This tableau with stuffed bears inside Bass Outdoor World is only one of its surreal features. I visited one of these stores for the first time the other day and found it an assault on my gentle sensibilities. A salesman proudly told me that the store contained $2 million worth of taxidermy. Across the US, there are 51 similar stores, with plans for many more in the offing.
What is Bass Outdoor World? It’s a colossal store selling gear for outdoor pastimes—camping and hiking, hunting and fishing. The stores are often on the fringe of metropolitan areas, along the highways that affluent people use to reach their vacations. The stores have huge parking lots, vast inventories. They are extravagantly materialistic, while seeming to worship the natural world.
The Bass Outdoor shop in Portage Indiana is a cavernous two-story building, with a rough-hewn timbered look under fluorescent lighting. It features a dizzying array of fishing gear, a showroom of expensive boats, and, upstairs, a hunters’ paradise with a sobering display of guns.
As the United States becomes more built up, our focus on the glories of outdoor life becomes more intense, too. There is a vast commercial market for roughing it, a market where you can buy fancy sights and expensive comfortable chairs from which to shoot deer. With enough expenditure, campsite conveniences rivaling the comforts of domestic life can be had.
Have you ever been to Bass Outdoor World?
Yes, I do live in the city. Right in the city, not on its fringes or in the suburbs. Like every Chicago neighborhood, mine is laced with busy commercial streets. Here, the intersection of Belmont and Sheffield, seen at an off-peak time of day.