*Due to my 365 Portrait Challenge, I’ve been a bit slow to get new stories out for you. I think this one will really make you laugh. I apologize that there isn’t an illustration to go with it but I’m off to Southern California tomorrow to see my family for a little vacation. Happy reading!*
Sometimes a family’s last name can have so much influence, it begins to seep into their employment choices. Thus if you walk into a bakery, you’re ten times more likely to find a Baker there than a Nelson. Such was the case for the Cutter family, whose last four generations sported taxidermists, butchers, and sushi chefs.
Reginald Cutter, a late 19th century taxidermist, had the extreme misfortune to be the last of his line and inheritor of its legacy, all 5 pounds, 2 shillings, 6 pence of it. As such, he had to become quite creative in his field to make enough of a living to keep food on his own cutting board.
Since he had the even greater misfortune of plying his trade at a time when fewer noblemen hunted (due to a shortage of smart-looking, red hunting jackets) but all of them desired mounted trophies for their living rooms (and dining rooms, game rooms, libraries, and the occasional water closet).
Acquiring a deer head was a challenge but getting one for less than 5 pounds, 2 shillings, 6 pence was impossible. And without a deer head, Reginald had nothing to sell to the long line of people outside his little shop. For the first few months, he stuffed smaller things: fish, hedgehogs, squirrels and the occasional stray bunny. These were cheaper to acquire and made nice conversation pieces on a nobleman’s mantle. Reginald’s fellow cutters, however, soon made fun of his antics, calling him a vermin stuffer and rodent artist. He hated being the butt of their jokes and vehemently told them so…which is exactly how he came up with his ingenious idea.
Reginald Cutter closed the mauve curtains on his shop door one rainy Tuesday morning and did not open them again till the following Thursday. During this time, a line of workmen with wheelbarrows came to the side door (the one with the puce curtain) at dawn and dusk. The neighbors spied hands exchanging money, hats tipping, and emptied wheelbarrows quietly rolling back down the street. They couldn’t help but wonder if their neighborhood taxidermist wasn’t dealing with smugglers. (Goodness knows the local squirrels were big enough for several kilos of stolen goods.) His fellow taxidermists also suspected something unusual was going on behind the mauve curtained door.
But no one guessed just how unusual when that curtain was pulled back and the OPEN sign swung round the following Thursdsay for Reginald Cutter had converted his shop into a gallery of derrieres.
The fish were gone, replaced by a wall of shiny tails fanned out like butterflies. The squirrels now jumped into the wall as though into their hideaways with only their back legs and bushy tails visible. But most extraordinary of all was the display on the far wall of fully a dozen deer rear ends. Some had white tails, others black, and one poor thing sported a tail half white and half black. Most simply stood tall as though they had stopped to ponder something whilst walking through the wall. Several sat on the ground as though going to sleep, their bowed heads possibly sticking out in Reginald’s water closet. One deer was even jumping into the wall as though hopping a fence with two hound back ends on either side of it, their tails erect and on the hunt.
No one knew quite what to say. Reginald had solved his financial problems by using the one part of the animal that no other taxidermist wanted: the derriere. His shop became an overnight success as soon as word got out. Noblemen came to get a true curiosity for the dining room (much to their wives’ horror). Young men bought the rabbit rears for gag gifts while old fishermen came for the fish tails to add them to their own collection of fish tales.
Reginald Cutter died in 1938 a wealthy man in a house full of animal back ends. He never married but he was also never again the butt of a taxidermist’s joke.