Columns

2009.07.08 Preserving a loved one

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

We were with some friends on the evening of July 4 when, of course, the subject of human taxidermy came up.

No, it wasn’t I who first mentioned it. It was another guest, and I really can’t recall how the topic was introduced.

I believe the conversation began with talk about a family dog, but soon veered off into a discussion about what the hostess might do with her husband sometime in the future.

A gruesome topic on the surface, indeed, but you must think beyond that. Consider the care and affection that’s developed between the husband and wife over a long marriage, and then again approach taxidermy with a new attitude.

The talk around the campfire revealed that the hostess once lost a cat to a traffic accident and, unable to part with this dear acquaintance, immediately inquired about taxidermy.

The hostess pointed out my wife, Colleen, as the person who thought taking the family cat to a taxidermist was absurd. “What are you going to do when Bob dies—have him stuffed, too?” she allegedly asked.

Colleen was involved in another conversation inside the house and wasn’t able to confirm her role, but it did sound familiar.

Now, the next morning, the subject of human taxidermy is stuck in my head. Is it any weirder than mummification? Maybe not, you point out, but isn’t mummification a little on the bizarre side?

I visit Mr. Google and find little assistance. Lots of jokes. Lots of questions. A reference to a Florida law that allegedly allows the process with proper clearance.

There’s a lot of discussion among taxidermists who talk about the difficulty they would have with human skin. Way too stretchy, and if you made a mistake, you’re out of luck for a replacement.

The only “solid” reference I could find about human taxidermy is mention of a long-ago story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a taxidermy shop that displayed a human from Africa or maybe it was South America. Not too solid after all. Supposedly the owner was arrested and successfully defended himself in court.

Of course there are plenty of references to Roy Rogers. Roy wanted his beloved horse, Trigger, mounted and he allegedly wanted himself stuffed in a straddling position and placed on Trigger’s back.

From what I can find, Trigger was, in fact, mounted in a rearing pose after his death July 3, 1965, at the age 33. The mount is currently on view in a museum in Branson, Mo. Roy Rogers was apparently put into the ground like most humans in this culture.

The discussion on the taxidermy.net website disintegrates into one person telling that he once wrote a fan letter to Roy and got a canned response back with misspellings.

Another participant tells the story of staying at Roy’s house in 1963 while on a church choir tour. Roy fed the kids breakfast in bed. The defunct family dog was at the taxidermy shop at that time.

The writer believes it was the Jonas Brothers shop in Louisville, Col., that did the work. The Jonas Brothers website makes mention of the countless hours of preparation and the vast amounts of money invested in traveling to distant locations to kill animals. When back home, your dreams have been fulfilled, but there’s the need to preserve the adventure after it becomes a blissful memory.

“And you know the best way to preserve those memories is with the finest taxidermy in the world.”

When you look at it that way, Bob’s future looks more palatable. Now it’s just a matter of choosing the pose, a topic that also was heard around the campfire.

Should he be something useful–standing with arms outstretched as a coat and umbrella rack?

Should he simply be remembered as we knew him–sitting on the sofa with the remote in his hand?

Should a vocal track be included, as in “Honey, bring me another beer”?

There are some big decisions for that family to make and they better get on it right now. Don’t wait until a hasty choice has to be made under duress because, like that favorite family cat, the adventure of Bob must be preserved in the finest way possible.

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