What do the Field Museum of Natural History and I have in common? We both own a copy of The Natural History of the Minocki of the Lakeland Region of Wisconsin, by Professor Richard C. Schneider (self published, 1980).
I know why I own this book. It had the words “Lakeland Region of Wisconsin” in the title and seemed to be fairly obscure, so I bought it. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting, but I was interested.
The title page calls this book “The whole cloth edition.” I don’t believe that refers to the binding.
The entire book is an elaborate parody of the natural history genre, focused on the charming but elusive woodland creatures known as Minocki, pronounced Min-ah-kee. (The singular form is Minoc, pronunced Min-ahk.)
These curious creatures, first described and given their scientific name (Homino minocus oculescans) by the author, are small invertebrates made entirely of soft clay (in their animated form). There is an inanimate (Minoc-less) form of hardened clay which is essentially a Minoc’s old body left behind in the fission process, when the Minoc enters the earthen clone it prepared for itself.
A snake shedding its skin is nothing compared to the Minocki’s life cycle process. Lizards may grow back lost tails and crabs regenerate missing claws, but this total body switch may be the most unusual restoration/regeneration in nature. It’s almost beyond belief.
The rest of the book offers equally amazing insights, described in the quasi-scientific literature for the first time . It covers such standard topics as anatomy, color, sex life (a very short chapter), sustenance, locomotion, habitat, social life, nests, predators, pathology and more.
It also covers some less standard topics such as the aforementioned fission, communications, meteorology, and sports and diversions. Within the communications section lies what is possibly the first ever Minockian-English dictionary. Since Minocki don’t have mouths, they use a form of sign language, and several pages are devoted to illustrating the various signs and their meanings.
The author concludes this book with two additional sections. One is comprised of obscure historical documents, the originals unearthed (possibly after being buried in the backyard for a few weeks) and photographed by the author. These make interesting reading and offer a glimpse into the creative mind(s) of their pioneer author(s).
Last, but most certainly not least, are the Minocki How Stories, close kin to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Various mysteries of the natural world, such as how the Monarch butterfly got his coat and how the chipmonk got his stripes, are explained, revealing the deep seated influence the Minocki have had on the flora and fauna of their native territory.
All in all, I am delighted to have added this fine piece of research and writing to my natural history collection, and I hope that the Field Museum of Natural History appreciates it as much as I do.