28. Taxidermy (Dead Animal Decor)

3 Mar

I once had a babysitter who was a taxidermist. Seriously. Ok, probably his wife was my official babysitter, but I did spend a fair amount of time in his workshop watching him preserve local fish and wildlife. I must have been fairly well behaved, else I might be hanging on a wall somewhere myself right about now. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why I was well behaved.

Why do Southern folks enjoy decorating with dead animals? Beats me. I reckon they want to show off their hunting/fishing prowess and nobody awards gold medals in these particular “sports.” Biathlon comes closest, but no matter how good a shooter s/he is, no Southerner is about to run or ski 15 or 20 kilometers. What Southerner even knows how far that is? (myself included)

As far as I can tell, the most popular wall-mounted creatures are deer (rack size directly proportional to size of hunter’s ego. Yes, that’s a euphemism.), big-mouth bass, ducks, and squirrels. I’ve never seen the mythical jackalope, but they’re supposedly pretty big in Texas. And I’ve heard about folks with stuffed possums, but why? If you’ve driven in the South for any length of time, chances are you’ve killed a possum. It’s not exactly an achievement worth advertising.

When I was growing up, one of my aunts lived in this swank antebellum mansion with pricey antiques everywhere you looked. Still, there were the ubiquitous dead animals. But not just any dead animals. Oh, no. These were fancy dead animals. An elk head. A moose head. And if memory serves, the head of a long-horned sheep. Oh, and a huge bear rug. Which I liked to pretend was a zebra. Politically incorrect from birth, I suppose.

At my parents’ house, there used to be a squirrel mounted on a hunk of tree bark. My mom told me that when I was little I used to freak out anytime I came within a few feet of it. Then one day she walked in when no one was in the room and caught me lovingly petting it. Which may have been how I got the reputation as the “sneaky” one in the family. Right, had nothing to do with my teenage years…

Before you yankee types get all high and mighty about how taxidermy is barbaric and ought not be considered an art form, I should mention that the largest collection of taxidermy I’ve ever encountered was in New York City. New York City?! Yep. It’s called The Museum of Natural History. Probably because east coasters wouldn’t so eagerly flock to the “Museum of Bones and Taxidermy.”

Have you ever personally decorated with dead animals? What’s the strangest stuffed creature you’ve ever encountered?

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One Response to “28. Taxidermy (Dead Animal Decor)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 67. Deer Hunting « stuff southern people like - February 8, 2011

    […] there’s the matter of taxidermy. What deer hunter doesn’t aspire to display his trophy deer head for any and all to admire? […]

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