As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. On the bright side, I am now a certified taxidermist.
It was the last day of bird class and the last day of the semester for Dennis and the students (Rob and Zach) who had been there for the entire course. (I skipped game heads and fish – one doesn’t often encounter road kill fish in my experience). Dennis did show us a few more tricks before the pomp and circumstance. First, he demonstrated how to paint and touch up our birds with an airbrush. Essentially, you can paint your bird or critter any color you would like using the airbrush. Once birds dry, certain parts (like the waddle) lose their color. No problem, you simply airbrush them back to life! In an interesting turn of events, we also injected some type of preservative solution into the feet of the mallards. We used a huge needle, a good amount of force and some gloves and goggles. The bottle states that the stuff is highly toxic, Dennis swears that a number of students stabbed themselves with the syringe and survived. I guess I would prefer not to tempt fate.
Next, Dennis showed us how the old school taxidermists constructed their own manikins with lots of string and some shredded wood fiber. Essentially, you draw a trace pattern of the animal or bird’s carcass and then us that pattern to construct a home made manikin. The original process also included boiling the skeleton to use that as the basic armature for the mount. I am sure my husband and neighbors will appreciate the fact that I am skipping the skeleton boiling step.
Once that was complete, the time for graduation arrived. All of the boys received a hand shake along with their diploma. I got a hug – Dennis says he always hugs the ladies. While hugging me he said “eat your heart out boys.. .” Maybe female taxidermists are kinda hot in a Northern Wisconsin way. I am not sure the boys were actually eating any hearts, but it was nice of Dennis to say.
A round of photos ensued. When it came time to pose with our birds, I lamented to Dennis that I had already placed Clarence in my car. “No problem” he said “just grab any one of the other pheasants … . ” Strangely, there were plenty of other mounted pheasants just hanging around. I hope Clarence doesn’t get jealous.
I already have plans for some squirrels. .. . I will keep you posted. Although I have graduated from taxidermy school, I plan to continue blogging my absurd adventures, so please stay tuned.
Finally, a big thanks to Jake Hall. He managed to name the fox – Phineas Taylor Fox to be exact. Named for the infamous P.T. Barnum. My mallard is as yet unnamed. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Dennis demonstrates air brushing a pheasant which is finished drying. The waddle is painted back to a bright red shade and the black lines around the eyes are touched up.
The mallard needed his feet painted along with a few more touch ups.
Dennis goes “old school” and shows us how taxidermists made manikins by hand before taxidermy supply catalogs were available.
Lots of wrapping and string.
The master at work.
Class photos! Rob and Dennis pose with the finished coyote. It will be mounted on a (large) wall in Rob’s house.
Zach, Dennis and Rob with their deer head mounts.
Clarence was in the car, so I posed with some other random pheasant. I hope Clarence doesn’t get mad.
The back room at AIT. You can see why I love this place. I am surrounded by still lifes.
The back room, part II.
Read ’em and weep, kids. It is official – I am a taxidermist!