Many years ago, I was spending a rather pleasant evening trying to explain to a non-hunting friend exactly where the thrill lay in pursuing a whitetail when, in place of venison, I could go to a butcher shop and buy perfectly good meat that would be both cheaper and less trouble.
The lady was not anti-hunting — that wasn’t the issue — but, she asked, if I wanted to be close to nature, why not just go hiking in the woods? Only when I got down to a minute description of the thrill of the chase did her eyes light up. “Ah,” she said, “I understand now! That’s the feeling I get from shopping.”
Like most men, the idea of spending any more time in a store than is absolutely necessary is anathema — gunshops being the exception, of course. But I never really understood the link between shopping and hunting until I found myself sitting in the auction hall at Rock Island a month ago. We were on Lot #3139, on Day Three, having moved 3,138 items already. My focus was on Lot #3149, an old Stevens Schützen rifle, and we were getting close.
As the lot numbers slid by, a few butterflies stirred in my innards and my focus became more and more concentrated. It was, I found, almost the same feeling I have had waiting for a bull elk to step out of the bushes, or for a Cape buffalo to bestir himself in the brush and come looking for us. There may not have been the same level of concentration as in the latter — after all, my life was not at stake — but there was still that old hunting excitement.
The rifle in question was not an impulse buy. In fact, she (her name is Lucile, and says so in an engraved banner on the frame) was in the Rock Island auction in December. I lusted after her then, but figured she was out of my financial reach. In that auction, however, she failed to reach the reserve price and found herself back in the premium auction in May.
Like the big old mossy-horned buck that haunts a hundred hunting-camp tales, bringing Lucile to bag was going to take some strategy combined with split-second execution. As the lot numbers climbed — 3144, 3145, 3146 — my concentration became intense. Finally, her photo popped up on the TV screens around the room, and the bidding began at what seemed a remarkably low price. I jumped in, was immediately outbit, and raised my card again. The competition dwindled to two other bidders, then one, and finally just me. I tucked Lucile into my imaginary game bag at a price a thousand dollars less than the owners would have netted in December, were it not for the reserve. This time they had lowered the estimate and, apparently, dropped the reserve altogether. I was not to know that in advance, however, because even the existence of a reserve bid, much less the amount, is limited to vice-presidents and above at Rock Island.
When Lawrence the auctioneer called “going once, going twice…sold to bidder number 1711” I felt the same urge to cheer that I always get in a deer stand when the plan works out and the bullet goes right where it’s supposed to.
When the hammer came down, and after I’d gathered my wits and got my racing heart under control, I thought of that long-ago conversation with my lady friend. Maybe I’d stumbled on something important in the competition between the sexes. If women do, indeed, get the same feeling from shopping that I do from stalking a bull elk or waiting out a cautious whitetail, then it seems to me that shopping might provide them with the same anachronistic satisfaction that is so important to hunters.
After all, the second part of hunter-gatherer is gathering that which is not hunted but is still necessary. Henceforth, when a woman with a hopeful gleam in her eye says she is going shopping, I will transpose that to “going gathering,” and utter not a word.–Terry Wieland