Hidden Valley’s New Elf on the Shelf Spoof Visits Oberlin
by Max Miller
As a Jew who is not a fan of ranch, I am virtually the exact opposite of Hidden Valley’s new Elf on the Shelf-inspired promotion “Ranch on a Branch.” Regardless, I found myself particularly intrigued by the ad campaign. Why would a ranch company produce a stuffed animal? Who is buying this? And what the hell does Hidden Valley have to do with Christmas?
As it turns out, the love the world has for ranch is so strong that the plush ranch bottle and corresponding children’s book sold out in ten hours and now resells for about $130 on eBay. What I thought was a strange oddity was, in fact, the hottest commodity on the plush market.
When I went home for Thanksgiving, I found a Ranch on a Branch box lying untouched on my stairwell. It felt like a gift had been bestowed upon me from the heavens; It was destiny. After some excitement, my mother revealed that Hidden Valley had sent her the box for free (she is a food writer) and that she was happy to give it to me. It felt meant to be. I eagerly accepted, shoved the stuffed ranch bottle in my backpack and headed back to Oberlin.
After getting back to Oberlin, the plush was quickly named Rango (Ranchy was a close second) and taken on field trips around campus (I forgot to take it out of my bag). Once I remembered, Rango was placed on my shelf to do Elf on the Shelf-like things. (For a ranch on a branch, I assume this includes watching and reporting to a ranch version of Santa Claus? Is this Santa Claus just a really big ranch bottle? Is the ranch version of the North Pole a place called Hidden Valley? So many questions.) Every once in a while, I would look over at Rango. Having gotten a taste of the outside world, he looked glum sitting on my bookshelf. It was a little depressing seeing him so cooped up after being exposed to the excitement of Oberlin. So, I decided to show Rango the Ranch the best weekend of his very young life.
On Friday night, I took Rango to a bowling tournament. He served as a good luck charm for Harry, my doubles partner, and me as we meandered our way to a cheeky little second place finish. Rango seemed relatively excited perched behind the bowling alley desk, though he was clearly a little upset we didn’t win the whole thing. (As they say, if you’re not first, you’re last.)
The next day, I kinda sat around for a while, which I can only assume pissed Rango off a bit. (My bad, Rango. I had some work to do and some Phineas and Ferb to watch.) To compensate for my lazy day, I brought Rango out to the Walkin’ in a Winter Oberlin Christmas festival. Rango and I met up with some friends to watch the parade, which consisted of a pack of children rhythmically jumping rope and a performance from the Oberlin High School marching band. It was truly a sight to behold. The real Santa even showed up, which was a treat. Men in trucks joined the parade, throwing Dum Dum lollipops out of their driver side windows directly onto the road, where onlookers bent over to grab the sweets. As a lollipop-grabber, I admittedly felt a little undignified, though Rango seemed pretty unphased. We quickly moved with the parade-goers to a fire and ice sculpture, which Rango appeared to absolutely love. It was cute and toasty. The crowd around us was into it, with one onlooker remarking, “This is the weirdest Christmas thing I’ve ever seen.”
Rango and I then mosied over to the Studio B party. Rango was given a hero’s welcome and was handed a glow stick and propped on top of two orange juice cartons at the party’s juice bar. I left Rango to his own devices for a bit so he could watch the party unfold. After several lovely DJ sets, I fought through the thicket of people to rejoin him and head out. He had clearly enjoyed the party, but was in a bit of discomfort from being drenched in orange juice. I got him home, washed him off, tucked him in and let him dry.
Midday Sunday, a fully recovered Rango watched my talented teammates and me take a quick first round L in dodgeball. (The official YeoFit Instagram account described our team on their story as “Number 1 in our hearts,” which was a bit upsetting but appreciated nonetheless.) Rango the Ranch and I then headed on over to the final week of Oberlin College Lanes’ Fall League (it was a big bowling weekend), where he once again served as a good luck charm and mascot, this time leading the team to a league championship. Rango seemed ecstatic at the victory.
Though he doesn’t talk much, I have appreciated Rango’s company over the last few days. He’s a chill guy. Everyone seems to enjoy his presence. And though I think he’s seen enough outside for a while and will be put back on the bookshelf, I am sure that I will take him out every once in a while, if only as a good luck charm for bowling tournaments and a fun companion at parties.