'We Have Everything You Want ... If We Can Find It'

Getting Lost at Smith and Edwards

Smith & Edwards This is the sort of place where the shoppers drive such large pickup trucks that they don't fit into the parking lot.

So they park along the highway, horse trailers and camper trailers strung out behind them, and walk from there into what must be one of the largest, strangest stores in Utah: Smith and Edwards.

North of Ogden and hard against the Great Salt Lake, Smith and Edwards is like Wal-Mart on anabolic steroids. Now, this five acre store/junkyard would not pop up on normal tourist guides, and I am not explicitly suggesting that, say, a happy family of travelers from Nebraska go out of their way to get to Smith and Edwards (The Country Boy Store!, or so goes the commercial jingle), but should anyone ever want, for example, a de-fused bomb, a pair of 10-inch tweezers, an avalanche beacon or a $49.95 parachute, this would probably be the place to go.

I won't get into the details of why, but I was looking for something that is called, or at least was called, a Sammy. It is this sort of chamois that you use at the pool or in the shower - working like a towel-shaped sponge, it won't get you dry until it gets wet. First, I tried over in the backpacking section, where I waded past top-of-the-line backpacks, carabiners, avalanche probes, water filters and cams. The clerk said it was not in this area, but maybe I should try housewares. 'And good luck,' he said.

About ten minutes later, after having weaved my way past a forest of fishing rods, a swamp full of fishing flies and what can only be called an extensive and satisfying array of ammunition and firearms, I made it to housewares. A clerk there looked around for a while but then gave up. Maybe it is over in the clothing section, she said, seeing me off in the general direction. 'Best of luck to you,' were her parting words.

Now it was past aisles of second-rate comfort food, three-foot long hot dog roasting sticks, a pile of DKNY shorts, what appeared to be a wet suit, videos and sunglasses, Wrangler jeans and Western shirts, and a small stage where there was a cowboy poetry competition underway. But, alas: 'That sort of thing would not be over here,' said a clerk. 'But do I hope you find it.'

So there was only one area of the store left to try. I could see the sign on the wall clearly from halfway there. It read: 'Parachutes.'

Before I got to the parachutes (three models in stock, by the way), I walked past the 10-inch tweezers (for those industrial plucking jobs, apparently), past the de-fused bombs and hand grenades, past the miniature flags of all 50 states, past the replica of a Buckingham Palace jacket, past the section of the store which appeared to contain at least one of everything needed for daily living - in camouflage - and past the motors, drills, tool boxes, military-style commemorative pins and what looked like a suit used to protect oneself against nerve agent spills. There was boy there, dressed in desert-colored camo. He got on a walkie-talkie and began walking. I followed. We went back to near housewares where he met another clerk, who had the other walkie-talkie and was drinking a Pepsi. They conferred. No, he told me, no Sammys.

But it was fun trying.

The Store

Smith and Edwards just celebrated their 53rd anniversary. By the time you read this, unfortunately, you will have missed the big birthday celebration where, among other things, hot dogs were four for a dollar, the carrot cake was free and a real-life chef was Dutch oven cooking.

Smith and Edwards is about halfway between Ogden and Brigham City. Take exit 354 on Interstate 15 and head w\est. Visit them at www.smithandedwards.com.

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