COLUMBUS GROVE, Ohio Gary and Larry Clymer got their first taste of big-game hunting when they graduated from high school and their dad took them out West as a present.
Forty-eight years later, the Putnam County twins have a collection of trophies so large and varied that they converted the village s old Power and Water Building into a spare-no-expense, climate-controlled museum to house it.
The reason for the museum is more practical than it might appear, Larry said.
You have to have a place to put these things, he said. What do you do with an elephant?
Not just an elephant. There are lions and tigers and bears, zebras, a giraffe, hippopotamus, moose, cape buffalo, a leopard and hyena, and plenty of large fish.
Gary said he counted the animals in the collection recently and came up with 102. He and his brother killed all but a few, mostly on trips to Alaska and a series of African safaris.
A single white-tail deer common in northwest Ohio is mounted in one corner.
We hunt for deer every year around here, but we never see anything big enough to shoot, Gary said. The only thing we shoot are world-class animals. We don t just shoot anything.
While hunting and bringing home trophies sounds like an all-consuming hobby for the 66-year-old brothers, they say their wives are supportive.
If we didn t have [the mounts] up here, we d have to have them in the house and they wouldn t want that, Larry said with a laugh.
Gary s wife, Bev, has accompanied her husband on three hunting expeditions, preferring to shoot animals, she said, with her camera. She actually suggested creating the museum during an especially bountiful safari in Africa in 1998.
They got 15 animals and they said, What are we going to do with all of these? I said, You re going to have to turn that power and light building into a museum, and they laughed at me, Mrs. Clymer recalled.
A year or so later, the idea sounded pretty good.
Many of their trophies had been stored or displayed at the brothers business, Clymer Enterprises in nearby Pandora. After they sold the business about five years ago, they began turning the vacant old brick building on East Sycamore Street into an impressive two-story showroom.
With a fireplace and elaborate oak paneling and trim, it now looks more like an executive boardroom than a hunting lodge.
The rear of the building, which has a 30-foot ceiling, will house their 20-foot giraffe and a massive elephant mount.
Local artist Oscar Velasquez is in the process of painting two of the interior brick walls with a mural of African wildlife.
The Clymer Wildlife Museum, as they ve dubbed it, has hosted school groups, the Northwest Ohio Safari Club to which they belong, and visitors who just happen to hear about it or get brought there by
relatives or friends in town.
Gary said some locals have no idea the museum exists, although he was surprised to see what happened when a red light bulb mounted near a deer s nose at the second-floor window burned out last Christmas.
I didn t think anyone looked at that, but it burned out and I got 10 phone calls, he said.
For the most part, the museum is pretty low-key. The Clymers don t have a Web site and don t want one. They open the museum by appointment only. I don t want to do it for a living, Gary said.
He and his brother do want to see it remain after they re gone, though. They said they have set up a foundation that they hope will provide funding for the museum to continue under their children s guidance.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-353-5972.