It’s the big shop of hor­rors

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Jim Mullen The Vil­lage Id­iot

At the be­gin­ning of the hunt­ing sea­son last year, a gi­gan­tic new store for out­doors­men opened near us. My deer­hunt­ing brother-in­law, 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 bighorned 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 brandspank­ing-new pickup.

For Christ­mas that year, I got the doe urine.

Con­tact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com. LARGEST IN­TER­NA­TIONAL BUF­FET IN THE HUD­SON VAL­LEY please Call FOr reser­va­tIOns On hOl­I­day Cel­e­Bra­tIOns, BusI­ness meet­Ings, BIrth­day par­tIes

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