Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Good Dog is Gone - Wiley Lived a Life Better Than Most Men.

On 12/28/2010 8:15 AM, wren propp wrote:

Wiley B. Moffatt died on Monday December 27, 2010.

We'll miss her at every hike, whenever a trout is caught and released, at every meal where a steak bone is available, where ever there is a quiet patch of sun for a warm nap, on every long drive with interesting things to be seen out the window.

She loved the beach; she loved the river, she loved her man.

She was the best dog I ever knew.

Running wild on her favorite stream, the Rio Costilla at the Valle Vidal.
In her van with her man.

With her new best friend, Wren, on the North Platte in Wyoming.
Kind and tolerant of kids she forged special bonds.

Where she got her sunshine.

Ready to rock at all times.

Chasing bass at the Butte.

Mugging for the camera.

She loved all fishermen.
And always willing to lend a hand when it came to the van.

But napping was her specialty.

Strolling on the beach too.

And waiting on the man to catch something, anything, any time now.

She was a good dog, only barked twice that we know of and both of them had it coming to em.

Rest in Peace Wiley Dog. We love you too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bosque del Apache: A Winter Festival of Wildlife

By Karl Moffatt
The massive flock of snow geese all took off at once, engulfing this lone visitor to the Bosque del Apache in a swirling mass of brilliant white and the din of heavy honking.

Within minutes the birds were all gone and the air became still again.

But then the clucking calls of a few cranes drifted across a nearby field and in a moment a trio of the gangly birds could be seen landing awkwardly to join others pecking on the ground.

This is a place where wildlife can be seen every day, especially in the winter when thousands of migrating geese, cranes and ducks make it their home.

The 57,000-acre wildlife refuge just south of Socorro is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide waterfowl with ample marshland and feed to sustain them over the winter.
But the primary benefit to humans may be the endless display of wildlife that can be found here on any given day of the week.

For example during a recent visit the author had the chance to observe a coyote stalking a marshy area teeming with noisy ducks.

The coyote was watching from a ditch bank in an adjoining field and then slowly made its way through the water filled ditch and up and across the dirt road where unsuspecting spectators sat in parked cars quietly watching the ducks.

The wily coyote slinked between the cars and disappeared over the embankment, down into the brush from where it emerged again, belly dragging in the dirt as it slunk down low and crawled over to the edge of the flooded field.

The coyote was eyeing the ducks who had no idea of the danger lurking behind them as they bobbed up and down in the water.

Then the coyote leapt into the water and snatched one of the ducks with a violent shake of its head and the bird was instantly dead.

It was an impressive display of hunting prowess and gave one pause to consider the circle of life as the coyote strutted off down the road with its kill clenched in its mouth. 
Meanwhile back in the field two other coyotes were making their way over to the pond where the ducks had resumed feeding without a care. 

Moving on to other areas of the refuge along the 12-mile auto tour loop visitors will find elevated decks and blinds from which to view the birds, a boardwalk extending out into a marsh and trails to follow.

Mountain lion activity has been noted on the refuge and some areas and trails have been closed as a precaution. Pets are allowed on some areas of the refuge but must remain within a vehicle when on the auto tour loop.

A visitors' center located across the road from the tour area houses a gift shop where books, posters, snacks and beverages can be found along with an interpretive display that illustrates some of the refuge’s history and other information.

Volunteers contribute greatly to the refuge’s operation and are on hand at the visitors’ center to assist the public.

Visitors to the refuge will find other areas of interest beyond the auto tour loop including a new overlook that provides an expansive view of the refuge and surrounding wilderness areas.

The overlook is located on Route 1 just south of the visitor center, past the canyon trailhead and just beyond the railroad trestle. 
Those seeking to stretch their legs following the day of observing the birds from the confine of their cars will find numerous trails to hike including the Canyon Trail, a fairly easy, 2.2 mile roundtrip up a sandy wash to a hilltop offering excellent views, then on through an interesting side canyon and back again to the wash.

Like any high desert hike, plenty of water, a good hat and sturdy shoes are essential to enjoying the trip.

Hikers will also find the Chupadera Trail north of the visitors’ center off Route 1 provides a good three mile hike up to an overlook from where one can see more of the refuge and the surrounding countryside.

A visitor’s guide containing a rudimentary map of the refuges’ hiking trails can be obtained at the visitors’ center or from staff in the kiosk at the entrance to the auto tour loop. It costs $5 to take the tour.

And while the Bosque del Apache lends itself well to picnicking those who save their appetites will be delighted to find two of the best hamburger joints in the state, the Owl Bar and CafĂ© and the Buckhorn Tavern, in the nearby Village of San Antonio. 
Both of these longtime establishments have been serving up cold beer and great, green chile cheeseburgers to road weary travelers of I-25 and NM 380 for decades and have achieved legendary status.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Taxidermy Shop in Heart of Albuquerque a Wild Adventure

 By Karl Moffatt
Behind a nondescript storefront on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue lies an amazing wildlife display where gleaming eyes, glistening hides and snarling teeth greet astonished visitors.

