STOP! THIEF!

My greatest caper came when I was 15 and brilliantly stole a car stereo from Wal-Mart in Branson, Mo. Back then, the greeter put a green sticker on anything you brought in, so I purchased a cheap Roadmaster stereo, brought it back and clandestinely put the green sticker on a fancy Sony stereo (with auto-reverse cassette!) and walked out the front door. They stopped me in the parking lot, but I showed them the green sticker, and they let me go. Ocean’s 11, anyone? That’s right, people, I am that slick.

Since then, though, I have not done a lot of stealing. While I do have some trouble periodically with “laws,” and authority (and sometimes I drive too fast), shoplifting just isn’t my thing.

So it was with great surprise to be confronted at Sportsman’s Warehouse a while back right in the middle of the store by an employee accusing me of stealing 99-cent flies.

Here’s what happened: My friend Andrew and I were looking over the flies, and he was putting some in the plastic cups the store provides. We were discussing the merits of the black ant vs. the Woolly Bugger, dries vs. nymphs, the color chartreuse.

At some point, a Santa-Claus-looking worker steps up and says: Hey, guys, when you’re getting flies, go ahead and put them in these plastic cups and not in your pocket.

I looked over at Andrew’s cup, which had a half-dozen or so flies in it, then it occurred to me: My pocket? Wait, are you accusing me of putting flies in my pocket? Of stealing? Really?

Santa said that, yes, “someone” said they saw me put flies in my pocket, and he motioned to the observation deck surrounding the store. “Someone.” Is that someone a manager? Because it’s a crowded Saturday afternoon and this guy’s just publicly shamed me and accused me of stealing 99-cent flies. I’m going to need to talk to someone about this. I might have suggested he put his hands in my pockets to see what might be in there. I might have also told him that if I were to steal anything from this store, it would be big and expensive and I would get away with it. I might have caused a small scene.

Couple things here. You have a pretty irate customer on your hands asking to talk to a manager who’s upstairs, don’t just hand him the phone. If you’re a manager and you just called someone out wrongly, you take the time to march your ass downstairs and apologize in person.

Eventually, of course, the manager finds the time to come downstairs. He explained to me that they were using what’s called “enhanced customer service,” a loss-prevention strategy wherein a worker approaches a shoplifter and offers exaggerated service. This lets the shoplifter know he’s caught, and what will likely happen in most cases is the thief will go to another part of the store and dump the goods. Enhanced customer service would have looked something like this: Hey, guys, I see you’re considering the Blue-Wing Olive. Nice choice. You might also consider the Elk-Hair Caddis or the Parachute Adams. Can I tell you about our San Juan Worms?

Instead, Santa offered “hey, don’t put shit in your pockets” as his “enhanced customer service.” The manager explained that, yes, they really blew it on implementing that tactic. He explained, too, that they’ve been having a lot of trouble with people stealing flies and that they might be overly suspicious. So I got caught up in a botched-up loss-prevention maneuver because they can’t protect their inventory properly.

I wrote a letter to district manager Mike Murray out in Utah, because I had some suggestions.

A couple of ideas for what seem to be some serious problems in the Colorado Springs store:

  • If the “enhanced customer service” strategy is a proven theft deterrent, workers should be trained to use it properly. Simply accusing someone (wrongly) just creates tension.
  • If I’m a manager of a store, and this mistake had been made, I’d be on the floor before the customer even asked for me. I’d be there in person to apologize personally and in earnest. I would not have my employee hand the customer a phone. I would certainly not blame the fiasco on an overreaction because we’re unable to prevent theft.
  • If enough of your inventory is being lost to theft, it’s probably time to look at alternative display methods. Or perhaps it would be worthwhile to redistribute staffing from an area of the store that sells harder-to-steal items (boats?) to the fishing area.

A few weeks later, Mr. Murray wrote back: A tepid, one-sentence “thanks, I’ll look into it” email. “Enhanced” customer service? I’d settle for regular customer service at this point.

Everybody be cool this is a robbery, Sportsman's Warehouse, Colorado Springs

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! I'm going to walk around with this bag, and I want you to put all your fly fishing gear in there: flies, snips, strike indicators, floatant. Don't be a hero.

Sportsman's Warehouse Colorado Springs

Sportsman's Warehouse's new fly-fishing display (proposed).

Sportsman's Warehouse, Colorado Springs

The elusive and highly prized Black Woolly Bugger.

 

Camping at Spruce Grove, Colorado

Camping season is almost over! We’re hoping to go one more time this year. We recently went to Spruce Grove, near Tarryall, CO.

