Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 2:16 a.m.

Mountain to Mountain: Christmas shopping at Walmart

"Duck Dynasty" bed sheets, anyone?

Why, yes, that is a majestic wolf you're seeing next to a Nativity scene. (Photo: Maggie Behringer)

One thing people don’t tell you when you’re contemplating a graduate degree is that your monthly earnings will experience a considerable drop.

Oh, wait. Everyone tells you that. Allow me to revise.

Graduate students work through a few stages in acclimating to that dent in their bank accounts, ranging from sticker shock, so to speak, to a kind of can-do attitude to finding a way to the inevitable realization that—goodness, gracious—this is what broke looks like!

The recognition of one’s financial situation isn’t quite as dreary as it sounds—pepperoni rolls with chili make for a tasty and cheap dinner, after all—but a lack of funds does put a kink in the Christmas plans, particularly the giving gifts part of the holiday.

Never fear! Walmart to the rescue.

Yes, I know—Walmart is evil, doesn’t pay its employees fairly, drives small businesses out, generally disrupts communities’ way of shopping and leaves downtown districts deserted. However, a poor grad student looking for presents on the cheap has to give the giant retailer a try.

Tired of the traditional Chia pet? Meet the bearded wonder. (Photo: Maggie Behringer)

Last year, Santa’s register listed me as a full-fledged working adult, so shopping at Walmart wasn’t necessary. This year, things are clearly different with me, but also, I found, with Walmart.

There were the expected and amazing only-at-Walmart finds—case in point, a series of plush blankets silkscreened with photographs by an artist whose first name is Raschel. No joke. These luxurious throws bear images of wolves, stags, brown labs and bears. Oh, and also the Virgin Mary and a traditional Nativity scene.

In addition, I discovered a handy set of hunting knives. Best among the selection was a machete with the Gerber seal of approval.

What proved intriguingly new was the evidence that, unbeknownst to me, Walmart has transformed itself into the gift shop for the A&E show "Duck Dynasty."

There are pillows, bed sheets, towels, shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps, car accessories, DVDs of the show and CDs of the show’s soundtrack. I’m sure other stores, perhaps even the ones in Chattanooga, carry similar inventory, in which case I hope this week’s column can serve as an odd but helpful gift guide.

Ask and you shall receive. (Photo: Maggie Behringer)

I’ll admit, though, I enjoy imagining that only in West by-God Virginia are the two truly out-there "Duck Dynasty" items available.

Sitting right next to Scooby-Doo, I found a Chia Willie. Rather then growing as hair on the top of Willie Robertson’s head—which, of course, is wrapped with an American flag bandana—the grass thrives as a green, bushy beard.

Finally, I stumbled upon the best marriage of our old-school retro fascination and reality TV obsession: the A&E show’s version of a Magic 8 Ball, the Uncle Si advice giver.

—Step One: Approach the bearded and camo-attired head.

—Step Two: Ask your question.

—Step Three: Press the beard.

—Step Four: Receive the sage wisdom of Uncle Si in the form of one of his quotable catchphrases.

All of these gifts are reasonably priced, even for a grad student.

And really, who on your list wouldn’t love a plush wolf blanket, a machete or even a "Duck Dynasty" oracle?

Because Charlie Barley Behringer could not simply disappear from, Mountain to Mountain will follow her and her mother's adventures, dispatch-style, in Morgantown as they tackle graduate school, first-year teaching and living in West by-God Virginia. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

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