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This article was first published January 7, 2019, at sportingclassicsdaily.com.

For seven summers, the king enjoyed the adoration of his subjects, the ladies of his court literally fawning before him. His graying cape was stretched stately across his regal shoulders and the crown atop his head was adorned with sixteen ivory tipped points. From the muddy red banks of the Cimarron River to snaking State Highway 51, he walked the length and breadth of his kingdom with an air of absolute authority, an entourage of lesser dignitaries trailing in his wake. To these, the king delegated responsibility and dispensed justice with the wisdom of Solomon. Lost to history are the number of battles he won and sons he sired.

In the year of our Lord, 2010, the King of Oklahoma’s Green Country unwittingly followed that fall’s queen into ambush and was deposed by means of poisoning. Lead poisoning. I waited half an hour after I pulled the trigger, watching the white oaks weep their leaves upon the forest floor and paying my respects to the noble king while he lie in state.

That sixteen point, seven and a half year old sovereign of the Oklahoma hardwoods is wearing a Santa hat at present, and there’s a homemade Christmas tree ornament dangling from the kicker on his right G3. In a couple of weeks, his main beams will be strung with lights to ring in the New Year, and come April, there’ll be an Easter egg balanced between his brow tines. A deer for all seasons, no doubt. He’s more court jester than he is majestic monarch these days. Not exactly what I had in mind when I enthroned him above the fireplace all those years ago.

It could be worse, though. A family friend’s Cape Buffalo mount hung in my dad’s office for years where sunflower seeds were regularly shoved between its lips, reducing the beast responsible for more big game hunter’s deaths than any other to little more than a cartoon character. Kind of a Black Death Bug’s Bunny. But even then the old dugga boy still had some dignity. I’ve seen shoulder mounts banished to barns and garages, with everything from water hoses to hula-hoops hanging from their antlers. Not a dignified destination, to be sure, but at least those trophies still retain some usefulness. I’ve heard tell of aging hunters offering their memory-filled mounts to ungrateful grandchildren, and I’ve seen those same mounts for sale at flea markets and yard sales when those heirs failed to fully appreciate the value of the gifts they’d been given.

I suppose every taxidermied treasure eventually undergoes the same transition, and truthfully, I’ve accepted it. That whitetail on my wall may have been memorable and majestic eight years ago, but these days he’s simply part of the family fabric, woven into the tapestry of our lives, and I’m just thankful he still has a home above the hearth.

The king is dead.

Long live the king.

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