I have a foggy memory of being in Cleveland’s Public Hall as a small child during the Outdoors Show, but it could be that all that fog is just cigar smoke. It’s an emblem of Cleveland in the 1970’s, plaid pants, sideburns and Schlitz beer. Men standing in the aisles wiggling fishing rods to try and get some feel for the action, fellows in khaki coats with peculiar accents selling the wonders of the Dark Continent. The Outdoors Show is a day to live vicariously as Teddy Roosevelt, traveling the wilds of the world and collecting trophies at every remote mountain lake and veldt where my bush plane lands. I am a greater fisherman.
than Hemingway, I am the conqueror of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I am…a guy who just paid eight bucks to park my mini-van a long way from the building.
But such are the tribulations we endure at this time of year to break the cabin fever that holds us in its icy clutch. The short days are softened by the bright indoor lights, the dull drone of the television is replaced by the excited chatter of Bwana Jim’s Wildlife show. In a place the old timers still call “The Tank Plant” there thrives for one weekend a colony of refugees from the winter, setting their sights on warmer weather and sunnier days when their boats float, the bass bite, and the “Honey-do” jar is long forgotten.
For the price of admission you can rub elbows with fishing pros and trick shot artists, regard mounts of the biggest and best whitetails taken in past seasons, plan the trip of a lifetime to the Canadian Outback, or just spend the afternoon browsing through antique fishing lures of yesteryear.
This last part may sound a bit inane, compared with all of the other high adventure on hand, but it held for me a special surprise this time. Tom Mahl and I were scrounging through a mountain of old lures, he calling out the maker and location of manufacture, I recalling which ones looked familiar from the ones I had seen in my grandfather’s tackle box. This action drew in another collector who seemed to know as much as Tom on the subject. There was Heddon from Detroit and Arbogast from Akron, and one little flatfish lure made by a guy named Brown, in South Amherst. That struck a chord with me, and I asked if Brown was a barber. In unison, the experts answered me, “Yes.”
Grampa told me about an old fishing buddy, Jack Brown, a barber in his own one chair operation in South Amherst where he spent most of his day making lures and less of it cutting hair. Whenever my grandfather would stop in, Jack would grab his pole and put out the “closed” sign and away they went. So, there it was, in this collection of antiques, a little memento of two fishing buddies from 75 years ago.
And maybe that’s part of what the Outdoors show is about, a constant in the outdoorsman’s life, a marker that will be there from a hazy childhood memory to being a memory left by an antique lure. As I walked around this show with my daughter I knew her attentions were more about the indoor Ferris wheel and ice cream, but maybe she’d remember the deer gigantic mounts or fishing for trout in a little rubber pond too. It’s all good, so long as she remembers it’s all about the outdoors.