January 2nd, 2006

Big Box Stores
By James Castwell


As much as my mind wants to hold on dearly to certain things, reality will not allow it. Am I like you in that I want things to remain the same? Is there anything wrong with wanting things to stay put once I get them all arranged nicely in my little world? Permanent. Not move around by themselves? Stay put.

Is it too much to ask that the hardware store should remain there and it should only sell hardware? That the lumber company should not move to some other part of town and or start selling ladies clothing? Why can't things stay put. Bugs the heck out of me. And it is getting worse all the time.

It was bad when the bait shops of America disappeared, technology gobbled them up. There is/was nothing that can compare to the sights and smells and 'ambiance' of a real honest-to-goodness bait-shop. I hear rumors of a few remaining, hope they all are true. Our country desperately needs more of them. And we need the old fashioned 'sporting goods' stores too. The ones where you went with your dad and he knew the name of the guy who not only ran the place his name was a good old American name like Fred or Ralph or something. And he owned the place. Big stuff. Heady. Powerful. Most of those stores are gone now too. Pity. Real pity.

Sometimes a major store would have a rather good supply of the right type of sporting gear you needed but they were very rare and often several miles removed from ones home. I remember a couple of trips in an old stick-shift car to such emporiums of delight. One thing I vividly remember is show much bigger things were many years ago. Rods, fishing reels, shotguns, counter tops, people. And how much brighter the lights were in the stores. Perhaps because I was viewing them from a slightly lower angle, perhaps so.

The goods have certainly changed. Silk fly lines, nylon fly-lines, bamboo fly rods, canvas waders, good grief there were even those heavy rubber waders, (still made but not for fly fishing anymore) tin cups with felt pads for gut leaders. Many things are gone now and have been replaced by new and improved versions. Why can I find no magic in a nylon leader, fluoro or otherwise, like hidden in a gnarly old gut one of unknown trustworthiness? Magic. That's some of what's slipping away from me these days. But I'm getting off of my point, if I ever was squarely on it at all.

The 'Big Box Stores' have arrived and don't look to be going away anytime soon. So what effect do they have on any of this? Plenty and I am not sure I like any damn part of it. Now, unfortunately, I have gotten old and I have a hard time making myself believe that some kid with a backwards ball hat and droopy trousers knows more about fly-fishing than I do. I tend not to buy things from these types. No offense. If they can get hired, dandy. It is just the bone in their nose I find distracting. I want to reach out and jerk it the hell outta there. Carrying on a conversation is just not possible as I tend to travel in a world of English slightly above the third grade level and find duo-sylabolic (bass is not a two syllable word!) words tiresome.

Often I find that if something is a good seller it is 'sold-out.' This I find humorous and often point this out to the person masquerading as a sales professional. They have no idea that it is gone, how long it has been gone, when it will be in, if it will be in, who does the ordering, when the ordering is done, when the orders are sent in, when the stuff is shipped, from where, when it arrives, when it is put out on the shelf, and if it will be the same price or not. Fred or Ralph always did though. They knew all of it, the what, the when and the how much. I liked that. It kept me coming back. I did not know at the time how much I liked it. But now that it is gone I miss it.

I remember that one time (about 1959 I think) I saw Chuck Moulthrop come into Bay City Hardware wearing a cowboy hat, a big one. Now, that takes guts. This was downtown, Bay City, Michigan, not Death Trap, Montana. He did it because he had been fly fishing out west and that made it all right to do. Lord how I was jealous, not 'of' the hat, but because he had somehow 'earned' the 'right' to wear it. He was my age. The son of the owner. That's what I mean. That's the part of fly-fishing and the stores it lives in that is gone forever.

But, I can't go back. One can never go back, only forward and hope that the future is better than the past. And it usually is better. Bigger, better, brighter.

Yesterday I bought a new hat. Not real big. A Stetson. Fedora. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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