Pierre the Squirrel

There are some things that I never imagined would happen in my life, and one of them was that I would share our home with a one-eyed, one-eyed, hat-wearing taxidermy squirrel named Pierre. Always sympathetic to animal rights, the mere idea of ​​a dead being stuffed and used as decoration really turns my stomach. But, as I got older, I realized that, like people, they all have different stories and not all of them came through inappropriate means.

Years ago, we weren’t so concerned about protecting the lives of animals, and they were actually used for sport and food. I won’t get into the politics of this, because we all know it, but thankfully we’ve gotten wiser with the impact our hunting pleasure had on the world, and there are rules about what can and cannot become a trophy or an improvement. . -size ashtray.

What once seemed like a very macabre hobby to me is now an art and has become a powerful way to reminisce and examine animals that are soon (or are already) almost extinct. However, my experience with taxidermy is less than exotic and definitely does not involve a loved and protected species.

Several years ago my daughter and I used to watch Oddities, a show about a small store in New York City called Obscura. Each week, they introduced a few clients and took viewers on a tour of their strange collectibles; everything from a shrunken head to a medical device that made you wince just hearing the name. It was an education on the (often) less desirable side of history; a place full of curiosities and questions.

So for her one-year birthday, I decided to take my daughter to the store, as a surprise. She was delighted, and thankfully the store was exactly what it looked like on TV (even the misshapen wooden mannequin was leaning out crooked, sweetly enabling the Obscura sign).

With all his money in hand, I told him he could buy whatever he wanted (while keeping his fingers crossed that it wasn’t too horrible at all). Not everything was expensive, but condition mattered, and the most unique and pristine pieces were definitely out of reach. Many were priceless, making things difficult for a girl with birthday money. Still, it was a wonderful place to look around, and the questions just came from us. The store was empty, so we spent over an hour there.

Every now and then, he would go back to the squirrel from the shelf. There were two; one was very pretty, in a shiny coat, and the other was very old and very skinny. They told us it was from the 1950s, that it had been used as a teaching aid in schools, and that he had just returned to the workshop recently. I have no idea what they were teaching, but it was obviously well liked. He was missing an ear and a glass eye had popped out, but he had a nut in his hand and the wooden mount was beautifully old. I wasn’t excited about bringing him home, but it could have been a lot worse, and I understood why she wanted it.

She felt sorry for him and hoped it wasn’t too much money when she asked for the price. It cost him every dollar he had, but he was so happy that he could afford the broken squirrel at his favorite store. They put it in a paper bag and she pulled it out right away, wandering the street with a stuffed, dead squirrel in her hands.

I cringed when she carried it through the front door, wondering how the hell it would fit into our house, what kind of crazy mother was I, and did it even matter? But he had a kind face and his past was unknown. I just needed a place to be. So, we found him a shelf to sit on, gave him a little blue hat to make him feel less hurt, and then, in what seemed like a perfect moment, his tail fell off …

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