Taxidermy collection donatedto local Cresco Wildlife Club
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:19am admin
—Reflects on Dale Reis’ life, love of nature, history
Kay Ihns ~ TPD Staff
HOWARD COUNTY - Visitors to the Cresco Wildlife Club during this year’s Mighty Howard County Fair may have noticed more taxidermy animals than in the past.
That was due to Bonair native Dale Reis, who gave many animals and 25 fish to the facility. His fish have driftwood backing so a person can tell his from the others.
The animals included a black bear, wolf, red fox, and a coyote. The black bear fur skin was shot by a bow and arrow in a region of Ontario, Canada. The red fox was shot by a gun and the coyote was shot in the 1970s near Davis Corners by the John Deere dealership. The taxidermy was done by Reis’ hand.
Cresco Wildlife Club board member Scott Webb said, “We want to sincerely thank Dale for his donations.”
It all started when he was a teenager. He knew a local person, Roy Banning of Cresco, who went to school for taxidermy, and Reis asked to read his books. So he was self-taught.
Reis lives in Lime Springs, in a large house near the edge of town. The site is very close to nature and he enjoys watching the animals outside his window. He is now 86 years old and worked as a barber in Lime Springs for 63 years, owning it for the past 60 years.
Reis has two children, a son, Larry and a daughter, Lori. His wife, Joanne, passed away years ago from cancer. They were married close to 40 years.
Dale has had an interesting life of adventure and studying nature. When he was 13 or 14, he started his animal collection. The first was an accident when a weasel was harmed while farming.
When Dale was 14 or 15 years old, he caught live rattle snakes in a gunny sack for the fair for money.
One summer Dale and a neighbor friend caught 70 snapping turtles. They ate them all, making him very wise on living off his hobby.
But hunting and trapping were more than hobbies. They gave him the opportunity to buy an 80-acre farm from 140 fox hides, which was only part of them because the season was not over. He worked from south of LeRoy, Minn. to Decorah.
The first animal he caught on purpose was a civet cat (a spotted skunk, which were common in Iowa in the early part of the 20th century). He still has the skin in his collection.
Dale also has many other interests, such as wood carving and collecting Native American arrowheads. He has learned much of the history of this area. He noted years ago there was an official Native American Reservation on the north side of Lime Springs by the second bridge on the south side. The reservation did not last very long.
Dale said, “I’ve walked a thousand miles to find arrow heads over the years.” He would wait until the farmers dug up their fields. After the rains came, he could see these shiny arrow heads. When he did find an arrow head, Dale said with a smile, “That felt like a great day.”
Dale also has many stories about caring for animals. Years ago he had a pet deer. He even has a picture kissing his friend. In those days, the local deer herds would go up to LeRoy for the winter season. Some unknown person shot the deer, and Dale cared for it.
Dale’s love of nature was passed on to his son, Larry. He is the Winneshiek County Naturalist and author of several books. One book is called “Once a Trapper: The Outdoor Life of Dale Reis (My Dad).” In this work, Larry honors his father by passing on some of the knowledge he learned from him over the years.
In the book, there are 14 different animals that Dale hunted and trapped, five different kinds of favorite fish to catch — northern pike, smallmouth bass, common carp, black bullheads and suckers, arrowhead hunting, nutting, berrying and living off the land. There is a wealth of information in those pages. The book also told of farm life from his father’s perspective.
Larry talked about his father as a person who likes nature and taught him to respect wildlife. “He especially taught me to protect nature for the children and later generations.”
Some of Larry’s favorite memories of his father are going out early and spending until the afternoon searching for and finding arrowheads in a field. Other fond memories are of searching for fossils and agates and taking fishing trips to Canada.
Another interesting part of his life was his military service. Dale served in the Army and was stationed in Vienna, Austria. Then the land was divided into three parts English, Russian, and United States. When he was there, the government wanted him to wear tailor-made clothes. He also was given the opportunity to learn better German.
Dale Reis has given the community so much from his heart and taught many true lessons to all who have met him.