Wyoming grocery stores are crawling with men right now. It’s not like a typical day behind the grocery cart when you have to steer around clumps of guys in camo gear clustered at the meat aisle or standing three deep by the nacho chips.
Usually you only see this kind of group male shopping when a fire station crew shows up together to the delight of their female fans or during the College National Finals Rodeo in June. Those occasions are also fun to watch, as much for the flirting the women shoppers feel compelled to do with firefighters as for seeing the young cowboys (and cowgirls) populating our local stores. There are no CNFR competitors shopping in t-shirts and shorts; they show up in full gear with well-used cowboy hats and no-nonsense jeans minus prefab rips or spandex.
But the unique quality of hunter-gatherers seeking supplies is how they stick together. Clearly, setting up your hunting camp and buying food is more complicated than the usual grocery store visit. The focus is on the basics – bacon, beans and beef. No marshmallows or graham crackers for these shoppers. Also, I have never seen guys in camo at the self-checkout – they get in line with the other amateur shoppers who aren’t keen on trying to reason with a machine that keeps giving loud and embarrassing warnings like, “Unknown object in the bagging area.”
And, while I’ve never seen women in camo shopping together, there are plenty of them getting their antelope at the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt near Sheridan and raving about the four-day weekend of hunting and camaraderie. They look happier in the glowing pictures they post on Facebook than in many a prom photo, suggesting that it’s easier to have fun in a field showing off a dead animal than putting on high heels and a pile of makeup for a photo shoot.
What’s in the truck bed?
A well-worn image of a Wyoming truck features a gun mounted on the back window and two dogs in the truck bed. But that’s tame compared with my favorite seasonal sight – a couple of stiff antelope legs sticking up from the bed. For some out-of-state drivers on our highways, it could be alarming to look over and see a mound of what look like dead things in the back of the truck in the next lane. I’ve been a very distracted driver more than once trying to determine if what I was seeing was dead or alive until I focused in on an unmistakable hoof of one of Wyoming’s prized ungulates. Sometimes antlers peek up from the carcass.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I saw plenty of more gruesome sights because the custom years ago was to tie your dead deer on the front of the car. There was a lot of mumbling about the impact of the engine’s heat on the meat, but for a time, it was the fashion in a state that issues more hunting licenses in a year than even Wyoming. This was the inspiration for a current trend in Halloween costumes – drivers wearing deer antlers with a human mannequin sporting fake blood tied on the front of the car. While a good percentage of Wyoming residents enjoy hunting itself, the rest of us get to enjoy the show, and just hope we also get a few invitations to homes where the chili always features venison or elk.