Recent headlines that Bass Pro Shop purchased Cabela’s empire for 5.5 billion dollars triggered lively conversations at our house. Like many folks, we’re wondering how our outdoor shopping habits will change. We frequently visited relatives in Sidney, so we had a front row seat to watch this corporation expand out of a red brick warehouse to its current multi-store empire during forty years of marriage. Over those years, I’ve written several columns about family adventures at this American landmark. Recalling our affection for Cabela’s led to memories about its predecessor—Herter’s.
Coincidentally, I happened to pick up a boxed 903 Herter’s deer call at a garage sale this weekend. When I handed it to my husband, he immediately recalled glorious hours he spent pouring through old catalogues to make his childhood hunting, fishing, and trapping wish lists. Watching him share these happy reminiscences gave me a peek at a boy filled with dreams of Daniel Boone-style adventures. I’m guessing this current generation of outdoor enthusiasts feels the same when they flip through Cabela’s catalogues.
As soon as we started talking about old Herter’s mailings, my husband could tell me exactly which ones he saved. He could also detail accounts of his orders of fishing lures and hooks as well as his hunting and trapping supplies that included decoys, traps, and a special knife. For a youngster who grew up a few hundred yards from the Kansas River in the Flint Hills, Herter’s offered the very best Canadian Guide-tested materials to guarantee success in the field and on the water.
Hearing him recite this litany reminded me of distant days when delayed gratification ruled young lives. I heard disappointment in his voice as he recounted the high school canoe trip that took him and friends to Waseca, Minnesota—home of Herter’s actual store. Unfortunately, the travelers arrived after business closed and left before it opened.
Like many fellows who grew up during the 60s and 70s, he didn’t have much money, so he hauled bales, pulled weeds, and performed other farm chores until he fill out that order blank and attach a cashier’s check. From our earliest dates, I heard from relatives and friends about how hard my husband worked to reach his goals. When he bought my engagement and wedding ring, Herter’s missed his order until he replenished that account. However, until they closed, he relished reading and rereading each page of their seasonal mailing and planning the next year’s list
Like many friends, we began marriage with little more than a few hand-me-downs and a supply of old catalogues, traps, decoys, and fishing supplies bought throughout the years. Before we got on our feet, Herter’s went bankrupt and closed. Since then, we’ve diligently scouted auctions and garage sales to find remnants of George H’s outdoor empire. We’ve collected boxed deer, crow, duck, and quail calls along with the famed Bull Cook book sent as a Christmas gift from my brother. He shares my husband’s love of pouring through those old catalogues and finding memorabilia in dusty corners of second hand stores and garages.
The business deal between Bass Pro and Cabela’s makes me wonder if a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts will stash catalogues and treasure purchases carrying Cabela’s logo the way we saved our beloved Herter’s ephemera. It’s the end of an era. Who knows what will take its place?