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Conley Geary

Page history last edited by Judi Myers 14 years ago

Conley Geary was born March 19, 1937 & grew up in or near Pringar, Iowa.  His father died when he was 10 & the family couldn’t make a go of the farm, so they moved to town.  His mother did housecleaning while Conley got a paper route, worked in a movie theater, mowed lawns and did odd jobs to make ends meet.  When he was 19 he joined the Navy for 4 years.  Between 1962 & 1965 he met & married Carol, became a father & was working for the Boulder, CO Water Dept, when, he said, “I was sick of digging ditches & having rocks fall on my head.  I took a job in Denver as an apprentice taxidermist with Jonas Brothers.”   In 1973 he & his family moved to Jackson, WY, where Conley eventually set up his own taxidermy shop.  He said, “I had some tough times in Jackson.  The other taxidermists had a corner on the big game animals, so I started with fish & birds.  I was on my own learning how to mount fish from books.  I have lots of money invested in a library.  Later I got support from the outfitters and did bigger animals.  When I had to crate & mail an elk head, it took all day.  I hated that part.  But I never regretted getting up & going to work.  There was always something new & challenging.”  In 2000 Conley moved to Pinedale & retired.  His wife of 42 years died from complications of MS in 2006, and his daughter, 2 granddaughters & 2 great grandkids live in Idaho.

When asked how he got started in his life career, Conley replied, “When Dad took the plow to the blacksmith’s, we’d go into the bar while it was being sharpened.  They had a stuffed eagle with wings spread.  I was always curious how they did that.  I did some sculpting when I was little too.  Dad dug fence post holes & I’d take the muddy clay & model chickens, sheep or hogs.  Mom wrapped them in newspaper, put them in the yard & lit a match to it to fire them.”  Birds have always held an interest for Conley.  When relatives came to hunt on their farm, they’d cut off the duck & pheasant wings. Conley thought the wings had such a pretty spectrum that he nailed them on boards & hung them in the garage until bugs got them.  Another time he was raising ducks.  Someone told him a duckling could swim right after it was born, so he threw one of them into the stock tank.  It swam so well from one side to the other that Conley couldn’t reach it and finally had to take his pants off & get in to catch it.  He liked fish too.  When it was too wet to plow he’d go fishing & put the live fish in the stock tank.  His dad noticed that the cows wouldn’t drink & looked in.  Those fish were spooking the cows.  Conley had to clean out the tank.  He even liked fish heads, dug them out of the trash & tried to save some by tossing them in the eave trough on the garage.  One day it rained & the gutters were all plugged up.  When his dad saw the reason he told Conley he couldn’t “save all this damn stuff!’  Conley  had to clean out the troughs.   Conley’s ‘formal’ taxidermy education began when he was 12.  He said, “When I got my own jobs, I took correspondence lessons from an ad in the back of a magazine - $1.00/month.  Pigeons were easy to come by – my first gun was a 410 - and their skin is easy to work with so I started mounting them.  My only cost was the eyes.  I used my mom’s coat hangers til she got onto that and then I had to buy my own wire.  And I still have my first hide from a Red Fox Squirrel.  I made it into a knife sheath.  When I was 17 I took a test & got my diploma from Northwest School of Taxidermy in Omaha.  When we lived in Boulder, CO, I worked nights for a woman who had a leather shop.  She’d get animal feet in and I’d make hat racks & novelties with them.  In Denver old Mr Jonas was a good teacher.  He died in his 90s.  They didn’t even have to embalm him…. he was so full of arsenic.  We used arsenic to keep bugs out of the mounts back then.”  Conley took up watercolor painting when he moved to Pinedale & is now a regular at Rendezvous Pointe Art Group. His detailed fish & bird paintings are full of brilliant colors and a pleasure to the eyes.                       By Judi Myers, May, 2010


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