It was a Thursday and we were the only ones there except for one other woman and her dog.

Since we were going with our friends Shawn and Chenelle, we wanted to bring something festive to drink. I  made Oprah's favorite sangria. It was only ok.

Since we were going with our friends Shawn and Chenelle, we wanted to bring something festive to drink. I made Oprah's favorite sangria. It was only ok.

When we got there the guys went fishing.

We got a site on the stream.

When we got there the guys went fishing.

When we got there the guys went fishing.

Chenelle, Bert, and I watched.

Chenelle, Bert, and I watched.

Bert!

Bert!

Wildflowers at Spruce Grove, Colorado.

Wildflowers at Spruce Grove, Colorado.

I think this was a tent site but since our trailer is so small and no one else was there, we used it anyway.

I think this was a tent site but since our trailer is so small and no one else was there, we used it anyway.

Afternoon espresso.

Afternoon espresso.

Snacks!

Snacks!

Good morning!

Good morning!

Elevenmile Reservoir

You probably don’t know my friend Andrew Long.

We worked together in Phoenix some years ago at a newspaper, and he’s since moved on from newspapers. His latest project is the Hunter’s Database.

I’m happy that we’re still friends. He comes through town sometimes, and we try to catch fish.

This time, Adrienne and my daughter came along and endured our heavy drinking and bad jokes. We stayed at Elevenmile Reservoir — Andrew slept in the Jeep because he makes a lot of scary noises in the night. Adrienne and I stayed in the trailer. (The teenager went back to COS to catch an early flight.)

At the last minute on a Friday, it was fairly sketchy to find a camping spot at Elevenmile, but we managed to find a great spot by the water. It’s an OK place, but we prefer creeks and rivers. Still, the campsites were well apart from the others, and it didn’t feel crowded even though it was a weekend night. Overall, a decent experience. A solid B.

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Andrew, the daughter, Tori, and me at Elevenmile.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Of course it rained when we were there. It rains every time we go camping. That's why we got a trailer to begin with. Rain. Every. Time.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Of course after the storm comes a rainbow. Whatever. Knock it off with the raining already. It's a pain in the ass.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Of the three of us, the 19-year-old girl caught fish. The rest of us came up empty. Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Wildflowers at Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Wildflowers. Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Despite the rain and the not catching of any fish (except for that teen girl), we had delicious food. Hot dogs, some kind of corn medley. My kid needs longer shorts.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Thinking about going out and not catching any fish.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Instead of catching fish, I think I'll just sit here a little in the sun and consider all of life's mysteries.

 

Elevenmile Reservoir campground, Colorado

Campfire. We had one.

 

 

Day trip: Cañon City

There’s a point, probably, in every hoarder’s life when they say to themselves: I’m not a hoarder. But I probably need to buy that wall hook shaped like a flower. It’s only a dollar.

And so on this sunny summer day, we hopped in the car and headed to Cañon City for some antiquing, fishing, aimless driving around, and of course, feeding our piggy faces. It’s only about an hour away (there’s construction, so plan for some periodic delays), so it’s an easy day trip.

Our first stop was Uncle Sam Antiques. A couple years ago, we saw a very cool Victorian funeral cart there for $200 (something a little like this). We couldn’t come up with a reason for owning a Victorian funeral cart, and we still can’t. If you can, it’s still there. Would make a cool coffee table, I guess.

Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

The outdoor section of Uncle Sam's, where you'll find odd glassware, rusting farm tools, and outdoor furniture.

 

Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

There's a cool rocking chair in this weird little room. Why do I want a rocking chair? Good question. I don't know. I honestly don't.

 

Uncle Sam Antiques, Canon City, Colorado

The main "showroom" at Uncle Sam's.

One of the next places we went was a nifty little antique shop called Whistle Post Antiques along Main Street. We’ve been looking for hooks for our bathroom for some time, and we found four for only $2 each. (Being excited about bathroom hooks led to a brief oh-my-god-what’s-happened-to-me existential crisis, but we had some barbecue and beer, and that seemed to settle the ennui.) A good thing and a bad thing happened at Whistle Post. First of all, they did not accept credit or debit cards. Kimball’s, anyone? But, the guy at the counter, for no reason whatsoever, gave us the hooks for only $6, and Adrienne happened to have that in cash. Buy three hooks get one hook free. Awesome. Still. The credit card thing.

Whistle Post Antiques, Cañon City, Colorado

The extra-nice guy at Whistle Post Antiques gave us a great deal on some hooks. And though he wouldn't take plastic, he did say he'd let us mail him a check. I'm not making this up. Mail him a check. Anyway, great guy, cool store, and very good prices.

