I Require a Possum in a Top Hat and Monocle (Original Post 03/06/16)

I grew up in a middle class house in the burbs of the north eastern corner of the Midwest in the 80’s. It was pretty normal really. Well, I thought it was. I mean everyone’s dad hunted, did his own taxidermy and lined the walls of your den and living room with said stuffed animals, right? To make things even more interesting, he had a tendency to “find” animals that needed help and saving and regularly brought them home from his hunting trips along with the carcasses of the slain. Oh, and he was also on the sheriff’s call list for when a buck (a male deer for you non-countiefied readers) was hit by a car but not decimated and they wanted someone to come and take the decent body… To butcher, wall mount etc..

More than a few times I came home and opened the barn (think giant garage with room for his Kubota tractor and riding lawn mower and an upstairs) to find a giant lifeless deer strung up skinned and gutted ready for butchering.  Totes normal.

My  earliest memory was in our basement. In a nook tucked back under the stairs where he had rigged up a wood stove to our laundry shoot to help heat our little post war bungalow was his work bench. It was close proximity to the wash tub that our washer drained into. This was important for his taxidermy work. I didn’t remember the exact process and formulas for the chemicals but one of the first steps after the ducks were gutted and skinned the pelts had to be soaked clean and tanned.  I used to stand next to my dad on an overturned bucket watching him at the sink. Sometimes if I wasn’t pestering him too much he’d give me the eyeballs to play with while he cleaned the bodies. My mother was repulsed which I couldn’t understand as I rolled the little jelly balls between my fingers occasionally turning my little hand sideways lining them up between my middle and pointer finger so it looked like my hand had little eyes and my thumb, working up and down resembled a talking mouth. Like a hand puppet. What? You didn’t play with eyeballs when you were a kid?

Anyway, he’d move to his work bench eventually where he shaped foam bodies with clay molded thighs and inserted wire into legs and beaks. I would sit on a tall stool he would pull up for hours watching him hand paint special tiny glass eyes, airbrush preserved legs and feet to be the just so shades as if they still had blood pumping through them. It always amazed me how suddenly some lumpy foam oval would suddenly have a feathered pelt stretched over it and to become the body of a drake mallard or hen canvas back. Sculptures clay molded to get the shape of the head just right. Some were bound to be in perpetual flight, mounted to a post off the carefully selected piece of drift wood to be wall mounted or a wire des retry coming from a selected spot in the back to hang from the ceiling forever coming in for a landing in out little bungalow’s living room.

My favorite were the standing ones. They didn’t just stand on the table. My father created entire vinettes to accompany them. Some perched on preserved and perfectly airbrushed logs with moss, preserved leaves and all. My favorite was a hen and 2 babies. Now don’t freak out. He may have shot the hen in season but the babies he found road side a casualty of a motorist. The momma and rest of the best were beyond saving from a taxidermist perspective but two weren’t so badly damaged that he couldn’t salvage them. So the hen he already has stuffed got a new habitat that was a nest and the addition of 2 offspring.

Yes, roadkil was regularly considered “finds”. One Christmas my grandfather and young uncle were in town for the holidays. On their way to join us at my Aunt’s house then hit a giant pheasant. Smashed their windshield. But they stopped and went back to see if the damn thing needed to be put out of any misery. It in fact was dead from what appeared to be a broken neck. It must have flown directly into the big old Cadillac’s windshield. Knowing my father they scooped up the fresh kill and put it in the trunk as a Christmas gift for my father. To say he was excited by that smelly thing was an understatement. In his defense, it was a big fucking bird. It hangs in mid flight to this day in his man cave.

I think all this leads me to where I’m at today. I have always had a little penchant for strange taxidermied animals over say, glass vases or pretty pottery. I have never had the opportunity to purchase any freaky stuffed squirrels or wall mounted boars heads but, should that opportunity arose, I’d be giddy with glee. That being said, The Sailor has just agreed that I can get a stuffed opossum wearing a little vest, monocle and top hat while carrying a little cup of tea or gentleman’s cane. I know, I married well. He’s a man of good taste and infinite understanding of how to make his lady happy. So, now the search for Sir Oliver Possington begins.

