Do you know what that is?

Hank: It is an echidna of some kind?

Emily: Yeees! ...Possums, and they're really kinda gross. They have more teeth than any other mammal.

Hank: Katherine used to work at a wildlife rehab place, so she has worked a lot with possums, and their babies, they are adorable.

Emily: Oh, man, I gotta show you this thing. Look, it has four legs! It's a duck with four legs!

Hank: Oh my god!

Emily: This is part of the pharyngeal palate of a freshwater drum fish. When I posted this on Tumblr, I got a lot of private messages from people being like "I need- I can't sleep at night, I need to know what it is." ...very concerned. This is what we call the "cold room", because it's cold.

Hank: There's a beaver, too, which I love. He's huge.

Emily: Yeah! He only has three legs.

Hank: I like how you're holding him like a baby.

Emily: I care for these animals! Go home today and say, "Hey, I touched a beaver."

Hank: [Voice-over] I've got a lot of thoughts about this place, about how it largely exists to satisfy that wonderful, insatiable human curiosity. About how this and other amazing places like it are tremendously under-supported and could not exist without the help of, like, full-time volunteers like Emily. And that the pure density of amazing and awesome and interesting things in this place rivals anywhere I've ever been in my life. And yet it's hiding there, unknown to most of the people, even though it's open to the public by appointment. But mostly the thought I can't get out of my mind is that I'm glad that it exists. I'm glad that it is a place, and I'm glad that it's there.

Thank you to Emily for the tour, and thank you to all people who help support that place and places like it. John, congratulations on all of the "best book of the year" lists that you're on right now. As soon as I read it, I knew that it was, but I'm glad all of the rest of the world agrees with me, too, and I'll see you on Tuesday.