After over 60 years of loving this fantastic ride, I'm getting off at the next station. I intend to be here because it's in my blood and I feel I can still contribute, but the day to day operations have taken their toll and I've suffered my last burnout. Instead of going quietly, I'm going to tell you what led to this. I suppose you could say it's the world today. I've seen the slow and steady as she goes turn into the gasoline assed, instant gratification mentality. Where once a customer's word was his bond, I wouldn't turn my back on half of them today. With the exception of those rare people, most customers will bitch and moan about your prices. They want museum quality work for Goodwill pricing. They demand to know why it "takes so long to do ONE deer" and when you tell them they are one of many and will likely take most of a year, they start all over. Many of them will take their stuff and tell you they're going to find someone who's cheaper and faster and for those, I have a stock of brown paper bags to hand them their crap and tell them to go. Many of you are in denial of what I've been saying for years: taxidermy is a dying industry. Most of you are just too dumb to recognize the signs around you. Just look back in the archives at some of the names who appeared here at it's inception. I'm guessing now but Jean Lavalee, John Creager, Richard Christoforo, Frank Kotula, and I are about the only hangers on (as I said before, we're just too dumb to quit). Certainly Ken Edwards has been with us through thick and thin. Next is going to come the chest grabbing, heart rending screams of the competition guys. Those that aren't dead are dying a slow death. Some will boast that their numbers have increased but few of you will recognize that it increased simply because there are less states around you holding them and people are migrating to that last bastion. I've seen highly talented young guys come in the door and blast right to the top. They bask in the adoration of their peers but then find that the customers who pay the rent aren't willing to pay for that quality of work. Another chink in the armor was when money came into the fray. We created a class of gold diggers who nomadically traveled far and near in search of prize money. (I once say a grizzly bear that had been to 5 different state shows.) Then we had to pay judges (rightly so, now mind you, since why should a person leave their business for a week and go across the country to help someone else without expectation of remuneration) who simply can't win doing it. (See Bill Yox's post on Facebook) It's a lose-lose pyramid scheme that guys at the bottom quickly tire of playing and the ones at the top begin in-fighting about who's being played and who's playing. Suppliers played their roles but also realized the futility. McKenzie seems to be the favorite whipping boy and accused of monopolizing the industry. REALLY? So a business is monopolizing if it buys out smaller companies who can no longer make a profit? With the government intrusion into all facets of our lives, the mom-and-pop, small businesses IN EVERY FIELD are drying up. When I started, there was only one catalog: Van Dykes. Many of us learned from those catalogs. Sure Northwestern Taxidermy Supply was there, but they carried about half a dozen non-descript forms and their magic Calorex powder, but they weren't effective or efficient. When the Northwest students multiplied, Van Dykes got bigger and spawned a lot of smaller companies. Everybody ate. When the business went down, those businesses dried up. Economics 101 The shows. I suspect that the World Taxidermy Championships will be the last one standing. Cry and scream all you want but taxidermists don't play well together and shows are no exception. Just like organizations, there tends to be one or two people who keep it afloat. I already know there are those who are going to ridicule this statement and that's all well and good, but you can't reinvent the wheel no matter how hard you try. Few of you even know the history of modern taxidermy and less about the idea of organizations. We really aren't that old. In April of 1972, a kind hearted, gentle man and his wife, Charlie and Lola Haynes wanted to drag this industry out of the closet and with meager money they made off their small taxidermy supply house and business, they formed the National Taxidermists Association. It didn't take very long for bigger egos to decide Charlie wasn't "refined" enough to be in charge of such and endeavor and he was railroaded out of the spotlight he'd created. Suddenly organizations sprang up all over with over 35 states eventually having associations. Nationally, the biggest of them at the time was the Piedmont show where people drove hundreds of miles and slept in cars to be able to learn from the best of the best. The NTA had its own infighting however, and the International Guild of Taxidermists was formed to separate good old boys from good old boys. Same situation. Guys took out their rulers and decided whose was bigger and the IGT fell on hard times. They sent out an olive branch to the NTA in hopes of salvation and instead were given a lump of coal. Feeling it's oats, the NTA decided to require state associations to affiliate with them and that began their own tumble. Board members who saw how a small select group was going decided to start their own association and the United Taxidermists Association was formed. Look at the industry today. There are only a handful of states holding conventions and though they seem to be successful, the membership growth is lackluster. Piedmont and the excitement it generated are only fond memories. The NTA imploded from mismanagement and misappropriation. Their "Regional" shows have withered away and the one I attended last year only had 5 small suppliers show up at the very seedy venue that had been chosen. Though the NTA tried to regenerate, it's actually pretty much a non-player. There are no books publicly available, no elections held, and no correspondence. The top players have been in a continual state of flux and from my understanding, board members are hand selected as is the president. The UTA, though certainly well constructed and organized with a realistic mission statement has grown deafeningly quiet. Key players tired of doing everything and their replacements had lives to live. I'm a life member and haven't seen a ballot in a couple years. Though both groups make appearances either individually or with other state associations, neither carry the weight such organizations would have 40 years ago. The saddest thing I've ever witnessed was two shows held in Birmingham, Alabama. The first one had about 2500 people participating. Two years later, the halls echoed when a small group walked down it. There were likely less that 500 people in attendance. Sponsors? Van Dykes was bought out by Cabelas on a venture that didn't last 5 years. Cabelas cut their losses and sold Van Dykes to McKenzie. Even the once mighty Cabelas has sold out to Bass Pro Shops. Carolina Fur Dressers created Headquarters Supply that was purchased by Big Rock Sports. Big Rock had hosted a national competition in conjunction with their trade show. I'm not sure but it seems that the competition has disintegrated. Pooh pooh this all you like but there's been a drastic change in America. Since 1991, we have lost over 2.5 million hunters. That should scare hell out of you if you take into consideration the number of hunters who no longer need your services. We have always been cast as a sort of pariah for what we do, but with a national movement to outlaw private ownership of guns, we tend to be looked upon as Neanderthals whose time is past. The rank and file hunters are everyday citizens today and their money is guarded. The cost of us doing business has gone up and already we see the attraction of "European mounts" being done by the hunter himself rather than contracting us. Certainly many simply can't afford us. A few dogged individuals relinquish their only control of workload by keeping prices the same or even, in some cases, lowering them in order to have work. We never bother to realize that such actions punish us for the sake of others and oftentimes businesses are nickels propping up dimes. I'm sure all of you know at least one person who has to do taxidermy in order to pay off the bills for his last year's supplies last. What little deposits they took have been used for more timely causes and now there's obligation to take in even more work to buy the supplies for last years work. Now before one of you smug ashholes try to tell me that if I don't like this business, I should have got out and not been so negative, this is for you. You aren't smart enough to understand there's NOTHING "negative" about that. It's a positive scenario of where we're headed without some monumental changes. I'm simply being pragmatic and what I've said either has come to you in a nightmare while you slept or it will eventually. You can't invent the wheel, I didn't invent the wheel, but whoever did, got it rolling and it's going to take a serious effort to stop.