Whenever I meet one of my friends in my travels, the first words I hear after salutations are "Are you still carving?" I usually answer, "Not since this morning, or not since yesterday!" because I usually put in a little time every day, or almost every day. When you do something for 40 years, it isn't easy to break away.

After everyone telling me I have a talent for it, maybe I'm beginning to believe it myself. Talent, perseverance, or whatever, I can carve and I enjoy it so why not do it!

When I was first married, money was a scarce commodity. I was working at Bertrand's Sport Shop in Green Bay at $150 a month for six or seven days a week; my wife was working at Prange's, and we still were sliding backwards each month. To bolster our income, I tried to make some extra money and finally started doing taxidermy work. My Dad was an excellent taxidermist, but I never paid much attention to how he did it till I moved away, and then it was too late. Anyhow, when I started, I had Dad's old books from the Northwestern School of Taxidermy and help when I saw him. I started mounting fish, birds, and deer heads. The first fish I did was a seven pound brook trout a friend of mine caught in Canada. I carved the body from a chunk of cedar and when I went to put the skin on the body, the skin was an inch too long. I got it fixed somehow, and the guy liked it so I was on my way. I remember that one of the first years I mounted fourteen deer heads at $7 each. I also mounted quite a few pheasants and ducks. The money helped a lot, but even with both of us working and the taxidermy work, what with kids coming and buying a house, we were still sliding downhill. I was selling off my guns, one at a time, when I finally gave up and got a job at Fort Howard. Pay for the first year was about double what I was getting at Bertrand's.

You can see some dried skins I used to get feather colors right.
On the left is a white canvas where I did a little painting,
but I soon gave that up. Too many excellent painters around.
On the canvas on the bottom is the start of a Green Wing Teal.
There is also a mounted grouse, used to get the colors right.
It is very difficult to get the right colors from a picture.

About then I came down with the idea of carving people's trophies instead of mounting them. That started me carving, instead of stuffing. While still dusty, it was a hell of a lot cleaner, and I didn't have to boil out deer and bear heads on the kitchen stove. An ultimatum from the good wife helped make that decision. But the taxidermy helped us through a tough time. When we were about broke, someone would usually come to the door to pick up a deer head or a bird I had done, and we would eat for a while longer. We were the hamburger twins because that's all we could afford.

And so began my carving career. At first there were only a few carvers, and fewer books. No study birds, no patterns, no nothing. What you did was your idea not a copy of someone else's.

Enter Exhibit