“It’s my own little museum,” D.L. Gruben of American Wildlife Taxidermy says of his extensive display of hundreds of different animals from around the world, most of whom he hunted himself.

There are scary lions and bears of course, but there’s also a cuddly mama bobcat playing with her kitten, a fox arching and stretching her back upon wakening from a nap and plenty of graceful birds in flight.

It’s a magical place where visitors can get a realistic impression of wildlife right in the heart of urban Albuquerque. 

About 3,000 local school kids a year pass through the doors of Gruben’s shop to gaze in wonderment and awe at some 500 mounted animals behind glass display cases, the proprietor says.

Many are children from surrounding Indian pueblos, a lot are 4-H Club and FFA (Future Farmers of America) students and most leave amazed, Gruben says.

Gruben, 67, has been operating at the same location for forty years but got his start in taxidermy as a boy growing up on his family’s cotton farm in Rotan, Texas.

One of seven children -- three brothers and four sisters -- Gruben learned at an early age how to hunt and trap game animals and then developed an artistic knack for preserving them.

Gruben went on to attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock where he met and married his wife of 46 years, Alice, and then graduated in 1966 with a degree in animal science. The couple has two daughters, Dyanne and Deborah, who also live in Albuquerque.

Gruben, who followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the agriculture industry, started out as farm manager, overseeing livestock operations until he met and went to work for Jimmie Dean, the famous singer, actor and sausage maker.

Gruben managed Dean’s packing plant in Plainview, Texas, for several years until he decided to indulge his hobby and become a taxidermist. 

Gruben then discovered a taxidermy shop was up for sale in Albuquerque and moved to the Land of Enchantment where his business has flourished ever since.

When’s he’s not working, Gruben can usually be found hunting, either in his adopted home state, Alaska or his favorite destination, South Africa. 

Most of the mounts found in Gruben’s display cases were taken by him, including his favorite African safari trophy, a Greater Kudu, with its massive spiral horns and impressive size and markings.

There are many others, too, including a big, black, water buffalo, a rhino with a great horn and dazzling, stripped zebras.

Gruben’s shop also features a diorama behind glass representing a marsh scene in which various fish can be seen gliding about underwater while overhead, birds and other animals abound.

Gruben said he had hoped the city’s natural history museum would use some of his mounts for displays but when they didn’t, he built his own inside the shop for the public to enjoy.

Anyone is welcome to stop in, view the displays and ask questions, Gruben says.

Gruben says the art of taxidermy has come a long way since his early days in the business when the process was much more time consuming and laborious.

Nowadays, the mass production of glass eyes, specific to certain animals, has negated the need to painstakingly paint glass marbles to imitate an animal’s natural look.

And pre-formed and made to order foam bodies have replaced the need to arduously sculpt and shape a replica of an animal’s body with paper and other materials, Gruben says.

That’s good news for a shop that endeavors to process 30 mounts a week during the busy hunting season of September through January, he adds.

Nonetheless, one thing that hasn’t changed is the artistic talent one needs in order to succeed in the profession.

For example, the use of high quality paints and easily carved foam bodies has much improved the end result in the traditional mounting of a fish.

But accurately preserving a fish and honoring its appearance requires a trained eye and the skilled application of several coats of various paints to attain the depth and luminosity the fish once displayed, Gruben says. 
Martin Gaigl, 47, of Albuquerque, has been mounting fish for Gruben's customers for the last 10 years.
Gruben notes that the business of mounting a fish has definitely evolved with the times as anglers can now have a replica of a fish they have “caught and released” built to exact specifications using measurements such as girth, length and weight.

A real good photo comes in handy, too, Gruben says.

One aspect of the business Gruben does not like to indulge customers in is the mounting of dead pets.

It is very difficult to mimic the look of a live, loving pet that once had been seen and enjoyed for many years as compared with a wild animal whose actual appearance may be a mystery to many, Gruben says.

“You just can’t put the life back into them,” Gruben says with a shake of his head.

Thus he tries to talk people out of it, but still ends up doing a few every year.

One of the unforeseen pleasures of his business of late has been the use of many of his mounts by the movie industry including those seen in the bar scene of the movie “Wild Hogs”.

“Just about every movie shot here in the last ten years we’ve rented to,” Gruben says.

In another movie filmed in New Mexico featuring Eric Estrada, Gruben supplied enough mounts to recreate a hunter’s entire trophy room.

“That was pretty cool,” he says. 

Gruben says he still likes to hunt here in New Mexico when he gets the chance, noting the Gila for its trophy elk, the Lordsburg and Silver City area for its javelina hunting, the Bootheel for its diminutive Coues deer and Caracas Mesa near Dulce for trophy mule deer.

Gruben, named after his father, Danie, which accounts in part for his use of the initials D.L. before his last name, says he also enjoys working with photography and is building a website to feature photos of his many mounts.

IF You Go: From Santa Fe take I-25 south to Central Avenue in Albuquerque. Head east past the University of New Mexico and through Knob Hill to just past the La Hacienda restaurant and look for American Wildlife Taxidermy on the right at 4410 Central Avenue, SE,  just before Ron Peterson’s gun shop.

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