What happens when outdoor enthusiasts gather?
By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
Aug. 16, 2002
Beginning today, outdoor fans will gather at The Meridian Star Outdoor Expo to enjoy the people and trappings of our outdoor pursuits. Seminars, prominent outdoor personalities, the latest gear and swapping outdoor stories will be just part of the fun.
A bit over 20 years ago, the National Rifle Association held its annual convention in San Antonio, Texas. As a life member, I was happy because I lived at the time some 50 miles from that city. I took my son John along to the huge event and the day we spent there still lingers in our memories.
John was 10 or 11 years old and just getting into shooting and hunting. We had a blast (pun intended) at that gathering of shooting enthusiasts, gun and ammunition manufacturers and generally everyone who was someone in the shooting and hunting world.
My favorite memory was spawned at the Perazzi shotgun display table. John picked up one of the shiny double-barrel 12-gauge guns from where it lay on a red velvet table cloth along with several similar models. I was thrilled with his opportunity to shoulder and get the feel of one of the world's finest shotguns, because I knew I could never afford one of these splendid guns that graced the gun cabinets of wealthy collectors to whom cost was no concern.
Meticulously groomed factory representatives stood stiffly behind the display in their tailored Italian suits and silk ties smiling nervously as John swung the fowling piece back and forth and I admired its exquisite European walnut wood and gold inlays. Visitors are expected to ask questions and make favorable comments about products on display, so I made small talk as John sighted at imaginary birds in flight. The Italians provided terse replies in broken English, while glancing often at John.
Probing my mind for questions, I innocently asked the cost of the gun John was fondling. "Sixteen thousand American dollars," came the reply from a heavily accented voice. As my jaw slowly dropped several inches, my mind instantly calculated how many months' salary would be required to repair a scratch on such a gun were it to be dropped onto a concrete floor, for example, by a careless 11-year old.
My next act is best described by an example. Have you ever seen a parent react when a youngster is handed a wiggling newborn to cradle in unsure arms and the baby flounces wildly as the kid loses both his balance and his grasp at the same time? I literally dived into position, one knee touching the floor and both arms thrust outward, below the gleaming shotgun, forming a virtual cradle beneath it as I gave John explicit orders to carefully place the gun back on the table where he found it posthaste.
With the shotgun safely back on the red velvet and the Italians now smiling broadly, I guided John backward some 10 feet, from which spot we admired the Perazzi display and I slowly regained normal pulse and breathing.
The Meridian Star Outdoor Expo will provide abundant opportunities for those who love the outdoors to experience memorable moments. Whether enjoying the displays and events with family members, learning more about the outdoors from seminars or just talking about the outdoors with experts, industry representatives and friends, The Expo is the place to be for outdoor enthusiasts and those who would just like to see what all the outdoor fuss is about.
An example of my point is what happened to me. At last year's Expo, I met two guys, Al Brown and Art Matthews, who have become my friends. Super neat guys. I met a talented and beautiful lady from Alabama, Dale King, who designs ladies and kids camouflage clothing. Her ingenuity inspired me to write about her and other women of the outdoors.
I got to know Paul Meek, a well-known turkey call maker whose work I had admired for years. I visited with one of my doctors, Dale Touchstone and his two sons, Alex and Tyler. Knowing this family loves the outdoors makes me feel a little better about the man who tells me how my heart is doing. I met some of the hunters who bagged prize-winning bucks and enjoyed their stories. And of course I saw and talked with many old friends.
Add this "people" part to all the wildlife stuff beautiful taxidermy and art, outdoor opportunities, products, wildlife management strategies, field experts and the list goes on. As for me, I plan to go early and stay late!