I’m not a hunter. This makes me a bit of a hypocrite, because I do eat meat. While I think I could raise a farm animal to for production, I doubt I could actually pull the trigger. I’m not against hunting. Some groups animals (looking at you white tail deer) need population control–just not from me.
But I love taxidermy.
That’s the simple version of why I currently have a tab open in my browser of day one of a live taxidermy collection auction. But, let me back up.
Taxidermy always fascinated me. It’s the ability to be close-up to animals. What was alive, still feels alive. Natural History museums are my favorite. In my early 20s, Tim and I went to NYC and I got to go to the holy grail museum there. I think I took a picture of every single animal diorama there, completely delighted.
Years later, Tim and I lived in Austin in the little blue house. It’s in what used to be a quirky neighborhood, though now the main street to our old house is barely recognizable. One of the coolest little buildings was “The Corner Shoppe.” It’s a small building, and I had no idea what they sold, but the front window was full of taxidermy animals. I passed this building every day, multiple times a day. While I waited for the light, I’d sit in my car staring to see what I could distinguish from the rows of antlers, claws and teeth. There was a huge polar bear in the center. At least one zebra. And so many gazelle, antelope, and who knows what. I probably would have gone in, but it was the kind of store that didn’t exactly have published business hours. So for three years, I looked in the window and wondered.
Yesterday, I saw a news article flash across my social feed and I immediately recognized the pictures. The owner of the store, aka “The Taxidermy King,” passed away in a car wreck earlier this year. This weekend they’re auctioning off over 1800 of his mounts.
Which brings me to the online auction.
My brother is a hunter, which is how I know taxidermy is expensive and certainly its own art form. He’s got a few ducks and a large tundra swan, and paid a premium for them. Do I need a mount? No. Should I really be spending money on a mount? Also no. Do I want one? Oh, yes. I want a coyote.
I haven’t talked a lot about my book on this blog, but it tells the story of Tim’s passing and my grief through the lens of animals and animal behavior. Each chapter is a different animal. The chapter that represents the worst moments of my life, about 2-3 months after Tim died, is called coyote.
I associate them with darkness, pain, blood and cruelty, but am also somewhat fascinated with coyotes. They’re pretty. They’re wild, but also kind of not? It’s hard to describe. But I’d like a coyote to keep in my office. Maybe to conquer this sadness, see a physical reminder of what I have survived. Or maybe to pet and call Cuddles and be ridiculous. Hard to say.
There are at least 12 coyotes up for auction this weekend. The pre-auction bids are super low, but I’m currently watching day one of the live auction. An elk just went for $1100. A rainbow trout for $225. The head of a wild for $175. So it’s quite unlikely I’m going to get a coyote, but that’s okay.
Life is funny and strange. It comes together in circles that we can’t predict. Some of us try to preserve it, whether through words or taxidermy, so we can stare at a moment forever. When you look at it that way, I guess it’s pretty easy to see why I love taxidermy after all.