Arnie Lewis was born in the desert west of Vernal. I believe the small town of Roosevelt was his first home, or at least the town where he went to public school. The fact that he was from the desert doubtless helped him relate to dad in quarries which are virtually always in deserts, or highly inhospitable land. I don’t know anything about Arnie’s life before 1949-50. That was the time that he was hired by Ernest Unterman who was director of the newly-built Field House of Natural History in Vernal Utah.
Arnie was hired to prepare and mount whatever specimens Ernest requested, which included everything, starting with insects, through animals and birds, ending with dinosaurs, the largest specimen being the skull of the uintatherium. The name, which was the name of my county, made this specimen seem personal to me, like it was “mine”.
Dad was working at the L.T. Payton Machine Shop west of the Fieldhouse on US 40, perhaps half a mile. Dad had helped Payton set up that machine shop to qualify it to service the Rangeley Oil Fields in western Colorado. At some point, since he was a personal friend of Ernie Unterman, dad met Arnie. The two hit is off, Arnie being a kind, gentle sort of person who was easy to relate to. I also me him since I went to the Field house as often as I could finagle an invitation out of dad. I liked Arnie because he treated me with what I can only call ‘respect’. That’s an odd term to use to refer to a relationship between an adult and a young child, but I felt like Arnie (1) liked me, and (2) actually listened to me.
At some point, Arnie asked dad to mount two eagle skins that someone had donated to the museum. Dad knew taxidermy from childhood when he took a correspondence course with his own dad, so undertook the project. One of the birds was a golden eagle, but I don’t know the other. In any event, dad finished the mounts which were placed on exhibit high on a wall of the western exhibit room.
I made my own contribution to the Fieldhouse. On one of my non-stop explorations of our two acre farm plot south of Vernal, I saw the most bizarre thing on one the cottonwoods at the entrance into our yard. It was what I learned was an ichneumon wasp. The wasp part was familiar but the apparatus on the back end was not. The wasp had what looked like two long black filaments which it had managed to twist in a circle and poke a hole into the bark. I couldn’t tell lif it was stuck or did it on purpose. When dad got home and told me what it was, I told him I would like to give it to Ernie Unterman. Dad agreed and collected the specimen which was donated and placed on exhibit.