The outdoor show

Spring is in the air. This brings about some unusual behavior, including those peculiar phenomena known as the outdoor shows. I say they are peculiar due to the fact that these so-called “outdoor” shows are invariably held indoors.      
I hadn’t been to an outdoor show for many years, so I recently decided to take one in. The last outdoor show I attended was held so long ago that it had featured the latest cutting-edge developments in birchbark canoe construction and bamboo fishing pole technology.      
I quickly discovered that much had changed since then. In fact, things had transformed so radically that the show’s name had mutated from simply “Outdoor Show” to “Sportsmen’s Boat, Camping and Vacation Show.” This is a title that can cover an awful lot of stuff – which it most certainly did.      
One thing that hadn’t changed, though, was the way the show strove to attract the guy segment of our species. Among the biggest lures of that outdoor show I attended all those moons ago was the chance to shake hands with and procure an autograph of a former supermodel who had been featured in a famous men’s magazine.      
The new incarnation of the outdoor show featured numerous family-friendly enticements such as a rubber ducky race and the opportunity to look at real, live tiger cubs. But the outdoor show was still definitely canted toward guys because everything at the show was about bigger, bigger and bigger. You couldn’t escape the message that size really does matter.      
There were booths that featured equipment to help you catch bigger fish and displays that promoted hunts wherein a guy could bag an elk the size of a house. Gawking at the photos of successful elk hunts – the ecstatic hunters beaming from behind trophy bulls that had horns the size of mature oak trees – caused me to feel a tinge of antler envy.      
The latest fishing technology included a device called the automatic ice fisherman. This doohickey supposedly allows ice fishermen to ice fish while leaving the fishing rod totally unattended. And here I’d thought that ice fishing couldn’t get any more exciting.      
Another fishing-related advance was an underwater viewing system. This thingamabob can enable a guy to not only see the fish but to also note the water’s temperature, depth and direction in which the camera is pointing.      
This device would be a “must have” for every fisherman. A guy could link the doodad to his smartphone and produce underwater videos that would document his angling exploits. Add in the data collected by the doohickey and the fisherman would have indisputable proof of the nuclear submarine-sized fish he could have caught had he been so inclined. This should satisfy any skeptic (mainly his wife) who thinks the fisherman is spinning yet another farfetched “the big one that got away” yarn.      
Watercraft have made tremendous advances. These days, sport fishing boats are made of super-strong, super-exotic materials – I wouldn’t be surprised if unobtanium were involved – and are driven by engines that have enough horsepower to loft the boat into low Earth orbit.      
In case there was any doubt this was a guy-oriented show, there was a booth that promoted smokeless tobaccos, one of which was called Kodiak. Smokeless tobacco is important to some outdoorsmen as it gives them a manly reason to spit. I suppose the polite term for this would be “expectorate.”      
It probably wasn’t a coincidence that an actual 1,500-pound Kodiak bear named Brody was being kept in an enclosure near the tobacco booth. Brody was napping when I peeked in on him. He looked like a humungous wadded-up, coffee-colored fur comforter, albeit one that reeked mightily of bear funk. Bears might do many things in the woods but apparently taking a bath isn’t one of them.      
I didn’t stick around to catch Brody’s show although there were snapshots on display that depicted his previous performances. The most startling photo was the one where Brody had his trainer’s face almost fully engulfed in his (the bear’s) yawning, slobbery, razor-toothed, bear-funk mouth. That is either the ultimate in macho male grossness or the most extreme form of French kissing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t bother to ask anyone which it might be.      
As I drove home that day, I wondered: What if Brody’s trainer had a chaw of Kodiak smokeless tobacco in his mouth when he performed his face-in-the-bear’s-maw act? Could it then be said that you saw a Kodiak mouthing a mouth that was mouthing some Kodiak?      
In any case, I hoped Brody’s trainer didn’t choose that particular moment to expectorate.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at


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