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Pat Nicholson admits he is not going to get rich doing taxidermy, but then again, he’s not in it for the money.
“The rewards are the smiles you see on the faces of the kids when they see their first fish or their first deer or something like that,” Nicholson said.
“When the little fellas come in here talking about their first fish, I can listen to that all day long.”
Nicholson, 64, retired from Bridgestone in 2006 after more than 30 years to go full-time into taxidermy.
“It’s always something I have been interested in since I was a child,” Nicholson said. “It was on the back burner, and then, because of the situation or whatever, I just decided to chase that dream.”
From a small shop in his side yard of his home near Elm City, Nicholson takes in deer, bears, bobcats, birds and fish and a range of smaller critters and makes mounts that will last a lifetime.
“It’s pretty much everything but snakes,” Nicholson said. “Snakes and I just don’t get along.”
Nicholson, an Illinois native who has been in Wilson County since 1968, has been involved in taxidermy for 31 years.
“I am usually out here from 6 o’clock in the morning until I get tired,” Nicholson said. “I have never come out here and felt like it was work to do. I hope it stays like this.”
Nicholson’s turnaround time is between eight and nine months.
“There is a lot of labor intense work involved in it. There’s no shortcuts whatsoever. You’ve got to A,B,C and D it all the way through,” Nicholson said.
“You’ve got to know the anatomy of the animal and make it look real. You want them like they just stepped out of the woods.”
Nicholson’s mounts often show the animal as they would be seen in real life.
“To me, the main part of the deer is the eyes,” Nicholson said. “They tell everything.”
Nicholson enjoys the time he gets to spend with his niece and nephew.
“They kind of decorate stuff that they want to, broken forms and stuff,” Nicholson said. “They are across the table, and we get to spend time together and talk about everything.”
The children sometimes climb on a black bear mount Nicholson reinforced just for the purpose of letting the children climb around.
“I think the world of the kids. They’re fun,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson still keeps a mount of the big bass his son caught when he was 6.
“I’m a little bit proud of that,” Nicholson said.
Having a family come out with a fish a little child has caught makes Nicholson’s day.
“This is what I enjoy more than anything.”
He knows he is going to do his best to make that fish look just like it did when it came out of the water.
“We are going to come in here, make it look pretty, put a smile on somebody’s face,” Nicholson said.
“That’s worth a million dollars to me.”