Big shop of horrors

At the beginning of the hunting season last year, a gigantic new store for outdoorsmen opened near us. My deer-hunting brother-in-law, Dave, took me along for a quick Christmas-shopping trip. After all, who doesn't want to find a nice turkey call under the tree? Or a pair of waders? Or a bottle of doe urine? Now Dave can do all his shopping under one giant roof.

The store looks like one of those giant rustic hotels you see in national parks. It's made out of immense peeled logs -- each one 60 or 70 feet long, and as thick around as the prissily clean, brand-spanking-new pickup trucks in the parking lot. (Most men I know won't clean the bathroom, they won't wash a dish, but God forbid there's a speck of dirt on the pickup -- someone will pay.)

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 a 40-foot, man-made mountain crawling with taxidermied animals in the center of the store. It's like Noah's Ark in reverse: They've killed two of everything, from raccoons to grizzly bears, from big-horned sheep to giant sloths. The only thing it lacked was a Sasquatch.



"Why is it that being stuffed and mounted is good enough for a grizzly bear, but not good enough for, say, Grandpa?" I asked Dave. "Why did we spring for a stone, when for the price of a midrange coffin, we could have had him stuffed and put in the den? I think he'd go as well with our decor as any stuffed elk or mountain goat." Dave said nothing. Like his sister, he often ignores me.

Go past Mounted Mountain, take a right, and you'll find the Cold and Wet Department: an endless variety of canoes, kayaks, fishing rods, tackle and flies. On the left is Death Valley: rifles, shotguns, bows, arrows and deer stands. In between the two departments is everything the outdoorsman or woman could desire: camp stoves, lightweight pots, flashlights, bug spray, tents, sleeping bags. 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."

It is sooo manly that even the underwear they sell is covered with a camouflage pattern. A guy walked by me, pushing two toddlers in a camouflage stroller. This is so far past my macho comfort level, it's off the chart. The only thing I have ever stalked is a dust bunny. And it got away. It's not like I'm Truman Capote, but I am an indoorsman. To me, "game" is something you play, not something you shoot.

As we're walking around, I spot a rack of synthetic fleece jackets with nylon outer shells for $19. Nineteen dollars! I wear those fleece things around the house all the time because, unlike sweaters, they have pockets and you can just toss them in the washer and they won't shrink.

For $19, these things are a good deal. So I take off my jacket and slip one off the hanger. Just as I stick my arm into the sleeve, a salesman rushes up to me. At the same time, there is one of those strange, rare moments when everything in the store goes quiet for half a second. The Muzak stops, the cash registers forget to ring, everyone takes a breath at the same moment. For one half second, you can hear a pin drop. Which is precisely when the salesman says, in a megaphone-like voice, "Sir, those are women's jackets!"

I guess I should have known from the camouflage pantyhose 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 back in his brand-spanking-new pickup.

For Christmas that year, I got the doe urine.

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