When a lion unexpectedly sprang into the Land Rover on a safari, only a cool head and an equally quick shot saved the hunters. A moment from "Green Hills of Africa" by Ernest Hemingway? Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa"? Actually, this incident happened to the founder of Brasher Auto Auction, J. Frank Brasher.Visitors to the new auction facilities at 780 S. 56th West can see a Boone and Crockett record display of the late Brasher's expeditions in North America as well as his trips to Africa, Central America and Mongolia. One wall is devoted to mountain sheep and includes two of the three "Grand Slams" shot by Brasher and his son Jay. A grand slam consists of the four types of bighorn sheep found in North America: Stone Sheep, Dall, Rocky Mountain Big Horn and Desert Sheep. While the sheep's horn is measured by what percentage of "curl" there is, such as a three-quarter curl, several of the Brasher trophies are a curl and a quarter.
J. Frank Brasher started his business when auto auctioning was in its infancy. In 1949, when "Brasher's Auto Auction" began doing business out of a Salt Lake City garage with a mud floor, there were only three to five such auctions in the United States. Jay Brasher, now heading up his father's business, related in a Deseret News interview that in that first year of business 800 or 900 cars were sold. This year the volume will be well over 25,000.
Another Brasher son, Larry, oversees a branch of the business in Sacramento while Jay Brasher has been dividing his time between auctions in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Having recently sold the Los Angeles business, he will be moving his family to Utah this summer.
Hunting runs deep in the Brasher family psyche. "My father was raised on a farm and went to school in Delta," Jay Brasher related. "He loved to hunt, and when his business successes allowed him to do so, he hunted in Africa twice, made over 12 trips to Alaska as well as hunting in Central America and Mongolia," Brasher said.
The elder Brasher was probably proudest of the polar bear he shot in 1968. "The bear was wounded and because of the way the wind was blowing, they had to track it through thick foliage from behind. The bear was waiting for the hunters on his own backtrail and whirled around as my father shot it at less than a 10-foot distance," Jay Brasher said.
Displayed at the Brasher business are a jaguar from British Honduras, an elk from Echo Canyon near Morgan, a mountain lion from Beaver, along with musk ox, lion, leopard, water buffalo, walrus, Kodiak bear, sailfish, Mahi Mahi and a rhinoceros. The caribou, moose, walrus, buffalo and antelope are record trophies listed by the arbiter of rec-ords for North America, Boone and Crockett.
The huge elephant tusks displayed are not real ivory. Jay Brasher explained that on his father's last trip to Africa, a charge was levied on ivory: $30 a pound. Since the tusks weighed as much as 95 pounds each, they were left behind. "The big, long safaris that they used to make movies of are a thing of the past," Brasher said. "Today hunting is done on private 50,000-acre ranches."
Most of the taxidermy was done for the Brashers by Consolidated Field Sport. Bob Paulson, president, said that while the Brasher collection is the largest displayed at a business, he has a client in Santa Clara that has over 300 pieces displayed at his home.
A timber wolf with ptarmigans was done by Consolidated for Brashers and displayed at the Las Vegas meeting of the Safari Club, a worldwide hunting organization. The wolf is now on display in an upstairs board room at Brasher's and is a realistic winter scene. "Snow" is dusted across the wolf's muzzle and moisture can be seen in his nostrils. The ptarmigans flushed from their cover are frozen in mid-air. You can almost hear the whir of wings. This type of detail can also be seen in a Consolidated grizzly and elk tableau in Brasher's front window. "Three or four years ago when we did these scenes we didn't do the kind of detailing used now. Now we put a frozen pond with fish beneath the ice in those kind of scenes."
Paulson is headed for a trip to South Africa where he will hunt kudu, spring buck, wart hog and impala with bow and arrow. "This is the most attractive time to go to Africa that I can remember," he said. Paulson is currently finishing a lion in a leaping pose and invites visitors to see the work in progress.
Jay Brasher is leaving soon for an archery hunt in Saskatchewan seeking black bear. "I like hunting the North American animals, especially sheep," he noted. Now that he won't be commuting from California every week as he has done for the past 21 years, he will continue to hunt and add to the collection his father began. If you should drop by Brasher's Auto Auction, don't be surprised to also see classic automobiles displayed - but that's another story.