Next door there was a strange antique store, garage sale, flea-market, auto parts, hardware shop hybrid store that had the most puzzling collection of merchandise I’ve ever seen in one store. A sampling of items: Fishing poles, motorcycle, dishware, hand tools, framed art, books, electronics, cords, twine, shoelaces, clothing. The place reminded me of an old insurance salvage store I used to go to as a kid in Missouri.

In a box of hubcaps on the floor, there were three rusty and dirt-caked baby-moon hubcaps that would look great on the trailer. Five bucks for the pair. And somewhere in the deep cave of that store, Adrienne found a weird metal hook shaped like a flower. One dollar. I could have spent the rest of my life in that store, and would have, too, if Adrienne hadn’t dragged me out.

Cañon City, Colorado

Four hooks from the Whistle Post place, the weird flower-shaped hook that we'll put in the trailer, and the baby moons, which really shined up nicely. Here's a trick I learned: You can shine chrome and remove rust with WD-40 and tin foil. Thanks, Internet.

 

Strange insurance-salvage-style shop which might be named "Garage Sale" in Canon City.

Strange insurance-salvage-style shop which might be named "Garage Sale" or "Toolrite Zone" in Canon City.

There’s a new brewery in Cañon City: Royal Gorge Brewing Co. They don’t have any of their own brews yet because of some licensing snafus with the city. But the brewing room is all set up and ready to go. The taps now have the usual Colorado suspects: Bristol; Tommyknocker; New Belgium. Not complaining. Love the Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown ale. We’ll be back when they get their own beers going.

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

 

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado.

 

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Apparently, pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches traditionally come with cole slaw actually in the sandwich. Did not know that. This place does it right, then.

 

Royal Gorge Brewing Co., Cañon City, Colorado

Adrienne had the cheeseburger, which she said was fantastic.

After lunch and some more driving around, we stopped off at an access point for the Arkansas River to do a little fishing. I did not catch anything because I left my fishing hat at home.

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

While I fished, Adrienne lazed around on the shore reading on a blanket.

 

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

 

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Fishing the Arkansas River, Canon City, Colorado

Overall, a very pleasant day. Are we in denial about hoarding? Maybe. But whatever. We got some cool stuff.

Camping at Happy Meadows, Colorado

A few weeks ago we went camping at Happy Meadows. It’s on the South Platte River about an hour away. We got the best spot, #1  right on the river with access to the water.
Riverfront campsite #1 at Happy Meadows, Colorado

Riverfront campsite #1 at Happy Meadows, Colorado

The scenery is really pretty and it’s very quiet.

Camping and fishing at Happy Meadows, Colorado

Camping and fishing at Happy Meadows, Colorado

Apparently there was a lot of fishing to do. Mike caught three fish.

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

Fishing on the South Platte at Happy Meadows, CO

While he fished I set up the trailer and campsite and made lunch.

Sandwiches are tastier when camping.

Sandwiches are tastier when camping.

Camping sun tea.

Camping sun tea.

Camping at Happy Meadows, CO

Camping at Happy Meadows, CO

Campsite #1 at Happy Meadows, CO

Campsite #1 at Happy Meadows, CO

Camping at Happy Meadows, CO

Camping at Happy Meadows, CO

On his way out of the river Mike took a tumble.

South Platte River at Happy Meadows, CO

South Platte River at Happy Meadows, CO

And got a little wet.

Ooopsie

Ooopsie

After that he needed a beer.

Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout is very tasty.

Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout is very tasty.

And some brownies.

Brownies in the trailer

Brownies in the trailer

And a nap.

Mike napping in the trailer

Mike napping in the trailer

It’s always windy in Colorado and I forgot to bring any hair ties so Mike suggested I use a mini bungee cord. LOL.

Bungee cord hair tie

Bungee cord hair tie

We had a nice dinner of hot dogs, confetti corn, baked beans, and baked potatoes. OMG, the propane oven in the trailer makes the best baked potatoes. I don’t like fish, so Mike never keeps the ones he catches when he’s camping with me. Lucky fish.

Confetti corn

Confetti corn

Dinner!

Dinner!

What would camping be like without a bottle of wine?

What would camping be like without a bottle of wine?

Sunset at Happy Meadows, CO

Sunset at Happy Meadows, CO

No burn ban at Happy Meadows

No burn ban at Happy Meadows

Breakfast in the morning before heading back home.

Breakfast in the morning before heading back home.

Happy meadows is my favorite so far and I’m looking forward to going back soon!