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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

TAKE A GANDER

After one full year living here, I’m left to assume the town motto of Texarkana is, “It’s not quite as good here!”

Without fail, when people describe something in Texarkana, the person will add that little disclaimer: “It’s not quite as good here.”

Example: “Oh yes, you can get Chinese food in Texarkana. Now, it’s not quite as good here…”

I’ve heard this phrase used to describe the food, airport, cultural opportunities, and any number of retail establishments in Texarkana. It is not unusual for people here to drive to Little Rock, Dallas, or Shreveport to buy dinner. Even the things the region supposedly specializes in are, well, better somewhere else.

On a shopping trip to Shreveport some months ago, a came across a southern institution: Bass Pro. Fools like me believed Bass Pro to be nothing more than a fishing supply shop. In reality, it’s a virtual Redneck Disneyland. The place is stocked to the gills (get it?) with “southern lifestyle” items like inflatable sofas with built-in beer cup holders. There’s also an indoor shooting range, fish pond, and climbing wall.

There’s also a books and entertainment section that includes the complete works of Jeff Foxworthy and a book by Ted Nugent called “Kill It and Grill It.”

Lest you think I was totally down on the Bass Pro experience, I should point out that I’m actually pretty impressed by the place. It was huge, and was an effective exercise in immersion retailing. The fish in the pond were pretty cool, and they had real live alligators in an enclosure in the front parking lot. There are even some things I’d actually buy there, including some very nice hiking shoes and some Columbia (the clothing company, not the university) shirts.

But enough about Bass Pro, let’s get back to Texarkana.

About six months ago, Texarkana was abuzz with the announcement that our fair cities (there are two Texarkanas, thank you) would soon have its own Bass Pro shop. Now… it’s not quite a Bass Pro shop, it’s something kind of like a Bass Pro. Not quite as good as a Bass Pro, actually.

What Texarkana actually got was Gander Mountain, a Minnesota based outdoor retailer that sells similar products as Bass Pro, but without the live alligators. Instead the theme is geese, hence the whole “gander” thing.

Because a store opening is one of the only real events in Texarkana, Julie and I took a trip down to Gander Mountain during its opening week. As we approached the store, we actually heard geese, and I assumed there was some sort of goose enclosure near the front of the store. Not quite as sexy as alligators, but for Texarkana, that’s not too bad.

As we got closer, we discovered that there were no geese outside, but instead an employee blowing a goose call. Couldn’t figure out what he was doing, but… well… sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Inside we found, you know, hunting and camping stuff. Mostly stuff I don’t want, with the exception once again of the nice hiking shoes and mono-color Columbia shirts.

Then there was the camouflage. There were a lot of camouflage things. Camouflage is important to the hunter, because there are things you don’t want the animal to see. For example, you and your gun that you’re going to use to kill the animal. So there were camouflage coats and guns and thermoses and boots and radios and sofas.

Sofas?

Yes. There was a sofa upholstered in camouflage and fitted with cup-holders in the arms. What one would use a sofa (or the matching rocker-recliners) for is something of a mystery. Do you take it hunting with you to make the hours of waiting for deer more comfortable? Or do you use it to trick the deer into entering your home (it will simply think your den is just more forest to frolic in) and then shoot it closer to the kitchen?

I couldn’t take any more time to ponder that question as I was knocked out of my daze by another Gander Mountain worker employing a goose call. I noticed that all the employees had goose call… what do you call them… whistles around their necks. I’m still not sure if they blew the goose call thingies simply to create ambiance, or if there was something more to it. Were they sending signals with them, much like Captain Von Trapp did with that mariners whistle?

No time to contemplate that, because I was off to the video section. Gander Mountain had hundreds of videos, all of which sounded like porn titles but I’m sure none of them really were. Bag It And Tag It 8? Buck Hunters 5? Big Gun Boys 12? They were packaged as hunting videos, but… well.

But was this retailer another example of how things weren’t quite as good in Texarkana? It’s a difficult question to answer. As a matter of fact, I only ask it because (upon reviewing the first part of this post) it appears I asked it in the beginning. So I’ll simply answer “sorta” and put this post to bed before it drifts any further off into the ether, which, as it turns out isn’t quite as good in Texarkana.

2 Comments:

At 3:49 pm, Blogger The Blah Brain said...

Hey, nice blog you've got here. :)

 
At 8:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you called it. Thats why no one has ever heard of you, because your not quite as good as...you call it.

 

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