PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 9, 2013

OUTDOORS COLUMN: The Power of Taxidermy

Chester Moore, Jr.
The Port Arthur News

— It was a monthly stop.



    Without hesitation I would ask my mom to take me in to Wingate’s Meat Market in Orange every single time we passed by there. And about once a month, she would relent.



     It was not because at six years old, I loved their cuts of meat so much but because the owner Nick Wingate had an amazing taxidermy collection featuring mainly giant fish he had caught in the Gulf of Mexico.



     There was a hammerhead shark, tiger shark, grouper and a huge alligator fish along with a big buck that had been killed in Orange County. All of this blew my mind and allowed me to visualize things I wanted to do in the future.



    There was also a furniture store located in West Orange that had a mountain lion in a full body mount.



     This cat was mounted on a pole in the center and was featured in a jumping position. I had never seen a full body cougar mount and for a kid who was already into these great cats it became more fuel for my imagination.



     Living in Orange we would go to Port Arthur or Beaumont about once every two weeks.



     I remember visiting the K-Mart in off Twin City in Port Arthur and while driving by seeing a full body standing brown bear and polar bear in a car dealership across the street.



    Being a persistent kiddo, I begged my mom to take me in and was stunned at how big those bears were. I remember the gentlemen inside getting a kick out of a kid who wanted to come in just to see the bears.



    Over the years I have been in numerous Bass Pro Shops and other stores where taxidermy is featured and see kids with the same sort of look I had checking out the animals.



     There is much more of it around today than back in the late 70s/early 80s but it still has the power to make people appreciate nature or at least take notice.



    For hunters and fishermen it can be easy to forget we were all children once. I pride myself on essentially being a 39-year-old kid actually and never having lost that spirit of wonder but with all of the cares of life, it can be a challenge.



    If you have a place of business and have some taxidermy on display, use it as an opportunity to engage in conversation with children who come in about your wild adventures.



    They will ask questions, make interesting and hilarious comments but that is all part of the important process of learning.



    When Nick Wingate hung those big sharks in his meat market, he had no idea the interest it would stir in me and perhaps many other children in the community.



    It is the little things that make a big difference and when it comes to inspiring children, even a stuffed fish can make a difference.



(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and watch his F.L.E.X. Fishing TV episodes at www.Godsoutdoors.com.)