Cabela’s holiday catalog: Real Guys don’t buy Eddie Bauer
December 11, 2006
Like all of you outdoors enthusiasts, I survived a sea of yuppie outdoors gear holiday catalogs. I have a closetful of LL Bean, Land’s End and Eddie Bauer hand-me-downs from my rich sister, but when I needed ice claws for my ash-and-gut snowshoes, there was only one mail-order source: Cabela’s.
In tiny, 1960s Sidney, Neb., Cabela’s was just a furniture store with a little outdoors stuff in the basement. On the northern plains, folks GET IT about cold – real cold and sub-zero wind-chill factor -and Cabela’s caters to ice fishermen and January duck hunters.
In the winter Cabela’s catalog, you can buy down-insulated underwear, so thick you can’t bend your arms after you throw on their Trans-Alaska Micro-loft Suit. Boldfaced, all-caps “GORE(tex)” screams at you from every page like a Campaign 2006 flier.
There are items this native Californian never suspected exist: no-noise raingear to sneak up on deer, clothes that mask your scent with a carbon layer, a field blind resembling a shaggy camouflage bedspread and mounted jackalope heads. The hunting gear comes in camo colors based on your habitat: Mossy Oak Break-up, Realtree Xtra Brown and Grey, Sniper Fall Brown, Wetlands, Skyline Apparition, 3-D Snow and Blaze Orange (yep, somebody finally figured out that deer can’t see color, but hunters can).
The Cabela’s models are impossibly handsome Real Guys. In the long-johns shots in front of the roaring fire, Real Guys clutch what seems to be the same cup of “no-thanks-ma’am-make-mine-black” joe or felt-lined snow boots. One Real Guy holds a sheaf of papers, but there are no pantywaist novels.
I can just imagine the modeling agency in North Platte, “All you blonds with blue eyes and steely jaws, line up! … You, the one built like a brick outhouse, over here!”
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But Cabela’s is equal opportunity: virtually all of its heavy-duty clothes come in women’s sizes. There are some token females in Norwegian-patterned cardigans and flowery nightgowns, but I like the two Dianas in full camo gear vigilantly clutching crossbows. I’m sure 5-foot-2-inch, 108-pound women bowhunt and ice fish, but I imagine them as more “she-men” like me: tall, weightliftin’, Jeep drivin’ gals with zero-maintenance hair who wear so many men’s clothes it’s long-since ceased to register if their chamois shirt buttons on the left or right.
In a tidal wave of political correctness, Cabela’s is an island of traditional Americana. You find no café au lait-skinned black guys in Ecuadoran sweaters staring at a horizon, no Asian women in pointelle lace underwear curled up with herb tea. The two shots of dads and sons having quality bonding time with shotguns are guaranteed to make the blood boil of three-quarters of California parents (there is just one little girl in the Cabela’s catalog).
There is real coyote and rabbit fur on hats and hoods, and no Malaysian, plantation-grown teak end tables. There are pages of firearms and gnarly game-skinning knives and endorsements from pro big-game hunters clutching the antlers of stiffening eight-point bucks. Eddie Bauer doesn’t sell alcohol breath analyzers, butchering kits or “Shoot “Em in the Lips” duck-hunting videos.
And no fluffy kitties snooze on Egyptian cotton duvets and hypoallergenic sheepskin mattress pads. Cabela’s Real Guys have dogs, Real Dogs – hounds, Chesapeakes, retrievers, huskies, labs, setters – standing at attention at their master’s side like a greenhorn in boot camp.
You can buy doggie life jackets, chest brush protectors and fluorescent safety vests. Curiously, Real Dogs get “all-natural chew treats,” while their human counterparts wolf down nitrate-laced ham, bacon and salami Smokehouse Samplers.
When I ordered my catalog on the Web site, I hesitated briefly when they asked for my sex. I’d hate to think of Cabela’s catering to soccer moms whose idea of the outdoors is one night a year at a Sierra Club lodge, at the expense of one of the last outposts of Real Guydom.
(This column originally appeared in The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, Calif.)
• Pat Devereux is the copy desk chief of the Nevada Appeal. Contact her at email@example.com or 881-1224.
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Cabela’s, One Cabela Drive, Sidney, Neb. 69160