It stands alone in the display window of The Little Ranch, a desolate “western wear” store on Hugenot St heading toward the gas station. Its denim pants are faded from too many years unwashed in the sun, with a hand resting unmoved on its hip, sporting a thick brown belt held together with a gaudy golden buckle. The buckle itself emblazoned with the visage of three deer in varying degrees of grazing. A cowboy hat rests on the crown of the sad old mannequin, but no countenance — not even an artificial one. You’d think they’d give it some sort of discerning characteristic, like a mustache or a corncob pipe to cement its plastic persona. A row of offensively dyed leather cowboy boots stand at attention on the floor in front of it, begging the local passersby to come in, try on a pair, and wear them home.
One can’t help but wonder what an establishment such as this is doing on this side of the state, or whom it might call its patronage. What sort of function would they have to attend to necessitate a trip into its overcrowded and musty-smelling storefront. It seems like it’d be much better suited to an area where the primary mode of transportation is a rusted old pickup, rather than a complicated system of shiny (and some not-so-shiny) trains and buses. Where people owned sprawling homes and acres of land instead of renting a thousand square feet.
Even as restaurants, stores, and art galleries come and go around it, The Little Ranch persists. And not only does it persist, but it remains unchanged. Seems to go untouched for ages at a time. What are they doing so successfully that they don’t need to change up the facade every once in a while? Maybe not every month, but at least ever four, even six. Give us some reason to come back other than the same misplaced cowboy they’ve plied us with for the past three years.
Is it run by some misinformed transplant? Someone so in love with the aura of their origins, but happy to be a part of a different landscape? Or is this person so confident in their wares, naive enough to think that their supply is in high demand?
No, they can’t be. It has to be some sort of front, right? Like every pair of boots comes with a little bag of coke. Like every dollar taxed is nothing more than a way to launder the hard-earned and not-so-hard-earned money of the local college students. That would be fun, wouldn’t it? At least in theory. Give something so seemingly bland and lacking in personality an air of intrigue.
Always driving by, asking all the questions, never willing to just walk in and get the answer. Or at least the illusion of an answer. Because where’s the satisfaction in that? What good does knowing that The Little Ranch is some retired couple’s midlife crisis serve?
Is that even it? Does it even matter?