Archive for March 23rd, 2007

Observable Phenomenon – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Taxidermists Convention

I drove up to Santa Barbara the other day, which is about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. As I merged from the 405 onto the 101, I admired the unbroken sea of cars, the ten lanes of 85+ mile per hour traffic, the incensed LA drivers veering from the left-most to the right-most lanes with nary a glance in the rear view mirror. And then something really strange happened. A pick-up truck drove past me, with the stuffed head of a really large deer in the bed.

There was something wrong with this animal. I could only see the forehead, eyes and nose of the deer but they alone took up over half of the bed of the pick-up truck. By extrapolation I have to assume that the deer, had it been intact and standing up, would have been larger than the whole truck. That’s a big deer. I wonder if someone captured a deer, installed it in their back yard, and fed it Miracle-Gro for years and years… just so they could have the largest mounted deer head in the world?

A couple of miles later another pickup truck passed me – this one had a goat in the bed of the truck. Again, I could only see the head (which, thankfully, was normal goat-sized), and I briefly hoped that maybe it was a living goat just… napping… in the bed of a pickup in the middle of the 101. But it gazed up at the sunny California sky with glassy unblinking eyes, as the white hairs on its immobile head fluttered in the breeze.

Now, I visit Montana on a regular basis – a fact which I point out as it gives me some emotional perspective when it comes to taxidermy. In Montana, it is not unusual for people to decorate with dead animal carcii. I can walk into a room with decapitated heads hanging from the walls, beady eyes glittering in the setting sun, and barely wince. There’s a convenience store not too far from where I go to visit that has multiple species of indigenous wildcats killed, stuffed, and hanging on the walls. It’s like any diorama you’d see in a natural history museum; between my experiences in urban museums and rural homes, paying for gas and an ice scraper while dead predators lurk above me seems pretty normal But I guess my desensitization to decorating with the dead only works when they’re hanging on walls. Anywhere else, I feel like I need to make a citizen’s arrest.

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