A former Pope County taxidermist is back in the area after a stint in the greener grasses of Afghanistan working alongside the military and in Nashville, Tenn., working with musicians to perfect the tones of their amplifiers.
But it's hard to keep a Southern Illinois boy away for long, especially when the bucks start grunting. This fall Skip Sims decided it was time to come back, get into the woods and reconnect with his customers.
Sims has earned the respect of taxidermists as a two-time champion of the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention and Sport Show. He had a nice home on a piece of property at Eichorn, but the former itch of action and the promise of good money enticed the former Merchant Marine back to oversees duties.
He took a job with Dyn-Corp that was contracting with the military in Afghanistan.
He began as a crain operator for the military before moving into a position with Dyn-Corp's Health Safety Environment arm. His position was to ensure OSHA standards were adhered to at military bases. Some of the duties included ensuring fire extinguishers were where they were supposed to be. Other were conducting safety drills. His goal was to make sure the investigators at the Defense Contract Management Agency did not find OSHA compliance issues.
"I tried not to be a cop about it," Sims said.
"You attract more flies with honey."
He became a trainer for new Health Safety Environment employees and then was promoted to regional supervisor. He worked in Camp Leatherneck, then Kandahar Air Base and then Shindan Air Base.
"And then I finished my tour and came home," Sims said.
"I was anxious to get back to my friends and family and was anxious to getting my studios together in Nashville."
While one part of Sims' heart is in the Shawnee Hills of southeastern Illinois, another part is in the heart of the music industry in Nashville, Tenn.
He established a home in Nashville, began working on guitar amplifiers and met his girlfriend, Sophia Severino who he is introducing to Southern Illinois. His passion is working on Marshall amplifiers with a soldering iron to achieve the perfect old tone.
"I saw a real need for a real old-fashioned tone chaser," Sims said.
His reputation for meticulousness built until he was working for British Audio Service shaping amps for some of the most skilled guitarists in the country.
"It's something that has taken off. It's like the new Marshalls have taken off, like the old Marshalls are new," he said.
He and the other British Audio Service engineers regularly visit the clubs and see their customers on stage. After each of those visits the customers come back to the store to get their equipment tweaked.
Page 2 of 2 - Sims says his attention to detail comes from training on a shrimp boat when he was growing up in Alabama. The captain would set "traps" on the boat for Sims to find.
He said he would find the problems — often little metal contraptions laid about — and leave them in an ashtray for the captain to see. Whether details in the wiring of an amplifier, details in the workspace on a military base or details of the shape of a turkey's neck when he is mounting it, Sims is a perfectionist in his work.
Sims has traveled and expanded his horizons, but is back in Pope County now wanting his midwest customers know he is ready to take their trophy bucks they kill during the shotgun seasons and give them the lifelike mounts they have come to expect.
"It's truly an honoring of the animals that have been harvested. It's preserving the outdoor memories and enshrining the animal. It's about tradition and it's an old tradition," Sims said.
Sims has been chasing a big buck in Pope County with his bow. He will continue the hunt with a shotgun and will return for the second shotgun season in December. And he will be checking on his local customers.
"My reach to the people of Southern Illinois is to make good on promises," Sims said.
"I'll do a big sweep and pick everything up before I go home for Thanksgiving in Nashville."
He will be back for the second shotgun season and will stay in Nashville through the spring turkey season. At some point next spring he plans to return to the Middle East to work and earn money to purchase property in Southern Illinois.
He invites those wanting to get back in touch to call him at (615) 927-1930.