The next morning I walked the halls until I was so disoriented that I realized I had passed some exhibits – like the company offering “custom” 1911 grips in pink zebra stripe and Day-Glo green – three times. Determined, at the very least, to get lost in a straight line, I pulled up the “compass” app on my phone. I paused to rest by an exhibitor selling a motorized bit of rabbit fur that lured dogs in. I don’t know if the product worked, but the marketing did. Every seven seconds, another dog hit the dust. It was as if research had determined the optimum interval to hypnotize consumers with coyote shootings was seven seconds. And it worked, because I must have stood there for close to ten minutes. At first it was kind of exciting. After a while, however, I felt a little woozy but couldn’t make my feet work. By the time I summoned the will to leave, I felt that there probably weren’t enough coyotes left to justify buying the product.
In the men’s room, I learned that good taste in advertising extends all the way to the urinal. I was literally peeing at a target, courtesy of Cerakote Firearms Coatings, which had placed targets inside each fixture. Actually, there were five targets. “Now that you’ve STARTED, Let’s talk about your FINISH,” the rubber insert read. Their targets ranged from “Finish Strong” to “Gun Shy?” My bladder and I were invited to come see Cerakote at Booth 3224. There was also one of those strange, fuzzy images for your smartphone to scan. Maybe it’s me, but even if I knew how to scan the damn things, I wasn’t shoving my phone inside a urinal. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure it voids the warranty.
I found an island of sanity at the ATSKO booth. These are the people who make stuff I’ve used and loved for years: Sno-Seal, Sport-Wash laundry detergent, N-O-Dor and N-O-Dor II odor oxidizers. I’ve never found anything that waterproofs better than Sno-Seal and I like the fact that N-O-Dor is essentially inert until you mix the two parts together, after which it stays active for six months. I’ve got gallons of old scent-killing spray around my house that I’m sure is inactive that I can’t bring myself to throw out.
Anyway, it turns out that Sno-Seal was invented by a guy named Ome Daiber. He was a man with interests ranging from competitive shooting and mountaineering (he co-founded a volunteer group of mountain rescue climbers in the northwest in the 1930s) to archaeology and science. His real name was George, but he borrowed money from kids at school so often that he had it legally changed to Ome, as in “Owe me.” That’s apparently the kind of guy he was. One of his other inventions was the “Penguin,” a sleeping bag onto which he sewed leather “feet,” enabling the user to get up and pee in the middle of the night without leaving the warmth of his sleeping bag. I still think that’s a damned fine idea.
Ome developed Sno-Seal after hearing about leather that was being brought out of recently discovered Egyptian tombs. After thousands of years, it was still pliable. The secret was beeswax, which, unlike other greases and oils, didn’t shrink or degrade over time. But there’s more to it than that, according to the company’s vice president of technology, Michael T. Jordan.
“It was first marketed as ‘Sno-Seal’ in the 1930s,” he said. “In those days, skiers wore what were, in effect, double leather boots. One for warmth, one for support. And conventional leather treatments – grease, oil, animal fat – all migrated through the leather until the inside boot got soft, couldn’t support your ankle, and had to be replaced. Sno-Seal was designed to lose the ability to migrate once it got absorbed. So your boots could last you a lifetime. What’s more, the leather next to your foot could still absorb perspiration from your feet, so they stay dryer.” (This, incidentally, is why you never put Sno-Seal on the inside of a boot. It’s also why Atkso recommends you pre-heat leather with a hair dryer before applying Sno-Seal. The heat melts the wax, which allows a sufficient amount – but no more – to be more easily absorbed.)
Fine so far. But, I asked, what if you had a Goretex leather boot? Wouldn’t Sno-Seal be unnecessary? Jordan looked aghast, not an expression that Goretex fabrics usually elicit. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. (Did he actually say that? I thought. About waterproofing? He had, evidently, because he kept going.) “Even if your boots don’t leak, the leather’s soaking up water, right? So there’s nowhere for your foot moisture to go because that leather, it’s saturated. The whole deal with Goretex is that it allows water vapor to permeate the membrane but not water. But now there’s nowhere for that water vapor to go. So your feet get colder than ever, because now you’ve got cold water sandwiched between the leather and the Goretex.” Jordan shuddered slightly, like a man with direct experience of the tragedy begotten of a cold water sandwich in his boots. “Your feet get just unbelievably cold.”
I was a believer. Sno-Seal isn’t perfect, but it’s better than anything else I know of. I sort of wanted to stay there, but I was getting hungry. And a guard told me that there was a food court just 300 yards away.