by David Luke
In the early seventies, state taxidermy organizations began to flourish around the United States. The years were exhilarating to young and old taxidermists alike as the organizations grew quickly, with bi-monthly meetings, state competitions, and regional get-togethers. It was no different here in the South as our regions grew rapidly in dedication to the taxidermy arts. In the earlier days of creating these organizations, there were many “big hitters” in our organizations: men and women taxidermists who spearheaded the growth of our industry. Most of these men and woman have gone on before us; due to their hard work, sharing of information, and leading us into the future, taxidermy organizations fortunately are strong today, sharing work knowledge, supplies, and new concepts.
In our Gulf Coast states, there were few taxidermy families that stood out more vividly than the family of Mr. John Cook. Working the Gulfport-Biloxi area with all phases of taxidermy, John raised a family that included three sons: Buzzy, Ronnie, and Sam, who all became well-known, knowledgeable, and successful taxidermists. This is where the mounting technique of using balsa wood sawdust on squirrels was first shown to me. When traveling East on I-10 through coastal Mississippi, I would stop by their large studio directly off of Interstate-10 and visit. On my first visit, John his son Ronnie were busy at the workbench mounting southern fox squirrels. With a dozen fox squirrels mounted on driftwood, drying, and six on their bench, I was amazed at the speed and efficiency that father and son worked, but what was totally intriguing was how all four legs were “stuffed,” and that the entire squirrel was flexible and moveable to any shape, especially, to fit any driftwood or base! •
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