Every editor knows a magazine is only as good as its sources. Thus far I have found there is no better source than men with long, white beards. The length of the beard is usually proportional to the breadth of their wisdom. This is why Moses (of the Old Testament) is always portrayed with a beard down to his knees.
Scott Vanleeuwen’s beard reaches the top of his chest, he proved my theory once again. Vanleeuwen is the owner of Gift Shop Pawn, the “best pawn shop I have ever been to,” as one customer declares just as we enter the shop on Ogden’s 25th Street. On the walls are all sorts of taxidermy: a mean-looking badger, a buffalo, elk, pheasant. Just about everything a man would like to hunt. But what Vanleuwin’s shops is most well known for is the incredible collection of Browning-designed Winchester rifles.
“I’ve got hundreds of stories to tell you and we wouldn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg,” he says. Vanleeuwen showed us a series of various Winchesters, each with a story. Vanleeuwen was great friends with the late Matt Browning, who was an heir of the Browning fortune.
“One day I realized I owed the IRS $25,000 — they told me my tax bill had come due. I spent my earnings on inventory, and I couldn’t pay. I told Matt about it, then he come in here, and tells me he needs to do his Christmas shopping.
“He says, I want that gun and that one. I’ll take that entire rack there. Then I said to him, ‘You don’t need all them guns.’ He then says to me, ’Are you going to tell me I can’t do my Christmas shopping here? If I don’t buy ‘em from you I’ll buy ‘em somewhere else.’”
Van Lewin says Browning spent $25,000 that day. He paid his bill to the IRS and stayed in business.