I hate surprises. Not only do I hate surprises, but I ritualistically ruin said surprises for other people. Let’s imagine for a minute that you and I are sitting in your living room, watching the season of Top Shot 2 on your Netflix. We may be sipping jack and diets, eating popcorn and just enjoying the program, or I may be divulging the entire plot of the series as whole within the first five minutes of the program. I’d made snide remarks about Jay Lin, golf instructor extraordinaire, and tell you how glad I was when he was kicked off. I’d swoon each time that George, in all of his Air Force Sniper glory graced the screen and recover by making not-so-vague comments about the series finale. At this point, you would either politely tell me to shut up or walk out of the room in search of another TV, devoid of my series-ruining self. My whole problem is that I have a condition called “havetoknoweverythingNOWitis”. Hence, my need to know everything at all times can cause some problem. I get excited when I watch shows akin to Top Shot, so excited in fact that when we DVR anything, I fast-forward in order to see who wins. I then restart the episode and enjoy it, knowing who reigned victorious and who fell in the arms of defeat.
My skills at ruining surprises do not end there, however. Months ago, DU and I were lounging in the gloriousness that is Saturday morning. As noon reared its sun-shining head, it found us still hanging out in bed, puppies scattered about. DU informed me that he had to “go somewhere to get something done.” Quick to insert my monocle and pipe, I began acting as Sherlock Homles, asking question after question. What is it, the candlestick or the pipe? In the ballroom, kitchen or dinning room? It was Scarlet, wasn't it? Or Professor Plum? After some poking and prodding, DU informed me that he had to go “somewhere” to deal with my birthday gift and not only could I not attend said “somewhere” but I could not leave the house until his truck faded from view, garage included. I hemmed and hawed until DU snapped. He informed me that if I continued to interrogate him like some Watergate affiliate he’d pull the plug on his adventure, leaving my birthday gift-less.
Pouting ensued followed closely by plotting. Once the door slammed, with it a retreating DU, I sprung into action. I crept into the garage, looking for anything askew. The gun safe was just as it had been, closed tightly. Upon further inspection, the guns it contained matched the number it should have. My olfactory-rejecting hockey equipment lay untouched. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I abandoned my search. That is of course until all the stars aligned, pointing me in the direction of the game fridge situated in the corner of our camo-filld garage. Throwing the blood-encrusted doors open, I noticed that the small corpse of my first-ever duck kill was gone. BINGO!
This annoyed DU to no end, as he finds my “havetoknoweverythingNOWitis” unfathomable. To his (and my) credit, I have been surprised many times when he would show up at my apartment in Lockport, New York, flowers in hand, with no notice. But, in this case I simply could not help myself. My duck was gone and I knew a dead mount would be my prize.
DU got the call from our taxidermist, Robbie B. on Saturday. The ducks were ready. DU, hell bent on keeping up with the pretence that this was still a birthday surprise, left without me. Two hours later, he returned and made me shut my eyes as I walked through the kitchen. The darkness was thick until his monster hands flew away, allowing light and duck mount gloriousness into my retinas.
I choose the dead mount for my first duck. This mount appeals to me, as my mother taught me that simplicity is elegance, and nowhere is that more applicable than in taxidermy. Robbie said this was the best option for my American black duck hen, as my shot pummeled the waterfowl, leaving many of her feathers filled with bullet holes.
DU chose this stunning mount from a similar one we found while meandering through Gander Mountain. While the mount at the store was old and shabbily done, DU’s looks magnificent. The way Robbie perfectly captured the drake’s expression resonated the same way he looked when he cupped above us that fateful January day.
The Owner’s mallard, DU’s flying black drake and my black hen; each hanging out in our kitchen; a stoic representation of the day that I truly became a waterfowl hunter.
I have seen a lot of taxidermy shows in my day. Especially now that hunting, taxidermy and things therein are suddenly televised on every cable channel. While I do not fast-forward these shows to see how the mount turns out, I do notice that every patron that leaves with their mount notes that the animal looks exactly how it had the day the hunter harvested it, the expression, tone and body language match perfectly; recreating the day to perfection. Up until yesterday, I figured that this was something people just said. However, I now know exactly how that feels. Each time I gaze up at my duck, I feel the excitement of the day; the biting chill of the snow, the taste of beef jerky, and my adrenaline pumping as the trigger pulled, blasting into the snow-filled air. Each feather tells a story and I am eternally grateful to DU for his everlasting gift.
**A BIG thank you goes to Robbie B., Taxidermist to the Stars of HLYH. You did an amazing job capturing such a key moment in my hunting life.