Catch-and-release fleece

My brother-in-law, Dave, hunts pheasant and deer. A week before hunting season, a gigantic new store for outdoorsman opened, and Dave took me along for a quick shopping trip. The store looks like one of those giant rustic log hotels you see in the national parks. It is made out of immense peeled logs, 60 or 70 feet long, as thick around as one of the oddly, prissily clean, brand spanking new pick-up trucks in the parking lot. The building almost screams “Teddy Roosevelt Slept Here,” except for the fact that it was obviously built yesterday. The testosterone is still wet.

Massive, 12-point deer heads hang along either side of the main aisle, which leads to 40-foot-tall manmade mountain in the center of the gigantic store. Climbing the mountain is a mini Noah’s Ark of stuffed animals from raccoon to grizzly, from big-horned sheep to a giant sloth. It had everything except Bigfoot.

“Why is it that being stuffed and mounted is good enough for a grizzly, but not good enough for, say, grandpa?” I asked Dave. “I miss the old guy, but I’ve never visited his grave. Now I’m thinking, why did we spring for a stone when for the price of a mid-range coffin we could have had him stuffed and put in the TV room? I think he’d go as well with our dÇcor as any stuffed elk or mountain goat.” Dave said nothing. He has learned not to listen to me.

Past Mounted Mountain on the right is the Cold and Wet Department – an endless variety of canoes, kayaks, fishing rods, tackle, waders. On the left is hunter’s paradise – rifles, shotguns, bows, arrows, deer stands. In between the two departments is everything the camper could desire – camp stoves, light-weight pots, flash lights, bug spray, tents, sleeping bags. Face it: If it’s not in this store, it doesn’t exist. An outdoors lover could drop a paycheck in here faster than you can say, “Hand me that brand new snake bite kit.”

I felt a little uncomfortable in there. It was sooo manly. Even the underwear they sell has a camouflage pattern on it. I saw a guy walk by pushing two toddlers in a camouflage stroller. It’s not like I’m Truman Capote, but I am quite the indoorsman. To me, game is something you play, not something you shoot. The only thing I have ever stalked is a dust bunny. And it got away. This is so far past my macho comfort level it’s off the chart.

As we’re walking around, I spot a rack of fleece jackets with a nylon shell on the outside for $19 apiece. I wear those synthetic fleece things around the house all the time because, unlike sweaters, they have pockets and you don’t have to take them to the dry cleaners, you can just toss them in the wash.

For $19, these things are a good deal. So I took off my jacket and slip one off the hanger. Just as I stick my arm into the sleeve, a salesman rushes up and says in a megaphone like voice, “Sir, those are women’s jackets!” The moment he spoke there was one of those strange moments when everything for half a second has gone deadly quiet. You could hear him from the front of the store to the back.

I guess I should have known from the camouflage panty hose that I was in the Women’s Department, but I honestly didn’t see them. They blended in too well with the camouflage bras and camouflage thongs.

To the store’s credit, they didn’t ask me to leave. It was Dave who suggested I might be more comfortable waiting for him in the car.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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