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Reflecting on the past and how taxidermy has impacted my life.

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by Tanglewood Taxidermy, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I often will take out an old Breakthrough or Taxidermy Today magazine and thumb through it. Today it was Taxidermy Today. I came across an article by Brad Laaker about mounting a duck that was brought to him by a girl whose boyfriend had died in an accident on the way home from duck hunting. He went on to describe that it was 4 days old, missing feathers, ripped up and not a good candidate for mounting. He took it in and proceeded work on this difficult labor of love. It got me thinking about all the contacts and friends I have made and opportunities I have had. However, I wonder how many taxidermists have done a difficult job that they normally would not do, because of what it meant to the customer. I have done this once. It was more difficult than any job I have ever done anywhere on anything. I have hunted with Kevin since I was nine years old. Off and on his older brother Jimmy came along for good entertainment. Jimmy was everyones friend. If you were breathing, you were his friend and he was yours. The most likable person I have known. His problem was that he liked his booze and he lacked judgement when he was drinking. It was a lot worse than normal judgement loss. I got a call one day from Kevin that Jimmy was drinking and got in a fight with his wife and said well' I might as well kill myself then. She said well don't do it here, go to you mancave and do it. He went out to his mancave, took his 12 gauge with turkey load and put the end of the barrel under his chin and took his life. Not only did I have to deal with this, but he had done this under his three deer heads and one exotic sheep. Kevin's parents asked if I would clean them up for them. Reluctantly I said yes. When I got them. They were covered in dried chunks of Jimmy's brains and head tissue as well as thousands of small spots of dried liquid. I left them in my shop attic for about 8 months before I was mentally able to clean them. The horns came clean with soap and hot water. The fur, not so much. The big chunks were cut away leaving as much hair as possible. The little dried liquid spots were not going to come off. I took a single edged razor blade and shaved all those thousands of spots off. I thought it would be a disaster, however, it turned out hardly vissible at all and not visible from a distance. When I delivered them, we all had a good cry and I left. About a year later, Iwas over at their house and they said that what I did for them was one of the most touching and meaningful thing anyone has ever done for them, knowing how difficult It was for me to do. I told them it was the hardest thing I have ever done, emotionally speaking as well as actual working on a mount, and that I was honored to do it for them and the memory of their son and my friend.
  2. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I don't know why I hit post reply when I wasn't finished. I have made great friendships with a lot of people because of taxidermy. I have impacted many lives with giving them a tangible memory and they have impacted my life by allowing me to do so. I have had few bad experiences and a boat load of good ones. As I wind down to hobbiest status and will no longer do more than 10 customer mounts a year, which will be for old customers that have been good to me for many years, I am going to miss the interaction and all that goes with it. My health won't allow me to do much more. My wife just got back from a lengthy stay in the hospital. She has "untreatable" clinical depression and we just found out she has emphysema. She has never smoked, however, she has had allergies and asthma that lead to it. I have to spend a certain amount of time taking care of her and myself. One thing I do know is I can still come on here and get a taxidermy fix and therefore I believe this site still has relevance and can still be the great learning tool that it is, even though my back button won't work on this site. I hope that people will not give up on this site, it is worth keeping it going.

  3. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I feel that I should say that Jimmy was always kidding around and saying stuff to get a response, so his wife didn't take him seriously when he said he might as well kill himself. That's why she said what she said.
  4. WildlifeLady

    WildlifeLady Member

    I had a customer call me two years ago. Her boyfriend had just moved here from Florida. He was an avid hunter. She called me to let me know he had died in a car accident. The deer they brought to have mounted was the first he had gotten in Ohio. After I finished it, called her. She cried when she picked it up. It was a memorial to him and her son. Sometimes life breaks your heart.
  5. rbear

    rbear Well-Known Member

    What a touching story. It would be hard to do something like that. I'm glad that you had the fortitude for a job like that. Thank you for sharing.
  6. double barrel

    double barrel New Member

    All I can say is Wow! I couldn't have done it. Sometimes in life things just kinda gets dumped on us. It's good you were able to do it for the family.

    I've mounted two deer with watery eyes while sewing them up. My brother shot a piebald, 6 pt. buck in 1984. I skinned it for lifesize and tanned it and put it in freezer. My brother divorced and moved around alot and we just never got around to mounting it. I moved twice, finally to my current location, and after 15 years and two moves my freezer got unplugged. I had it in my barn with two drop cords plugging it up and was cutting trees and dragging brush and I must have unplugged it while dragging brush over the cords. DUH!

    You can always tell when you've messed up like this because you'll smell something dead and it'll remind you to go check your freezers. Another clue is the 13 buzzards sitting around everywhere in your yard and up in the trees.

    This was one of those old heavy metal freezers about 26 cubic feet, that takes 4 men to carry, full to the top with soup. My son's 11 pt. and 10 pt., foxes, coons, ducks, along with my latest big bass. As I was cleaning it out with closepin on nose, I came accross the piebald skin. I remembered that I had pickled it in formic acid so I washed it in soapy water with lysol and it was ok. I also mounted the 8 1/4 lb. stinkin bass and it turned out ok.

