A visit to the principal's office at Summerville High School is a trip to another world.
The first thing you encounter, just inside the door, is a 425-pound lioness with her mouth open. But have no fear, she's stuffed. Principal Buddy Chapel (pronounced Chay-pul) shot her in South Africa.
"It's different hunting something that you're part of their food chain," said Chapel, who started at the school this past fall. "That's what I tell kids."
He came to Summerville from Allentown, Pa., where he was a math teacher, middle-school principal and the district administrator for Middle School Strategic Initiatives. A former Marine drill sergeant, he keeps his gray hair cut short. He was wearing a Marines necktie during a visit to his office last week.
The lioness is part of a large collection of animals that covers every wall in his office. Creatures with big eyes and long horns seem to stare at you from every direction.
"I just like for kids or parents or anybody that visits me to very quickly come into my office and get a feel for who I am," he said.
Chapel says students get a kick out of his collection.
"They have a great time," he said. "It's like a big zoo for them. It hasn't freaked any kids out that I know about."
On the other hand, he's aware not everybody appreciates his hobby.
"I told the kids when I first got here, 'Listen, if you're an animal activist or something like that, and you want to meet with me, I'll meet you somewhere outside my office,' " he said. "I don't want to interfere with their beliefs or anything like that."
On the right wall near the lioness is a mountain reedbuck, one of the many species of antelope he has collected. Nearby is a South African porcupine.
"It's a great conversation piece," he said of the prickly critter.
Behind the desk are a kudu, gemsbok, waterbok, Kalahari springbok, niala, common springbok and massive eland, the biggest African antelope.
On the left wall near the desk is a little deerlike creature called a duiker. It's mounted over two wild boars he shot in the Everglades, the only animals in the room that are not from South Africa.
Sitting on a table farther up the wall is a springhare, which looks like a tiny kangaroo with a squirrel's tail and woodchuck teeth. He says South African farmers consider them pests and hire hunters to thin the population. Mounted above the little rodent are a warthog that looks like Pumbaa in "The Lion King," a bush pig, a blue wildebeest and a black wildebeest.
On the rear wall, near the door to the restroom, are a black springbok, impala, red hartebeest, common blesbok and white blesbok.
More horns and eyes fill the walls of the restroom. Those beasts were shot by his son, a teacher in California.
Chapel went to South Africa in 2007 and 2010. Each trip cost him about $8,000. A trophy hunter's goal is to get an impressive specimen of each species.
"You get over there and it gets in your blood," he said. "It's like a virus. Because no matter what you can imagine as a hunter, to get over there and see literally thousands of animals a day, of all different species ..."
He goes on safaris with professional guides. The rules of engagement are strict. The guides tell him what he can shoot. For instance, the lioness was targeted in the Kalahari Desert because she was too old to mate. A friend shot a male lion who had been kicked out of the pride.
"So it may be days or weeks and the younger lions are going to run across it," he said. "They're going to kill the older lion because they don't want it mating with their lionesses. That lion is going to end up being killed anyway. They (the local guides) are very familiar with the animals. You have to take the animals they want removed from the reserve. They're older, more mature animals, so there's enough space for all the animals to feed."
Chapel walks around his office, picking up welcome gifts from students.
"I hope the kids see, without even speaking to me, they basically can get an idea at least of my hobbies and that I'm not just a principal," he said.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.