Hi y'all. I know it's been a while...my apologies...life kinda jumped up and bit me on the backside and I just don't have the time I used to. But I took some time... My youngest daughter, Kayla and I went to Texas for spring break...her last spring break before she graduates from High School this May. It was a "vacation" but not a vacation. We left home...and that's all I cared about. We stopped to see family in Santa Fe. We stopped to see my oldest daughter, Lauren, in Austin. She is <b>awesome!!!!!!!!!!</b> Then we invaded Michael P & Miranda. We got there LATE on 3-26-2012. It was WAY late. Almost 11:00 at night? Late. REALLY late. So late that I asked them if we should get a hotel but Mike said not to...it'd be okay. We get there. They gave us the master bedroom. This bed was big enough a small Ethiopian village could set up houses on it. I told them we couldn't take it...they insisted. I slipped into a coma for 8 hours. I wake up...SO ready to go work...Mike says I can stay at the house with my kid and the puppies if I want to rest. Um. No thank you. I'm not a princess. Yes we drove a lot of miles but there is no way in heck I'm not going to work if I can!!! So we go to his shop. Y'all. Yes...we know what taxidermy shops look like...a work room...a salt room...a display room...freezers...but Mike's shop makes sense! The front room has several places for displaying finished pieces before customers pick them up. He's got a couch, a HUGE tv, all sorts of neat things on the walls...it's just COOL. And the work room makes sense! A fleshing table to the side, a work bench in the center...HUGE double sink. Back rooms holding what they should hold. It was just way freakin' cool! I had to make myself useful so I swept up, organized the front room a little and was basically a gopher all morning. I needed something to do so he let me rough up forms. That worked for me! His Mom, DiAnn came over and I got to hug her for the first time! Y'all have no idea how kind she's been to me and my family through the years. She's extended herself...her time...her spirit...her kindness...repeatedly. And I love her deeply. Yes, Mike's awesome. Miranda is of course too. But DiAnn...she's truly a gem and I am so fortunate to have her for a friend. Truth be 100% known, DiAnn (and my oldest daughter) are the real reasons we went to Texas. Yes, there are others we wanted to see...several others...but DiAnn has truly been amazing through the years and I cherish her so much. For lunch on Tuesday we went back to Mike & Miranda's, picked up Kayla, met Miranda and headed over for BBQ. Texas style delicious amazing BBQ. ALL of the fixings from different salads to dessert. ALL of it was awesome. My girl, she's all about the food. She's not fussy...it just has to taste good and be abundant. Texas nails food on both accounts. Every meal we had...every single one...was fantastic!!! Grilled Red Snapper with homemade tartar sauce...asparagus with Hollindaise...rice...chocolate pie and kolache's for dessert...so dang delicious...even thinking of it all makes me salivate. We were there all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Mike's business...it's just cool. He's high energy and frenetic with his pace. He let me rough several forms and even mount a whitetail (semi-sorta) myself. It's his name on the door so any work I did was under his very close supervision and any mistakes I made, he was very kind about correcting me. I learned a lot and had a ton of fun while I was doing it. I'd never done a whitetail...we only have mulies on my side of the mountains so<b> I was VERY excited. </b> We left Thursday morning. Kayla woke up with a headache and with her epilepsy, a headache is bad news. Being as I don't get to see my oldest very often, we had to stop and see her in Austin. I wanted to stop and see Super-pig...Evelyn Billington...but with Kayla's brain pain, she asked if we could just head home. I was disappointed and so was Evelyn but she was so very gracious when she heard we wouldn't be stopping by. I really look forward to going back as soon as we can. And Evelyn'll be one of the first destinations!!! After stopping for gas in Waco, Kayla told me she felt really bad and could we stop somewhere for a bit? Um. HELLO DAUGHTER. We just passed someone that I really wanted to see!!! But Kayla really didn't want to go back just to turn around and drive those same miles again. <sigh> So I called Becky Phillips. And Becky lives right there next to Waco so we went over to her place really quick...I thought. Kayla goes inside to sit in the air conditioning and the next thing we know, she's sleeping...out...comatose...for five HOURS. Really kid? REALLY??? Sleep is her brains way of fixing itself though so Becky was kind enough to talk with me while Kayla slept. Did y'all know Becky has a mini-zoo?!?!? All sorts of animals as pets so she can use them for reference in her taxidermy! It was awesome! And her shop makes sense too! It was just so dang cool to hang out and look at other worlds. It gave me all sorts of inspiration to do better in my own work. And then she fed us?!?! Truly...very kind. And seriously...the quality of work these two people put out? Oye! I just...Mike especially...his eyes are so freakin' real looking it wasn't even funny. And Becky? Her lifesize stuff is awesome! I am so fortunate that they were willing to open up their lives to us. I know that years ago taxidermy was a closed off secretive thing. The only way to find out how to do something was, for the most part, to try it yourself and see what worked, or get books. And that's a very valuable form of learning...but if there's a better way...if sites like taxidermy.net give us a forum where we can give each other ideas and brain storm things...it is just simply <b>WAY FREAKING COOL!!!!</b> I know Mike goes all around places doing things with other taxidermists...most recently in Wyoming with Ray Hatfield...but if any of you have the opportunity, holler at these folks...see what they're up to. Chances are good they'll be glad to see ya and open up their arms with a big ole Texas grin. And if any of y'all ever find yourself in Western Colorado, give me a holler. I'll do my best to make sure you don't end up in a hotel and that you have full bellies before you leave.