Saturday, August 13, 2022

Coopwood: For Six Decades Shop Catered to Hunters, Also Town’s "Museum"

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Hicks Taxidermy was an institution.

Growing up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Shelby, I kid you not when I say that Shelby was the mirror image of Mayberry.
If you were a fan of the old Andy Griffith show, that was Shelby. It was a simple town with almost zero crime. Our dogs followed us everywhere we peddled on our bicycles and even when we went into one of the stores, our dogs followed us right inside. And, when I was 12-years-old, my father bought me a 1948 Willy’s Jeep. I rode it all over town without a driver’s license and that didn’t matter at all in my town, the police could have cared less. These are just two of the wonderful snapshots of Shelby.
One of the major stops in downtown Shelby when I was growing up was Trustin Hicks’ taxidermy shop. Not only was Mr. Hicks a renowned taxidermists with people from all over the world shipping him their finest animals to mount, he was also a huge history buff. In glass display cases he presented one of the best indian artifact collections I have ever seen from the region. He had hundreds of arrow heads, pottery, trade beads, and other unique indian artifacts. Mr. Hicks was also a great collector of rocks from the region and he cut them in half so people could see the colorful insides of the rocks. Animals were a large part of his collection. He had several mounts displayed on the walls in his shop and in glass cases. One of the animals displayed was a two-headed calf and when I was little, that particular one always scared me to death!
 
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A buck deer got everyone’s attention.

Around Christmas, Mr. Hicks put a buck deer in his shop window that had a blinking red light on its nose for all of the children to see mimicking Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In essence, Mr. Hicks’ shop was Shelby’s unofficial museum and people came from all over to take a look at his collections.
Mr. Hicks operated his shop for 64 years until he died about 15 years ago. All of these many years later, time has stood still in the shop while it has been closed. Everything has been perfectly preserved from the last day he locked the front door. Family members have not moved or touched one thing.
Sadly, a few weeks ago, robbers finally broke into the establishment and stole most of the trophies and collections. I knew it was only a matter of time before this would happen. Some of the items stolen were a Golden Eagle, a Great Horned Owl, the two headed calf, a record-book trophy whitetail deer buck and all of those unique indian artifacts.
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Scott Coopwood

According to Mr. Hicks’ son, T.C. III, most of the mounted animals stolen were on the Federal Protected Species list. Mr. Hicks maintained permits to display the various species.
T.C. III told me he was going to post photos of the collection on Facebook in hopes that someone would see his posts and contact him about the robbery.
T.C. III, also mentioned to me that the theft was not an ordinary robbery.
“The thieves took out a window in the front, but took all the items out through the roof in the back of the building,” says Hicks. “Someone involved also wrote the word ‘Fielas’ in the dust on one of the cases where the arrowheads and Eagle were located.
For the many who grew up in Shelby and for the untold numbers who passed through the Hicks Taxidermy Shop, we will never forget this unique gem located in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. It was special in every way and so was the late T.C. Hicks, Jr.
Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current . 

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