Adventures in taxidermy


Even I don’t believe the day that I just had!  You knew that I collect taxidermy right?  You might know that I have just ventured back into the work force in my own small and eccentric way by selling antiques and “stuff” (broad category soon to be refined) on the internet and at Antique Fairs.  I have just returned from the Brimfield Antique Fair where for the first time I had my own booth.  Brimfield is the largest Antique Fair in the US and runs on either side of a one mile stretch of road in Western Massachusetts.  I did quite well thank you very  much but that isn’t even the story here….

Well you know how I love people.  Eccentric people, wacky people, fun people, people people.  I even like people who aren’t people people.  There are all types at Brimfield.

So anyway, back to the taxidermy.

As I was people watching one afternoon last week at Brimfield two men walked past me carrying an enormous mount of cattle horns and a deer mount of a 12 point buck.  Naturally I leapt from my seat (a chair frame made entirely of elkhorns and upholstered with it’s hide) that Michael INSISTED  I sell and not bring home from the fair (I bought it at the last fair) and accosted the two men.  We chatted for a bit about their purchases and then I learned that one of the men was an award winning Taxidermist.  Of course I JUST HAD to ask if he had anything for sale and he later stopped by my booth with some photos.  We bartered a bit back and forth and worked out a trade:  He got the elk chair plus some cash and I got a full size bear on all fours.  I had to deliver the chair on Thursday.

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL……Today I had to deliver the elk chair and collect the bear.

People who collect dead stuff/taxidermy tend to be a bit quirky (except, of course, for me) and people who actually spend all day stretching hides over moulds and putting in fake eyeballls???  Downright kooky.  I know of few of them.  They tend to be Vietnam vets suffering from serious PTSD.  No judgement there and just an observation but I thought that I ought not turn up alone for the transaction.

But who to take?????????

Michael was in London.  Hmmmmm.   Our friend Paul lives in the same town as said Taxidermist so I put out a 411/911 call to him and he agreed to rendezvous with me at a nearby Mobil Station/Dunkin Donuts to synchronize watches and plan our approach.  (I didn’t learn until an hour after this whole event that his wife is a Veterinarian.  She will be HORRIFIED when she hears about his day!!).

At the appointed hour we met and drove to collect the bear.

We turned in to the driveway which was all dirt and surrounded by pine needles in the yard.  The house itself was an old brown wooden sided ranch house with a bay window in front.  As we rang the doorbell we noticed that the bay window was filled with skulls—2 of them human.  Auspicious start.

Our new friend opened the door and ushered us into his living room which was a cross between the Museum of Natural History and the murderer’s house in Silence of the Lambs.  On either side of the room were two HUGE elephant heads.  Both were fake.  In the center of the room was a lion and a lioness.  Both were real.  On the mantel was a pair of oxen yoked together with a few “heads” that he had done and a few very human looking skulls.  Birds and horned and antlered animals from all over the world were in the room.  Oh, and there was a zebra as well!  All of this stuff was legal and tagged fyi.  OH, but what was a bit creepy was how much pride he took in showing us the full person who was seated on the elephant.  He had made the head himself and used, so he said, a manniken for the body.  Paul and I weren’t too convinced.

I looked around for my bear.  No bear in sight. Not a good sign.  I did, however, see a full zebra hide with mane and tail and I asked him about it.  “oh, that’s junk.  It’s hard and old and it’s junk”.  I said it if was junk I’d take it.  He asked me what I planned to do with it and when I told him I planned to upholster my toilet seat in the powder room with it I think he was so amused that he gave it to me.  One free zebra hide…. cool.

Then he showed us his scrapbook.  It turns out he has now become a specialist in taxidermy of housepets so when and if you want to stuff your dearly departed pet he’s the man.  Let me know if you want his card….Not….  I must say that he does extraordinary work and I couldn’t tell if some of his animals were alive or dead.  One woman who  had him “stuff” her German Shephard sends him photos of the dog each holiday dressed seasonally appropriately (hearts for Valentine’s Day, Wreaths for Christmas, etc).  OK, sounding odd or WHAT???  I know, I know, even I was shocked BUT IT GETS EVEN MORE WEIRD.

He led us down a hall and as we walked past the bathroom I noticed the shower curtain.  A large white curtain with a black sillouette of the psycho movie guy weilding a huge knife over his head.  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???  I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.  I even took a picture.

I was at this point starting to feel a bit like Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs and at the same moment he invited us into the basement to see his studio.  Yup, we went. HELLO!!!! WHAT WERE WE THINKING??????  He showed us his walk-in freezer which was filled with hides (oh, like for example a full giraffe!!!) waiting for work.  The first thing I checked when he showed us the freezer was if there was an emergency release on the inside of the door (yes).  As I was checking the freezer door, Paul was heading for the exit door.  Thanks a lot Mr Chivalry, I’ll remember this….  :)

Finally we went upstairs and made the exchange.  I unloaded the chair and we loaded the bear into my cute little light blue station wagon and then the zebra hide right beside it.  Quite the sight.

Paul and I said our goodbyes and thanked our new friend and off we drove….me to carpool and him to a baseball game of one of his kids.

As I pulled on to the highway and I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP a dark green pick up truck with an “Environmental Police” logo on its door pulled on beside me.  There I was, little Miss Soccer Mom on her way to pick up her sweet little children at school and take them to tennis.  There I was driving along minding my own business with a LIFE SIZE BEAR and a ZEBRA HIDE in the back of my cute little light blue station wagon.  I drove along and wondered if PETA and the Dept of Fish and Wildlife might get on at the next ramp….

So the bear and the zebra made it home.  Paul and I avoided being put into cold storage and then used for parts.  All in all a successful transaction after all.

I swear to God I am not making this up and not only that actually experiencing it was even more weird and wacky and creepy than the re-telling of it.  I SWEAR.

As I write this I realize that sadly there are precious few with whom I can share this story.

What a day!  It was a stretch but I did make it back in time for my tennis lesson at the Club.  Tomorrow I think I will get a manicure and perhaps clean my house.  It might be a safer bet.