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Much of the wall decor in the third-floor Rayburn office that has served as Rep. John D. Dingell’s Capitol Hill headquarters for 23 years would be better suited to a hunting lodge.
There’s the head of an antelope the Michigan Democrat shot in Wyoming, a nod to the prairie landscape he long ago patrolled as a park ranger. A striking albino deer is mounted in another corner, and a Michigan whitetail that Dingell took down to win a hunting bet with a Presbyterian preacher hangs near the door.
“His deer had 21 points, and he couldn’t believe it,” Congress’ longest-serving member recalled in a recent interview, as he gazed up at the buck. “This is only an eight-pointer, but he outweighed the other deer, so I won.”
Nearly a dozen of Dingell’s trophy kills surround the suite and each has a story. The 29-term congressman will clear out all the mementos — the beautiful 4-foot white marlin, gigantic elk and caribou antlers, stuffed ducks and mallard decoys — at year’s end, when he retires.
“Things Deborah won’t let me have in the house, that’s what you see here,” Dingell joked, referring to his wife, whose face smiles from a few framed pictures in the office. “Had I been a bachelor, I’d have had a bunch of this hanging at home.”
The snarling head of a Russian boar might not mesh with his wife’s interior decor, but it represents “a hell of a hunt,” according to Dingell. The 87-year-old, who once sat on the board of the National Rifle Association, shot the wild beast six times with a .44 revolver, but “the bullets were breaking apart.”
“They’ve got a shoulder like a tank. ... He almost got me,” Dingell said, planting his wooden cane firmly into the carpeting. “I put the last round between his two shoulder blades.”
There are no guns in his current office, but Dingell once kept a copy of the 1769 Charleville musket that the Marquis de Lafayette fired during the Revolutionary War in his Capitol Hill quarters. He’s occupied four Rayburn offices since 1965, according to the House Clerk’s Office of History, Art and Archives.
He spent his first decade in Congress on the sixth floor of Longworth, which was the newest of the House office buildings when he arrived in 1955.