Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Family Memories (2) Taxidermy

Over the next several weeks we will be running two series simultaneously. Tuesdays will be Family Memories. There may be guest posts from various members of my family. This will be a way for us to share our experiences and lessons learned. Many of these may be short.

On Thursdays we will be running a series on Getting  Prepared for Beginners. These posts will have reasons to be prepared and helpful tips to get to a more self-reliant point.

I counted my wife's post God Gave Me a Carter as the first post in the Family Memories series. So here we go.

As I have stated many times before my grandfather was responsible for many of the skills I have developed. One day while I was visiting him he asked me if I was interested in taxidermy. I told him, "Sure". He gave me a complete set of books on taxidermy.

I threw myself into the books. Read everyone of them. Not only did he give me the books, he gave me a large box off wood wool, wire, several sets of eyes, and a catalog for ordering more supplies.

This was in the summertime as I recall so no hunting season was open. So a fishin' I did go. It only took me trying two fish to realize that either I was not artistic enough or I would have to apprentice with someone to do fish.

My next attempt was a bird. I was trying to come up with something to work with. At first I was hunting with my BB gun. I thought the small projectile would do less damage to the skin of the bird and make it easier to mount. I shot at crows, blackbirds, and starlings. I think all my BBs were doing was stinging the birds and making them fly off, so I finally resorted to my 410 shotgun with number 8 shot.

I finally took a red winged black bird. They are very pretty and I thought could make a nice mount. So there I was- bird on the table, book in hand, and tools and supplies laid out before me. 

You have to skin things differently when you are trying to save the hide. If I had been planning to eat that bird it might have taken me one minute to skin it. I was trying to make a lasting display of that bird. About 30 minutes later I had the bird skinned. I only tore the hide once and considering how thin their skin is I was pleased.

Trying to do taxidermy without a mold is an art. I worked with the wire and the wood wool for probably an hour. The body looked fine. I just couldn't get the legs to look right. I worked with it off and on for a couple of days before I found an abandoned nest. I placed the bird in the nest and I thought "not a professional job but good enough for a first". I kept the red winged black bird for a couple of years. It really wasn't a bad job.

Next I tried a snake skin, but used the wrong chemical and turned it green. I have made leather with the knowledge I gained from those books and have done a couple of nice squirrels using the molds. The molds make it a thousand times easier. I even made a couple of coyote skin rugs over the years.

Am a great at this skill? Oh heck no. Do I still cherish this skill? Absolutely. Just because you aren't great at something does not mean it has no value. Like I said I can make leather and furs. Will I ever do taxidermy again? Yup, I probably will. Will it be a business? Oh no. But every skill you learn makes you better.

Learn a new skill and it will help you to have
Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes 

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