Dear Carl, As I reported the last time I wrote to you, competitions now completely dominate association activities, not just in Texas but nationwide. And in the last ten years or so more and more entries have drifted into a silly trend of trying to impress judges with all manner of artsy-fartsy anthropomorphic gesturing of specimens, implausible scenarios of wildlife behavior and silly tasteless weddings of animal parts with polished rocks or driftwood. Simply put, for a majority, competitions have become mostly a chase after ribbons and trophies. But something really, really different happened this time here at the Texas state competition which to my knowledge is unprecedented in the annals of forty years of taxidermy competitions. I’ve always presumed that you spirits up there have ways of peeking in on such goings-on down here in the mortal world but in case I’m wrong I’ll tell you what happened. I thought you would get a kick out of hearing about it. One of the competitors in our recent state show in Lubbock, an accomplished taxidermist in his own right, must have been tired or bored with winning ribbons and awards year after year and entered a joke mount this time. Maybe just to see if anyone would catch on that he was pulling our legs. Kinda like ‘the king has no clothes’ sort of thing. And dang if he didn’t pull off the joke slicker’n pig snot. His entry won an amazing total of five awards including People’s Choice! At first I didn’t get the joke myself because I presumed the entry was done by some amateur vainly trying to impress judges and other competitors alike. It had no artistic merit whatever, being a straight horizontal piglet with no legs or belly, like a fish with no fins or belly. It couldn’t have taken more than a day or two to put together. It was attached at one cheek to a 1 inch diameter curvy root-like support rod about 6 feet long a few feet above the base. No context, no legs, no belly, just a partial pig on a stick. It wasn’t until the awards were handed out at the banquet and I saw it was not entered by some beginner but by a pro that it dawned on me that we were all being put on by a guy with a wonderful sense of humor with no apparent disrespect intended or displayed toward his fellow competitors. As he went up to collect award after award the applause at his accomplishment increased with each round trip and his wry smiles coming and going told me that he knew he had pulled it off with no one having caught on that we had all been had. I know you’re a serious soul but Janelli assures me there’s still a funny bone somewhere in what’s left of your mortal remains in that lonely grave up on Mt. Mikeno. So I trust you can see the humor in this story. I don’t know how the mechanics work in the spirit world , but maybe you could appear in a dream to that fine jokester and let him know he did us a service in giving us all a good look at where competitions are headed if we think that winning ribbons and trophies is the only or the straightest path to recognition and fulfillment as taxidermists. And about that other matter I wrote you about, the one of trading on the honor and prestige of your name by indiscriminately giving out Akeley awards at competitions? The award that honors neither you nor your legacy at all? I’m afraid it’s gotten worse. Now the Texas association gives out one too. It’s an unscheduled award I couldn’t find listed in our club’s Competition Handbook, as approved in 2/2015. Just another excuse to hand out yet another meaningless award and without having to write criteria for it at the expense of your good name. As the Irish say, “May the saints preserve us.” Yours truly, Joe P.S. Please say hi from me and all the members of the TTAI to our old beloved friend and colleague Bob Wilkins next time you see him. Thanks.