An Art and Crafts Nature Center
It all started with a bull moose named “Reckless.”
It was 1982 and I owned an antiques restoration business called Knock On Wood, along with an antiques mall, in a renovated century-old, brick linseed mill located not far from the Iowa River in Iowa City.
I found Reckless, a bit moth-eaten and looking like he had been shot more than just that once back in 1914, hanging in an architectural salvage warehouse in Cedar Rapids. I loaded him and his five-foot rack of antlers into my old Ford delivery van and drove him back to my restoration shop, where he hung on the rear brick wall, peering down over my dusty oak desk.
A few years later I sold Knock On Wood to my shop foreman, Mike, and began making plans for a major life change, including a move to North Carolina. A month before filling a large rental truck with my Arts and Crafts furniture, we held the yard sale of a lifetime, complete with Reckless hanging on the trunk of a large maple tree at the corner of Gilbert and Bowery Streets.
He was the first to sell.
I can’t say that I regretted selling Reckless, for I have never since then owned a house or a workshop that would have accommodated him and his enormous set of antlers, which, by the way, looked great at Christmas time decorated with blinking lights and a red Santa hat.
In the past year, as I realized I didn’t have room in my office for any more Arts and Crafts furniture, I began thinking more about Reckless and how much I enjoyed having him around. I still don’t have room for another bull moose, and I don’t like having Bambi or any of her recently deceased relatives staring glumly down at me, so I began watching for something similar to Reckless as I scoured antique shops and salvage yards.
Three months ago, as you may recall from an earlier column, I found it: an aging stuffed bobcat uniquely mounted on a large piece of driftwood. I bought him off a front porch in Asheville, rescuing him from a bunch of unruly kids and two real cats that had been chewing on his ears.
And last week, in a research and antiquing jaunt down to Tryon, straddling the border of North and South Carolina, I found his companion.
A three-foot tall, three-foot long coyote, frozen in time in a classic, head-raised, mouth open, moon-howling pose.
Like the bobcat, this coyote had seen better days, but after a careful cleaning, brushing, and a few touchups on the platform, he joined the growing cast of the bobcat, two stuffed pheasants, and a Canadian goose, all three of them with outstretched wings and suspended from my vaulted, wooden ceiling with nearly invisible fishing line — and quietly rotating with the breeze created by my two ceiling fans.
It’s beginning to look like the Nature Center in here.
An Arts and Crafts Nature Center.
Bringing the outdoors indoors, right?
Until next Monday,
Stay connected — with Nature.
Top: My rescued bobcat, perched over the bathroom door in my office.
Middle: The coyote now howling in the window sill behind one of my two drafting tables.