Glad To See Herter’s Isn’t Forgotten About In Minnesota’s History

Typically when I land on the Minnesota Historical Society’s blog I expect to see reflections on Minnesota’s involvement in the Civil War, political flashbacks, you know that sort of thing.   Well, imagine my surprise to see a post showing a Herter’s Master Deer Call.   That’s right, if you’ve lived…oh, for let’s say 40 or more years on this earth and consider yourself an outdoorsman…well, there’s a good chance Herter’s has touched your life at least in some small way.

So, it’s only fitting how the Minnesota Historical Society makes mention of this icon of an outdoors store once headquartered in Waseca, Minnesota.   I can only say I was physically at the store once prior to its closing, but long before Cabela’s and Gander Mountain were household names, for most sportsmen the name George L. Herter was truly legendary.   And I would guess that many customers of Herter’s shopped by mail order and not at the store.   When the Herter’s catalog arrived in the mail it was a special day in the household, indeed.

Perhaps one of George L. Herter’s more controversial books, nevertheless it reflects a unique character during a different time in Minnesota’s outdoor history.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking a walk back in time you owe it to yourself to click directly to eBay and search for “Herter catalog.”   At most times you will find dozens of old issues still available in collections, some for just a few bucks…but the money is well worth it to see how sportsman gear has evolved over the past 40+ years.

The founder of the store was a real character.   Need some proof of that?   Just take a look at the titles of George L. Herter’s many books he authored.   Unfortunately, I never met the guy, but he was an interesting individual who believe in simple, yet solid advice.   His store was also pretty much built on that same principle, as well.

I would imagine as the generations get older there will come a time when few outdoorsmen, unless they study history, will have any recollection of the Herter’s name.   Oh, type in and it will take you directly to Cabela’s whom I believe purchased the rights several years back.   And yes, even Cabela’s who was once competitors with Herter’s still recognizes the value of selling under the Herter’s name.

So, when you see the Minnesota Historical Society post an iconic image from this great store…yeah, it is sort of a big deal to some of us who are growing a bit older in the tooth.   Many of us have fond recollections of the store and the catalog which was premium in its time.

And you know, there’s also something a bit nostalgic about remembering back to an era when you didn’t have say 200 choices for cold weather footwear and another 50 different options for waders.   Perhaps back when Herters was king the outdoorsmen spent more time worrying about woodsmanship and the quarry they chased…than they now do about all the clothes, gear and technology they take to the woods.

Let’s hear some of your thoughts on what you remember about George L. Herter, the retail store or that glorious mail order catalog.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Hunter by Will Weaver

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I don’t do a lot of book reviews.   To be honest, I spend my down time doing more writing than I do reading for pleasure.   Now, that’s not to say how every now and then a book comes along that just captures my imagination.   Fact is, there are times when an author’s take on a subject simply intrigues me enough that I need to further check it out.

Such was the case with THE LAST HUNTER: An American Family Album written by Will Weaver.   I saw the Minnesota author interviewed on a local TV program about a week ago and the topic just struck a chord with me.

IMG_0674Basically, the premise behind the book is the author detailing his family history in a memoir style while highlighting the important role the outdoors—particularly hunting—has played over many generations of Weaver family life.   Yet, as the title of the book implies, this author laments and finally has to accept how certain trans-generational connections with the rural farm life and hunting could eventually cease to exist within a family structure.

As I read the book the author described many parallels with his life and mine.   He was a University of Minnesota grad—so was I.   He raised a son and a daughter—so am I.   He grew up on a rural Minnesota farm—so did I.   The list goes on how I could relate with the author by sharing common experiences typical in life.   I guess you could say, in many ways, the mark of a gifted author is when they can describe situations and circumstances in their life, yet the reader of the book almost becomes transfixed by the story because it often relates to the reader’s life, as well.

Here’s a brief excerpt of the author describing his students while he was an English teacher at a northern Minnesota college:

“Nowadays in Minnesota, girl deer hunters are no more remarkable in the woods than girls on the basketball court or soccer field.   Fathers are spending time with their daughters, teaching them how to shoot and hunt and paddle a canoe and cast a line.   From my former perch in public education, I have found that girls who hunt and enjoy the outdoors are generally more self-actualized than girls who do not: they are more confident, more decisive, and far less self-conscious about their appearance.   I would also bet the farm that outdoor girls are less likely to have internalized psychological issues such as anorexia and cutting, not to say lesser addictions to shopping malls and pop culture.   For young women who have killed a deer, boy bands and movie magazines don’t measure up.”

