Taxidermy as Curriculum

By Joshua R. Quong

“A sail, a sail!”


  Act II; Scene IV of Romeo and Juliet

“Do you have any questions or thoughts for me now that we’ve come to the end?”

“Yes, sir… I’ve got a deer and a bobcat mount in my classroom at my current school. If hired here, reckon it’d be alright to put them up in my new classroom?”

“I think the students here would love that, Mr. Quong.”

That interview was over a decade ago—and that principal was right.

During that time, “Buck ” has held his position on the wall behind my desk while his compadre “Bob” has stood paw up, mouth agape on the two filing cabinets in the adjacent corner. Every year students ask where I killed them or interject anecdotes about their own mounts and the hunting stories that go along with them. The kids have even circulated a rumor that Buck and Bob have hidden cameras in their eyes that I will neither confirm nor deny.

This year as schools across the country reopened amid flexing education unions, contentious school board meetings, and some teachers substituting posters about the parts of speech with anti-free speech sloganeering on their bulletin boards, I decided to add to my menagerie with a sailfish I caught in Costa Rica over the summer and named “Juliet’s Nurse.”

The kids were ecstatic.

“Is it real?”

“Where did you catch that?”

“My uncle’s got one like that!”

“Is there a camera in its eye, too?”

There is a lesson in the inquisitiveness of our county kids who breathe new life into dead animals. Taxidermy, all stuffed and hanging in a classroom, is more than just a mere fixture within a decorative motif. It reflects the greater goodness within the majority of America’s small communities.

For my students, like millions of others throughout the country, hunting and fishing are neither activities nor lifestyles.

Hunting and fishing are life itself.

It marks the seasons. It teaches them about triumphs, defeats, and responsibility. And most significantly, hunting and fishing connects them to their past, their friends and family in the present, and the idea of a future legacy.

Despite the surface chop of pseudointellectuals squawking about the “backwardness” and “barbarism” that their fellow citizens represent in “flyover country,” America is not tempest tossed. Her depths are unfathomable and teeming with fry who will continue to propagate hunting and fishing one mounted deer, bobcat, and fish at a time.

From the FE Films Archive

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