How to Spend $3,024.98 at Cabelas

Sometimes my husband and I are such brilliant parents.

We should get a parenting award.

You know, the kind given out by DCFS.

“Let’s take the kids to Cabelas,” says my husband. “They have animals and giant fish aquariums.”

“How much does it cost?” I give my standard response. “It’s free?!! I’ll meet you in the minivan.”

Cabelas has amazing displays.

Their in-store museum is bigger than the city museum where I grew up. I think Cabelas, the store, might be bigger than Castle Dale, the town. In any case, on any given Saturday, Cabelas’ population is bigger.

Our town museum had a stuffed deer and a stuffed bear.

They scared me to death.

But not more than the interrupted rotting carcass of an Indian woman, preserved mid-decay in a glass coffin, cradling her decrepit papoose.

As a five-year-old on my first field trip to the Castle Dale Museum, I could sense the artifacts watching me. They had stopped moving seconds before I entered the room, and were examining me for signs that I knew their secret. Pioneer dresses held their breath, waiting to dance again. War uniforms gripped muskets tightly, assessing me for enemy behavior. Dinosaur skeletons licked their chops after I, a juicy little girl, walked past.

I was having nightmares about museum relics coming to life before Ben Stiller had graduated high school.

I would have never set foot in that rickety museum again, except for one thing: I loved to swim, and the museum and community pool were in the same building. Every day of summer vacation, I approached the heavy entrance doors with a swim towel tucked under my arm. I held my breath and closed my eyes as I heaved the door open, just wide enough to slip through. Once inside, I ran down the stairs to the showers assuring myself that as soon as I got inside the pool area, the ghost dressed in Calvary rags could not follow me. My heart raced until the glass door shut behind me and I breathed in gulps of delicious chlorine.


The fact that I didn’t consider my own childhood museum trauma before marching my youngins to stare into the marble eyes of taxidermied forest creatures is a testament to my mothering skills, astonishing in their ineptness.

Entering the store (this was our first ever trip to Cabelas) we saw a sign:

“Bass Feeding: Noon, 6:00.”

“Cool. Let’s go see the museum first, then come back to watch them feed the fish,” I say with the planning expertise of a Disneyland aficionado.

At the museum entrance we spy the first scenic scape.

I feel a tug on my arm just as I’m about to plunge into the room.

I turn and see my son’s eyes popping out like a bullfrog getting the Heimlich maneuver. His bulging eyes never leaving the landscape as he takes three defensive steps back away from the scene.


“The animals aren’t alive, sweetie. They can’t hurt you. C’mon. Hold my hand,” I coax him forward.

With great hesitance, he takes my hand.

I don’t know why he wouldn’t trust me.

“Look, honey,” I say with an Isn’t this fun?- voice. “The black around the raccoon’s eyes makes it look like he’s wearing a mask.”


“Is the raccoon real?” he asks.

Determined to take advantage of this educational family outing, I expound on various wildlife facts, about which I am well-versed.

“You can tell how old a buck is by how many points he has on his antlers. But the sign says this one is an anomaly, that’s why they put him in a museum.”

I’ve never seen eyes so big in their sockets.


“Mom, is the deer real?”

We round a corner and he freezes in place, “Mom, is that bear REAL?”


Assuming that he’s worried that black bear is going to cross the barrier and eat us for lunch, I explain, “These animals are not alive. They can’s hurt us.”

He is a statue, only his lips move, “But Mom, is it REAL?”

“He can’t move, he’s not alive.”


Finally, I understand.

He’s asking if the animals are real or if they are made out of polyester fibers like a toy teddy bear.

I bend down and hold his arms.

“These were all real animals. They were once alive, but when they died, people took out their blood and put stuffing inside.”


“So that you and me can see what they look like up close.”

“Why did they die?”

“Someone shot them or maybe they got sick or they got too old to live anymore. So they are real animals, but they aren’t alive now.”

“Oh,” he says.

We curve around to the next display. And there is an old, wrinkled robotic mountain man, sitting up real as can be.


He looks like a genuine grandpa perched on a chopped down log in front of his campfire.


I look at my son’s face and I see his brain racing through images of taxidermied people; trophy children stuffed and mounted on the family room wall.

“This was our third child. We got him at the Del E. Webb Maternity Unit, but he didn’t last too long. Beauty, though, wasn’t he? Just look at all that hair.”

I can see his heart pounding through his Thomas the Tank Engine shirt.

Okay, maybe a taxidermy landscape is a bit overwhelming for children.

“Hey bud, it’s almost 12:00. Wanna go watch them feed the fish?”

At this point…

I can hardly go on with the story.

The aquariums at Cabelas look innocent.

And they have really cool fish.


What kid doesn’t love to feed fish?

To sprinkle fish food across the water’s surface and watch the little fishies’ oval mouths suction up the flakes.

Cabelas’ fish are larger than the average home-tank variety, so I figured the staff would opt for some beefy worms over fish flakes.

I never expected Goldfish.

Folks, we were a Roman crowd witnessing Bass Gladiators massacre defenseless Goldfish.


Those Goldies didn’t stand a chance. After 15 seconds, the schools of unsuspecting, multi-colored bait were nothing more than amber fins and pieces of sparkly, sequined scales floating gently on the ripples.

Still-ravenous Bass hunted behind rocks and searched crevices for any survivors.

A few more seconds and there were no survivors.

* * *

I never knew that Goldfish could look terrified.

I always believed fish faces were incapable of showing emotion.

But on that day, in those opaque gold faces and beady eyes,

I witnessed




Our faces in the glass reflected the same expression.


We left Cabelas with:

one waterproof, industrial-strength tarp: $14.99

two pocket fishermen with built in flashlights: $9.99

a future therapy bill for emotionally scarred children: $3,000


Trip to Cabelas: Pretty Pricey


*Note: Castle Dale has a new museum: The Museum of the San Rafael.


It’s lovely.

You can check it out after you take a dive in the NEW, outdoor pool.

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