BLANCHARD, OKLAHOMA -- Of all the unlikely bar tales, Micheal Collins should have the topper. How could a guy who lives in rural Blanchard, Oklahoma get a private audience with THE Queen Elizabeth based on a conversation over drinks? "That's great," laughs Collins, who's a month removed from his once in a lifetime experience.
The story starts with a talent for art. Collins is one of the best know engravers in the United States. He started years ago with making custom knives, but his real business is carving tiny images into gun stocks. "I've made a living doing stuff I absolutely love doing," he says.
So he met a guy at a shooting competition who turned out to be Queen Elizabeth's body-guard. Collins says, "He told me, 'I was the queen's body-guard for 17 years." Micheal showed him some of his work and a couple of paintings too. "I thought, 'wow', have I got an in now," he chuckles.
Collins has always been a spare time painter of birds, wildlife, and dogs. Well this bodyguard fellow actually took copies of those paintings with him because 'guess who' had a favorite hunting dog she wanted to remember. Micheal says, "I got a letter from Buckingham Palace saying the queen would like a portrait of 'Musket', her favorite hunting dog."
The Crown sent more than 80 photographs of Musket, a Cocker Spaniel. Micheal painted his portrait, and then, last month, presented that portrait to the Queen herself. The exchange took place in her private residence near Sandringham, a royal hunting retreat. Collins describes the informal meeting, "I walked through to the den and there's Queen Elizabeth standing by herself. She has a big smile on her face, takes her gloves off, and comes over to shake my hand. It was just one of those breathtaking moments."
Back home in Blanchard Micheal still looks up from his engraving work to pinch himself. Did he really get a private audience with Queen Elizabeth? Did she really buy his dog portrait and promise to hang it in the big house at Sandringham? If he told his story in a bar room people would probably find it hard to believe, but in his Blanchard studio, Collins is sticking to every microscopic detail.