• Western Taxidermy

Western Taxidermy


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978-1-927063-11-8 | 2012 March | 212 Pages


When Deirdre invited me to the baby shower I just thawed the gopher in the microwave, turned it inside out, scraped it clean, and stuffed it the old-fashioned way, with cotton batting. Then I posed it to stand on its back legs, the cute way gophers do sometimes when they stand near their homes. I finished up the details—nails, nose, eyes, teeth—to give it a cute, inquisitive look. Sure, it was no Robert Bateman, but it was pretty good given my time constraints.

A taxidermist presents a stuffed gopher to a new mother at her baby shower; a trip to a cheesy roadside tourist trap exposes the flaws in a young couple's relationship; and a woman finds herself attracted, against all her natural instincts, to the slovenly proprietor of a drive-thru hamburger joint.

Tender, satirical, and occasionally absurd, Barb Howard's new story collection Western Taxidermy is a perfect introduction to one of Western Canada's most high-spirited literary voices.

“Smart, funny, disturbing and sad, these stories will raise the hackles of your imagination.”
~ Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault and The Little Shadows

“Barb Howard's seemingly straightforward collection of people and dogs, wounded deer and stuffed gophers, are anything but. She's a master of the sublime, the understated, and the subtle. Howard can pause your heart, engage your mind, and make you laugh out loud. Don't be fooled.”
~ Lee Kvern, author of The Matter of Sylvie

“In Western Taxidermy, Barb Howard serves up stories of comedy and tragedy in unflinching detail, underscored with bang-on observations and razor-sharp wit, all presented in spare, evocative language.”
~ Lori Hahnel, author of Nothing Sacred

“Bizarre, disturbing, sad, hilarious and haunting. Howard's stories stir the reader's imagination.”
~ The Prairie Journal

“Not only would I recommend reading it, I would recommend re-reading it not long after.”
~ Herizons

Western Taxidermy is an undeniably funny book—laugh out loud funny—as a result of keen observations, honesty, and dry humour on the part of serious characters.”
~ Pearl Luke, author of Madame Zee

“Grab it for a satisfying, thoughtful tease on your palate before we tumble headlong into snow season.”
~ Bess Lovec, Billings Gazette

My big brother Tom wore snakeskin shit-kickers. Not just the uppers; the whole boot, except the sole and heel, was shimmering reptile. Whenever he bought a new pair he’d want me to run my hands along the scaly material.

“Genuine snakeskin. Feel that, kid,” he said to me once when we were watching television. He swung his leg up so that his cowboy boot rested on my lap.

I cringed into the couch, but brushed the tips of my fingers along the pointy toe.

“How can you appreciate that material? You’re hardly touching it.”

“Snakes give me the willies,” I admitted.

“Grab a hold. Right there at the instep.”

I held my breath and grasped his boot with both hands.

“Look out!” my brother yelled, jerking his foot in the air. “It’s alive.”

I shrieked, jumped. While my brother laughed and laughed, I left the room to call my best friend Cindy.