Thursday, May 19, 2011

Taxidermy Crazy

All my life and including my first years of marriage I was surrounded by my own Natural History Museum. It was my grandfather's hobby to kill big game and have them mounted. He had so many horns that he ended-up just keeping the horns only and stacking them. Sheesh! I still have a bunch and they're hanging in different parts of the ranch.

Just for the sake of the Vegan's out there. I wish inform various family and random readers know, we don't even kill rattlesnakes, unless absolutely necessary. My husband loves almost all creatures .. spiders, NOOO! But, he does take the spiders outside, except for the Black Widow, Brown Widow, and Violin Spider. They go dead. Steve was bit by a Violin Spider on his mission and he became extremely sick. That's it. All our children don't hunt nor do my son-in-laws. Fishing is catch and release unless the family is really hungry. I was taught by my dad, even when we catch Grunion Fish we EAT them, every one. They are the size of maybe a smelt and let me tell you, after I cleaned 300 little fishes, by myself and in what amounted to, a metal tough, I wasn't so eager to catch even one more. Yes, they do taste wonderful, but my dad was cooking.

My grandfather was the opposite of Vegan. He killed all game animals and we ate them all. Eww. This is really old-time thinking, but he also had everything saved by way of taxidermy or tanned. His shop downtown, that included western wear and tack, was filled with heads of different animals that he had killed. It was Santa Paula's own Natural History Museum. And, even some of the animals were not just heads. There were birds, like quail,  full-sized coyote, spotted skunk, and of course the tacky Jack-A-Lope. Ahhh, I don't think I ate that morphed Jack Rabbit. They were all trophy animals carcasses. My grandfather's walls started filling-up with animals when my grandmother died. These included a big wolverine, a bear rug, a coyote skin, his Indian vests that were made with bear claws and handmade bone beads. The claws and beads were all made from animals that he had killed. Yes, bears from Canada.
He always had the stool with bull's feet and his lamp shade made-out of his own horse, Chico's hide. He loved his horse so much he painted the outside of his house, his car, and the fancy trailer all to match the horse.
Grandma & Grandpa's Strawberry Roan House
Grandpa Joe & Deputy Sheriffs The Santa Barbara Parade
I suppose in the 1950's and early 1960's dark rose was an okay decorating color. Pink Chico was George Putnum, the Los Angeles KTLA and KTTV newscaster's parade horse and was ridden a few times in the Rose Parade. Chico liked to run, as ropin' horses do ... and ol' George must've dropped the reins, once too many times. hahahah. Yes, I've ridden Chico bareback and dropped the reins. It was like this cartoon moment when Yogi Bear runs in the air and then drops. The horse took-off as signaled, and I was hanging in the air and then dropped on my "seater" and broke my tail-bone.
I'm Riding Chico In The Fillmore Parade & He Danced The Whole Way
I cringe when I think of the day when Chico was "put-down" and Grandpa Joe said he was not giving-up on his horse. Chico had become blind and had "spring-halt" and in so much pain. It all was so bad he could hardly step and according to Grandpa, he was just plain, was not going down. Grandpa Joe had Chico sent to Web McKelvey's taxidermy shop on Old Telegraph Road to be skinned. I think my parents snickered because that was so outlandish, it didn't even make sense. My mom, with a car-load of little kids and me in the front seat, made a trip to Fillmore to see if Grandpa really skinned his horse. Right out in front of the taxidermy shop, was Chico, hoisted-up on an A-frame and pure white. I can't describe the shock of seeing our dear pet in front of the whole town of Fillmore looking so horrible. I know we see this stuff like that all the time on "crime scene" shows. But for me, at about eleven years old, I cried, and may have screamed.

Chico's beautiful, strawberry roan, soft hair was made into a lamp shade and a pair of chaps that had Chico's brand on my grandfather's hip. I could never wear them and I have no idea where these items finally ended-up and I hope long gone.

I have a leopard seal skin, with the bullet holes. I have a small long box with bald eagle feathers, and a fox pelt. I have the eagle feathers to give to each grandchild or nephew if they achieve Eagle Scout. These animals were killed before 1930, the box that holds them is dated 1930 with my grandfather's handwriting. The animals could have been processed even way before ... the fox is in an antique picture with my great grandmother and dated 1898. Grandpa Joe would be over 111 years old this year, so this is all old-timer stuff and to us, and bizarre.

I had a few friends over to my house when I was about 5 years old. Playtime was all a "con" because I talked them all into moving with me, the big, round, iron top off of a deep-pit Bar-B-Que in our yard. The top was like a pot-hole cover, only larger in circumference. We lived in the house behind my grandparents. We were caught about the time I was getting ready to be lowered down into the deep abyss. WHY ??? So, from then on, Grandpa took every "extra" deer, elk, antelope, and moose horn out from under his house on Laurel Road and stacked them up on the iron cover and over the 'spit' handle and frame and made this huge frame that turned into a large tree of horns and honestly kept growing until 1976.
My grandparent's dinners always included big game and I would only eat the stuff if it wasn't a deer, elk, or bear. I was tricked because I was told it was an hippo or crocodile and only then would I eat it. Honestly...even then, it had to be slathered with ketchup. I suppose the "trick/con maneuver" was an environmental learned behavior.

My mother had saved items from Grandpa's, when she was cleaning-out his home after Grandpa had died. Some animals were just too much to save--I mean, too sad.

I'm still recovering from when I saw my favorite chickens slaughtered. I thought all my daughters would be Vegan after each meat animal that they sold during the auction at the county fair. It's still a decision some are still considering. My Larin was stopped-in to a grocery store in her small town in Utah last November and an out-of-towner told her, all excitedly, "Look in the back of my truck!" It was a head of a beautiful antelope from her valley, Sevier County, Utah. On the hitch was a small cooler container of meat, so much meat was left wasted, was the animal so little? No, the hunt was all for the head. My Larin walked home with her children and cried and was grateful that her children didn't see that beautiful animal that way. Months are dedicated to hunting in Utah and other Western States. I get it and I know! Yes, I know. The critters need to be thinned-out and they would be pests like Kiely's big doe that eats garbage and knocks over all the trash cans, all winter, every single night. There's the same huge deer in her drive-way and right on campus and it's a trash digger.

Trophy heads and competitions seem wasteful and the heads all over house walls and businesses are just another form of idols to be adorned at Christmas. The saved heads and bodies seem almost sacrilegious and irreverent.

I don't want this to end without me trying to fix-it. I am a bit nuts, after all. Remember, the stool with the bull's feet that my grandfather had made? Yesterday, I took one of the bull's bent leg and hoof, and went into Kiely's bedroom ... she loves cattle ... My arms were filled with pillows and quilts and I made a big body in her bed and sticking-out of her covers, there was the bull's leg to hold the covers in place. I wish I had done that before I had to feed, because I could've set-up a video camera. Kiely's reaction was so terrific! I scared her and she screamed so loud it rocked the house and danced .... and Matt, Kiely's new husband, laughed. Me?...Oh-No! I've signed-up! It's pay-back and I'm watching and keeping my heart pills close.
Fun Prank With My Daughter--She Can Take It

1 comment:

Breeda said...

OH my I love that I learn these many I have not heard before. And that last photo is AWESOME! It looks so real!!!! hahahaha