(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
"I had been reading about the system, developed by Allen Anger, in magazines," Poe said. "The freeze-dry systems have been used for years in hospitals and military. Anger came out with this idea for a system to use in taxidermy. It is easy to work with."
Poe installed the system last week and said he is practicing with his own projects but will be ready for his customers in a week or so. His first project with the new equipment is turkey heads.
"The freeze-dryer will allow us to use the real heads on the turkeys we process," Poe said. "Because of shrinkage and other things, without the freeze-dry system we use plastic heads on the turkeys we mount."
Poe said, as far as he knows, he is the first taxidermist in Arkansas with the freeze-dry system. He knows of two in Missouri.
"I will be able to do twice the work," Poe said. "The system will also allow me to do a better product. There is no shrinkage using the freeze-dry process. It is impossible to get a perfect specimen. I've always said we can't recreate anything as good as God originally made it. My goal is to make things as realistic as possible."
Poe has started using the machine with turkey heads and will be using the freeze-dry system for fish and small animals.
He will continue to mount ducks in the conventional way.
The freeze-dry process is a slow process Poe explained.
"We increase the temperature several degrees over a period of 10 days," Poe said. "Once the process is completed, the specimens are preserved in perfect condition. In addition to wild animals and birds, I will be able to preserve dogs and cats for pet owners."
He explained the Frigidaire upright freezer is colder than a normal freezer. A vapor trap and vacuum pump are used to pull all of the moisture slowly to prevent distortion.
Shawn and his wife, Eva, plan to use the system for floral preservation.
Special wedding bouquets or other live flowers can be freeze-dryed and turned into a decorative keepsake.
"We want to add this service in the near future," Poe said.
The Poe's daughter, Nicole, 14, also works in the business.
Poe said he is looking forward to working with the Taxi-Freeze-Dryer.
"A lot of people have come in the shop to see how it works and what it will do," Poe said. "It is a welcome addition to my business."
Poe recently made his first training DVD featuring mounting rattlesnakes from start to finish. Poe enjoys showing his work in competition. He said he learns from the judges' comments and seeing other taxidermists' work.