We should have known something was off when we parked the truck next to a station wagon filled to the brim with stuffed animals. And no, I don’t mean the kind you win at county fairs when you knock down three heavy milk bottles with a softball. Nope, I mean actual animals that at one point wandered the Earth but were now residing in the back of an old dirty wagon with fake wood paneling and rusted bumpers.
Disney characters the world over would have shrieked and fainted had they seen the piles of small mammals frozen in various forms of action against the windows.
Looking back, I think my ex did comment on the peculiarity of discovering such a vehicle in a hotel parking lot, but we were both so tired from the nine-hour drive that neither of us took much notice. We were more interested in fresh showers, food, and a much-deserved beer. Still, it could have dawned on us as we passed a bear in the doorway of the lobby, but again, we were focused on ridding ourselves of the road-trip funk coating our skin.
So no, it was not until we went to the check-out counter and saw the gigantic home-made banner reading: Annual Taxidermist Convention; that we realized what we had stumbled upon.
That’s right, I once spent an entire evening mingling with taxidermists somewhere in the middle of California. I mean, I say mingled, but to be honest-these are not a people open to outsiders. This was made clear to the ex and I when we stumbled through the stuffed cast of Meerkat Manor into the bar.
-A man explaining to me the procedure involved in dealing with the ‘innards’ of the creatures
-A woman commenting on the work of her peers and referring to the ‘newest’ poses they had created
-The abundance of flannel
and of course, the quote of the evening:
“haven’t you ever just wanted to stuff something?”, which stumbled out of the mouth of an overall wearing, tobacco-chewing, bearded man with halitosis and a propensity to cram the words dammit and shit into every sentence.
By the end of the evening, the ex and I had learned far more than either of us ever wanted to about the process of stuffing roadkill into action figures. But still, it made the trip interesting.