Things I Inexplicably Love – Taxidermy
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.
14 thoughts on “Things I Inexplicably Love – Taxidermy”
I hope you win the bid on a coyote for your office – and name him something a la The Bloggess, who has a ton of taxidermy animals with hilarious names (like Vincent van Goat).
i love natural history museums too, but kinda struggle a little bit with the taxidermized animals… like maybe it’s the same sorta thing as the ‘uncanny valley’ they talk about with almost-human robots etc? idk…
anyway tho there’s a pet+tropical fish shop that i drive past semi-frequently that also advertises its taxidermy services and…. lol, idk, i just always have a lot of questions about this combination of services in one shop LOL
One of my customers is a Large Outdoor Sporting Goods Retailer ™ and up until they were acquired by (merged with?) Another Large Outdoor Sporting Goods Retailer ™, when you started in the IT department you had to choose a taxidermy animal to be your spirit animal and they put it on top of your cubicle wall. It was a whole sea of taxidermy. You still see a lot of taxidermy in their corporate HQ (like there’s a big-ass taxidermy Elk right when you walk inside the front door) but not like before.
Said retailer also has RV hookups with overnight horse corrals in their corporate HQ parking lot to give your horses a break on long trips. Needless to say, I like them a lot.
I’ll never forget a younger me walking in this guy’s front door and *boom* polar bear standing snarling at you and a back up army of assorted creatures behind. Maybe he was a super cool guy, maybe he was more ‘lotion in the basket’, I don’t know. I wasn’t brave enough to find out
Good luck with the coyote, I hope you get it.
We have a couple of extremely beautiful taxidermied animals in our office including a Grizzly we named Adam:)
i loved taxidermy too- my uncle and s an excellent taxidermist in southern new jersey, but it was sorta ruined for me when i saw misty of chincoteague in person and it was CLEARLY on a deer form that i recognized from my uncle’s work.
That is so weird!
Endangered animals in a private collection would have me a little concerned about where they came from, and I’m not a hunter at all, but I also love the dioramas at the museums!
My family was members of the Field Museum in Chicago when I was a kid, and one of my favorite nights of the year was when they held their behind the scenes member’s night. The Field Museum has an absolutely MASSIVE collection of fish, animals, and insects that you would never know about going to just visiting the museum. Many of them are housed in the basement not on exhibit… you go down there and it’s literally rows upon rows upon rows (imagine the room in Harry Potter book 5 when they go to the room where all of the prophesies are held) of jars of fish, trays of insects, animals, etc… it’s so cool! And so fascinating to see for example, hundreds of different shrew species all in one place!
The other super cool part of member’s night is they actually showed you how the animals were prepared. They were (supposedly) all animals from zoos that had died of natural causes and they would always have something cool like a tiger than they were dissecting.
Here in NNJ we have a lot of coyotes. Most nights at about 2 in the morning I wake up to the sound of a pack yipping their way across my back field. It’s spooky and ethereal and I quite like it.
I have no worries they will harm my horses or goat because I have an old timid mare that has an intense dislike for dogs and will actively go after one if it gets in the pasture.
Interesting…! I don’t love all of the exotic animals in private collections to be honest. The big game hunting and overhunting issues in Africa are kind of scary.
That being said, my childhood friends had a house full of taxidermy and polar bear rugs, so I did find that kind of neat.
My husband also had a taxidermy giraffe head on his bedroom wall as a kid (poor giraffe) but their house was broken into and all the taxidermy was stolen (now I know why! $$$$).
Keep us posted on the bidding!
Just based off the quick mention here, I definitely want to read your book. It sounds heavily refreshing (if that makes sense) and needed. The animal part of us is always looking, but also holds so much – bringing out and defining that into specific animals sounds like it’d soften that complexity and also more it more tangible.
I boarded at someone’s house for 3 years in college. The husband ran hunting trips and then taxidermied mounts for people after the trip. Lots of partridges, turkeys, and deer and the occasional bobcat or alligator. The bathroom that I could use was through his workshop and for whatever reason the light switch was not by the door. It definitely creeped me out walking through in the dark. Some of his work was quite beautiful though by the light of day! I hope you are able to get a coyote.
I hope you were able to get a coyote but if not, I can hook you up. My BIL has a twin brother who did/does taxadermy. He won all sorts of awards and their house was F.I.L.L.E.D. with various mounts he had done- including a goose in flight, wings full spread hanging from the ceiling in between their kitchen/dining room.
The one thing he would not do was fish. With small kids at the time and the amount of chemicals involved, it wasn’t a good combination. He had/has or has done pretty much everything else though- bobcats, mountain lions, deer, elk, fox, quail, javalina and all sorts of desert wildlife. Some of his mounts also had all the rest of the “scene” to go with it. Their coffee table was a large glass encased box with a fox chasing a quail taking off in flight complete with dirt, grasses, small cactus and other stuff to create a realistic scene. Often the person bringing the animal to mount, would give him some, part or even all of the meat. BBQ’s at their house were a big event and usually came with new things to try.
Taxidermy can be so beautiful and also can be a good way to honour the animal.