WILTZ: A snoop into a fabulous home
One of the businesses I became acquainted with at the recent Dallas Safari Club show belongs to Tom Julian.
In 1972, Tom Julian was a San Diego area general contractor. On a particular day that took him two hours to drive 12 miles, he decided that he had had enough of heavy traffic and air pollution. Upon reaching home, he told his wife to pack. Their trail eventually led to Heber Springs, Ark.
Now in an environment the Julians found more to their liking, Tom's general contracting gravitated toward incorporating the finest cabinetry work possible into a project.
Wood finishing reached a level never before seen in cabinetry work. Designing secret interior rooms with hidden access became a part of the formula. Imagine a fireplace swinging open at the touch of a brick to reveal a priceless gun collection!
These rooms featured those same classic cabinets and shelving that Julian was noted for. The world's finest libraries and trophy rooms would become his unique domain.
Dick and Mary Cabela of Sidney, Neb., recently built a new home. I learned about it in the January/February 2012 issue of Sporting Classics magazine. Like most avid hunters, they had a vision of what their dream trophy room should look like. It would be a place that captured memories of their experiences. They made their trophy room a multisensory experience.
Upon entry, we're greeted by the sinister stare of a cape buffalo. Behind him an elephant with raised tusks circles a baobab tree. A lion roars in the distance while hyenas fight over a kori bustard. Exotic birds call from the trees above as a flash of lightening and the crash of thunder cause us to forget we're in Nebraska.
Three leopards climbing overhead capture your attention. You click your remote and a leopard growls.
Then we hear Dick and Mary talk about leopard hunting strategy. What's that grizzly scene up ahead? Vultures are descending and feeding on a zebra carcass. On the left, a big croc has snatched a leaping wildebeest from mid-air! A similar striking scene exists at the Kansas City Cabela's.
I've seen actual video footage of this that made me think twice about getting too close to the water of an Okefenokee Swamp canal.
A quick transition places us in North America. Pronghorn antelope, coyotes and rattlesnakes grace the first scene where panoramic murals set a stunning background. We pass elk and whitetails at Wapiti Pass before encountering turkeys. A mountain lion ahead is caught in the act of pouncing on a mule deer at Pine Ridge. Upon entering the tundra, we see brown bears fish for salmon in a trickling stream where we actually hear the water as it flows over the rocks.
Wolves and caribou lie ahead. Inside Mammoth Cave, we find an actual mammoth skull. You study the hieroglyphics on the wall until a howling wolf outside urges us to move along. We slip by those gruesome vultures again on our way to Cameroon. Up Kopje Mountain we see a mountain nyala.
Beyond him a Lord Derby eland, the world's largest antelope, munches flowers while a giant forest hog and a red river hog slip through the green brush.
A wooden bridge takes us over a lagoon and into the rain forest. Look! A bongo! Colobus monkeys scurry as I call out. A duiker breaks for heavier cover. It's been an hour, and according to a panel, we have yet to visit Kopje Mountain, Hippo Island, Panthera, Asia/South Pacific, Sheep Mountain, the Art Hut and the Lion Bar.
Now we enter the Okavango Delta and head to the Sinkhole. A glass elevator appears to descend into an underwater pit of giant crocodiles! Eventually, when all destinations have been visited, we appear to be back where we started. Isn't that the same cape buffalo and elephant we saw at the beginning? Now we're at the Lion Bar. A fearsome lion is licking the bar where a drink has spilled. Under the glass countertop are old passports and hunting permits. What yarns have been spun from these bar stools!
Of the Cabelas' 42,000-square foot home, 15,000 square feet are consumed by the above described trophy room. All of the home's rooms fit a central theme. The bedrooms have names like The African Mask Room, The Roman Room, or The Egyptian Room. The kitchen, library, office and antique firearms room called for extensive woodworking. I'll bet you know who did the work. Julian and Sons, of course.
I want to go beyond the descriptions I gleaned from a magazine and talk about our feelings and impressions after reading this. Some readers may be jealous, but I believe most will marvel at the Cabela's creativity.
It's the end result of American ingenuity, long hours of hard work and some serious risk-taking. All will want to make this tour, but regretfully we believe that it is something that will never happen. Well, I have news for some of you.
When Dick and Mary are gone, no one, including their children, will live in this extraordinary home. Thanks to the Cabelas' generosity, it will become a museum.
I'm thankful that they chose to stay in Nebraska instead of picking Florida or Arizona. Will I ever see it? Perhaps. It isn't that I don't want to, but I have no desire to outlive the Cabelas. I do find it difficult to imagine. Their trophy room is almost 21 times as large as our house. You can bet that the next time I'm in Sidney, I'm going to drive by.
*See you next week.