LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Local taxidermist Bill Ash understands that what he does isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s still an art, he said.
And if you visit the rural Cass County home he shares with his wife Tina and their five children, that artwork is displayed everywhere. Coyotes, deer and fish adorn the walls. A wild turkey sits in a second-floor hallway. On a shelf in Ash’s workshop sets a blond raccoon and a weasel.
“He’s my pet now,” he said laughing and pointing to the weasel on the other side of the room.
Ash’s passion for taxidermy started about 17 years ago near what was then his home in Orlando, Florida. Growing up a hunting and fishing fanatic, Ash said he met a man there who owned a taxidermy company and was willing to teach him all about the business.
“He said he’d show me, but I had to be the grunt,” Ash said. “So I had to do all the dirty work for about six months, and then he let me do a fish.”
Ash was pretty much hooked after that, and “Wild Bill’s Taxidermy” was born.
Though he can’t really put an estimate on how many animals he’s stuffed and mounted over the years, Ash said each animal is unique, like people. And some of the stories that go along with the animals are pretty unique too.
“I just did a fox for this lady who hit it with her car two or three weeks ago,” he said. “She felt so guilty and brought it to me to ask if I could mount it because she couldn’t let the beautiful thing go. Now it’s in the center of her house.”
Ash even recalled times people asked him to stuff their pets, a process he said is often heartbreaking.
“It’s the loss,” he said. “It’s hard, especially if you see a lady that has had a dog for 20 years, and she’s taken care of the animal like it’s her baby.”
But while he has stuffed other people’s pets in the past, Ash said a line is drawn at his own.
“I can’t do my pets,” he said. “I mean, I hate to sit there and cry about it. I was going to do a Rottweiler we had, but I just couldn’t put a blade to it.”
And though Ash said taxidermy can often be about the emotional connection to the animals — like in the case of pets — it’s also about provisions.
“There’s always a purpose,” he said. “The hide goes to something. The meat goes to something. It’s about using everything we can use, and I wish everybody would understand that.”
Ash continued, stating that a lot of what he personally does is for the benefit of the children he comes into contact with through his involvement with such events like the annual Freedom Hunt. Ash said he’s stuffed and mounted several deer heads for the children who have participated in that hunt in the past, and he’s also mounted other animals for the kids as well.
“I just did a fish for a kid whose grandmother brought him out,” he said. “His dad’s not involved with him anymore, so his grandmother takes him everywhere. He caught a fish, and I could tell they didn’t have a lot of money. So I did this fish for a great deal. My biggest thing is that I like the kids, and it makes them smile.”
And though taxidermy is one of Ash’s passions in life, he actually does have other full-time employment.
“I don’t make a lot of money doing this (taxidermy),” he said. “I just like doing it.
“Most of the money I make on this goes right into something else, and if I did it for the money, I would have given up a long time ago. It’s about the people I meet.”
Many of those people have even asked Ash if he could teach them taxidermy too, something that elicits some words of advice.
“You have to be wholehearted in doing this,” he said. “It’s not half. It’s either you want and like to do it, or you don’t. It takes a lot of time and patience, and you can get frustrated.”
So while taxidermy might not be for everyone, Ash said it suits him just fine.
“I’ll probably do this until I die. You can call me weird if you want to, but if I can just stay away from people and do this all the time, I would. They (animals) don’t talk back, and they aren’t rude,” he laughed.
Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2zLlXKO
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.