The Craigslist post was short, sweet, and to-the-point. The farmer had elk, deer, bison, and cattle meat for sale, all free-range and hormone-free, FDA-approved. They had antlers, bones, skulls, and hides for sale, as well. And they wanted anyone responding to their add to provide a name and phone number so as to avoid scammers.
So I wrote them an email explaining the basics: “I’m a taxidermist, looking for some hides. Have permits to deal in raw skins; hoping to teach a class on tanning and need a few. Can you help me out?”
I got a call the other day in the later afternoon from the woman who runs the ranch. They’re looking for “someone like you” to help out the business. They want to build a shop on the property where I can work. They have more than 3,000 animals in their care, and they want to make use of every part of them that they can.
I was impressed. This was a pretty big operation, and they were looking for some help. I “fell into their laps” as the owner put it, and I felt oddly like she and I connected. We discussed how beneficial wild game meat is to the human diet, and how the hides and antlers can sell big on the taxidermy market if you know how to properly prep them. I told her that my dog loves wild game meat, and how I’d love to have some of the leftovers after butchering so that he can eventually live on the raw meat and bone diet that nature intended for him.
She was thrilled. I was thrilled. We were like teenage girls chatting about boys, except that we were a rancher and a taxidermist talking about how to make use of every part of a dead animal in a way that was both functional and profitable for us both.
I mentioned then that I was looking for a new place to live. She said that she may be able to “work something out” and again talked about building a shop on the ranch. Up to this point, I had envisioned driving out to her in Eastern Oregon perhaps once a month to help out in exchange for hides and meat, but she was tentatively laying the groundwork for having me on board as a part of the bigger picture.
This idea of living on a ranch in Eastern Oregon, where I did my wilderness survival training and learned to howl with the coyotes, is now making its way into my dreams, and I am anxiously waiting to hear more…