Nights Watch, Part 2 (Original Post 07/07/14)

And here’s what you missed on tonight’s sweatin’ after dark, night walk.

I was approached by 3 slow moving zombies tonight. Turns out they were just 3 mildly intoxicated women also getting an evening walk in. They were so convincing though, that I almost turned around and started to briskly walk the opposite direction. I didn’t but, whilst in the midst of my internal debate over fight or flight, I made a wrong turn and promptly got lost in my small neighborhood. Thankfully my cell had full battery (surprising) and was glued to my hand (not surprising).

While navigating my way back to familiar roads, there was a rustle in the shrubs road side followed by a growl. Assuming a black bear had wandered into the burbs of Virginia Beach and I was about to die, I jumped, screamed and inadvertently threw my phone at it. Thankfully I heard the familiar sound of my Otter Box connecting with metal and not furry flesh. My “bear” turned out to be a neighbor’s AC unit coming to life. Also thankfully, my GPS was still lighting up my phone and telling me to turn left in a quarter of a mile repeatedly so, I was able to locate it in the shrubs easily. Embarrassingly, the home owner happened to be out side having a smoke when this bear attack occurred. Having heard my yelp and phone chucking he asked into the night if I was OK or needed help. This forced my hand to lie by saying I had just stumbled and was fine. If he knew my fib, he was gentleman enough to not laugh until I was out of ear shot.

As I rounded a familiar bend, a man in a pick up truck came to a stop next to me. I immediately assumed I was about to end up in a hole in some creeper’s basement being told to put the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again. The driver of the truck must have seen the look of fear on my face and readiness to bolt when in the nicest southern drawl said, “I’m sorry to scare ya ma’m but, could ya tell me how the hell ya get outta this dang neighborhood? I just gave a friend a ride home and he was in no state to give me directions and my cell is dead.” I quickly gave him directions to the nearest main drag which he was very grateful for and told me so. I, in turn, told him I was grateful that he had stopped to ask for directions and not to abduct me. That’s when things got awkward. He kindly ignored my stellar abduction comment, thanked me a final time then pulled away harmlessly.

And finally, I walked into the back of a parked SUV while looking up at the night sky. And no, I don’t want to discuss that matter.

Nights Watch, Part 1 (Original Post 06/24/14)

Here are the observations and happenings from this evenings post nightfall walk:

1. Certain roads in my neighborhood don’t have street lights. After this evening I will remember which ones and avoid them after dark. My vivid imagination during the very dark stretches included but were not limited to rapists, murders, rabid raccoons, patient zero of the zombie apocalypse, children of the corn, and the general deranged. Yes, I live in the burbs less then a mile from a Naval base, what is your point?

2. A lightening bug flew directly into my forehead so hard it stung. I then proceeded to make up a short story (between all the tragic death scenarios envisioned from observance número uno of course) about that lightening bug escaping bug prison, being chased by a bounty hunter bat, narrowly escaping the death glass of the 4 wheeled Japanese monster by the name of Honda only to die a unceremonious death by flying into my forehead. I might turn that into a dark children’s book a la Tim Burton so don’t steal that shit.

And finally…

3. There was a young woman sitting on what I can only assume was her front porch obvious talking on the phone. The first time around the block all I heard was murmuring at a low tone. The second (or third, or tenth, shit who knows) time around she suddenly burst out with, “He’s not cute and funny! He’s ugly! And stupid! And his kids are ugly and you can’t marry him or you will be miserable with ugly kids!” As I walked, mouth agape, into the circle of light from the nearing street light, there was a quiet gasp, creak of a screen door and subsequent slam tel tale of a person making a hasty entrance. Listen girlfriend, I feel ya. We have all been there. Your friend thinks he’s the cat’s pajamas but really he’s a gross cat turd. Kudos to you for saying what we have all thought in some way or another of a friends choice of beau. Too bad you were in the shadows. I kinda want to be your friend, my fellow Doctor with a PhD in KIR.