What’ll They Think of Next? Hummingbirds and Horses Are Stuffed by Versatile Taxidermist

Article published in The Austin American-Statesman (Austin, TX), Tue. 28 May 1950, Page 22.  Original Author Unknown.

Reprinted by Linda Stewart, 15 April 2021

If you ever return from Lake Austin with a black bass, chances are you’ll head for one of the two taxidermist’s studios on Fredericksburg Road, where you can have the trophy mounted as proof of your story about the one that didn’t get away.

But W. D. [William Daulton] Paschall and L. M. Rathbone say that stuffing fish is quite a chore and both men prefer to handle large game.  Their business comes from local hunters, who bring in several hundred buck heads to be mounted each season.

Customers ask the taxidermists to mount everything from javelina’s to humming birds.  Rathbone, who is located at 2708 Fredericksburg Road, once stuffed 500 horned toads for a novelty salesman.  He says that he still shudders at the thought of the little reptiles.

One of Paschall’s most unusual jobs was the mounting of a five-and-a-half foot rattlesnake about two years ago.  He put the coiled snake in a box and rigged up a mechanism which vibrated the rattlers when the box lid was raised.  J. W. Johnson of 510 East Fifth was the practical joker who had the snake mounted.

Paschall stuffs very few snakes in his studio at 2025 Fredericksburg Road, but he does tan their hides to be used in making purses and billfolds.  He has mounted a Siamese calf for calvest, two-headed freaks, and albino squirrels.  During past deer season, Irwin Fisher of 609 West Sixth brought in a rare black buck to be mounted.  Paschall has just finished stuffing an alligator for Mayor Taylor Glass one of his regular customers.  The mayor has a nice collection of specimens including a bobcat.

Mounting pets and domestic animals is also a part of the taxidermist’s business, but Rathbone and Paschall agree that it is hard to please customers who want a favorite cat or dog to look just as it did in life.  On the other hand a taxidermist usually knows more about game animals then the average hunter does and therefore has little trouble in creating a lifelike coyote or duck.

Rathbone has been working on a bull head for Water Gunn, Jr., owner of the Austin Stockyard, and Paschall remembers helping Kelton S. Tilley of Forth Worth to mount the head of a $25,000 prize bull,  Prince Domino III.  The taxidermist has to be especially skillful in handling such animals.

Both Paschall and Rathbone think that mounting birds is one of their most tedious jobs.  Each of them has tried his hand at stuffing the minute hummingbird.  Paschall said that he had a helper hold the bright little bird with tweezers while he did the work.

Canaries also are hard to handle, since most customers bring the birds in after they are old and have poor plumage.  The taxidermists prefer to work with big birds like crows, ducks and parrots.  Rathbone has mounted a large collection of ducks for Sidney Wooldridge of 202 1-2 East 31st Street.

Biggest animal that Paschall has ever done was a horse mounted for a Galveston photographer who wanted to take pictures of tourists on the bucking bronco.  After Paschall finished the pony he goat in the saddle himself and let the cameraman take a few photos.  Rathbone also has done work on horses for photographers.

Because it is against the law to buy or sell Texas game, taxidermists sometimes have a hard time obtaining animals for special customers.  Rathbone says that he gets many extra buck heads because of his free deer skinning service.

A taxidermist needs to be a naturalist, artist and sculptor, according to Rathbone and Paschall.  Both men are enthusiastic sportsmen and know much about the habits and appearance of wild game and fish.  But even with his great knowledge of animals life.  Paschall had to do some extra research in mounting a dogfish for L. M. Pate of 120 East Ninth.  The dogfish is a queer looking shark with scale armor and a head like a bulldog’s.

Taking the odor out of a skunk is just a routine job for Rathbone, who says that the animal’s scent is easily removed with the proper chemicals.  In fact, he likes skunks so well that he kept one around the studio as a pet unit it was stolen.  He has mounted many Texas ringtail civet cats, which should not be identified with the smelly skunk or polecat.

One of Rathbone’s regular customers is Contractor S. O. Yarbrough of 1309 Meriden Lane, who is now planning a hunting trip to Alaska.  He hopes to bag a Kodiak bear, largest of carnivorous animals.  Yarbrough likes for his trophies to be mounted whole, and the collection in his game room includes many natives Texas Animals.

Perhaps the proudest of Paschall’s patrons is Miss Ethel Acklin of Manor, who has a stuffed bobcat which she killed west of the little town.  The school teacher told Paschall that she used three loads of buckshot in her gun to get the animal.  The taxidermist has mounted deer horns and heads for City Attorney Trueman O’Quinn and stuffed a javelina for State Treasurer Jesse James.  Another of Paschall’s prominent customers is Justice Meade Griffin of the Supreme Court.

Immediately after the animal is brought in, the taxidermists skin it and salt down the hide.  Then they build a clay model of the animal and make a plaster of paris cast over the hardened clay.  A heavy paper form is constructed inside the plaster of paris cast, and that form is used in mounting the animal.

The skins are softened in water to make them pliable for mounting and treated with borax and arsenic to repel insects.  Deer antlers are secured to the paper form after the skin is stretched over it.  Paschall now is working on two deer heads with locked horns found by C. M. Lanier.  During the death struggle, one buck’s antler pierced the head of his opponent, and Paschall is mounting the horns just as they were when Lanier found them.

The taxidermists have standard molds for animas that they mount frequently.  For instance they keep deer head casts in a wide variety of sizes and neck turns.  Besides mounting antlers, buck heads and whole deer,  Paschall and Rathbone use the feet and hides for making articles like gun holders, tie racks, ash trays, gloves and jackets.

Among the many supplies that the taxidermist must keep in stock are various animal eyes.  Most eyes can be bought from manufacturers, but the taxidermist always has a few colorless ones on hand to paint for unusual animals.

The technique of stuffing fish is quite different from that of mounting large game animals, according to Rathbone.  He stretches the skin over a hand-carved model of light balsa wood and then fastens the fish to a polished mount.  Since the fish skins lose their color during the mounting process, their scales are painted in oils by Rathbone’s artist, Sidney Wooldridge.

Both Paschall and Rathbone have been in the taxidermy business for many years.  Paschall says that he has been interested in the work since boyhood.  He first worked with Kelton Tilley in Fort Worth and set up his Austin business in 1945.  Rathbone has worked in Austin for about 14 years and has been located on Fredericksburg Road four years.  Local hunters keep Rathbone and Paschall so busy stuffing fish, mounting game heads and doing special work that both busy men now have boys to help them.

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