Holy elephant

At 8 am in Paxton, Nebraska, we stopped to mail some postcards and ask a couple of locals for directions. “Have you ever heard of a place around here with a bowling alley and a soda fountain? They’re famous for their tin roof sundaes.”

“Nope, nothing like that around here.”

It was a little early to be eating decadent ice cream treats, anyway, so we weren’t too disappointed. We later realized we were still 100 miles east of the place, which is in Potter, Nebraska.

But the two local fellows didn’t want to disappoint us. “You ever been in there?” one asked, pointing to the bar on the corner. “That’s a real tourist attraction — people come from all over the country to see it.”

We said no, politely looking up at the sign. Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill had tinted windows, so there was no telling what was inside that he thought might be of interest to us “tourists.”

“They’re not open for business, but there’s somebody in there,” he said.

We walked over and tried one of the doors. It was locked. But there was another door, this one unlocked, and the fellows were watching to see us go inside. It was a normal-looking restaurant, and a woman was inside, vacuuming. “Some guys out there said we should come in and look…” I said, sheepishly.

She pointed to the next room. “Go ahead,” she said, resuming her vacuuming.

In the next room, my jaw dropped. “Holy cow!” I exclaimed.

“That’s the only thing you won’t find here,” said Barry.

The first thing that caught my eye was the elephant’s head. It hung to my left, just over the piano. “How the heck do you hang up an elephant’s head?” I asked.

To my right, in the corner, was a giraffe’s head. It started near the floor and went all the way to the ceiling, with the tail, but no legs. It wasn’t a huge place, but every square inch of the upper wall was covered in all manner of things with horns and fur — moose, deer, elk, and African critters I’ve never even heard of. A giant bison head, almost as big as the elephant, led the way to the bathrooms. Tusks taller than I stood on either side of the fireplace, and there was a stuffed cheetah and an iguana above them. Over the bar, an enormous snake coiled below a leopard’s paw.

The most amazing thing in Ole’s was the polar bear — not just his head, but the whole bear, in a glass display case almost as big as my boat. The seal captured under his paw seemed smaller than the giant paw itself.

I walked around the room, staring dazedly at all the stuffed animals overhead. Despite Barry’s correction, I couldn’t stop muttering, “Holy cow, holy cow.”

The funny thing was, we were just going to mail a couple of postcards, so we didn’t have the camera with us. You’ll just have to believe me. Holy cow.