    After haulling off the rotten critters and chasing off the buzzards, I hung the freshly washed skin in the barn to dry. I gave the hair the tug test and it was set very well. Every once in awhile when I went in my barn I'd look at the hide and think," I need to do something with that." If it was rainy weather it would get soft from absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. In dry weather, it was hard as a rock. I never had applied any oil to it because I knew it might yellow the skin. Just salted and pickled, no oil.

    10 years later, in 2009, my brother died of cancer. I went in my barn one day and saw the piebald, hanging there. A couple of the hoofs had fallen off and the hair was not in good shape at all. I decided to try and save it, maybe do a sho. mt.

    Soaked em up, lots of salt, a dab of lysol, kinda like Justin Wilson and his cooking, don't measure nothing. A pinch of this or that, anything that might kill bacteria. I think I poured alcohol on it too. It mounted up ok, but the skin had rotted in a couple places. One ear lost some hair. I had to build up the roman nose with clay. It looks like a goat, with the roman nose being a charicteristic of the white deer.

    Talk about procrastinating? It's hard to sew with tears in your eyes.

    My nephew was with us when he killed that derr in 84. He was 12 at the time. Then in 2002, I think it was, he was killed in a car accident. He had taken his second largest buck on Sunday, and he died on Wed. My brother gave me the frozen head, no antlers. He had watched me and knew about the Y cut and had chisled the horns out and froze the head. It was several months before my brother located the antlers. We thought they might have been in the truck with him and highway patrol had picked them up at the scene. But, he had showed them to a friend and one day he walked up to my brother and said "I hear you've been looking for these."

    I mounted that one up for my brother, again, teary eyed, thinking of my brother, nephew and all our hunting together.

    I laugh at all my hunting memories though. Today we have hunter education and I taught my sons gun safety, tree stand safety. With my nephew and brother, I don't know how much gun safety my brother taught him but if you were hunting with him while he was younger you could expect to hear him shoot. "BANG!".......

    Well, I'd better go see what he shot at. He would always say he saw a deer. I think what he actually saw was a pinecone hanging on a limb and he wanted to see if he could hit it with that 30-30.

    One day it was about time to come out, I saw his orange vest down by the creek. I walked up to him and he was standing there, with the hammer back on the rifle. I said, "DON"T MOVE". I eased my hand down and took the rifle and explained how you never pull the hammer back untill you are looking down the barrel at a deer and fixing to shoot and if you don't shoot you'd better remember to ease the hammer back down or YOU MIGHT BLOW YOUR FRIGGEN LEG OFF!...AND YOU AIN"T GONNA GET NO DEER IF YOU DON"T QUIT SHOOTEN PINECONES! Geeeeeesh!

    Never a dull moment when hunting with those two. My brother was always accusing him of "fabricating" stuff. I think that's another word for lying. One day he came out and said,"Daddy, I saw 7 fox squirrells, all running along together in a line. " My brother said, " Now son, you need to stop makin chit up like that, nobody's gonna bleeve you." He was already too big to whup, at 12 years old. A couple days later, my brother hunted the same area and he came back to the truck and said," I saw those fox squirrels Steven was talking about, there was 7 of them. They were running alond in a line, one right behind the other one." I laughed my Azz off.

    The best story was, while we were hunting in Oglethorpe county, GA. We were getting up early, making the long drive, loosing sleep because we had a really good place to hunt. My brother would put Steve in a built stand, made of 2x4's, and he would go out 150 yards and climb with his climber. If steven shot, he wanted to be close by to check on him.

    We are in our stands, anticipating the morning hunt to come. It got daylite, then the squirrels started to move around some, russeling the leaves. Acorns dropping, crows squalking in the back ground. Then the sun was comming up over the trees, lighting up the woods and it's fixing to warm us up a little. A couple shots in the faroff distance. Anytime now, a deer is gonna walk out. One of us three ought to get a shot at a buck.

    All of a sudden I hear......."DaaaaAAAAAAA DEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee!!!!!!!!! ................IIIIIIIIII ' MMMMMMMmmmmm COOOOLD !!!!" It was like he was singin it, I'm cold! I was POed but I laughed so hard my side hurt.

    Tanglewood, I don't see how you cleaned up those mounts, musta been hard. Reading your post about loosing a loved one shure made me think of some memories.

    Take care!...db

    Oh!, by the way, there were 2 other piebalds in that freezer. One was a button buck that I had found by the road, hit by car. Mostly white, my son skinned it out full body, but it was not tanned so I thru it away. Also, a piebald cape, a doe, that I pickled in 1989. Same deal, when freezer went out, I washed the pickled but not oiled cape in lysol and refroze. But, it didn't hang in barn 10 years. 26 years in freezer??? Who wants to bet on whether it's any good or not? I'm betting it will mount up after properly rehydrating.