Columns » Ranger Rich

Heaven's in Sidney, Neb.

Ranger Rich



The other day I bought pants, placemats festooned with pine cones, and a pair of long underwear.

That could be the second-most boring lead sentence I have ever written. (Experts say my April 28, 2008 offering — "Dave looked at his feet and later, when no one was around, he took a nap!" — might never be surpassed.)

But I bring up my recent shopping trip not because of what I bought but mostly because of how I got to the store. Here you're probably thinking, "An 800-word news column about how he got to the store for long underwear and placemats? Good Lord, isn't that why we read the Gazette?"

The answer, of course, is, no. We read the Gazette for its "business" section with news about jobs in every American city except Colorado Springs.

The point, I think, is that last Saturday I went with friends to the hunting, fishing and outdoor mecca in Sidney, Neb. — Cabela's. (Official Cabela's motto: "We Sell Duck Decoys and We Sell Coyote Decoys, But Stan Over in Camping Will Goose You for Free.")

Here now, in what some journalists might call "the important part," I'll tell you how we got to Cabela's: in a private airplane. It was a Cessna 182, a four-seat, single-prop plane with windows that can be opened even during flight. At 145 mph, somewhere over Calhan, I stuck my head out, like a dog. (If anyone out that way found a hairpiece in the past five days, call me. Otherwise, there's $39.99 literally out the window.)

Our Cessna was built soon after that momentous day on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C., when brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first flight, aided by MIT-trained engineer Huang Wong, who looked remarkably like the brothers. (Friends said you couldn't tell a Wright from Wong.)

Sorry. Anyway, at 9:25 a.m., pilot friend Allen lifted off from the wildly busy Colorado Springs Airport, with the only passenger terminal in America that has an echo. We glanced quickly at a World War II-era B-25 bomber on the runway, a plane Allen told us had actually appeared in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, with Ben Affleck. (The B-25, as you might remember, was the one that could act.)

A personal observation: Nothing so settles the nerves of an anxious, frightened flyer quite like images of Pearl Harbor.

Allen pointed the plane toward Nebraska and we settled in, visions of camouflage pants and battery-heated socks dancing in our heads. With a tailwind, we made it in about an hour. A Cabela's van shuttled us the two miles to the outdoorsman's paradise, where I quickly found the aisle full of rock-polishing devices. I grabbed a Model AR-12, which I'll use to make my wife several more diamonds in the coming months. (I'm just crazy about her.)

My friend Jim, who has hunting dogs, dashed over to Dog Training Accessories and picked up a 12-pack of actual pheasant wings for $11.99. (Each autumn, at the start of hunting season, people from all around come to watch Sidney's sad, flightless pheasants hop across the cornfields.)

Russ grabbed a Deer Sleigh, a $29.99 toboggan onto which you strap a deer so you can pull the animal out of the woods. The photo on the box shows a buck deer in the toboggan, a canvas tarp pulled up just under its chin, his head facing upward, apparently so he can see where he's going. (I believe this is also how they move singer Kenny Rogers around these days.)

Besides the rock polisher to make precious gems for Mrs. Wonderful, I also bought an actual item — I swear I'm not kidding — called Butt Out! It is "used to disconnect the anal canal from deer or similar-sized game."

And so I leave you today with a chance to make your own joke about this product that gets rid of the, well, the you-know-what. I would strongly suggest, however, that the punchline contain the name "Douglas Bruce."

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