Sure, those are some positive words to hear, especially to a father who now finds himself raising a 28 month old daughter.   At times I found the book inspiring, other times it was downright depressing, but the book depicted a realistic look at the importance the outdoors plays in the 21st Century family.   In my case, it prepared me for the fact—and through no fault of my own—I could potentially also be the last hunter in my immediate family.   No longer is it to be expected that the tradition of hunting automatically will be carried on by the next generation to follow:

“With my father’s passing there was a hole in the woods.   An empty space.   In a perfect world his place would have been filled by Owen [the author’s son].   Some extended families are so rigid about the tenure of deer stands — the hereditary rights to The Ridge or The Oak Narrows or The Old Car Body — that hunting rights pass like the throne in a monarchy: when the king dies, everybody moves up one chair.   But this was not our family because now I mostly hunted alone.   I was the last hunter.”

I’ll say this…I don’t think this book is for everyone.   Honestly, if you’re the type of hunter who is so focused on hunting strategy or various aspects of wildlife management, then stick with that type of instructional book.   On the other hand, if you’ve reached a certain maturation point in your life where you find yourself contemplating who will someday get your gun or occupy your favorite hunting spot…this could be your book.

Remember, this is a family memoir book spending a great deal of time chronicling the Weaver family history.   In fact, I was half way through the book and found only sparse mentions of hunting interwoven into the prose.   Nevertheless, the author obviously felt it important to develop a solid understanding of his family history before explaining the circumstances leading to him being the last hunter.

In closing, if you’re into learning about family hunting traditions and you’re one who appreciates how hunting has evolved over the past 100+ years in American culture…then you need to check this book out.   I believe it delves into the most important topic facing the sport of hunting—hunter attrition—better than any other book I have read to date.   I commend the author for the literary effort and for sharing such personal life experiences for our benefit in better understanding a topic difficult to accept.

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Words To Live By

First off, before I get too far into this blog I hope everyone had a great holiday season.   Hard to believe we are already embarking on a new year, but let’s make it an exciting one filled with plenty of fun-filled outdoor adventures.

Today I want to talk about some words to live by.   You know, those words that somehow strike a chord with you and inspire you to do great things…or at least, become a better person.   Typically I’m not one for motivational books that pump you up, but occasionally I’ll admit they serve a good purpose.

Like most folks, I was thinking about what to resolve to accomplish for the new year.   Somehow the lose weight, work less, yada yada routine just didn’t cut it this year.   Nope.   As I solidly find myself in the throes of life’s “middle-age” I wanted to resolve to accomplish something a little different beginning this year.   More on the specifics of that resolution a bit later.

Not wanting to fail, I searched in my soul for some motivation.   Immediately an encounter came to mind with a book author I met back in 1994.   The book was 220 pages of exciting accounts of life as a mountain climber pushing the limits and making sacrifices all in the name of making a personal achievement.   I’ll be honest, the author was signing free copies at a media event and I’m not usually one who will turn down getting a free book.   Even, if at first, I was only moderately interested in the subject.

But I walked away from that event inspired not so much by the contents of the book, rather, it was the few handwritten words the author used to autograph it for me.   It said, “To Jim…All Great Adventures Begin With The First Step….”   At first I thought that was a cool statement.   A nice departure from the typical “Best Wishes” salutation many authors use when personalizing a book.   Yet, the more I thought about those words how true they rang.   One only needs to look around, and the world is filled with intentions that are never carried out.   Words are cheap, but actions are often priceless.

I often think back to those words scribbled in the beginning of the book when there is something I want to accomplish in life.   Oh heck, I will never be a mountain climber.   Don’t even have the desire whatsoever to make those sort of physical and mental sacrifices.   Yet, whether you are climbing a mountain or even planning a life-long dream hunting trip…the fact remains.   It will never happen unless you take that first step toward making it happen.   Sadly, too many people are too scared to embark on achieving their goals.   They would rather live the dream than muster the motivation to somehow make it happen.

And so, with all of that said, I have resolved beginning in 2009 to make the “first steps” towards a long-time dream I’ve held.   That dream…none other than to write a book.   That’s right, I am beginning the process of researching and ultimately writing the book I’ve had floating around in my head now for some time.   As things develop, I will share more details about the book in the blog…but for now my goal is to use 2009 largely for the research phase and 2010 (and possibly 2011) for the actual writing phase.   The subject matter relates to hunting and fishing, of course.

Here’s hoping that with the start of 2009 you, likewise, feel inspired to make it a great year and begin something fun pertaining to the outdoors.

2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.