Over off Hansen and Airport Boulevard just miles away Hobby Airport sits Worstell Auction Co., where Mark Thomas and his auction team is working hard to put together a big taxidermy auction set for this Saturday inside a large warehouse on the Worstell grounds.
On Friday there will be an all-day preview and registration for would-be buyers and gawkers at the warehouse. All of these pieces came from a nature museum in Nebraska, and were mostly donated from hunters around the country.
There used to be a handsome tax credit for those donating game mounts for educational purposes, but the credit expired.
Thomas is a bona fide auctioneer and auction holder. He's able to spout that fast auctioneer speak on a dime, even giving me a quick tutorial. It's all in the numbers and the increments.
Walking into the warehouse I first encountered a giant mounted polar bear, shot and stuffed pre-1972 and pre-endangerment by a champion hunter. The bear comes complete with a seal for the bear to feast on. His claws could decapitate a man with two swipes.
A few black bears stand at the ready feet away next to a family of kangaroos. Deer heads galore cover the walls. Well, pretty much anything you can imagine with horns, except dinosaurs.
Taxidermied snakes are very light and fragile.
Thomas gives me the dime tour, telling me what each animal is and giving me background on each if he knows the story of the piece. I now know what an Alpine ibex goat looks like. He stands stoic next to a lion with a full mane on shelf.
My guide tells me that the pieces will go for anywhere between as little as $25 (the price of a concert tee) to $15K (a cheap sedan) depending on bidding. His eyes alight when he talks about the bidding process. That's when the men are separated from the boys, at least wallet-wise. It's a rush for him.
The pieces that interest me the most are well, everything, but I cannot fathom the repercussions of bringing home a seven-foot tiger home, even if it is dead and filled with plastic molding and wires.
Most of these pieces will go to fellow sportsmen looking to display someone else's handiwork, maybe some steakhouse owners looking to spruce up the lobby, or some freak like me wanting a stuffed mandrill for the bedroom.
One of Thomas' employees starts pointing out all the animals from The Lion King laying about the warehouse. There's Simba, Mufasa, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, Timon and Pumbaa, and even Rafiki.